Tag Archive: obstacle

Two weeks ago i got to preach at a church called Re:Generation where tbV and i have been going and it was a lot of fun and they have just put my morning preach up on iTunes if any of you would like to listen to it [and hear what i sound like – wooooo] and the topic was ‘What to do when there is an obstacle in your path [and who put it there?’ or something like that:



i’d love to make this sound like the cool kind of parable Jesus would have used, but i don’t think i can.

a rock

but if it was a fairy-tale type story it would begin with something sounding like ‘Once upon a time…’ and very quickly end up at the place of ‘Brett looked at the path and it was blocked by the giant obstacle. He didn’t know what to do next.’

and depending on your perspective on life and God and big obstacles, Brett might do very different things next.

if you’re a ‘glass half empty’ kind of person, you might see the obstacle as a sign that God placed the obstacle in your path so you wouldn’t choose that particular path. go and find another easier path, Brett. [this could be Balaam’s donkey warning you off the path, it could be Paul being blocked from going to Asia in Acts 16, it could be the angel with the sword keeping Adam and Eve from re-entering the garden]

if you’re a ‘glass half full’ kind of person, you might see the obstacle as a sign that the devil is worried about the work you are doing and is trying to stop you. keep on, Brett, find a way around or through the obstacle because that is the path you are meant to be walking. [this could be the Israelites crossing the sea, Abraham attempting to sacrifice Isaac, Daniel deciding to continue to pray and being thrown in the lion’s den]

the main problem is that in either case the obstacle looks the same. it’s not like obstacles are divided into ‘push through because it’s the enemy placing it there’ kinds of obstacles and ‘turn around because God is trying to tell you to go a different way’ kinds of obstacles… they both simply appear as an obstacle and if you get counsel from wise friends of yours, you might find yourself listening to both opposing pieces of advice [both of which are an understandable reading of the scenario]

and so the key has to be the Holy Spirit – being in touch with and in tune with God so He can reveal to you which one it is? do i stay or do i go?

easy, huh? unless of course you are having a bit of trouble hearing God on the matter and then it goes back to making a hopeful choice…

this is a scenario that plays out often in our lives and happened again this morning [well, over the last few days] as we have had such issues trying to book a flight for Val:

GHE: It’s a sign from God – don’t do this Relational Tithe thing – you are meant to pull out of it and stay here!
GHF: It’s an attack from the enemy – God wants you to push through and defeat the obstacle and He is allowing it to be there to strengthen your faith.

ah okay got it, this could go either way, so which is it God?

[sound of crickets]

and so there lies the dilemma – i do think the solution lies somewhere in making sure we’ve taken enough time to ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ [psalm 46.10] and then also to invite the wisdom [and listening] of Jesus following friends – maybe as we listen together, someone will be able to make out the quiet whisper of God…

if not, though, we will have to make a call and follow the path of whichever one we choose, knowing full well that we serve both a Loving and Faithful God who knows our hearts and gets that we have done everything we thought of to try and ascertain which path it was… a God who, if we get it wrong while honestly trying to get it right, is so much full of Grace and Love and Forgiveness and Compassion that He will not leave us treading water in the after effects of a decision gone wrong…

therein lies a lot of the confidence i have in God… that He is able to make Himself heard when necessary, that He is able to direct and guide and beckon, that He is so quick to rush in and help out when things go wrong, that His bride, the church, has been created with a role of helping to ensure that we don’t fall face first on the ground and lie there, wounded and bleeding, without doing something about it.

and so Brett has some paths, and some obstacles, and a beautiful Valerie alongside him… and he is listening and asking and waiting… trying to figure out which is God and which is the enemy and which is just plain life…

and he is not TOO worried at all.

[i would LOVE to hear your perspective and thoughts on the two ways an obstacle can be looked at and maybe an experience you have had in that]

this is a long psalm, with much stuff in it, but i am just going to focus on one or two things:

‘He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.’ [vs 34]

when i was young, in a galaxy far far away, there was a song we used to sing that went like this:

‘it is God who trains my hands for battle, my arms can bend a bow of bronze

it is God who trains my hands for battle, my arms can bend a bow of bronze

He gives me a shield of victory, my enemies fall at my feet

praise be to my Rock, He is the Lord of hosts.’

it was a round song which were always fun so while one group sings that verse, the rest of the group sing the dragged out, ‘the Loooooooord of hooooooosts gives viiiiiiii-ctooooo-ryyyyyyy’ repeatedly and then joined together on the last line and it was a lot of energy enthused fun.

it is tough to get excited about a violence-related metaphor while living in a non-violence focused community but i can still take something out of this piece:

the psalm begins with the line, ‘I love you, LORD, my strength.’

the reminder that God is our strength… and that my arms have the capability of bending bows of bronze because He has trained me to do so… a lot of people pray that God will take bad things away from us and I don’t know that that is the route He always chooses to go or even maybe often chooses to go… but as in Psalm 23 where it says, ‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley,  I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.’ [vs.4] or Psalm 34 where it says, ‘The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. ‘ [vs.18]

so it is not so much that God is removing danger or hardship or obstacle, but rather that He is empowering the person in the situation or accompanying them through whatever it is that they are facing, and that is how i have experienced God more often than not. the bonus on the other side is that, having gone through the tough time you emerge stronger, whereas if God simply removes the problem, you have learnt nothing and not grown at all.

This is echoed in verse 29, ‘With Your help I can advance against a troop, with my God I can scale a wall.’

and in fact, that is where i will leave it – encouragement that when things are hard/crazy/impossible/frustrating/painful that God is close and that He often does not simply remove those things in our life, but rather uses them to give a reason to strengthen us and provide for us and work with us and in us so that we might be strengthened and encouraged and built up so that the next time we are facing a similar thing we will be able to handle it even better, and also so that through us getting stronger we can assist those around us who may not have prevailed through the things we have, which helps build and grow community.

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