My children enjoy making obstacle courses in our backyard and basement. They enjoy racing against each other to see who can get through the course the fastest. Some adults enjoy obstacle courses.
I am not one of those adults.
Obstacles are annoying to me. I prefer a straight, smooth course. Even still, life is filled with obstacles. They are unavoidable. We must learn to deal with them.
Everyone who desires to live as a witness of Jesus Christ needs to understand three common obstacles to the salvation of others. We must understand and look for them so we can faithfully navigate the way.
1. The Enemy. The Bible describes the devil as the god of this world. Part of his work is to blind people to the gospel.
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4 NASB)
Jesus likewise warned of the work of the enemy.
“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.” (Matthew 13:19 NASB)
The devil blinds eyes. He steals what has been sown. Many don’t believe Satan is real. He does his work in the dark. Those he blinds think they can see. When he steals what is sown he steals something that wasn’t even understood. They don’t know anything has been lost.
2. The will. The human will is incredibly powerful. The Creator of the heavens and earth established boundaries for the seas. They obey Him. He has put each star in its place. They remain unchanging. Yet the human will is able to resist the commands of God.
Jesus lamented over the human will refusing to come to God. He lamented over Jerusalem.
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.” (Matthew 23:37 NASB, emphasis added)
Jesus also confronted the Jews in His day for their unwillingness to believe. He was standing before them. They claimed they were waiting for Him. Yet they were unwilling to come to Him. Their will blinded them to what was before their eyes. Their will caused them to reject the Savior.
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40 NASB, emphasis added)
Some are blinded supernaturally by the god of this world. The human will causes people to blind themselves. The apostle Paul describes the fallen will in vivid terms.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. (Romans 1:18-19 NASB)
Many suppress the truth in their unrighteousness. This is like putting the truth in a box and forcefully keeping the lid on to hide it from themselves. Suppressing the truth is evident when witnessing. Many people willfully close their own eyes while proclaiming with their lips that they don’t see any evidence for God.
3. Hypocrisy in the lives of Christians. God commands His people not to use His name in vain. Most people think of this only as words. This is just as applicable to our actions.
God brought severe judgment upon the house of Israel for blaspheming His name by their actions (Ezekiel 20:27). In our modern setting we have many who take the name “Christian” upon themselves. They blaspheme God’s name and character with their own actions.
Christians are strictly instructed to avoid throwing this obstacle in the path of others.
…giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited. (2 Corinthians 6:3 NASB)
The context is not receiving the grace of God in vain. The context is the ministry of reconciliation. Acting in ways contrary to the will of God while calling yourself a follower of Christ can cause the ministry of reconciliation to be discredited.
Jesus warns His followers against doing this.
He said to His disciples, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.” (Luke 17:1-2 NASB)
How do you deal with these obstacles?