If you would serve the Lord, expect obstacles

“A great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (I Corinthians 16:9). 

“We exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance…” (Romans 5:3). 

This is a quiz.  Name the enemies George Washington faced in the Revolutionary War.

If you answered, “The British,” you’d be only partly right.

Washington did fight the British, as the thirteen colonies asserted their independence from the Mother Nation.  But Generals Howe, Cornwallis, and Clinton and their armies were only the most visible of the forces Washington had to contend with.

He had to fight the weather.  Think of Valley Forge and even without knowing the full story, your mind immediately conjures up images of a harsh winter with all the snow, ice, sleet, and freezing temperatures that includes.

Washington had to deal with starvation and deprivation.  No one knows how many thousands of his soldiers perished from the cold and starvation at Valley Forge and how many deserted in order to save their lives.  Many surrendered to the British at Philadelphia in the vain hope that the conquerors would feed and clothe them.

Washington had to deal with a Congress that was either ignorant, misinformed, or outright hostile to his situation. He wrote letter after letter detailing the misery of his army and pleading for help.  Finally, a delegation came from the national capital, temporarily at York, PA, to see for themselves, after which congress began to act.

Washington fought disorganization, a country that made impossible demands but gave minimal support, and criticism on every side.

Still with me?

Washington even had to fight certain members of his own staff, including several generals. Every schoolchild knows the name of Benedict Arnold, one of his generals who betrayed the cause.  There was also General Horatio Gates, forever undermining his own commanding officer in the forlorn hope that Congress would appoint him to Washington’s post.  Time and again, Gates was shown to be a coward who ran from battle, but blamed his failures on others.  There was General Charles Lee, another pretender to Washington’s position as commander in chief.  Lee, called “a carbuncle of a creature” by historians Drury and Clavin (book: Valley Forge), was known to run from a battle and then brag about how he had won it.  Some years after his death, a letter was found in Lee’s handwriting giving British General William Howe detailed plans for defeating Washington.  Drury and Clavin write, “That Charles Lee was a traitor surprised few.  That he had refrained from boasting about it shocked many.”

No wonder George Washington is called “the Father of His Country.”  If anyone ever deserved it, he did.  We read of the attacks of his enemies, the criticisms of his so-called friends, and the obstacles he dealt with on a daily basis, and we stand in awe.

Nehemiah built a wall.

Bible students will think of Nehemiah who led Israel to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem many years after Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians had demolished the city.

The obstacles and enemies Nehemiah fought to rebuild the wall are numerous, and include:

–A complacency in God’s people.  Thirteen years earlier, Ezra had returned to Jerusalem from Babylon and led the people to rebuild the temple. And yet, the city still remained a pile of rubble left these hundreds of years.  Nehemiah 1 tells how Nehemiah, the king’s cup-bearer, began hearing reports of the sad state of things.  “I sat down and wept, and mourned” (1:4).  Why had no one lifted a finger to remedy this sad situation?

–The size of the task itself.

–The enemies who were determined that the walls should never be replaced.  “They were deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel” (2:10).  Throughout Nehemiah’s record of this enterprise, the enemies never gave up.  They fought him, spread lies about him, pretended to work with him–anything to undermine his efforts.

–The sneaky undermining of Nehemiah’s leadership.  In the final chapter of Nehemiah, both he and we (the readers) make a stunning discovery.  “Now before this Eliashib the priest, having authority over the storerooms of the house of our god, was allied with Tobiah (an enemy who had fought Nehemiah on every side).  And he had prepared for him a large room when previously they had stored the grain offerings, the frankincense, the articles, the tithes of grain….  I discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah…and it grieved me bitterly. Therefore, I threw all the household goods of Tobiah out of the room.  Then I commanded them to cleanse the rooms…” (13:4ff.)

The Apostle Paul spread the gospel.

What opposition did he face?  Here is a partial list, from 2 Corinthians 11:22ff.  “In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.  From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned;  three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep;  in journeys often, in perils of water, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren, in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness–besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.”

The Lord Jesus told you and me to expect obstacles and opposition–

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.  Therefore, be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.  But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues.  You will be brought before governors and kings for my sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.  But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak, for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.  Now, brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; Children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.  And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake….”  (Matthew 10:16ff)

We cannot say we weren’t warned.

I hear from ministers who are being persecuted for their faithful service to Jesus…

–“My church did not observe my anniversary.”

–“Someone voted against me.”

–“Someone spread a rumor about me.”

–“They cut my salary.”

–“No one will let me preach.”

–“After a new pastor came in, he believed the accusations against me and terminated me.  With very little severance.”

–“They criticized my wife.”

All I can say to these servants of God is the words of Hebrews 12:4–You have not yet suffered to the death.

So, man up.  Get your eyes on the Lord.  He told you from the first to expect turbulence and to stay buckled in, close to Him.  Look to Him.  Let Him lead you.

God bless all who would serve Him.

“Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease? While others fought to win the prize and sailed the bloody seas?” –Isaac Watts, “Am I A Soldier of the Cross?”

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