Obstacle Course

By Pastor Teck Uy

Our journey to heaven is likened to an obstacle course. From the outset, we are already made aware that there will be many obstacles along the way. We also need stamina to stay on course as we overcome one obstacle after another. There are times when the challenges are easy, but in other times they may be life-threatening.  These are all meant to test our spiritual fitness. The good news is that these obstacles are not impossible to overcome. In fact, there are many who had gone before us who were able to overcome, and they stood as witnesses of God’s faithfulness. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Heb. 12:1).

The most heinous of these obstacles is sin. Unless we are able to reign over sin, it can bring devastation in all forms. Even in the beginning, God himself warned Cain saying, “Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it” (Gen. 4:7). This is what was being referred to in Hebrews 12:1 as the “sin that so easily entangles” because once sin becomes the master, it knows no bounds—It entangles and causes people to stumble and fall. Sin is not a respecter of persons—it enslaves the old, the young, the poor, the rich, the healthy and the sick. Unless we are able to rid ourselves of enslavement to sin, it will be impossible to run the race and win the prize. The best response to sin is to do what Jesus did when he said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Matt. 16:23).

Since sin is such a formidable obstacle, how can we overcome it? The apostle Paul said, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). Jesus himself set a good example of how to overcome all the obstacles that we face. We need to have the right attitude of the heart. We need to face these challenges with joyful hearts, for we know that the battle is not ours, but the Lord’s. We should go through these challenges confidently, because we also know that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. Let us be reminded of his promise: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

Endurance is a key component in winning in an obstacle course. If we waver and quit in the middle of the race, we lose the game. There are obstacles that are easy to overcome, but there are also those that are hard and stressful. We can easily be forgiven if we falter in the tough ones, but how can we justify failing the easy ones? When the prophet Jeremiah was complaining before the Lord about the challenges that he and Israel were facing, the Lord rebuked him, saying, “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?” (Jer. 12:5) The truth of the matter is that we have not seen the true testing of our faith yet. We are living in safe country now. While we could sense that the coming of the Lord is drawing near, we have not yet seen the trials that faithful believers will go through before that day comes, as depicted in Matthew 24:15-22, nor the testing during the day of tribulation mentioned in the Book of Revelation where “no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark [of the beast] . . . His number is 666” (13:16-18).

Going through a gruelling race is all worth it in the end. In our race to heaven, we will all get to sit with the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul said, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Rom 8:18). The testing of our faith is to better prepare us for heaven. No one is exempt from trials and testing, but the good news is that we shall overcome, just as the Lord Jesus overcame. Speaking through experience, King David said, “A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all” (Psalm 34:19).

In this obstacle course of faith that we are in, we might face the weakness of the flesh, but let us press on. Always remember the admonition of the apostle Paul, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:17). Let us give our best to overcome the first hurdle, which is sin. As we do, the last hurdle, which is death, will be easy and sweet. The apostle Paul said, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). Glory to God!