This past weekend there was a college age retreat at White River Youth Camp, and the theme of the weekend was Overcoming the Obstacles that we face in our lives. The first thing that came up out there at camp was having just a little faith goes along way. Obstacles in our lives are the only consistency and through those times facing them head on can make it difficult for us, but God is with us. Close your eyes and picture some of the obstacles that you have overcame in your life, and now ask yourself what are some of the barriers that have been put up in your life that are keeping you from God, and how that plays a role in your walk with Christ. Sometimes the smallest bit of faith can make the biggest difference and can help you to remove some of the mountains that are going on in our lives.
Genesis 3: 9 (TNIV) But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?"
A question that we need to also ask ourselves when we are facing those challenges is we need to be asking ourselves is where is my heart when we often ask where are you God? And even having a small amount of faith while walking with the father shows that He is consistently working on us as well.
Matthew 17:20 (KJV) And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
The next lesson was over faith and perspective and how it plays a critical role in our lives when it comes to the obstacles and challenges that we may face everyday. Everybody has a different perspective and sometimes it takes a shift in the paradigm to help reset the focus on where it truly belongs. Imagine sitting in a courtroom with the charge of being a Christian brought against you and facing life in prison. Do you stand up for your beliefs and are aggressive with your faith to show that though you may be faced with that persecution that you are not afraid? It is not always easy to keep going, but changing the perspective to knowing that God is right beside you can make the slightest difference in your life. Stand Up and give God the glory and set your mind on things above! Having the humility to be willing to stand up is the aggressive faith that we need to have through that courtroom and not be afraid to say in that courtroom: I will not deny God even though it may cost me my life. In our lives we are faced with that same challenge today in various scenarios , and we need to be humble and have humility for God the Father and be willing to fight for the ultimate truth. When you fall and are challenged in your faith do you hide away, or are you going to swallow your pride to simply stand up? It is a question that all of us should be asking and changing the perspective can make a big difference even in the smallest ways unknown.
We need to be aggressive with our faith and not be afraid to show it along with understanding that we need God to be by our side in our lives through the water and the focus can become a stepping stone into our lives, for the endurance will have some ramifications that can make a difference even if in that courtroom being on trial for just simply being a Christian and changing your perspective can change your life if you allow God's hand to be apart of it.
Matthew 11:12 (NIV) From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.
Acts 14:19-20 (TNIV) Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got back up and went back into the city. The next day Paul and Barnabas left for Debre.
Saturday afternoon the lesson was over empathy and that is a hard lesson to explain, but empathy is being able to put yourself in the shoes of others and being able to see their views from their perspective. It is also an issue that many Christians continue to struggle with in our daily lives because we often want it to be about us. Selflessness is part of being empathetic because we need to not make it about ourselves and make it about God, and part of that is being able to listen and being able to put yourself in the shoes of your brothers and sisters. One question was can you love somebody you do not know through the love of Christ and the answer is yes, because though you may not know somebody face to face you can still love them through Christ. Empathy is something should be practiced daily but it is also a hard thing to do when we try to make it about us instead of making it about Who really matters and what really matters. God does care about his children and he is very empathetic for his children, just like an earthly father who is there to listen and care for his precious child while trying to see the view from his son or daughter's perspective in those obstacles of life.
Love of Christ
The next question was Is God really empathetic? And the answer is also yes, and it shows all throughout various parts of the bible of God showing his empathy for his children. God searched for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, in the story of Cain and able it shows us that God is just; and God is always concerned for his children. Now picture your child coming to you with an issue and they are so upset about and as a parent you would be concerned, that is the same way with God being the Father, for yes he is empathetic and he is also very concerned for his children who he loves and love also ties into the empathy as well for it can provide a better understanding for Christ was tempted in every way.
Philippians 2:1-8 (KJV) If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. Who, being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God; But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Every-time God intervenes on our behalf, he is being empathetic towards his children and just like an earthly father he cares for each child of his intimately with the love that only the Father can provide and listens to his children. Empathy is hard especially in a world so self-consumed, but it also is the first stepping stone to overcoming the hardest obstacles of life in which we will face throughout our lives. It will not always be easy but take the time to try to understand it from the point of view of others and walk a mile in the shoes of others. It may hurt, but it will be completely worth it when trying to overcome those obstacles that are keeping you away from God.
The lesson for Saturday night was several ways to help us to overcome those obstacles in life, knowing that we are not alone and that God is right beside us and helping us to overcome those obstacles. We need to be advocates for one another to help our brothers and sisters in Christ for we are a family and all need each other. Holding each other accountable is a step and it does really matter. We will struggle as Christians but being there for one another and advocacy for each other will help us to overcome some of those obstacles in our lives and we also need to be reminded that Christ is also our advocate to help us get through the stormy waters that may come up. If it is personal obstacles-reach out to others who may be able to help you and know that God will always be the best advocate in helping you through those fires and barriers that are keeping you away from him. Hold each other accountable, and be there for one another, practice empathy, and know that as one body you do matter. Do not let your obstacles overcome you to the point you are so distant away from God, but be aggressive in your faith, stand up for Christ, and do not be afraid to face those obstacles in your life for you are not alone. We are a family and we should practice that love for it can make a difference in your life as well as others. We also need to know that God is always with us and through those obstacles we can overcome them with the support system of God the father and the family of Christ.
What are some of your obstacles are you facing in your life? Do they put up the barrier to keep you distant from God, or do you allow Him to help you through those obstacles to grow closer to Him? Think about it and understand that though life is full of many obstacles we can overcome them and we are not alone for as brothers and sisters we should be advocating for one another and also letting Jesus be our main advocate.Overcoming the Obstacles in your life will be different then maybe your sister's , but love, perspective, empathy, and advocacy matters when you are faced with the obstacles throughout your Christian Journey. Will you allow God to help you tear those barriers down that keep you away from him and let him help you through the flames throughout your life? What are the obstacles in your life and are they keeping you away from being closer to God? Amen.
* A personal note:
Everybody has a story, and God is the author, but do you allow your obstacles to be the barrier that keeps you from the father? Does overcoming those obstacles in your story draw you closer or further away from Christ and the lessons show you that you are not really alone and remind you that God is beside you and will help you through those obstacles if you allow him to? Everybody's story is different, but the author of the story is still the same, and we need to be reminded that through the different perspectives we are loved by the Father.You are not alone and let God help you to overcome those obstacles and draw closer to him for he loves and cares for you for we are his children and he does care. Do not let your obstacles be the barriers that keep you from God your father. No matter what your perspective is, every story is different, but God is the author and he wants his children to know that we are to be there for one another and know that He is always with us as well.