Overcome Obstacles and Adversity

Both triumphs and trials teach us many spiritual lessons. With a teachable attitude, we can overcome the obstacles and adversity in our path. Whether it takes a lengthy process or it comes quickly, may we all grow stronger through the difficulties we face.

Every time I read this passage of Scripture, I seem to consider it carefully for several days.

“He (Jesus) saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.”
Mark 6:48

I meet people daily who feel they have been “straining at the oars” to the point of exhaustion. Although they believe that God strengthens and guides them, they also believe He stands aloof, oblivious to their struggle and disinterested in helping. The winds of physical illness, financial lack, personal attacks, and a multitude of other things blow against them.

Can you relate?

God desires that we uncover key concepts through this passage that will assist us.

Following Jesus

Christians sometimes hold a misconception that if we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior the rest of our lives will be heavenly bliss here, now, and forever. But the disciples of Jesus obeyed Him completely, yet the storm hit with fierce force.

“Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. ”
Mark 6:45

At first, I thought the disciples made a mistake by going “ahead” of Jesus. But out of full obedience, they followed and trusted His instruction.

“After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.”
Mark 6:46

As day turned to night and darkness settled over the landscape, Jesus prayed. The disciples leaned into the oars and rowed. All night long, Jesus prayed and the disciples strained. Miles from shore and through thick darkness Jesus “saw” them “straining at the oars.”

The word straining comes from the Greek word meaning “to examine as by tortue or torment, buffet as of waves.” The darkness, the straining, and the wind presented a test — a means by which the character and convictions of the disciples would be examined.

Praying Jesus

Jesus didn’t cause the wind to blow against them. But while they were being tested, Jesus used the circumstances to reveal their hidden beliefs. So, He prayed.

During our obstacles and adversity, just like theirs, Jesus prays we will overcome. He intercedes with the Father on our behalf. He wants to see us rise to the challenge and learn strategic lessons to equip and prepare us. Our God never sleeps or slumbers.

“Who then is the one who condemns? No one, Christ Jesus who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”
Romans 8:34

I remember watching my little children struggle as they learned how to feed and dress themselves. Often, the results were messy and the effort led to frustration. Eventually, however, they developed the necessary lifeskills.

Jesus could have spoken a word, stilled the storm, and stopped the wind. Instead, He watched and prayed. All during the night, however, the disciples missed what we often miss. Jesus knew something they still did not yet understand.

Coming Jesus

“. . . Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified . . .”
Mark 6:48-50

Why would Jesus come to them, but be prepared to walk right past them? Has this passage perplexed you as much as it has me?

Yesterday, my husband and I had lunch with a physician and his beautiful wife. He shared how, as a physician, he cannot help anyone without their permission. God works the same way! He will not impose Himself upon us, even when it is for our good.

Although I perceived my children needed help, they, too, often refused my assistance. They stubbornly tried to overcome obstacles on their own. Sometimes with success, other times stopping in defeat.

How often Jesus comes to us with the very help we need. Yet because He comes in a way we don’t expect, we would rather shrink in fear than give Him permission to enter our tottering “boats.”

I AM

Then Jesus spoke surprising words into their frustration and fatigue.

“. . . Don’t yield to fear. Have courage. It is really me. I AM.”
Mark 6:50 TPT

The same words God spoke to fearful, exhausted Moses, He spoke to twelve fearful, exhausted disciples. “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14).

“Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down.”
Mark 6:51a

The wind tested the disciples ability to overcome not just this obstacle but every future adversity. They failed the test miserably,

“for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.”
Mark 6:52

What does the miracle of the loaves have to do with wind, waves, and straining at the oars?

Jesus Miracle

Every miracle contains a message.

The miracle of the loaves and fish occurred only a few hours before the storm. Jesus blessed and broke the bread and fish. Then He divided it, giving portions to each of his disciples (Mark 6:41-44). The disciples then broke the bread and fish as they divided it, giving portions to 5,000 men plus women and children.

Jesus possessed power and authority over natural elements. He empowered and authorized His disciples to do the same. They contained within themselves the power and authority of Christ to influence outcomes.

