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Sermon 1/29/06 - The Obstacle
Matthew 17:19-20

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The Obstacle

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast him out?’ So Jesus said to them,Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Move from here to there, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you’” (Matthew 17:19-20)

Nobody who really loves the Lord, wants to become an obstacle to the will of God, and yet, in subtle ways, we do interfere, often not even recognizing what we have done. In the Christian walk, the Holy Spirit helps us, and it becomes easier to avoid obvious sins. Most don’t literally want to murder anybody, and we begin to see that the harsh, unkind word is a murder of the soul. But comparing the Holy Spirit to the water that is needed for a thirsty land, we do tend to be like dams that become obstacles to His will.

I don’t mean to insult anybody’s Christian maturity, but after observing the “body of Christ,” the church, for over 50-years, I conclude that we are often like the members of a dog obedience class that flunk the course. God would do wonders through us, but the for the most part, concepts like “sit,” “stay,” “fetch” and “roll over,” stretch us to our limit.

We have difficulty understanding the things of the Spirit, finding it easier to complain than to follow God. And yet, it is the Spirit of God we must follow, for without the Spirit, we are “not His” (Romans 8:9). Without Him, the Bible seems like a mere set of rules. We understand so little, and we must look to Him. Pastor Elmer Church said, “God gave us two gifts; the gift of life and the gift of death – we can’t have one without the other.” All we can take out of this earth is the Lord. We need HIM – in everything.

We read God’s Word, and like the one who cannot pass “obedience training class,” we learn a little; and a danger is to think we know it all. As stated earlier, we intend to not commit murder; we are drawn to not steal, and we try to NOT covet what is in the possession of someone else. But God will keep us in “obedience training,” until we at last recognize that the “rules” must be filtered through His Spirit, and at last we begin to love.

As a church, we have to ask the question: WHY were there so many miracles of healing and restoration when the church was young? And why are there so few, now that we are old? And yes, I do understand that there ARE miracles happening all around us, and that the greatest miracle of all is a changed life in Jesus Christ! But at the same time, are we somehow an OBSTACLE to His will? For it is certain that God's will includes His intention to heal this world, one person at a time, using ordinary people like you and me.

Jesus said that if you have even a tiny bit of “faith” in God, you will say to the “mountain” of difficulties in front of you, “MOVE from here to there, and it WILL move.” He continued, “NOTHING will be impossible for you.” Pastor Elmer Church said, “A touch of greatness is not faith in faith, but faith in God.” The Lord can do all things, and it is time to BELIEVE in Him.

When I was young, at 16-years of age, I was called to the ministry, but ran away from the Lord; away from that call. A couple of pastors from two different groups were after me to attend “their” college; one in Springfield, Missouri, and the other on Point Loma, in San Diego, California. I ran away from both of them and from the Lord, for 15-years. Decades later, I was back and WANTED the Lord, but was not used by Him. Yes, I completed Bible college, and yes, I was willing, but His message to me was: “WAIT!” And I did wait, with great difficulty for a quarter century from the time I thought I was “ready.”

What happened? Well, when I was 16, the two pastors who wanted me for their denominations did not know that I was flunking out of high school. When I was younger, I missed five years of school while in hospital beds and wheelchairs. I missed fractions, parts of speech, and especially, I didn’t have the discipline to succeed in school. My logic at the time was: If I can’t make it in high school, I couldn’t make it in college, either! I had not progressed sufficiently in obedience training to realize that, “with God, ALL things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). I ran away.

Fifteen years later, I did respond to the Lord, graduating from a 4-year Bible college, “summa cum laude” – almost an “A” average! I was surprised that I could study and do well in college, and KNEW the Lord was with me. I was on-fire, ready, willing and ABLE to serve the Lord. Then came another surprise: God put me “on the shelf” – I taught small Bible studies, but that was “it” for the next 25-years!

I had heard in the HUMAN version of “obedience class,” that if God called you, He would SEND you! The need was for those who are WILLING! I waited through the decades until I could not wait anymore, and then finally, I gave up and admitted that I had failed Him - I was not able to fulfill His call, whatever it was. I would continue to teach small Bible studies to anybody willing to listen, but whatever His “call” might have been, apparently I had missed it. God must have selected somebody else. I surrendered it all.

It was then, in 1997, God opened the door to a ministry that had not existed a quarter century before. Those temporary and semi-“permanent” jobs that seemed to go nowhere down through the years had a purpose after all – among other things, they taught me the basic computer skills I needed to function within the “First Church On The Net.

And best of all, I see that NONE of us can fulfill the call of God. When I was young, I decided, “I can’t,” in relation to His call. And it’s true, for none of us can. My error was in running away, for He always has in mind that we will follow Him, not lead the way ourselves. Fifteen years later, I made the mistake of thinking that this time I WAS ready to do the job, and of course, I was wrong then as well. Not only did the technology not yet exist for what God intended, but I had not learned that “let go, let God,” was a part of His will. He will pour out His blessings through ordinary people like Peter, like Paul, like you and me, but to do it according to God’s plan of action, we must pass “obedience training” and do things HIS way, not through formulas or human effort. OUR intentions become an obstacle to the unique way He will work through you and me.

Father, we all want the mountains of difficulties that fill our lives to just go away. Our attempts to remove them have been temporary “fixes” at best, and often, “our” solutions actually make things worse, not better. We look to You, Lord. We give up trying to do it ourselves and ask You to save us, lead us – now. Thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
First Church On The Net
"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)

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