God said, “Push!”

Several weeks ago I was visiting in the church I used to attend when I lived in Nebraska. The Sabbath School superintendent for that Sabbath is a loving and compassionate woman I have known for years. Like most of us, she has had spiritual struggles, and knowing this, what she presented for her superintendent’s remarks that morning is much more meaningful to me. It was presented as an analogy or allegory and I’d like briefly to share it, as I remember it, with you.

There was a man who lived in a cabin in the woods; outside his home was a large rock. The Lord came to the man one day and told him that He wanted him to push against the rock with all his might. And so, every day for many years the man set his shoulder squarely against that massive, unmoving rock and pushed with all his might. But each day he returned to his cabin not having moved the rock even an inch.

Then the devil came to him filling his mind with thoughts of discouragement, reminding him of how long he had worked to move this rock and how completely unsuccessful he had been. He told the man that it probably wasn’t necessary to work so hard, suggesting to him that God had given him a task that was simply impossible and giving the impression that God had set him up to fail; accusing God of something that the devil himself would do.

The man became discouraged and disheartened, and for a moment wondered if the devil might be right.

How often have we set ourselves to the task the Lord has given us to do, but to all outward appearance it seems that we are failing? What do we do?

The man, feeling so bad, went to his knees and took his concerns to the feet of Jesus. He wondered as he prayed, how he had labored so long in the Lord’s service, applying all his strength to do as the Lord had asked and yet he had failed to move the rock at all. He asked the Lord to show him why he was failing.

With great compassion, the Lord reminded the man that He had asked him to push the rock and that he had accepted the task and he had done so with all his strength and commitment. But never once had the Lord told him to move the rock. The man thought he had failed, but rather than failing, he had obediently done just what the Lord had asked him to do.

The Lord went further to show the man the results of his obedience. His arms had become strong and muscled, his back sinewy and brown, his hands callused from constant pressure, and his legs massive and hard. Through opposition he had grown much, and now he was able to do more than he had ever been able to do before. His calling was to be obedient and to push and to exercise faith in the Lord’s wisdom. This he had done, and now the Lord Himself would move the rock.

At times, when we hear a word from God, we tend to decide for ourselves what He wants, when actually what He wants is simple obedience and faith in Him. By all means, exercise the faith that can move mountains, but know that it is still God who does the moving.

So, I was struck by four important spiritual principles as I contemplated this analogy.

The man had faithfully obeyed God’s direction every day, so that it did not occur to him to do otherwise, until Satan suggested that his efforts might be futile.

So faithful had he been, that in spite of his momentary thought to do other than obey God, he took his concern directly to God.

After having exercised his faith according to God’s direction, pushing against this immovable rock for so long, the man’s obedience and faith had increased, the same as his body had become stronger and more muscular.

God is a partner with us. We exercise our faith and trust in Him; God does the heavy lifting, the part that we cannot do.

If we expect to be able to daily obey, then we must exercise our faith, moment by moment, so that we will increase in spiritual strength, until our only desire will be to do the will of God. Even if in a moment of weakness we entertain the suggestions and accusations of Satan, the daily exercise of following God’s direction will enable us to look to Him first. We do not have to believe the devil nor doubt God.

“Those who exercise but little faith now, are in the greatest danger of falling under the power of satanic delusions and the decree to compel the conscience. And even if they endure the test they will be plunged into deeper distress and anguish in the time of trouble, because they have never made it a habit to trust in God. The lessons of faith which they have neglected they will be forced to learn under a terrible pressure of discouragement.” Reflecting Christ, 120

If we want to always do what is right, then we must daily exercise doing right. We cannot expect to be strong in doing right by putting forth the minimum effort or just suddenly deciding one day to do it. A weightlifter isn’t able to deadlift 450 pounds on the first day. It is a process that includes a proper diet, plenty of water, workout programs that target the quadriceps, calves, trapezius and deltoids, biceps, and shoulders. Without these daily programs, a person will never be able to lift more than an average man.

If things get tough, then we must seek the Lord in prayer. We too often make obedience and faith more difficult than they need to be. Satan misrepresented what God had told the man to do even though he had faithfully done what God had asked him to do, and this created doubt in the man’s mind by suggesting that all his efforts were for nothing because he had not moved the rock at all. But is that what God had asked the man to do? Rather than listening to Satan, he made the decision to talk to God, to find out what he had been doing wrong. And in the end, he’d done nothing wrong. He’d been doing exactly what God had told him to do. Satan did this same thing in the Garden of Eden when he misrepresented to Eve that eating of the fruit of the tree would not result in her death. And instead of returning immediately to Adam’s side and both of them going directly to God, she accepted Satan’s deception and—well, here we are today.

“Prayer … is the source of your greatest strength. God is represented as bending from His place in heaven, watching with living interest those who labor for Him, and waiting to impart His grace to those who supplicate His throne. …

“Never forget that you are laborers together with God, and that it is your privilege to be constantly shielded by His grace. … He calls upon everyone who has named His name to be converted daily, that he may work intelligently in His cause, under the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit. …

“It is the purpose of God that His people shall be a sanctified, purified, holy people, communicating light to all around them. But only as they keep the standard uplifted, only as they reveal that the truth they profess to believe is able to influence them for righteousness and to sustain their spiritual life; only as they make the principles of truth a part of their daily lives, can they be a praise and honor to God in the earth. It is the privilege of every Christian to receive grace to enable him to stand firmly for the principles of righteousness in the service of God.” This Day With God, 53

Finally, we often look to ourselves to do more than what God has asked us to do, by attempting to take upon ourselves God’s job, something that truly is impossible for us to perform. Abraham comes to mind when I think of this. God said He would give Abraham and Sarah a son, but because of their advanced age, they didn’t think that God could do as He had promised, so they lent a helping hand, or so they thought. Instead they created a sad situation that caused trouble in their home and ultimately in the world.

“If the human agent consents, God can and will so identify His will with all our thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds into conformity to His word, that when obeying His will, we are only carrying out the impulses of our minds. All such will not possess an unsanctified, selfish disposition, ready to carry out their own wills, but will have a jealous, earnest, determined zeal for the glory of God. They will not want to do anything in their own strength, and will guard strictly against the danger of promoting self.” Our Father Cares, 268

Faith. Obedience. Prayer. Endurance. Our calling is to exercise faith, to be obedient and to trust in the wisdom of God. When we do this, our faith becomes stronger, obedience becomes a natural act and trusting in God leads to surrender. Then, He will move the rock.

Judy Rebarchek is a member of the LandMarks team. She may be contacted by email at: judyrebarchek@stepstolife.org