Luke 18:24-27 “And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”
As we travel in this life, we will all experience obstacles, stumbling blocks and adversity. What we do when we reach those points will define who we are, and the direction we’ll take in our life.
I am in the middle of a book “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday. In it, the author searched for what made successful people the way they are. He came to find a common thread of how they dealt with challenges that seemed ominous; situations that to most would cause them to quit, and mountainous problems. He saw not a pattern, or a method – but a perspective that made all the difference.
He details the lives of those many would envy. John D.Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Steven Jobs and many more that have succeeded where most fail – how they handled the adversity in their life mattered greatly in the path and direction each took.
It would be easy to focus on the monetary as success. But our passage today indicates much the same to a young man taken with riches. Many measure their success by their ranking on the Forbes Top list of wealthiest people. But Jesus told this young man it would be his stumbling block to the eternal.
Truly, it is all a matter of perspective. How you and I look at things will determine much of the success or failure in our life. But consider this…
Allow yourself to see from different perspectives, but only allow the Word of God to define and change those perspectives.
The belief system by which we measure ourselves will define whether our success is temporal or eternal. Jesus said:
Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Our hearts reveal much when it is discovered what we are truly chasing after. He went on to say:
Matthew 6:24 “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (mammon = money)
In a discussion with a coworker, he stated; “Well, you know, ‘money is the root of all evil'”. To which I said, “Money, in and of itself is not evil – but the love of it is.” He said that seemed very true and asked if the Bible really said that. Thus began another opportunity to talk about my Savior and how they can know Him as well.
For some, money is a stumbling block. For others, it is communication. Still others in asserting themselves or taking a stand. The devil doesn’t have any specific plan to ruin us, he watches to see what we like and then creates opportunity. He places before us a smorgasbord of dainties and watches to see where our eyes linger.
It might be that purse with that ‘name’ that all the women are raving about. It might be that gun, tool or truck. It could be someone other than your spouse. A car. A house. A suit of clothes. It is all the same to Satan. He doesn’t care what you choose – just so long as you do not choose what God wants for your life.
We are all tempted. It is common to all of us.
1 Corinthians 10:13 “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
God allows us to be tempted. But in that temptation, we can have victory.
In Ryan Holiday’s book, he takes the maxim from one of the five great Roman emperors, Marcus Aurelius:
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
Remember; allow yourself to see from different perspectives, but only allow the Word of God to define and change those perspectives.
The apostle Paul wanted to change things. He felt that if his ‘obstacle’ were to be removed, he could do so much more for the cause of Christ. For this, he besought God to remove this thorn in the flesh.
2 Corinthians 12:7 “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.”
Paul saw it one way – God showed him another:
2 Corinthians 12:8-9 “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
Paul’s obstacle became the path to a greater awareness; a greater dependence upon God working in and through him.
We complain about the difficulty of the obstacle in our way. Could it be that God designed it specifically for us to need Him more?
Ultimately, Paul saw that, through this trial of the flesh, God would get the glory.
2 Corinthians 12:10-11 “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.”
Paul’s obstacle taught him the power of weakness.
What is your obstacle teaching you?