How do we relate to obstacles? One of the most common practices among God’s people can be documented from the days of the children of Israel to the present time!
Quite often, when people meet obstacles, they just give up. This is true even in spiritual things. Perhaps you have heard someone lament that their spouse will not accept the truth, so they are going to give up. Such choices result in a lost condition. There will be many people in hell fire who gave up truth so they could stay with their spouse.
Getting you to give up is part of the devil’s strategy. If the devil can get you to give up, he has you. That is why the Bible says, in Revelation 21:8, “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” All of the cowardly will be in the lake of fire, because when an obstacle came, they gave up.
Another common reaction to obstacles is to express unbelief. This is what the children of Israel did. They expressed so much unbelief that the Lord said, “I cannot lead these people into the land of Canaan; they are just not ready. They do not even believe in Me. They do not believe I can do it.”
Have you ever wondered whether there is some wonderful, powerful thing that God would like to do in your life, but He cannot do it because you do not believe? That is what happened to the children of Israel. God could not do for them what He wanted to do, because they did not believe.
Discouragement is another common reaction to obstacles. Certainly some of you would argue that I do not know how bad your situation is. That is true; I may not know how bad your situation is, but the Lord knows how bad your situation is, and He knows how to get you out of it. He knows how to get you through it. But you are never going to get through the obstacles if you have a halting, unbelieving spirit and just fold your hands, do nothing, and give up. It is not going to happen!
I meet people that think the Christian religion is not true because they met an obstacle, and when they met the obstacle, they either gave up, experienced unbelief, or decided to get discouraged and not do anything. Such people cannot figure out why the Christian religion does not work—when they are the ones who are not working.
The Christian religion does work. I know it works, because I have seen it work over and over again. I have seen people overcome all kinds of apparently insurmountable obstacles through the power of grace, the power of God, when they united with it.
Trials and Trouble
The children of Israel questioned, If God is leading us, why are these things happening? Those things happened to them because God was leading them. Obstacles are happening to you because God is leading you. He wants to get you to a certain place, and to get there, you have to go through some trials and trouble.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Christian churches, in Acts 14:22, “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” You may say that you cannot endure the tribulation. Well, then, you cannot go. Simple!
In vision, the apostle John was shown a picture of the saints in heaven, and the angel asked him, “Do you know who these are?”
“No, I do not know who they are.”
The angel said, “These are the people who have come through great tribulation.” (Revelation 7.) They had obstacles, but they went through the obstacles by the grace of God.
In Part I of this article, we learned that the most serious obstacles that we have to meet are not the external ones. It is not the danger of going bankrupt, getting a fatal disease, or something like that.
The most serious obstacles are the internal ones—such as pride—that nobody thinks are that bad. But pride is bad enough. The Bible says that everyone who is proud is going to be in the lake of fire someday. (See Malachi 1.) Pride, selfishness, and covetousness—those are the most serious obstacles, even more serious than adultery and stealing. Men think those are the most serious, but according to the Bible, pride, selfishness, covetousness, and love of the world are the most serious obstacles that we have to conquer. (See, for example, 1 John 2:15; Proverbs 16:18; Mark 7:21–23.)
How, then, should we meet obstacles?
Persistent Faith in God
The first prerequisite to successfully meeting obstacles is to have faith in God. Jesus said, in Luke 18:1, “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” And then He told a story to illustrate this point.
He said that there was a certain widow in a certain city with a problem. We do not know what the legal issue of this widow was, but evidently she had not received part of the inheritance that she should have received from her deceased husband, so she was destitute. She had to have some legal relief, so she went to an unjust judge, and she said, “Avenge me of my adversary.” (Verse 3.)
The judge would not do anything. Consequently, this widow had an obstacle. She was in trouble, but she would not quit. She went to the unjust judge again, and she said, “Avenge me of my adversary.” He would not do it. So she went to the unjust judge again, and she said, “Avenge me of my adversary.”
She kept going to the unjust judge day after day after day, saying, “Avenge me of my adversary,” but he would not do anything.
Finally the unjust judge said, “I am going to avenge this woman of her adversary just to get rid of her, so she will not keep coming back.” (Verses 4, 5.) So he did it.
Jesus said, “Did you hear what the unjust judge said? And shall not your heavenly Father avenge His children that cry day and night to Him? Truly I say unto you, He will avenge them speedily, but when the Son of Man comes will He find faith on the earth?” (Verses 6–8.)
