I Corinthians 16:8-9 “But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentacost. For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.”

Hebrews 12:2 “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

In 1942, Pastor William Dunkle wrote the following about I Corinthians 16:8-9 in a devotion to military members spread around the world during World War II (from “Strength for Service”):

“Open doors and adversaries in the same sentence? An open door ought to symbolize entrance into opportunity without barriers. But St. Paul takes for granted that opportunities and adversaries are usually found in conjunction. It is a surprising truth that the things that oppose us in life actually offer us our finest opportunities for growth and service … Facing now a world gone suddenly mad and the armies of sin and shame mustered against it, our Christianity is shocked to attention. The door becomes ‘great’ when we realize the extent of the opposition. At once we are aroused into a now-or-never desperation of heart! However terrifying the odds against us, the door through which we must enter to relieve the need of the world is squarely before us.”

Opportunity and adversity are not mutually exclusive. In fact, just the opposite; often they are a natural fit. The world needs tough and resilient Christians to seek the opportunities that are conjoined with adversity. Yet, we are not to use the toughness of fake bravado and false bravery that is traditionally employed by the world.

Runner, athletic coach, and business coach Steve Magness writes about his extensive research on toughness in “Do Hard Things.” He says that “real toughness is experiencing discomfort or distress, leaning in, paying attention, and creating space to take thoughtful action. It’s maintaining a clear head to be able to make the appropriate decision. Toughness is navigating discomfort to make the best decision you can. And research shows that this model of toughness is more effective at getting results than the old one.” He goes on to say that “research consistently shows that tougher individuals are able to perceive stressful situations as challenges instead of threats.”

God has called Christians to be tough. He has also called us to seize opportunities for Him in spite of our circumstances. We will face adversity, but need to lean in, pay attention, and create space to take thoughtful action in order to make the best decision for impact. The stressful contexts we face should mainly be seen as opportunity-filled situations instead of threatening dangers. And finally, our gaze should not neglect the challenge but should primarily recognize our need for the Saviour. Trusting in Him will allow us to best navigate any discomfort.

PLEASE PRAY THAT AMERICAN CHRISTIANS WOULD EMBRACE THE CHALLENGE-DISGUISED OPPORTUNITIES ALL AROUND US. Impactful situations are squarely before us as we seek to repair the breech, build up the old waste places, raise up stable foundations, and restore the paths of protection and provision. The adversity we face in doing so may actually be an open door.