The disciples completely missed the message of the miracle! They saw Jesus divide and multiple, but they quickly forgot how they also had divided and multiplied. Because their “hearts were hardened (Strongs 4456 — like a stone, petrify, stupid, calloused, unresponsive, harden),” they missed the significance of what happened by Jesus through themselves.

Every time we experience Jesus in our lives without it affecting our hearts, we become hardened toward Him. Every time we read the Word of God and our lives remain unchanged, we become petrified toward His voice.

The Passion Translation says, “their minds were dull, unwilling to learn.” Am I willing to learn from His message and His miracles?

Jesus Message

With grace, Jesus invited them, as He does us, “Stop fighting the wind! Stop straining at the oars! You speak to the wind! Allow courage rather than fear to motivate and control. Take hold of and release all that I have given you, and you will prevail. You possess the authority to overcome all obstacles and adversity. Soften your hearts to My voice, to My way, and to My will.”

Could it be that simple? Sometimes it is.

I have experienced futile, sleepless straining. Until prompted by Holy Spirit, I arose in Christ’s power and authority.

When we welcome Jesus into our “boats,” co-operating with Him, the wind either stills to a whisper, or God equips us to proceed unaffected by its raging.

Jesus knows every dark trial we face. He knows how we ache under the strain. He intercedes for us to lay hold of the same truth He gave His disciples.

“. . . All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go . . . And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20

In times of struggle, they forgot that Jesus had already given them authority (Mark 3:15) over both the spiritual and the natural world (Luke 9:1). As believers and followers of Jesus Christ, we possess that same authority. We are overcomers through Him. As long as we strain in our own strength, we won’t get far. But when we learn the message of the miracle, we will overcome all obstacles and adversity the enemy lays in our path.

“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Mark 6:50

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Overcoming Spiritual Impotency: Accepting Personal Responsibility

Overcoming Spiritual Impotency

Overcoming spiritual impotency starts by recognizing and accepting personal responsibility for both gains and losses. Impotent means “unable to take effective action—to be helpless or powerless.”

Before you get any wrong ideas, I’m talking in the broadest sense of living the Christian life at half-throttle, never reaching God’s full potential. Jesus set a high standard of ministry for His disciples,

“Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.”
Matthew 10:1

How wonderful to be called and given full authority to do the impossible! With opportunity comes responsibility.

Our Commission

Just a few verses later, Jesus spells out their mission more clearly,

Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”
Matthew 10:6-8

Colt

As Christ’s followers, we are all called to “go” and “proclaim” the Good News of the Gospel. Each of us will carry out that mandate a little differently, depending on our situation and spiritual gift mix. We are all called to share God’s love with a world in need, however.

As well intentioned as I may be, I have been unable to reach the high mark Jesus has established. Although there’s a faint smattering of a few of these victories, I fall far short. I’ve been honestly seeking God and asking why. The lives of others depend on my overcoming spiritual impotency.

Pinpointing the Cause

Rather than focusing on the symptoms, we must go deeper to the cause of our powerlessness. God makes it clear, He desire us to freely give away all that we have received.

One day, Jesus invited His inner circle, Peter, James and John, up the mountain for an out of this world encounter with Moses and Elijah. Though the supernatural occurrence left them confused and questioning, they witnessed unbelievable things. Meanwhile, the other nine disciples weren’t idly waiting below. They were ministering — or rather they were unsuccessfully trying to!

” ‘You unbelieving and perverse generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.’ ”
Matthew 17:17

Rodeo Horse

Ouch! How’s that for a scathing performance evaluation that no one desires to hear from their Superior? I feel the sting from this side of two thousand years!

It’s not just you and me working on overcoming spiritual impotency; the best of the best struggled too.

Matthew, who records the account, witnessed the suffering of this poor father and son. He felt the failure of his inability to set this young lad free from demonic possession and heal his troubled body and mind. Matthew knew that every Christ follower would face these same hurdles to effective ministry.

The First Problem

Signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit become a visible testimony of our salvation (Hebrews 2:3-4). God delegated these things for us all, not just those in “ordained” ministry. So what keeps us from fulfilling our calling? What’s the problem?

