Living in Bad Circumstances?

Do you ever feel like you are in the worst possible situation? If you were to design your own life, what would you change? How many negative circumstances throughout your life would you have avoided? Would you want to have more money, more friends, or more influence? Would you want a different family? Would you choose a different job for yourself or a father who cared just a little more about you? What would you change about your country? Would you design a world with less crime, more equality, and greener grass?

A Sea-Doo is a Jet Ski on steroids. It is like the 500cc motorbike compared to the 250. My grandma Cannon owned a Sea-Doo. When we would go to the lake as a family, my dad was always sure to bring this toy. There was one occasion when my dad was doing crazy water donuts. He straightened out and the Sea-Doo dove under the water with him. My whole family stopped whatever it was we were doing and we looked out into the water wondering what had happened. After a couple of seconds (which probably seemed longer) my dad emerged, still riding this beast, launching himself and the Sea-Doo into the air before finally landing on the water and continuing to do donuts. My dad played hard. He also worked hard, drank hard, and hit us hard. Everyone experiences negative circumstances in this life. This morning, I am not going to answer the question, “What is the purpose of our negative circumstances?” We will answer that question next week as we begin our new series, Broken. The question I want to ask is- Does God help us to live well in the midst of negative circumstances?

Acts 26:24-32 HCSB

As he was making his defense this way, Festus exclaimed in a loud voice, “You’re out of your mind, Paul! Too much study is driving you mad!”

But Paul replied, “I’m not out of my mind, most excellent Festus. On the contrary, I’m speaking words of truth and good judgment. For the king knows about these matters. It is to him I am actually speaking boldly. For I am convinced that none of these things escapes his notice, since this was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you believe.”

Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Are you going to persuade me to become a Christian so easily?”

“I wish before God,” replied Paul, “that whether easily or with difficulty, not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I am — except for these chains.”

So the king, the governor, Bernice, and those sitting with them got up, and when they had left they talked with each other and said, “This man is doing nothing that deserves death or chains.”

Then Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been released if he had not appealed to Caesar.”

Paul’s circumstance

As we follow Paul’s journey, we read that he went into Jerusalem to serve people and teach as he did everywhere else he traveled. Some of the Jews stirred up the whole community against him and even tried to turn the Roman guard against him. Paul was mistaken as an Egyptian assassin. Obviously, I am not doing enough work for the Gospel yet. I haven’t been accused of being an Egyptian assassin. Assassination attempts were made on him by some Jews while he was under Roman guard. In this text, Paul is standing trial before Festus, the Roman governor of the Jewish province, and Herod Agrippa, the Jewish ruler. These were Paul’s circumstances in this life and they would not get ‘better.’ He would go to Rome, serve two years under house arrest, and eventually by martyred because of his belief in Christ.

There are a couple things I notice in this story. Paul was, at this point, one of the men on earth who followed God closely. Yet, he still had to endure great tribulation. Still, there were negative circumstances in his life. I want to dispel the idea that if we serve God well, our lives will be less troublesome. This simply is not the case on this earth. There are negative circumstances for all people because there is sin. In fact, we have all sinned.

Paul was also in this negative circumstance because of his faith in Christ. In a world where there is great sin, those who follow Christ will more likely find themselves in the midst of great adversity. We are so tempted to ask questions like, “God, why are you allowing me to go through this horrible thing,” or, “God, I have served you, yet this terrible thing happened.” We question God because there is great suffering, because we are having problems at school, because we are having problems at work, because we have struggles at home, because we lose loved ones, because we get bad news from a doctor, because we can feel ourselves getting older, because we were abused by someone, or because we can feel our relationships falling apart. There really is great suffering on this earth. It is our circumstance and it is something we all have in common- across every generation and every demographic. Even Jesus suffered. In his suffering, gave great encouragement to His people:

“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).

Jesus stated that we must experience suffering in this world because of sin. No matter how we might think that we want to change our circumstances, the grass is never greener because this is a world of suffering. Fame, money, influence, and perceived power don’t change that. We have hope in Christ because He conquered the world. He did so by living a sinless life as a human person, suffering the consequence of sin on our behalf, and claiming victory over death. We can be courageous in this wretched world because our faith is in the one who has conquered the world!

Suffering is part of our circumstance in this world.

God’s work on this earth

Even though Paul was in the midst of these negative circumstances, he concerned himself with fulfilling the Great Commission. He was still making disciples of all nations. He was still fulfilling the purpose that God gave people from the foundation of the world- to multiply God’s image throughout the world and to participate in God’s establishing of His own creation. Paul was not distracted by his circumstances. God’s work is the same no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in. God’s work will always be the same. He will always be establishing His creation. In our time, we participate in this work by telling people about what Jesus has done for us. Paul did this. He shared the story with Festus, who thought he was crazy. He tried to persuade Herod Agrippa.

