Facing Adversity without Stress; Gen. 12:10-17
Abraham comes to the second test. In the place of blessing, the land, there is a test. We as believers are in fellowship with the Lord and there is a test. We are in Christ but there is still adversity and still tests. We have to face the test just as Abraham faced the test. There was a famine in the land, a famine in the pace of blessing, which meant adversity, a test. What does Abraham have to do? He has to problem-solve, just as we have to do. We have to decide how we are going to address these problems. Are we going to stay in fellowship (stay in the land), abide in Christ, or are we going to step out and handle it what we think of as our own limited wisdom, good common sense, and solve the problem in a way that seems to produce a certain amount of success and prosperity, but in doing so, instead of staying where we are supposed to (in fellowship), rather than applying the Word? What we are trying to do is apply some sort of human viewpoint solution. And as soon as we sin and get out of fellowship and are under the control of the sin nature we are either going to operate from our area of weakness and continue to sin, or we are going to operate from our area of strength and produce human good. Those are the only options.
The doctrine of adversity and stress
1) There are two kinds of pressures in life: adversity and stress. Adversity is the inevitable outside daily pressures of life that attack and seek to penetrate the soul. All kinds of things can produce adversity. The other kind of pressure comes from inside our soul, and that is stress. Stress is defined as the optional inside pressure of the soul caused by reaction to the external pressures of adversity. This is the only way the unbeliever can react to adversity, by building up stress in the soul. When the believer who is negative to Bible doctrine allows adversity to penetrate his thinking he has succumbed to the arrogance skill. Once you rely on your own resources instead of God's you have already succumbed to arrogance and the result of that is going to be fragmentation in the soul. Stress is what happens when the carnal believer or the unbeliever try to handle any level of adversity through their own resources apart from God. It converts that outside adversity to stress in the soul which leads to a fragmentation of the soul.
2) Adversity or outside pressure on the soul has two categories: a) suffering from the law of volitional responsibility or divine discipline. This is that adversity that we bring on ourselves, self-induced misery. You make bad decisions and that compounds to more bad decisions and the consequences of that. We'll see that with Abraham. Once he left the land and decided that he was going to solve the problem of the famine on his own by going to Egypt he is not trusting God. God didn't tell him to leave the land, He told him (v.1) "Go to the land." He didn't say to leave it when times get touch. He gives the land to Abraham (v.7) and the test here is to stay in the land. You know that if you are in the place where God wants you to be, if you are in fellowship and alive, God is going to supply your logistical grace blessings. God has promised Abraham a seed and that he will be a great nation. All Abraham had to say was, "Well, there may be a famine in the land but God promised He was going to make a great nation our of me and it isn't going to happen if I starve to death. Therefore I am going to stay here and wait on the Lord to solve the problem." The famine probably would have ended. But because he is out of fellowship he is not going to be a blessing to anyone. It he had stayed in fellowship and trusted God he would have been a blessing and God would have ended the famine. Instead he heads down to Egypt and in a state of carnality he is going to make several decisions that are going to create cursing and discipline for others. Notice: Here is economic, health, and physical disaster taking place in Egypt. The cause of it is because of the carnality of Abraham. He is not only a blessing to anybody, he is the avenue of divine discipline on the nation of Egypt. b) The other side of adversity is suffering for blessing. We will see that there was suffering that could have been turned into blessing if Abraham had stayed in the land. So the famine wasn't the result of his bad decision, it was just the fact of living in the devil's fallen world. It is how he responded, and if he had responded positively it would have accelerated his spiritual growth.
3) Adversity is what the external circumstances of life do to you. You have no control over that. Stress is what you do to yourself, it is the result of your own volition, your own decision whether to trust God or whether to rely on your own limited resources.
4) Adversity is inevitable. As we live in the devil's world there is always going to be different kinds of adversity. But stress is optional and it depends on our negative volition. Adversity is always there. Every single day there are going to be things that go wrong, there are going to be people who don't respond, don't perform, don't do what you think they should do. Your wife is not going to be as beautiful as you think she should be; your husband is not going to be as thin and good-looking as he was when you first met him. Your kids are going to do stupid things and be disobedient. You are going to have all kinds of people-testing with those you work for and work with, etc. It is inevitable, but what makes the difference is how you respond. What is interesting is that when Abraham is headed south and he is leaving out of Haran to go south he takes people with him, and the people that he had acquired—bad translation. It says, "the souls he had made [asah, the word to create]." What was he doing with these souls? These are the people that he led to the Lord as he was living in Haran. He has been already a blessing to those around him. But when he gets down to Egypt where he can have a witness, what does he do? Because he is living in carnality he has absolutely blown his testimony and has no basis for communicating the gospel or the truth about God to the Egyptians due to his not living in according to what is consistent with what he believes. So when we get out of fellowship it destroys our testimony before man and before the angels and the angelic conflict. This is a result of our negative volition and what stress does to our life.
5) Stress in the soul always results in sin nature control. When you are under the control of the sin nature you are going to make one bad decision after another. What happens is that your spiritual discernment is shut down, you are quenching the Holy Spirit, and so you can't make good decisions from a position of strength. A good decision from a position of strength in the believer's life is in fellowship and operating on Bible doctrine. When you are out of fellowship you are operating from a position of weakness which is your sin nature. The result is that stress begins to compound, increasing carnality, you begin to reverse your spiritual growth and you begin to slide in to moral and immoral degeneracy which eventually destroys capacity for life, for love, and for happiness. It produces instability and causes neurotic and psychotic Christians, which is a pretty good description of the modern evangelical church. We don't know how to trust God, and Abraham didn't know how to trust God.
6) Stress perpetuated in the soul means a failure to glorify God and therefore spiritual failure. Abraham goes into spiritual failure here when he goes down to Egypt and tries to solve the problem on his own and begins by telling a lie.
7) The only solution, then, is the divine solution. The human solution is no solution. This is seen in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 when Paul had to deal with the thorn in the flesh demon. We don't know what the exact problem was. The context suggests that it was all of the difficulty he dealt with. Abraham isn't learning the sufficiency of grace here and as a result is falling apart. Instead of being a blessing there is going to be negative consequences.