Encouragement,  Faith,  The Modern Pilgrim's Journey

How to Grow Faith that Overcomes Obstacles

The Modern Pilgrim #31- After much wandering, separated from the Good Shepherd’s group, Pilgrim is delighted to have found them again. Just as she settles back into her place, the Good Shepherd leads them that evening to the banks of a rushing river. Pilgrim fears he will expect them to cross in the morning. She is fearful that her limited swim skills are no match for the might of the river. 

Are you facing an obstacle that stands between you and God-given dreams? Lack of opportunity, finances, skills?  Health issues? Unsupportive family? Obstacles come in all sizes. All of them plant themselves between us and our destinies.

Without faith, obstacles become permanent roadblocks. Our hopes languish because we allow hindrances to become larger in our minds than God’ promises.  With faith, obstacles are transformed into character builders. My faith used to look like the before picture in a body building ad. Puny, with a sparrow chest and spaghetti arms. A life in full time ministry though, became like a spiritual Planet Fitness. I had to work my faith muscles daily. Then, God gave me opportunities to flex them.

One such opportunity came years ago when God guided my husband Ken and I through a career adventure. He called us out of pastoral ministry and into the marketplace. During the transition, we lived in a small mobile home after Ken changed from pastor to car salesman. Eventually, God gifted him with his own, insurance agency, which he ran with great success for many years. But for a full year, we couldn’t even imagine that coming opportunity.

 We didn’t know what the future held. What we knew was that we moved from a 3200 square foot home to a 900 square foot, older trailer. That’s what we could afford, going from a parsonage and two incomes to one modest one and no equity. We didn’t know how Ken might do as a commission only salesman. We also discovered that my teaching certificate had expired. The only way to reactivate it was to take more college courses, which of course we couldn’t afford.

We also knew that it was better for our daughter, after so much upheaval, for me to stay at home and try to create a home-based job. That left us with Ken’s income as a car salesman. An income which rose and fell. Does any of this sound like a solid pathway back into a larger, wheels-free home? Certainly not by human standards. Large financial obstacles stood between us and home ownership.

I didn’t keep track of all the ways God strengthened my faith muscles during those initial years in ministry until they were tested. One day, early on in my mobile home life, God highlighted Isaiah 32:18.

My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.”

He spoke to my heart, “I will establish you in a quiet house with privacy and a large, fenced in yard.”  The volume and density of our mobile home park challenged us.  Our yard was smaller than our former living room and our square footage so small that we made the difficult decision to allow our beloved Labrador, Johnathan Edwards, to live with friends. who had room for him. Like we used to. Our daughter missed him deeply.

As soon as God spoke this word to my heart, I started to get a picture of our home to be. All our financial obstacles remained. Yet, I felt faith rise in me that God makes good on his word. He’d done it a thousand times in our ministry, why not for a home?

I typed out that Scripture and put it up on our refrigerator. Every day, I’d thank God for a house I couldn’t see and for which we had no money. I even started to lay before him specific ideas of what I hoped for, including a yard large enough for our above ground pool, which we temporarily left behind at the parsonage yard, a sunroom, and air conditioning. We didn’t know God’s timetable. We settled in and enjoyed our tiny home, determined we’d be thankful for what he’d provided.

Ken did so well selling cars, within six months we qualified for a home loan. Still, the houses in our price range looked nothing like the image God painted in my mind. We grew discouraged but kept plugging away, certain he had a house just for us.

I almost missed our house because it had a protruding front garage, not my favorite style. I refused Ken’s initial offers to look. When I consented, I discovered a treasure hiding behind the garage. An enormous yard, a sunroom and air conditioning, all in a newer, well-built, nicely laid out house near our price range. This became the first of three homes, all specifically promised, believed for, and received.

We praised God when our offer, far below asking price, was accepted. Even though the home was on a terribly busy street and less square footage than we hoped for, we knew this was our promised house. (I got over the garage, which is good since our next two houses featured the same style. God is funny.)

Within a month of moving in, God quietly told me that we wouldn’t be there long. He indicated he set apart another, larger house, if we stayed faithful to everything he called us to do and remained thankful. Sure enough, God prospered Ken’s insurance agency and within four years we moved to a spacious home in a quiet suburb. Strong, steady faith understands the fact that God often gives us blessings by degrees.

I’m living in my third promise home which came to us three years ago, through a tumultuous house hunting process and some miraculous moves by God. My faith muscles stretched to their farthest limits. Yet here I am, writing from a home that fulfills God-given desires, some of which I waited on for 20 years.

One of my callings is to create a home and yard that is an oasis of grace and refreshment for the family of God and lost folk. This last Saturday, a dream came true as forty neighbors gathered in my backyard, with plenty of room to spare, and enjoyed getting to know one another at a coffee get together.

 Our last two homes could not handle this event with the crazy Michigan weather that showed up. First, sunny, clear skies, not a speck of rain on the radar. We set up outside. Half an hour before the event, rain began, so we hauled the party inside. Finally, after 30 minutes inside, the sun returned and everyone wanted to see our newly landscaped backyard, so we carted all the food and beverages back out. Our first home could do large outside gatherings, but no way inside. Our second home hosted many large groups inside but struggled with a smallish suburban backyard and couldn’t accommodate large outdoor events.

This third home is spacious in and out, so I laughed with joy hauling stuff back and forth. Because I could! Because I prayed and believed for this home for a long time.  

What obstacle troubles you, threatens your dreams and hopes? Pushes you to give up? Could it be God plunked it in front of you to grow you, not to keep you out of your destiny? Are your dreams and hopes from God’s heart or your flesh? That’s a pretty important thing to sort out first before you hunker down with faith.

So in summary, how can you exercise faith in the face of a roadblock?

  1. Recognize your obstacle had to pass by God before it came to you, therefore he’s allowed it for a purpose.
  2. Spend quality time in the Word and prayer so God may speak to you, as he did me.
  3. When he speaks, don’t doubt his voice but take his impressions to heart.
  4. Write them down along with accompanying Scripture which he will most likely give to you.
  5. Remain thankful for your current life. Don’t fall into “I’ll be happy and thankful when…”
  6. Speak with faith concerning your obstacle. Mark 11:23, Romans 4:17 and Hebrews 11.
  7.  Continue to do everything God’s asked of you while you are in his waiting room.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for” Hebrews 11:1-2.

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