What is the lesson here? Be persistent in prayer! Say to the Lord, “You have promised. This is what you have promised. I am fulfilling the conditions. You have promised; You cannot go back on Your word.” He will not go back on His word. He never goes back on His word.
Your job and my job, when we have an obstacle—some trouble, a trial, a difficulty, or the insurmountable problem—is to keep going to the Lord in prayer and saying, “Lord, I am reading in Your book; I am fulfilling all of the conditions that I find in Your book, and this is Your promise. I pray that You will deliver me from this problem. Save me.”
Remember, the most serious problems are the internal ones. You have to overcome those if you are going to go to the kingdom of heaven. There will not be any prideful people in the kingdom of heaven. Not one person there will be selfish. There will not be anybody in the kingdom of heaven that is covetous.
You must have a faith like Caleb’s. When Caleb returned from spying out the Promised Land, he encouraged the people, “Let us go up right now [into the Promised Land]. With the Lord’s help, we can overcome the people there right now.” (Numbers 13:30.)
Was that true? Yes, that was true, but nobody except Joshua believed him, so they did not enter into that land. Consequently, they had to stay in the wilderness for 40 more years. After those 40 years, Caleb was 85 years old, and he was still ready to go in. All those who had doubted before had died.
Caleb was given, as his share of the Promised Land, the territory where the giants lived. Those giants were 10, 12, 13 feet tall. They were huge. And Caleb said, “Well, give me that territory where the giants are.” Then this 85-year-old man conquered the giants, because the Lord blessed him.
The Lord will bless you, too, if you will say, “Lord, help me to get through this obstacle. Help me to overcome this selfishness, this pride, this covetousness that I have inside.” The Lord will give you the help you need.
How should we meet obstacles? We have to exercise faith; we have to pray; but we also have to press on against the obstacle. Ellen White addresses this in the following statements:
“You will have obstacles and difficulties to encounter at every turn, and you must with firm purpose decide to conquer them, or they will conquer you.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 497. You have to conquer the obstacles, or they will conquer you.
“Success will come to them as they struggle against difficulties.” Prophets and Kings, 595. So, you have a work to do.
You see, those giants did not just mysteriously disappear. Caleb had to go up and conquer them. He prayed, and then he had to work.
A third thing that you need to do if you are meeting obstacles and troubles and insurmountable trials in your life is given in Patriarchs and Prophets, 293, 294: “The obstacles they encounter, instead of leading them to seek help from God, the only Source of strength, separate them from Him, because they awaken unrest and repining.
“Do we well to be thus unbelieving? Why should we be ungrateful and distrustful? Jesus is our friend; all heaven is interested in our welfare; and our anxiety and fear grieve the Holy Spirit of God. We should not indulge in a solicitude that only frets and wears us, but does not help us to bear trials. No place should be given to that distrust of God which leads us to make a preparation against future want the chief pursuit of life, as though our happiness consisted in these earthly things. It is not the will of God that His people should be weighed down with care.”
So, have faith as Caleb did, press on against the obstacles, ask God for help, and keep on going.
Have you ever met people who have an obstacle or trial in their lives, and they try once, without success, to overcome it, so they quit? What is the problem? What would have happened to the widow in Luke 18 if she had just gone to the unjust judge and asked only one time to avenge her of her adversary? What would have happened? Nothing! But she was persistent.
Perhaps some people have tried to overcome smoking, but did not make it, so they guess they are stuck. This may be best illustrated by a quote accredited to Mark Twain: “It is no problem to quit smoking; I have quit a thousand times.” Of course, that would mean that he started smoking a thousand times!
“Many are the hindrances that lie in the path of those who would walk in obedience to the commandments of God. There are strong and subtle influences that bind them to the ways of the world, but the power of the Lord can break these chains. He will remove every obstacle from before the feet of His faithful ones or give them strength and courage to conquer every difficulty, if they earnestly beseech His help. All hindrances will vanish before an earnest desire and persistent effort to do the will of God at any cost to self, even if life itself is sacrificed.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 147.
There are millions of people who have lost their lives in order to do God’s will. If you are saved, you are going to meet all those people someday, so keep trying; keep trying.
One important aspect about meeting obstacles in life, which a number of people do not like to address, is following correct physical habits. Your physical habits have a great deal to do with your state of mind and whether or not you will have the determination to attack the problem and to solve the problem with the help of God.
For example, as soon as an individual drinks an alcoholic beverage—the very first drink, not the second or third drink—it has an anesthetizing effect on the frontal lobe of the brain. This weakens willpower. Now, the devil sees an individual when he or she is drinking, and he knows that the willpower is weakened. He, then, brings to that person a strong temptation.
