Continuous Circumstances: The Fuel for Conquering Change: Part 1

I can’t remember the first time I heard the phrase “under the circumstances.” I do recall that it had to do with people being under pressure and trying to maintain some kind of joy and victory even though their circumstances were weighing them down and creating frustration. It’s a great tragedy when we allow circumstances to disrupt our life when the Lord has allowed circumstances to improve our life by recognizing the reality of a fallen world, driving us to His answers, and becoming His victorious agents of light, hope, and power!

The word “circumstance” is from the Latin signifying the things that stand around. “Stances” means to stand, and “circa” means around or circular. It is a good word for what we will never escape no matter how long we live, how successful we become, how wealthy we might be, or wise we might grow. We will always have to deal with circumstances, lots of them until the day we die! Some are good; some are bad; some are helpful; some are disastrous; some are light and delight; and others stretch us to the limit of our strength and patience.

My favorite illustration about circumstances has to do with a dear friend of mine who was a professor at Dallas Seminary. His name was Howard Hendricks and, although he is now with the Lord, his reputation and influence on thousands of people continues with impact. He was truly one of the most gifted, practical, and insightful people I have ever known. I first heard him speak in the summer of 1951, and I can still remember the sermon!

Howie told the story of one day asking a student how he was getting along in his studies. The student responded with the same old phrase I began this article with, “Thanks for asking, Professor; I guess I’m doing okay under the circumstances!”

Howie responded to this worn out cliché with one of the most unique and humorous phrases I have ever heard. I now use it myself, always to good effect. In fact, I suggest you adopt it the next time someone tells you they’re doing okay “under the circumstances.”

Howie looked at the student, smiled, and then asking “What on earth are you doing under there?” That question should be the classic challenge whenever any of us try to use our circumstances as a catchall for what we’re going through or as a subtle way to complain. The wise Christian knows that the sovereignty of God always rules and can overrule all of our individual circumstances. The Scriptures teach us that the Master has allowed them all and will use them all for our benefit if we understand and then yield to their purpose. “The Lord is working all things together for our good and we will increasingly realize it if we keep on loving Him and embracing His mind and methods to make us and shape us like His Son!” (Rom. 8:28-30, HDM, Peterson). The Lord’s plan is to confront us with our circumstances so that we can learn to live the cross life from our circumstances so that we can overcome our circumstances! (Rom. 5:17). Drinking from His provision of grace and believing our gift of righteousness is all the power we need to control, subdue, and conquer all the things that sand around us! It is then we see the intentions of our Lord who reigns over all events in life and who invites us to reign with Him. “If God be for us, who or what circumstances can hold out against us?” (Rom. 8:31, HDM, Peterson).

Lord Byron put it beautifully and powerfully, “All are the sons of circumstance…”![1] Our choice is to deal with our circumstances as sons of the Spirit or as sons of the flesh! No other lesson learned will be of greater benefit to the hungry and eager disciple. Of course this holds true for daughter disciples also! Circumstances can be a trap door that drops us to the hopeless flesh darkness of the cellar or stair steps that lead us to a dramatic spirit vista from the balcony! Only the foolish drift along “under the circumstances”!


[1] From Lord Byron’s tragic blank verse play, “Sardanapalus.”