We like to see our lives linearly, as a constant straight and upward progression. As we get older, we want to get better, stronger, wiser. Whether we’d admit it or not, we want our lives to proceed in a straight progression: graduation, college, college graduation, first job, marriage, promotions, a baby, our first house... We think the work we put it should be a direct correlation with this “progression.” And we often get upset, confused, or down when life is not “progressing” in the way, or timing we would like.
Even if this works out (sometimes) in our physical lives, it’s simply not the logic of our spiritual life in Jesus. The Kingdom operates by a set of rules and truths which are completely different than the world’s. That’s why Jesus was so completely misunderstood by those in His day. And I have no doubt if He appeared on earth tomorrow, He would still be misunderstood--because He lived by a framework that does not make sense to our natural selves. He lived out of spiritual principles and truths.
I believe sometimes Christians experience so much needless frustration because we are trying to understand our lives through natural principles. We are not taking into account that since we are new creations, our lives are now governed by these spiritual principles and truths. We have to train ourselves to look at our circumstances differently than others around us and ask, “What is God doing?”
Today I want to share one of the spiritual truths with you that has unlocked breakthrough in my own life:
When it comes to moving forward in our lives, our obstacles are always our potential upgrades.
What do I mean by this? God’s greatest desire for us is that we would become more like Jesus. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
God has many ways that He grows us from “one degree of glory” to another as we are shaped to look like Jesus. Sometimes, we simply learn and make changes as we read the Word. Sometimes, we enter into important friendships with other Christians and are led and guided by their wisdom. But one of the primary ways God grows us is actually through our everyday obstacles.
What if things you perceived as “frustrations” at work separate from your spiritual life were actually the very thing that God was using to unlock the next level of spirituality for you?
What if the very heart change you’ve been seeking is found not in a moment of worship, but through a difficult relationship?
What if He’s using a perceived delay or rejection to bring about the next degree of glory in your life?
What if God is using the very things you see as “blocking” your progress to unlock your next step?
You are probably familiar with the Israelites and the story of how God rescued them from centuries of servitude in Egypt. God used Moses to deliver the people, and they successfully escaped due to God’s miraculous power. God’s destination for them was the Promised Land, a home of their own, a huge “upgrade!”. But what happened next?
What was supposed to be a ten-day trip through the wilderness turned to forty years of wandering in the desert before they could enter the Promised Land! Why? You see, in the desert, the Israelites were guilty of bemoaning every perceived obstacle. They complained about the lack of food. They complained about the lack of water. When they sent spies ahead into the promised land, they complained that the people of the land were too big and violent to ever be defeated.
Even though the Israelites had just witnessed the amazing miracles of God’s power, they only saw the obstacles seemingly “blocking the way” to the Promised Land. In reality, their own perception of these obstacles was the roadblock that stopped them from entering the Promised Land! They thought that obstacles were blocking their “linear” progress. But God wanted to use those obstacles to grow their character so they were ready for the blessing of the Promised Land. You see, the Promised Land wasn’t just a gift--it was a huge responsibility. The Israelites were going to encounter more challenges and temptations there than they had ever before. And God wanted to use them to bless the whole world as a strong and changed people.
But the Israelites wanted the upgrade without the character they needed to get there. They actually wasted the obstacles God put in their path to shape them.
Are you doing what you need to today to be spiritually ready for the responsibility of the “next step” you want tomorrow?
Is the frustration or obstacle causing the delay in your life, or is it your perception and attitude of the obstacle that is the problem?
Are you “wasting” your opportunity to grow?
Does it ever feel like you encounter the same problem over and over again? Maybe it’s annoying people--wherever you go, they seem to follow you. Maybe it’s temptation towards bad relationships--wherever you go, the “wrong guys” just seem to chase you!
What I’ve learned is this: when we come across a repeated obstacle, delay, or frustration, that is precisely the opportunity for the upgrade we’ve been looking for. God has helped me recognize these “patterns” in my life where I’ve painfully repeated the same mistakes over and over. Guess what? These are all loving opportunities that God allows because He wants us to get to the next degree of glory. He’s so excited to help you cultivate the patience you need with annoying coworkers--because you won’t be able to handle a promotion to management without learning to deal with frustrating people. He’s so excited to help you say “no” to bad relationships--because He can’t give you the marriage you want if you haven’t developed wisdom to recognize it! All of the things we perceive as delays on our way to our next step are really what God is using to unlock that next step for you!
It's not all about God "changing" our behavior. Sometimes what we really need to overcome an obstacle is a revelation of what God is like. We need a fresh perception of God's goodness, love, or His heart towards us. He wants to upgrade our relationship!
I don’t mean that sometimes The Enemy doesn’t work to come against the people of God and bring delays tragedies, and frustrations. We need to have the spiritual discernment to pray about these attacks. But I would argue that 10 out of 10 times, there is still a reason God allows that obstacle or delay that we perceive as sent from the Enemy. We can demolish the Enemy by overcoming in our attitude and perception of the problem He tried to put in our path! We can totally frustrate the Enemy by embracing the perceived obstacle to get to the good God has for us on the other side of it!
An Overcoming Lifestyle
I have good news and hard news. The good news is that every obstacle is a potential upgrade. The hard news is that sometimes we waste that potential! In other words, I guarantee you that if you see a pattern of delay, frustration, or attack in your daily life, it won’t go away in the natural until you’ve overcome in the Spirit.
How long will we be content to wander around the same obstacles without learning the lesson God has for us there?The truth is that it’s on us to decide if our journey will last ten days or forty years.
How long will we wish a problem away without realizing God has already given us all we need to overcome it?
Jesus is the most important example of this spiritual principle. Everyone else wanted victory, change, and progress in the natural--to see God’s victory manifest here and now against the Romans to free His people. His disciples, especially Peter, wanted to fight away the perceived obstacle of the Pharisees, using violence. They were frustrated and angry with Jesus because He seemed to accept the things they saw as obstacles He need to fight. But Jesus knew that overcoming is primarily done in the Spirit. We overcome in the Spirit, and it manifests in the natural. Overcoming is making peace with God in the Spirit through obedience. Whatever the perceived danger or obstacle, even the cross, Jesus submitted Himself and asked what His Father wanted to do through it.
Through the Spirit’s power within us, we do the same. We are invited into an overcoming lifestyle. We can get so good at overcoming potential obstacles that we aren’t even phased anymore when they come against us. We develop a spiritual resilience that most problems can’t penetrate when we learn to live out of the framework of overcoming in the Spirit.
My invitation to you is this:
Identify a potential problem, attack, delay, or frustration in your life. It can be small--like a difficult relationship at work--or large. I encourage you to look for “patterns” that seem to plague you again and again.
Take a few minutes to pray. Specifically, surrender this to God. “God, I lay down my will to your own and recognize that you have something for me on the other side of this obstacle. I want to partner with your Holy Spirit to overcome.”
Ask God, “What do you want me to learn about you through this? How do you need me to change or grow in order to overcome this problem?”
Hold on to the truth you receive in prayer, especially as you encounter the obstacle in your daily life. Often, it could manifest as a conviction (“I need to learn to be more patient or loving”) Be intentional and aggressive--if you know you are supposed to be more loving, go out of your way to be nice to that person.
God I pray that today, we will be overcomers who embrace our upgrade with open and submissive hearts through everyday life!