Jesus spells it out in two words: “unbelieving and perverse.” We tend to emphasize the former and ignore the latter. Both are critical if we are going to be effective at overcoming spiritual impotence.

Unbelieving” goes beyond a littleness of faith. It also contains the aspect of not being worthy of confidence or being untrustworthy. Perhaps we have all experienced, either in our own lives or in the lives of others, a powerful sense of divine potential or excellence of calling. Yet, practically, we fall far short.

Wild Horses

I have to be bold in my self-evaluation, if I desire to overcome this malady of spirit. Can Jesus depend on me? Am I trustworthy with the gifts, abilities and opportunities He offers? Do broken, hurting people come to me and leave just as broken and hurting, or does Jesus pour out from me with healing and deliverance? Do I make excuses for my failures?

I can fully believe in God and the inerrancy of His Word, yet without verbalizing it, justify why healing won’t work this time, deliverance isn’t for me to get involved in right now, and don’t even mention raising the dead. These things belong to super-gifted, anointed Christians! Right? Here lives unbelief at the core. Yes, we know Jesus is present to heal, deliver and restore to life, but we doubt His willingness to do it here — through us.

Jesus uses the opportunity to build up their faith.

” . . . Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Matthew 17:20

The Second Problem

The Bible tells us that God has already given to each of us a measure or quantity of faith. Beyond question, we possess at least a mustard seed sized amount (Romans 12:3).

Overcoming spiritual impotency depends on our willingness to deal with both problems Jesus addressed. He identified the second hindrance to vibrant ministry as being “perverse.”

Horse grazing

The dictionary says that “perverse” is

“showing a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable or unacceptable, often in spite of the consequences.”

The Greek word, διεστραμμένη (diestrammenē), means to distort, misinterpret, corrupt, or oppose. Literally, it means to be “wrong-headed, arising from stubbornness.”

I’m perhaps way more “wrong-headed” than I realize. Every time my thoughts don’t align with His thoughts, I’m wrong-headed. In every situation where I vainly think my ways will get it done, instead of leaning into Him, I’m wrong-headed.

I can’t sluff off my stubbornness to Irish genetics. Since the fall of mankind, wrong-headed thinking has led those whom God loves to “show a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable and unacceptable (to God and others), often in spite of the consequences.” No one can justly claim immunity in this regard.

The Solution

God never pinpoints a problem without offering the solution. The disciples recognized they hit a legitimate ministry wall of failure and limitation. They sought Jesus’ help in overcoming spiritual impotency.

“He replied, This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.”
Mark 9:29

Powerful Horse

Prayer and fasting align both our hearts and minds to God’s. These two disciplines draw our spirit, soul and body in surrender to the sovereignty of God. Prayer doesn’t just change things — it changes us!

“He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel.”
Psalm 103:7

During Moses’ daily times in the Tent of Meeting talking with God, he came to know God — His character, His attributes, and His nature. He saw clearly the ways of God.

The people who stood back and watched God from a distance only experienced God’s deeds. They saw His miracles, ate daily of His provision, and sat under the fire by night and the cloud by day. Still, they did not “know” God! They continued to walk in deliberate and obstinate disobedience, even while knowing what was right.

Be Free

When Jesus said, “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting,” was he referring just to a demon in a child? Could He also have been referring to our unbelief and perverse tendency?

It’s not just the demon possessed who suffer. We all do! Prayer and fasting is essential for us to overcome spiritual impotency. Only God can set us free from every “unbelieving and perverse” way. Prayer and fasting releases us from our boxes of little faith and wrong-headed thinking. Then what we have so freely received from Jesus will flow freely to others.

Horse portrait

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Romans 12:2

The first month of the year is an excellent time to designate for prayer and fasting, resetting priorities and giving God first place. I’m asking Him what He desires to set me free from. Undoubtedly, unbelief and wrong-headed thinking hold prominent position on His list.

Unbelief originates in the heart; perversion flows from the mind. With hearts faith-filled and fully devoted to God, let’s endeavor to live with minds “clear-headed” free from every perverse way. Then we will gain the power to live victorious, bringing freedom and hope to those around us.

