From Setback to Setup

By Francis Frangipane

There has been a subtle spiritual attack -- a cloud of unbelief -- that has settled on a number of people. Some folks have not even noticed how unbelief has imperceptibly crept into their thought life; others have been in major battles, suffering from relentless questions concerning the validity of God's promises. People are finding themselves in circumstances that are far removed from what they hoped or envisioned.

Even if this spirit is not affecting you personally, it may be working against your loved ones or isolated members in your church community.

If we look at the heros of faith in the Scriptures, we will find people that, without fail, found themselves in circumstances that were unlike anything their faith expected. If we pursue our investigation, we will also see that it was in the "unexpected place" that God established character in His servant, which in turn released power that fulfilled destiny.

Consider Paul's letter to the Thessalonians. He wrote of his "great desire" to see the church and actually tried to go to this city more than once. Yet, he wrote, "Satan thwarted us" (1Thess 2:17-18). Is the devil so powerful that he can thwart the will of God? Of course not, yet obviously God allows the enemy to take, what seems like, certain advantages against His servants. Paul clearly experienced a setback. This is the arena where the spirit of unbelief seeks to stop our forward progress in God. However, here's what the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart: If we become Christlike in the crisis, God will transform our setbacks into setups. God will use the very thing that seemed like a disadvantage to release destiny.

The Unevisioned Place
Paul must have received his sense of direction from the Lord. Certainly, he thought that God was telling him to travel, plant churches, set in ministers, evangelize and then revisit the churches; more often, God actually led Paul into jail, not journeys. Although he felt thwarted and buffeted by the enemy, God was watching. There, in dark, mildewed cells, Paul allowed the character of Christ to emerge: singing hymns at midnight, rejoicing always, praying without ceasing. In the crucible of the unenvisioned place, Paul's character was frequently refined. Inspired by the substance of Christ's actual life, which he found in the unexpected place, Paul wrote some of the most powerful, liberating words ever penned by man.

Paul became Christlike in the crisis and God turned the setback into a setup for a greater purpose. The early church thought that Christ would return in their lifetimes. They did not know their words would touch lives for nearly 2000 years! If Paul hadn't been thwarted, we probably would not have the epistles he wrote to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and to Philemon.

Or consider the apostle John, exiled to a lonely life on the Isle of Patmos. If anyone was a "people person," it would have been John. Yet, there he was isolated on a deserted island. He could have become bitter. Certainly, this was not what God wanted for this man, the last one who had been with Jesus Himself? Yet, if he had not been exiled, we would not have been given the majesty of the Revelation of John.

Or what of Joseph -- betrayal, slavery and jail was not what he envisioned, but it's what the Holy Spirit used to transformed a dreamer into a powerful man of God. Or did David expect after being anointed by the prophet Samuel, that he would find himself in a wilderness, a fugitive for seven years? No, but it was here, in the injustice of the wilderness years, that God forged in David and his followers the greatest sense of unity the Old Testament would attain.

So also with you. Your circumstances may not be what you envisioned, but they are no obstacle for God. Paul learned that God was fully capable to reveal Himself, not only in the expected places, but in that which was unexpected as well. Paul wrote,

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place" (2 Cor 2:14).

He is there with you. As you exercise your faith, as you rest, trusting in Him, do what Christ would do in your circumstances. Unbelief will flee as you become Christlike in the crisis. God will turn your setback into a setup that releases destiny.