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Obstacles Are Opportunities

A group of us from the church recently ran a 5K race. I did it in 21 minutes. I was so pleased with my run that I told some of my friends and colleagues. That was a huge mistake. They said, “21 minutes is slow, I did a 5K in 18 minutes; that’s nothing, I did a 5K in 17 minutes.” Those are, indeed, very good times, but that was when they were in high school, weighed 120, had their own track lane, and had perfect weather. I did it at 62, on a hot day, with a crowd of 3000 people. Obstacles put limits on us.

Imagine if we lived in a perfect world. We would have such a successful and impressive life track record. We would not have a reason to get angry, we would not have a reason to be jealous or fearful. So why does God not create a perfect world for us? Why leave the weeds in the garden?

After the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years, God instructed the Israelites to enter the Promised Land by crossing the Jordan River during the rainy season. Sounds easy, but to fully appreciate how difficult this task was, I need to give you a few details about the Jordan River.  The river begins a few hundred feet above sea level where three springs merge. Water runs through the Jorden rift ending at the Dead Sea at 1,200 feet below sea level. That is a rather steep pitch for a river and is very dangerous in the rainy season. So God instructed the Israelites to proceed across the river, beginning with the priests. As a priest, I can imagine the conversation that must have taken place. “Didn’t I lead the procession last time is it someone else’s turn to go first this time around.” 

So the priests led the procession carrying the Ark of the Covenant and stepped into the death trap. God held back the water so no one disappeared in the rapids.

If God had asked me to cross under those dangerous conditions, I would have said, “Sure, if you build a bridge or stop the water from flowing. I will be happy to cross over to the Promised Land.  I will even dance to the other side, but you remove the obstacles, you take away the difficulties.  Make it easy for me, and I will be happy to do it.” Yet, God gave the Israelites a spirit by which they were able to transform a roadblock and an impossible situation into an opportunity to achieve greatness.

I had a Vietnamese friend who told me about his road to success. When he was young arrived in the US with absolutely nothing.  He did not know one word of English and had no friends, and furthermore did not even have a toy to make him smile. Fifteen years later he graduated from law school and passed the bar exam. I exclaimed, “That is amazing.” The reason I was amazed was because of the obstacles that he overcame. That is what makes him and his life so special.

We have an opportunity to have God’s greatest qualities. However, we will never have His forgiveness if we do not have people who hurt us, we will share His patience without traffic jams, or His generosity in a perfect world where people already have everything they need. God leaves the weeds in the garden because obstacles are opportunities.

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