Liu Chi Kung was a magnificent piano player. He was a man of renown in his homeland of China and even had the respect of international performers. But after placing second to Van Cliburn in the 1948 Tchaikovsky competition, Liu was looked down upon by fellow Chinese people. His government, displeased by his failure, imprisoned him for seven years. While imprisoned the once renowned piano player had no access to his instrument of choice. At the end of his seven year sentence Liu immediately began another performance tour even though he hadn’t touched a piano in that time. Stunned, reporters from all over the world traveled to seek the mystery behind his ability to play the same, if not better, than he had before his imprisonment. One reporter asked him, “How is it you are able to play these pieces having not practiced them for years?” Kung replied, “Oh, but I have practiced. There has not been a day that has gone by in which I have not practiced every piece I know entirely in my head.”
Kung faced a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Right at the peak of his career, he was taken away and banned from playing the instrument he loved and was passionate about. What a setback! What an obstacle! Liu could have given up, forgotten about his abilities, sulked at his unfair treatment, and moved on in life. Yet he faithfully practiced his pieces day after day so he would be ready to perform after his release.
Obstacles are a common part of the human life. Christians aren’t exempt. We will all face obstacles that threaten to derail us from living for Christ, running our race, and accomplishing the task He has set before us.
The difference between a successful person and one who fails isn’t the presence of obstacles along their path, but their reaction to those obstacles.
So… when obstacles come our way how do we react? Let’s think together.
- Don’t Give Up.
I once watched a video of Admiral William McRaven, explaining what he learned during Navy SEAL training that helped him never give up and quit. To this day the idea of never giving in to the easy failure has stuck with me. I went back and found that video and transcribed it below. Take a read through it and apply what he says to whatever obstacle is standing in the way of your faith and everyday walk.
We used to have a saying in SEAL training, “Take it one evolution at a time.” Meaning don’t look six months down the road. Don’t ask yourself or don’t look and say, “My gosh, I’ve got more swims and more runs and more PTs.” If you do that, that event horizon becomes a little too far and I think it can be frightening. If all you do is try to do the very best you can at that very moment, you take it one step at a time and then six months goes by and you took it one evolution at a time and you made it.
It is easy to quit in SEAL training. All you have to do is ring the bell three times and you’re out. You don’t have to talk to anybody. You don’t have to do anything. You ring the bell, you take your helmet off, you put it down, and that’s it. And you find that in tough times, there’s always kind of a way out and that’s quitting. That’s just deciding you’re not going to tackle this problem — you’re going to let the problem or the situation win.
And so the one thing I’m always asked is, “How do you get through SEAL training?” I had a young man who was going off to SEAL training about a year ago and he was a phenomenal athlete. I had lunch with him and he said, “Well, do I need to run more?” I said, “No, I don’t think so.” He said, “Do I need to swim more?” I said, “Nope.” “Do I need to lift more?” and he said, “What is the key to going through SEAL training?” I said, “It’s simple — you just don’t quit.”
I wish we would always view it with that simplicity. The way to overcome is to just not quit. At some point we have somehow allowed ourselves to be deceived and convinced that defeat is somehow a viable option.
Not for me.
Romans 5:3-5 says,
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Let’s decide together that no matter what comes before us we will persevere and overcome it with the help of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Philippians 4:13 says,
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
- Embrace Every New Challenge.
The psychologist and Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl once wrote,
Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
Now of course, Frankl was talking about embracing physical challenges so severe that we can’t even understand, but he did build a very solid case for the idea that even when going through hell on earth, he had freedom to choose his attitude, to find meaning in his circumstances, and it was this, more than anything, which was to determine whether he would survive the concentration camps or not.
Ultimately, the idea I would like to communicate is that we all have a choice about how we approach difficulties and obstacles in our lives and faith. When we have a literal mountain to climb we can choose to climb it resentfully, reluctantly, fearfully, half-heartedly, lazily, thoughtlessly, joylessly, unenthusiastically, lethargically, unintentionally, and with much dread and complaint. If we take this approach, that mountain does not move or run away, it is still there! We will either have to give up or take our time getting over the mountain, with much struggle.
On the other hand, we can choose to embrace the challenge, and to climb the mountain with energy, enthusiasm, joy, exuberance, focus, intentionality, mindfulness, excitement, determination, perseverance, and courage.
If we are going to have to go over the mountain to continue the story then we might as well try to enjoy it or take meaning from it! Embrace your challenges with a smile and gritted teeth!
James 1:2-4 says,
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Christian faith isn’t all about prayer and passion; real faith takes action and perseverance.
- Don’t Forget to Ask for Help.
Like we have previously determined, obstacles will come into your Christian life; it’s a fact you can count on. God doesn’t promise the path He has for you will be easy, but He does promise to help you along the way. The devil is a master at causing Christians to feel overwhelmed, discouraged, and doubtful. Have you ever had the devil jump on your shoulder and begin telling you why you couldn’t accomplish something for God, live a faithful life, or continue along God’s path? Don’t listen to him!
Moses faced an obstacle in God’s task for him to lead Israel out of Egypt. God foretold Moses that Pharaoh wouldn’t release the Israelites easily. Moses could have seen this obstacle and given up, gone back to shepherding, and allowed the obstacle to rule his life. But Moses turned to God and trusted Him for help.
Moses faced his obstacle and trusted that the Lord would help him to overcome.
Every faithful Christian has faced obstacles in their Christian life. Whether it was Joseph being thrown into a pit then sold into slavery, Moses having to face the ruler of the land, David being threatened by the king, Daniel being captive in a pagan land, or the disciples facing persecution; every Christian has had their share of battles. Yet the ones who remained faithful were those who allowed God to guide them and trusted Him for help in conquering the obstacles.
What obstacle has come into your life? In what area has the devil been telling you that you cannot be faithful? God knows of these obstacles, and rather than simply removing them, He desires that we would turn to Him to help us overcome them. Rather than listening to the devil’s doubts, believe God’s promise that He will help you overcome the obstacles. Like Moses, allow God to stretch out His hand in your life and do many mighty wonders through you.
Ask for help and trust the guidance you receive.
What mountains are currently in your path? How will you face them… begrudgingly or with gritted teeth? And how will you come down the other side… victorious or defeated? It’s your choice to make.