It seems like a simple answer…GO A DIFFERENT WAY! But, sometimes it can be a little more complicated. What if you really feel that you’re trying to do what God is asking you to do…only to discover He’s the one blocking the way? Believe it or not…it happens!
This is exactly what happened to Balaam in Numbers 22. A delegation from a powerful ruler was sent to try and entice Balaam to go and prophesy against the tribes of Israel. In verse 20 “God came to Balaam at night and said, ‘If the men have come to call you, rise up and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you shall you do.'” God clearly told Balaam to go with them.
But only two verses later (Numbers 22:22) we read, “But God was angry because he was going, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as an adversary against him.” WHAT?! Why would the same God who told Balaam to go become his adversary along the way?
I have felt this way before…like I’m going along simply obeying what God is asking me to do, only to find, all the sudden, that everything is going against me. God is blocking the path He sent me down! Here’s why: God is less interested in what you’re doing (WHERE you’re going), than He is in what you’re becoming (WHY you’re going). Clearly, although Balaam was doing the thing he was supposed to do, he was about to do it for the wrong reasons. That’s why God told Him, “I have come out as an adversary because your way was contrary to me” (v.32). Balaam was on the right path for the wrong reason.
So what do you do when God is standing in your way?
You look a little deeper than just WHAT you’re doing. You ask God to help you understand WHY you’re doing what you’re doing. Ask Him to show you how your motivations need to be aligned with His. Let go of those impure motives. Re-purpose to continue on the path for the reasons that He is sending you. And you’ll quickly remember what it’s like to have God clearing the path before you instead of standing in your way!
Balaam’s impure motivation may have been the promise of riches and glory from this powerful ruler. What impure motivations has God stood against in your past? How did He correct you?
Try this exercise. Think all the way back to the beginning of this week. What were your expectations for how it would turn out? Did you have visions of making abundant progress on your most important projects? Did you expect that your labors were going to produce a great harvest? Did you expect the time you invested in relationships to create amazing memories? Did you expect that the time you gave to helping others was going to create lasting impact? Or did you expect to get through the week just barely squeaking by, to invest all of your energy and walk away the same way you went into it?
Most of us expect to toil hard at work and get little results. Here’s something I’ve learned, though. That kind of stressful, unproductive hard work is actually the result of the Fall of Man, going all the way back to Adam. (Check out Genesis 3:17-19) Jesus, however, has already come to undo the results of the fall. You can actually expect that your labor in Christ WILL BE FRUITFUL!
I believe this is actually the first step toward stress-free living. Stop expecting meaningless toil. Expect RESULTS! [TWEET THIS]
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corin 15: 58
What do you expect out of this week?
Stressed? Check out these other posts:
Previously, I told a story about stressing out trying to add to a caulk job my father had already finished. I put a lot of effort into the job, but I didn’t realize I was only adding gobs of mess to an already perfect work. That’s how many of us approach the idea of righteousness (right standing before God). We’re busying ourselves trying to do good works, but the Bible is clear that Jesus has already finished the work for us. We can’t make ourselves any more righteous by our own good works. We can’t get any more saved than we already are as believers in Jesus. In fact, our fleshly efforts only mess up the perfect work of Jesus.
What is a believer supposed to do, then? Are we just supposed to sit around and do no good works? Should we go around sinning, knowing that grace will abound even more? Of course not! Our role becomes one of simple obedience. It’s not stressing out trying to follow a legalistic set of rules. It’s being led by God’s Spirit, day by day.
What is Simple Obedience?
One time Jesus asked a group of pharisees if it was right to good or evil on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a picture of the age we live in today as believers, an age where we can rest from the works of our flesh and trust in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. The only remaining question is what to do in that place of rest, the same question Jesus asked the pharisees: Should we use our place of rest to do good or evil? To me, that question is a picture of simple obedience. “God, what would be GOOD for me to do today?” “How can I best show Your love to the people around me today?” The answer to these questions is the opportunity to simply obey God’s Spirit.
Paul tells us not to use our new freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love to serve one another (Galatians 5:13). Simple obedience is all about prayerfully approaching each day looking for the opportunities God is placing in our path to love others. We’re free from adherence to the Law…free to follow God’s voice in loving others! [TWEET THIS]
How does this Help with Stress?
Here’s the awesome thing. Simple obedience is not stressful! Sure, we’ll be stretched. Sure, we’ll be uncomfortable. The Apostles commitment to simple obedience led them to many uncomfortable situations. But, we never carry the burden alone. We’re empowered by God’s Spirit and He shares the burden with us. You can imagine two bulls yoked together, but one is much stronger than the other. As long as the weaker bull stays in step with the stronger bull, he is never carrying much weight, no matter how much weight is piled on. That’s what walking in simple obedience to Jesus is like. Jesus says:
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
What does walking in simple obedience look like for you?