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.”
1 Peter 4:7

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The Unbeatable Team! Power and Authority! It’s Amazing

Amazing

I think it is amazing that anyone could amaze Jesus! Who was this incredible person? What qualified him of such status?

Who?

We read about him in the gospels. He is a captain in the Roman army, an unnamed centurion,  overseeing about one hundred men. His solid reputation among the Jews, sincere concern of his slave and love for the nation qualifies him a notch above the norm. He also helped build the synagogue.

These attributes make it clear he was not the typical army commander of that day. Packing these characteristics into one human is enough to amaze me!

Though the word “love” only appears once, it permeates all he does. Whether behind closed doors where only servants witness or in the public square, a love that went above and beyond marked his life.

Centurion

The word “amazing” is perhaps overused today :

My grandchildren are amazing.
(I challenge anyone to disagree!)
The meal was amazing,
amazing hospitality, sunset, feats of strength…

To amaze means to fill with astonishment, to take someone’s breath away, to stun or leave someone open-mouthed. Somehow, I have a hard time visualizing Jesus in this way. Yet it is true!

Why?

“When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him,
and turning to the crowd following him, he said,
‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.’ ”
Luke 7:9

Why was his faith amazing? The recorded interaction shows he had a firm understanding of authority.

Authority

“… say the word, and my servant will be healed.
For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me.
I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one,
‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant,
‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
Luke 7:7-8

Authority combines both legal ability and authorization to exercise power. It also carries the strength for enforcement. Power is the actual exercise and use of the power and influence of authority.

Authority is the permission granted to actually carry out a task. Power is the force exerted to complete it.

[bctt tweet=”Authority it the permission granted to carry out a task. Power is the force exerted to complete it.” username=”MAWardAuthor”]

The Start?

Matthew said Jesus

“… taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”
Matthew 7:29

Supreme Court

Everything Jesus did (His power) flowed from this place of authority. In Christ, authority and power presented an unbeatable combination.

“Say the word,” the centurion said “and my servant will be healed.” His confession to Jesus was, “Speak and it will be!”

Whether it was words of healing, calming a storm or blessing a meal, Jesus moved in both power and authority.

Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy,
and he was healed at that moment.”
Matthew 17:18

Others

Jesus gave authority to the twelve disciples:

“Jesus called his twelve disciples to him
and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and
to heal every disease and sickness.”
Matthew 10:1

And then to seventy-two others:

“I have given you authority to trample on
snakes and scorpions and
to overcome all the power of the enemy;
nothing will harm you.”
Luke 10:19

Snakes and scorpions were the cause of excruciating pain and even death. Walking in the authority of Christ produces the ability to overcome. That is good news!

But it didn’t stop there! One of the most profound statements in the bible is

“Just as you sent me into the world,
I am sending them into the world.”
John 17:18

Jesus came with power and authority, teaching and doing all the Father instructed. Just as the Father sent Jesus into the world with power and authority, so Jesus is sending each of us. I honestly haven’t grasped the measure of this truth, but I’m working on it.

I once read: “Power is the ability to do something. Authority is the right to do it. Power without authority is abuse. Authority without power is pointless.”

[bctt tweet=”Power is the ability to do something. Authority is the right to do it.” username=”MAWardAuthor”]

Senseless

Amazing?

Do you believe Jesus would send us out on mission ill-equipped or unprepared? Absolutely not! Everything we need to do even greater things is at our disposal.

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me
will do the works I have been doing, and
they will do even greater things than these,
because I am going to the Father.”
John 14:12

Through Jesus Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit, we have the capacity to walk in both power and authority. It truly is an unbeatable team!

“We must have the devotion and the confidence
to believe that He will not fail and cannot fail.”
Smith Wigglesworth

The centurion, the twelve disciples, Smith Wigglesworth and countless others took hold of the winning combination of authority and power.

For you or I to rank in the mix, we must grasp not only the concept of authority but take the nature of a servant, like the centurion did. I action flowing from a heart of love impact our generation.

Do you believe it is still possible to amaze Jesus? Jaw-dropping astonishment might occur more often as faith is put into action. Yes! That is our hope!

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