As Paul talked with Agrippa, he said that whether easy or difficult, he yearned for others to be like himself, only without the chains. He deeply wanted others to not merely believe what he believed, but to be as he was. He desired that they actually be given life and a regenerate heart. He wanted them to be delivered from sin, to see them transported from darkness into light, and to see them experience the glorious transformation that Christ has to offer. This is the amazing work that God is doing and He leads His people to participate in that work! Therefore, when we love Christ we strive to practice genuine discipleship. We practice evangelism in the current age. We train one another for righteousness in our current age. We grow in knowledge and in affection forevermore. We live as disciples. Following Paul’s example, we strive to live as disciples and disciple-makers whether easily or with difficulty, in every circumstance and with every effort no matter the cost on this earth. Many times, we allow our circumstances to distract us from participating in the great work of God. We use them as an excuse to love God less. I have news for us. God is Lord over the circumstances we find ourselves it. He is not surprised by them. He has worked together that we would be in the midst of those circumstances for His glory and for the good of those who love Him.

We have the same purpose in any circumstance.

Our hope

On this earth, we will never be satisfied with our circumstances because the world is imperfect. This earth is the imperfect circumstance and our desire for better circumstances reminds us that there will be a time when we will be given a happy condition as opposed to the wretchedness of this earth. Does God desire that we be happy?

There are people who refer to themselves as Christians who, the moment they experience a tinge of unhappiness, question their faith or question God’s goodness. We hear that God doesn’t promise happiness on this earth. This is correct, but I think the answer needs some clarification. To gain this clarification, we look to God’s word. He has poured His heart out to us in the pages of Scripture. As we discovered over the last two weeks, we know God more by observing His word in its two-dimensional and three-dimensional and four-dimensional and forms, etc… Everything that I see, hear, smell, touch, and taste is the very word of God because He has spoken the world into existence. He has given us His two-dimensional word because we cant speak or understand His multifaceted language, which may have infinite depth (especially considering the possibility of imaginary space-time and the near certainty of continuous space-time). We strive to understand it more every day in everything that we learn. We strive to live by the words that God has given. This is what it means to be a disciple. As disciples of our Lord, Jesus Christ, we can journey through God’s two-dimensional word together.

In Ecclesiastes 3:13, Solomon writes that “It is also the gift of God whenever anyone eats, drinks, and enjoys all his efforts.” Job 5:17 states that happiness is a result of God’s correction. Psalm 144:15 states that the people of God are happy (or blessed). Psalm 146:5 says, “Happy is the one whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.” Proverbs 16:20 affirms this, “The one who understands a matter finds success, and the one who trusts in the Lord will be happy (or blessed). In John 13:17, Jesus states that those who belong to Him and who strive to follow His example are blessed (or happy). In Acts 26:2, later in the story, Paul is before Festus and Agrippa on trial and he tells Agrippa that he considers himself to be fortunate (the same word, μακαριον, that is translated happy and blessed). Even though he is in this bad circumstance, he is of a happy estate- an estate that he wishes all of those in attendance would also get to share (Acts 26:29). In Romans 14:22, Paul writes that not everyone will have the same personal convictions. Some will feel a need to abstain from certain things even though it is not required and others will not feel this way. For the Amish, it is most electricity. For the Mennonite, it’s modern day clothing. There are some who have the conviction that one ought to abstain entirely from alcohol. There are some who have determined that children only need to be homeschooled. Paul writes that those who have these types of convictions should keep those convictions to themselves. That’s not all; he also writes that when they follow those good convictions (convictions that are not contrary to God’s revealed word) they will be blessed (or happy). In 1 Peter 4:14, Peter writes that those who are ridiculed for Christ’s name are blessed (or happy).

Finally, we arrive in Revelation 21:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea no longer existed. I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.

Then I heard a loud voice from the throne:

‘Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity,

and He will live with them.

They will be His people,

and God Himself will be with them

and be their God.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Death will no longer exist;

grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer,

because the previous things have passed away.

Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give water as a gift to the thirsty from the spring of life. The victor will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son’” (Revelation 21:1-7).

We get to experience some happiness on this earth in the midst of all these wretched things because God desires for us to be happy. God is reserving, for His children, an everlastingly good and happy estate. That is a holistic state of all things! In fact, that is what it means to receive blessing from God. Those who do not trust in Christ will exist forever in a more wretched estate. That is what it means to be cursed by God.

We can be content now, trusting that God has a great inheritance for us as He establishes His creation. In our contentment, we get to experience a small piece of what the resurrection will be like. We get to peer through a glass darkly. Where we are not content, we experience a small piece of what existence would be like in Hell. We might always be complaining about how God is not just and how our circumstances are simply not good enough. That is its own kind of self-torture, and some people would honestly rather be discontented. It kills some people not to have something to complain about. They wouldn’t like being with God forever, because God will remove sin and the effects of sin. We will live in His happy estate!

As we conclude our series on discipleship, I have to ask where our attention is. What is the subject matter of our thoughts? Have we set our hearts on things above or things below? How do we react when things are going on that we cannot change? What if changes are being made that we don’t necessarily like? Is there suffering, trial, or tribulation in our lives? Is God producing contentment in us, or do we torcher ourselves by dwelling on our negative circumstances? Finally, are we making disciples in all circumstances? God has placed us where we are and when we are for a purpose- that we might have a part in His establishing of His own creation and His building of His own kingdom. We get to experience some happiness in Him now even though we live in this unfortunate context.

God helps us to be content for His glory and our good.


Suffering is part of our circumstance in this world.

We have the same purpose in any circumstance.

God helps us to be content for His glory and our good.

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