More thoughts on Stress:
Life can be stressful and pressurizing. We’re all searching for ways to take the stress off and enjoy life the way it was intended to be enjoyed. In a previous post, I give 3 Ideas to Help Depressurize Your Life. This post digs into the first Idea, You be You. A couple of messages were shared at Capital City Church this past month that nail this idea on the head. I figure I’ll just let you check them out:
by Caleb Stewart
There is something about you that can only be discovered in faithful relationship with God. Check out this podcast and learn how even the way you spend time with God is unique to you.
by Eileen Wilder and Bethany Pisani
Here’s what you’ll learn:
1.) Ditch the mask. You’re amazing.
2.) Discover your strength zone.
3.) Be present and enjoy life.
4.) Communicate with your Creator.
What are some resources you’ve discovered that have helped you depressurize your life?
I was about 10 years old when I saw my first caulk gun. My dad was working on a bathroom in our guest house. I watched wishing I could be more helpful. Early the next morning was my opportunity. I woke up early, found the caulk gun and got to work. Unfortunately, caulking is not my strong suit. I made a mess. Big gobs of caulk were everywhere. I also didn’t know what to caulk. I caulked the window sill, the toilet, basically everything with a crack.
It was miserable work. I was no good at it. It was tiring and unfruitful. Then, at the end of the day, waiting for approval of my efforts from my dad, I discovered the truth. He had already finished the job the day before. All I had been doing was wasting my efforts ruining an already perfect job!
What about you? Are there things you’re busy doing that are adding stress to your life and producing no results? [Tweet This]
Here are a few thoughts to help depressurize your life. I’ll post more on each idea the next couple of weeks. (Follow my blog via the email subscription on the right side to make sure you receive all the latest posts)
3 Thoughts to Help Depressurize Your Life [Tweet This]:
1.) You be You
There is nothing that will free you of stress like simply choosing to be the person God made you to be. Conversely, there’s nothing quite as stressful as trying to be someone else. A few years ago, Pastor Ed Young released this video at Creative Church Conference. You may not realize it, but this is an area quite a few Pastors struggle in, finding their own voice among so many talented church leaders. If you have 4 minutes, see how Pastor Ed Young challenged us to depressurize our lives :
My caulking job was wrong on so many levels. On the most basic level, though, I was stressing out trying to do something I wasn’t equipped to do. How many of you could say you’re experiencing stress trying to be somebody God hasn’t equipped you to be? God made you uniquely you. You can rest in that and discover the stress-free world of being yourself.
Click here for more!
2.) Focus on Simple Obedience
There is also something freeing when you realize there are things you can’t accomplish on our own. In fact, like my caulking job, there are some things that are already perfectly done for you. Your attempts to add to that work are only adding gobs of mess…and additional stress to your life. When Jesus was hanging on the cross, He spoke these words: “It is Finished!” His work on the cross has accomplished so much all by itself. Jesus also said that our “righteousness is as filthy rags”. Our attempts to add to His work are pointless.
Rather than living your life trying to prove your righteousness by works of your flesh, what if you rested in the work He has already done? What would that look like? I believe it would look like a life of simple obedience to Jesus. And trust me, simple obedience is SO less stressful than legalism. Find out more about simple obedience in posts soon to come.
Click here for more!
3.) Expect Fruit
Many people expect that their life is going to be made of hard work in exchange for little fruit. Week in and week out, they don’t expect the fruit of their labor to be significant. The truth, though, is that you and I don’t have to settle for that. Unfruitful, unproductive, toiling labor was a result of the fall of man, dating back to Adam and Eve. But, Christ came to turn all of that around. Today, we can expect to enjoy fruit from whatever He has us put our hands to. Changing your expectation may just be the thing that breaks the power of stress and pressure off your life.
Click here for more!
Have you experienced stress and pressure? Tell me about it. What ideas help depressurize your life?
After you’ve identified a cyclical relationship like the Honor Cycle a natural question to ask is, “Who goes first?” Who should step out and jump-start this cycle? I remember sitting in Dr. Emerson Eggerichs’s marriage seminar, surrounded by couples looking for help improving their relationships, when this question came up in regard to a different cycle between men and women, Love & Respect. He paused for a moment, looked up at the eager crowd and answered, “I always say, let whoever is most mature go first.” [TWEET THIS]
What a perfect response! It shifts our thoughts away from who owes whom and who has neglected whom the most, to who is ready to take a step toward healing or improving the relationship. Who is ready to put themselves aside for a moment and put the other person first?
Of course, with young children, parents have the first opportunity to speak blessing long before the child even understands the concept of honor. But an adult child is perfectly able to kick the cycle off by looking for ways to honor their parent. It really doesn’t matter who starts. The trick is to be selfless, preferring the other, meeting their needs with no expectations in return. If you can accomplish this, you’ll see a huge difference in your relationship that will grow for years to come. Over time the other person will likely begin to respond naturally in ways that meet your own needs.
Who will start the Honor Cycle in your relationships?