By Joyell Nevins – CFFM Staff Blogger
The path of least resistance may be the easiest, but it often leads to the least impact as well.
God is good, and His Word is simple. But He is not easy, and His missions are rarely comfortable.
Jesus came that we might have a more than abundant life (NLT translated this phrase in John 10:10 as “rich and satisfying”). Walking with the Lord, we are called to live a life of purpose and influence.
Sometimes to our chagrin, we are not called to live a life of ease. Obstacles and challenges will come. James, Romans, and 1 Peter all reference walking through challenges with joy and expectation. You can dive more into that subject with Associate Pastor Kevin Guigou’s Sunday service teaching “Exploring Endurance & Suffering.”
Who Are You Listening To?
It’s crucial in these times of trial to notice who you are surrounding yourself with and who is talking in your ear. It’s tempting to just listen to people who tell us what we want to hear.
I used to get myself in trouble that way when I had a conflict with someone in work or ministry. I conveniently would only discuss the situation or ‘seek advice’ from someone whom I knew would feel the same way I did. The problem with that, of course, is that my feelings were part of what got me in trouble in the first place, so their advice wouldn’t necessarily be leading me towards God’s goal.
Sometimes, we are facing challenges because of an unwise decision or a door God is trying to close. And sometimes, we are slogging through mud because that’s the valley we have to get through to accomplish the mission God gave us.
Jesus Christ’s mission of redemption for anyone who receives it through faith required going through a painful and humiliating crucifixion. At one point, he even prayed to the Father, “take this cup [responsibility] away from me.” Although, being Jesus, he immediately followed it with “not my will, but thine be done.”
The Bible says there is safety in a multitude of counselors (Proverbs 11:14). We are strongly encouraged to seek the advice of people that we trust and who walk with the Lord.
But even Jesus had to step back when one of his disciples tried to convince him to let this difficult responsibility go.
“From that time Jesus began to show to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord; this shall not happen to you!’” Matthew 16:21-22 NKJV
Let’s pause for a minute. Jesus has just detailed this mission that requires him dying, and not just dying, but being brutally punished and then killed. Surely, Peter is just being a good friend, not wanting his buddy and master to go through such an ordeal, right?
But, look how Jesus responds.
“But [Jesus] turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an offense to me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.’” Matthew 16:23 NKJV
Whoa, Jesus! He just called one of his best friends “Satan.” Isn’t that a little harsh?
But Jesus wasn’t talking to Peter himself; Jesus was recognizing where – or rather, who – that idea came from. Satan through Peter was trying to convince Jesus to take the path of least resistance, to avoid the pain and suffering. But by doing that, Jesus would have also avoided God’s plan for salvation for mankind.
The Warning in My Heart
There is a powerful visual of this in the film The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. One of the main characters, Frodo, has been entrusted with a mission to save all of Middle Earth, but it is a heavy burden, and a burden only he can carry (sound familiar? Many commentaries have been made paralleling the books/films with the gospel of Jesus).
In this story, the burden requires bearing a ring of evil power back to the land of Mordor (think hell) and destroying it. But the ring is physically and mentally heavy – it leaves marks on Frodo’s skin and darkens his emotions.
Photo by stuart anthony
On the first leg of his journey, Frodo is accompanied by a “fellowship” of eight other characters, who are supposed to help him travel to Mordor. But the journey is perilous, and the group suffers greatly along the way.
At one point, one of the fellowship members, Boromir, is gathering wood and ends up alone in the forest with Frodo. He tries to convince Frodo to share the burden, to give the ring up, even to let Boromir use its power for good.
But that’s not how this story works. The ring’s power can’t be wielded by good, nor is anyone else able to complete the mission of destroying it.
Frodo tells Boromir, “I know what you would say, and it would seem like wisdom, but for the warning in my heart….You are not yourself.”
Frodo recognizes that even though it seems like Boromir is just being a good friend and wise counsel, he is actually being influenced by an evil force (ring of power = think Satan’s destructive force).
It’s a turning point for Frodo when he recognizes that it HAS to be him who completes this mission. No matter how hard it is, there is a greater purpose behind Frodo’s responsibility – in his case, literally saving his world. You can watch the powerful scene on YouTube at LOTR The Fellowship of the Ring – The Ring takes Boromir.
Like Jesus told Peter, “you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men,” we have to keep our focus on what God’s final goal is.
As we encounter challenges, let’s make sure we are listening to those who are mindful not of ourselves and the easy route, but of the mission of God. Let’s keep those in our ‘fellowship’ who will encourage us to keep running our race, no matter how difficult it may be. The end result is always worth the fight!
“…we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the holy spirit, which has been given to us.” Romans 5:1-4 NIV