Many Adversaries, 1 Cor 16:9


In 1 Cor 16:9 Paul wrote, “For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.”  Paul had a great door opened to him; it was an effectual door, that is, a door through which he could be very fruitful.  If you have an open door of opportunity to do something for the Lord, you must be sure that you are going to face adversaries.  A wicked man may think, “I shall never be in adversity,” Ps 10:6, but you should never be that foolish.  If you’re following the Lord through an open door, there will be adversity.  Count on it.

We pray for our missionaries.  Among other things, we pray that they will be able to continue the work God has called them to do despite their adversaries’ attempts to stop them or disrupt their plans.  They need us to pray for them.  And we need to be aware that we have adversaries, as well.

Before we discuss our response to adversaries, though, we need to be honest and recognize a tendency in ourselves.  When something goes wrong with our plans, we are quick to blame someone else for the trouble or the failure.  Be aware that trouble in your life is not always the work of your adversaries.  Often, we are our own worst enemies.  Before you go looking for an adversary to blame, check your own heart.  You may find that you brought the trouble on yourself.

A friend of mine knows 20 families that have gone to and already left a communist country to which they believe God called them.  The reasons that these families have already left the field are all personal.  They weren’t teachable, they wouldn’t learn the language, they wouldn’t adapt to the culture, and worst of all, they wouldn’t obey the laws of the country.  No doubt, the reasons these men give for leaving incriminate their adversaries.  Don’t blame adversaries for something you did or didn’t do.

Adversaries try to keep you from going through the open door.  Or if you get through the open door, they want you to turn around and back out.  If you don’t back out, they want you to fail.  When you’re faced with many adversaries:

Don’t be surprised – 2 Sam 19:22, “And David said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah, that ye should this day be adversaries unto me?”  Adversaries can be people who are close to you. In Est 7:6, Esther shocked the king when she announced, “The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman.”  Haman was the king’s right hand man.  

People close to you can turn against you.  Be careful how you handle their adversity.  Look for what God is doing.  Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery.  Joseph said to them later, “ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good,” Gen 50:20.  It may surprise you that the Lord uses adversity for something good; but he does.

Don’t be terrified – Phil 1:28, “And in nothing terrified by your adversaries.”  You have heard of fight or flight.  You are prone to take flight if you are terrified.  So, remember that fear will cause you to run.  You can’t run away in fear.

Don’t run from the fight – 1 Pet 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”  Stand and keep fighting.  God has given us the whole armor of God to stand against the wiles of the devil.  Our weapons are salvation, righteousness, truth, faith, the word of God, the gospel, and prayer.  I taught on all of these in a recent Sunday school lesson.  See Stand Therefore, Eph 6:10-18.  The object is to stand and to stay in the fight.

Don’t faint – Prov 24:10, “If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.”  You can faint if you get knocked down by an adversary.  Don’t lie there.  Get back up.  “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again,” Prov 24:16.  An old Chinese proverb says, “Failure lies not in falling down; failure lies in not getting up.”  Trust the Lord to strengthen you as you rise to your feet.

You can faint if the trouble lasts longer than you expected.  In Ps 74:10 Asaph wrote, “O God, how long shall the adversary reproach?”  Jer 46:10 says, “For this is the day of the Lord God of hosts, a day of vengeance, that he may avenge him of his adversaries.”  That day hasn’t come, yet.  Paul said, “in due season we shall reap, if we faint not,” Gal 6:9.  Peter Putney said, “Most men overestimate what God can do in 2 years and underestimate what God can do in 20 years.”  Despite facing adversaries at every fruitful turn in your life, you must hang in there.

Don’t quit preaching – Lk 21:15 says, “For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.”  That’s what the Lord gave Stephen, Acts 6:10.  And they had to kill him to shut him up.  In the end, if the door is going to be effectual, you must preach the gospel when you go through the door.  So, you can’t quit.  The Lord will help you.  David said, “the Lord liveth who hath redeemed my soul out of all adversity,” 2 Sam 4:9.  Paul said about the persecutions he endured, “out of them all the Lord delivered me,” 2 Tim 3:11.

Conclusion: facing many adversaries is tough business, but it goes with the territory.  You don’t go through great and effectual doors without adversity.  But, you can face down your adversaries by God’s grace, if you aren’t surprised and terrified, and if you don’t run, faint or quit.