(Barriers - Blocks, Challenges, Obstacles)
1. The World Creates Harmful Obstacles
What barriers can keep us from God and others?
10 When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.
11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go! It will be done just as you believed it would." And his servant was healed at that very hour.
VERSE: When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd, he said, "I tell you the truth, I haven't seen faith like this in all the land of Israel!" (Matthew 8:10)
Life is full of natural and artificial barriers.
The centurion could have let many obstacles stand between him and Jesus-pride, doubt, money, language, distance, time, self-sufficiency, power, race. But he didn't.
If he did not let these barriers block his approach to Jesus, we don't need to either.
What keeps you from Christ?
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?"
8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
10 Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."
11 "Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?
12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?"
13 Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,
14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
15 The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water."
16 He told her, "Go, call your husband and come back."
17 "I have no husband," she replied. Jesus said to her, "You are right when you say you have no husband.
18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true."
19 "Sir," the woman said, "I can see that you are a prophet.
20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem."
VERSE: The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, "You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?"
Social and spiritual barriers are real.
(1) was a Samaritan, a member of the hated mixed race,
(2) was known to be living in sin, and
(3) was in a public place.
No respectable Jewish man would talk to a woman under such circumstances. But Jesus did.
The gospel is for every person regardless of race, social position, or past sins.
We must be prepared to share this gospel at any time and in any place.
Jesus crossed all barriers to share the gospel, and we who follow him must do no less.
2. Obstacles Can Help You Succeed
How can barriers help us grow?
1 These are the nations the LORD left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan
2 (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience):
3 the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath.
4 They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the Lord's commands, which he had given their forefathers through Moses.
5 The Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.
6 They took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods.
VERSE: These people were left to test the Israelites-to see whether they would obey the commands the Lord had given to their ancestors through Moses. (Judges 3:4)
Barriers can be challenges to overcome.
We learn from an earlier chapter that these enemy nations were still in the land because the Israelites had failed to obey God and drive them out.
Now God would allow the enemies to remain in order to "test" the Israelites; that is, to give them an opportunity to exercise faith and obedience.
By now the younger generation that had not fought in the great battles of conquest was coming of age. It was their job to complete the conquest of the land.
There were many obstacles yet to be overcome in their new homeland.
How they would handle these obstacles would be a test of their faith.
Barriers also remind us to rely on God.
Perhaps God has left obstacles in your life-hostile people, difficult situations, baffling problems-to allow you to develop faith and obedience.
They can be overcome with his help.
3. Overcome Every Barriers
How can barriers be overcome?
26 But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God.
27 You grumbled in your tents and said, "The LORD hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us.
28 Where can we go? Our brothers have made us lose heart. They say, 'The people are stronger and taller than we are; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky. We even saw the Anakites there.'"
29 Then I said to you, "Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them.
30 The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes,
31 and in the desert. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place."
32 In spite of this, you did not trust in the LORD your God,
33 who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.
VERSE: Don't be afraid! The Lord your God is going before you. He will fight for you, just as you saw him do in Egypt. And you saw how the Lord your God cared for you again and again here in the wilderness, just as a father cares for his child. Now he has brought you to this place. (Deut. 1:29-31)
God is greater than any barrier.
The spies were not sent into the land to determine whether they should enter, but where they should enter.
Upon returning, however, most of the spies concluded that the land was not worth the obstacles.
God would give the Israelites the power to conquer the land, but they were afraid of the risk and decided not to enter.
God gives us the power to overcome our obstacles, but like the Israelites who were filled with fear and skepticism, we often let difficulties control our life.
Following God regardless of the difficulties is the way to have courageous, overcoming faith.
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split.
KEY BIBLE VERSE: At that moment the curtain in the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. (Matthew 27:51)
God has already destroyed the greatest barrier.
The temple had three main parts-the courts, the Holy Place (where only the priests could enter), and the Most Holy Place (where only the high priest could enter, and only once a year, to atone for the sins of the nation-Leviticus 16:1-35).
The curtain separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place was torn in two at Christ's death, symbolizing that the barrier between God and humanity was removed.
Now all people are free to approach God because of Christ's sacrifice for our sins (see Hebrews 9:1-14; Hebrews 10:19-22).