Understand the Obstacles

We have to know what we're up against.

Making Progress in the Life of Faith (2)

“And He will deliver their kings into your hand, and you will destroy their name from under heaven; no one shall be able to stand against you…” Deuteronomy 7.24

No easy task
As the Israelites waited on the plains of Moab for God’s command to enter the land, the Lord was careful to rehearse the vision of the good land that He had prepared for them. Making progress in the life of faith begins with a clear and compelling vision of revivalrenewal, and awakening. The Scriptures have much to say about each of these matters, and the Lord commands us to pursue them as our own version of the “promised land.” By getting this vision clearly in focus, and renewing it day by day, we can know the courage and persistence we need to make progress toward our objectives. 

As was the case with the people of Israel, formidable obstacles stand in the way of our quest. God reminded the Israelites that they would have to dispossess seven nations, each one stronger and more powerful than Israel, and each one fully invested in holding on to its land, whatever the cost. The struggle to overcome these obstacles would be considerable; but God promised to be with His people and to fight for them all the way. He promised that they would make steady progress toward His promised blessings if they persisted each day in every next step of obedient faith.

Realizing more of the promise of revival, renewal, and awakening will not be an easy row to hoe. We need to be clear about the obstacles that stand in our way, taking the measure of our opponents and facing up to the hurdles that reside in our own souls. We will daily have to fight a good fight on many fronts if we are going to make progress in following Jesus.

Complacency
With respect to revival – each of us knowing more of the full and abundant life in Christ, and being filled and led by His Spirit from glory to glory – the obstacles we must surmount lie chiefly within our own souls. 

The first is complacency. It is very easy for us to become convinced that the life of faith, as we have come to know it, is as good as it gets. When that happens, we settle into our comfortable routines and put growing in the Lord on cruise control. We forget that the power of God within us is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ever ask or think, and that He is striving to make us willing and able to know and do His good pleasure (Eph. 3.20; Phil. 2.13). Once we have lost sight of this, we don’t care to pursue it any further, so we cruise along rather than press ahead in faith.

Complacency will stall our progress in the Lord and keep us from seeking anything more than the familiar.

The status quo
The great obstacle to renewal in our churches is the status quo. Having never known renewal, and feeling quite at home in our church as it is, we are reluctant to envision or desire anything more. Besides, we don’t know any other churches where such renewal of worship, discipleship, and mission is occurring, so it must not be something to concern us. And as for finding fellowship, worship, and mission with other churches in our community, well, we conclude, that hasn’t happened before, so it’s probably not going to happen today.

Without revival in our souls and renewal in our churches we will never realize awakening and restoration in our culture and society. 

Political default
The great obstacle to awakening and the restoration that comes with it is our tendency to believe that major social and cultural changes are the work of politics, rather than of those who are seeking the Kingdom of God. Change, we believe, is an external matter, and only governments can make the kind of laws and policies that bring a society into a better moral and cultural place. Christians have embraced a particular view of politics, which has continually let them down, because it is not up to the task of awakening and restoring. 

As long as we keep trying to leap over the political wall to smaller government, fiscal responsibility, moral renewal, and whatever else we may seek for our nation, we’re going to be disappointed. Politics is not the way to awakening and restoration.

Certainly we must climb this wall and not ignore or neglect our civic duties. But if we do not lead the way into our awakening and restoration with the Gospel of the Kingdom, boldly proclaimed and consistently lived, we will not see our neighbors coming to faith, and we will not be able to accomplish long-term change in the institutions of our culture and society.

Many more obstacles await us as well, but it will be no use identifying these until we first determine to overcome our personal complacency, the ecclesiastical status quo, and our belief that politics – rather than divine power – is the way to reform our society and culture. As we focus on the revival, renewal, and awakening God holds out for us, let’s prepare each day to address the formidable obstacles that can keep us from making progress in our faith.

For reflection
1.  How can you tell when you have become complacent about following Jesus? How can we break out of this complacency?

2.  What does a church look like that needs renewal? Is your church trapped in the status quo? Explain.

3.  What happens when a person is awakened to Jesus? Do truly awakened people have an impact on morality, culture, and society? Explain.

Next steps – Conversation: How might you be able to tell when you are becoming complacent about your walk with the Lord? Talk with another Christian friend about this question. How might you help one another keep from stalling in your progress in faith by this obstacle?

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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