The Fight Challenge

It would be hard to get more clear direction for ministry than what Paul received in the account recorded in Acts 9:1-225 I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.. Most of us would love to have such clear instructions when seeking God’s next steps for us. Paul heard clearly and immediately began to be obedient to God’s call on his life. And what happened? The wheels came off all Paul’s prior plans. Through the rest of the book of Acts we have accounts of at least 20 times when things were falling apart. Here was a man who thought he had heard God’s will, began to do what he felt God had asked him to do, yet everything seemed to be going wrong with difficulty after difficulty. What happened?

I think for many of us there is a tendency to believe that if we discover God’s will, things will, things will smooth out…God will take care of us…keep us from anything too difficult…and then we can really accomplish His will in our lives.

One missionary candidate on the brink of going off to Africa had a fire destroy all she had saved for the trip. It was an expensive loss. Yet convinced she had been called to the people God laid on her heart, she kept going. Undeterred, she raised the funds again for provisions and sailed off a year later.

Yet when we encounter difficulties, it is easy to begin to question whether or not we are really doing God’s will. Did we miss it? Something must be wrong. Where did we get off course? We begin to lose confidence. We doubt. We become uncertain. We lose our joy and commitment. We’re confused.

Well…there may be another answer! In fact from James 1:2-4Whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. we learn difficulties might be the best sign that we haven’t missed God’s will at all, rather we are doing exactly what he desires.

Frequently, particularly early in a new ministry decision, there is push back from those who should be encouraging. They can be from family, from friends and even people in leadership roles in our life through church or ministry organizations. Those questioning our judgement and motive can be surprising. They undermine us. They can shake our confidence in what God has placed before us.

One modern mid-life couple completed a career in their early 50’s with kids launched. They were attracted to work in a leading city in South America. It was their friends that pushed back. Why are you leaving your nice life, nice church—comfortable home and friends? But after seeing the opportunity to make a difference in another culture, the things of the American dream grew strangely dim.

Other roadblocks can be related to health, economic challenges, people challenges, political decisions, terrorism, job issues, children and family issues…any number of challenges. The enemy will try to use them to discourage us and keep us from effectively representing Jesus and discipling a nation. Again, we stand firm. We resist. We don’t turn and run. We stand. And James 4:7Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. tells us the enemy will be the one to turn and run, because he already knows what John tells us in 1 John 4:4You are from God ... and the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world., that the Holy Spirit in us is greater than he is.

Paul had every reason to turn and run himself. In 2 Corinthians 11:25-27Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; in toil and hardship ... Paul lists the extremely difficult circumstances he lived through as he was following God’s will for his ministry. His attitude was remarkable. We stand impressed at his declaration in Acts 20:24I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace..

On mission with the Lord is an adventure. It may take us on a global journey, perhaps to a frontier, short-term or as a next career package. So, yes, we are in a fight. Our method of fighting is to stand firm. Stay the course. Pray, because the battle may look and feel physical, but it is really spiritual. It is won through prayer, not because we are so competent. The verse says, “greater is He”, not “greater are we.”