It is his favorite time to tempt, when you have weakened your mind or your body by lack of sleep, lack of exercise, a bad diet, alcoholic beverages, drugs, cigarettes, tobacco. Whatever it is that weakens the body weakens the mind; then you are not as able to meet the problem.
Do Not Just Wait
What is the result of meeting obstacles the way God directs? The answer is given in Zechariah 4:7 and Matthew 21:18–21. If you meet the obstacles in your life the way God directs, Jesus promises that mountains of difficulty are going to be cast into the sea; they are going to be removed.
But the mountains of difficulty will never be removed before a halting spirit who says, “Let us wait until the obstacle is removed.” The obstacle will just stay there forever. This is the problem with many Christians today. They are sitting there; they are praying; they are looking at the mountain of difficulty; and they are waiting for God to remove it, but God is waiting for them to do something.
Do not just wait! Some people say, “Oh, let us wait. Let us not pass out The Great Controversy now. Let us wait for a more opportune time.” Friend, there is never going to be a more opportune time than right now.
Some people say, “Let us wait to get the Three Angels’ Messages to the world. Let us wait until the national Sunday law happens.” Friend, that is a delusion. It is not going to be easier then than now. It is going to be harder then than now.
Some people say, “It is not time now to do evangelism. Let us wait.” And while they are waiting, the golden opportunity passes. People all around them are dying who do not know Christ and who are not saved, because people are waiting. Friend, do not wait!
The time to witness for your faith in the Bible is always now, and it is never a good idea to wait. If you have a friend or relative who is not saved, do not wait. You do not know how long they are going to live. Witness to them now.
Do you know what happens to those people who meet obstacles the way the Lord tells us to meet them—with prayer, following the principles we have studied? In any church anywhere in the world, you find there are certain Christians that everybody recognizes as being rock solid; you cannot move them. They have a powerful, stable Christian experience.
Do you know who those people are every time? Just look around. They are the people who have met gigantic obstacles and problems and have overcome them. As they have surmounted one obstacle after another, those men and women have become men and women of power. That is why God allows those things to happen, so we might not be so weak, but may become men and women of power.
If you want to become a powerful Christian, you have to be willing to fight through the obstacles and ask the Lord to help you. The person who is dealing with discouraging circumstances needs to pray, needs to keep trying to deal with the obstacle, and needs to not quit. Do not talk unbelief. Do not say, “I am going to wait until the latter rain comes.”
The only people who will receive the latter rain of the Holy Spirit are those who are intensely active
in doing God’s service now. The other people are not going to receive it. They will not even know what is happening.
Do not wait until the church is purified. Do not wait until the obstacle disappears, because it will not disappear.
“When hedged about on every side, this is the time above all others to trust in God and in the power of his Holy Spirit. We are not to walk in our own strength, but in the strength of the Lord God of Israel. It is folly to trust in man or to make flesh our arm. We must trust in Jehovah; for in him is everlasting strength.” Review and Herald, January 16, 1908.
We are in a battle against the devil, against the world, but, most importantly, we are in a battle against our own sinful, carnal nature. The internal enemy is the most dangerous one of all. You, however, can win and inherit eternal life. You can receive the gift of eternal life, but you are not going to win, friend, unless you are willing to fight. The Bible teaches that from the beginning to the end. You must be willing to fight through the obstacles and ask the Lord to help you.
“Let the tempted soul remember that he is a representative of Christ. It is only by coming in contact with obstacles and difficulties and overcoming them that we become strong. Our necessity is God’s opportunity. If we will hold fast to Christ, every trial will work out for our good.” The Signs of the Times, October 17, 1900.
Right now you and I are on the battleground. The devil is trying to get your soul, but you can inherit eternal life if you are willing to say, “Lord, I am going to follow Jesus. I am going to meet the obstacles. Whatever the problem is, I am going to follow Christ, and I plan to become Christlike, by His grace and power.”
It will not happen in one day, but it can happen to every one of us. Every one of us can become Christlike. We can surmount these obstacles internally that are unchristlike in the character. That can happen to every one of us if we go forward and follow the principles given in this article.
When Jesus comes, will you be one of those who will realize that He has made you like Himself? And how did He do it? He made you like Himself by allowing you to go through trials and troubles and obstacles in this world. If you really want to have that experience, you need to make a covenant with the Lord right now and tell Him that is what you want.
[Bible texts quoted are literal translation.]
Pastor John Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.