8 Barriers to Courageous Faith
We just returned from a great weekend in Sarasota watching Parker swim in the Florida Age Group Championships. Swimming, like many other sports, has its own little world of customs, expectations, and rules. If you want to swim, you do what the officials and coaches say. Otherwise, you’re disqualified. If you follow the rules, you can experience the joy, freedom, and growth of team swimming. Swimmers also work on lots of little things- strokes, dives, breathing- that enable them to enjoy the experience even better. Not only do they pay attention to the rules, they also pay attention to the things that prevent them from being the best swimmers they can possibly be.
However, when Jesus invades and conquers evil, he finds disciples, religious leaders, and crowds struggling to follow him according to his rules in the Kingdom of God. He reigns as King, but not everyone automatically surrenders to him when he arrives. The same applies today. Not only do we feel the grip of death still clinging to us, but we also challenge his authority as King. We struggle to hear, believe, and obey the good news of his Lordship. In the Gospel of Mark, the disciples did too. When we lack faith to follow obediently or when we struggle with anxiety over our circumstances, pay attention to these eight areas that prevent us from following Jesus fully. Unlike a sport that we voluntarily choose to participate in, the life of Christ is a calling. Jesus summons his followers inviting them to a new lifestyle. Ask Jesus to release you from these struggles as you repent from them and follow him.
Disciples often responded to the events around them the way we do—with fear. But this unhealthy reaction leads to anger, division, and competition. Jesus walks on the water and conquers our fears. (Mark 8)
When people refuse to believe in Jesus or doubt his authority, they’re unwilling or unable to follow him…yet. Jesus was amazed at the unbelief of his hometown of Nazareth (Mark 6), but a father confesses his unbelief to Jesus. By surrendering his child and praying to Jesus honestly, the father attends to this barrier. (Mark 9:24)
Incessant religious arguments often block courageous faith. After the transfiguration, the disciples “discuss” why Elijah must return first at the resurrection. They quickly encounter other disciples arguing with the crowd about their lack of power. By resorting to religious arguments, rather than dialogue, we prevent faith from working in our lives. (Mark 9)
As Jesus draws closer to Jerusalem, the disciples run away. A follower to Gethsemane flees naked; Peter denies him; the women run away from the empty tomb. (Mark 15-16)
- Hard heartedness
Religious leaders and disciples struggle with spiritual stubbornness. They can’t hear the gospel (spiritual deafness) or see the people in front of them or have a vision of glorifying Jesus (spiritual blindness). Often, physically blind people like Bartimaus understand better than they do. (Mark 4, 10)
Family, friendships, jobs, finances, weapons, religion, and nation can all compete for our attention and devotion to Jesus. Each one can become an idol to us when we depend on them for our identity and security. Examine each one of these and see if you put trust in these more than Jesus.
By shaming others for who they are and carrying around unnecessary shame in their lives, they prevent forgiveness and grace from working. (Mark 2, 5)
By constantly comparing themselves to others and trying to outdo them, they fail to see that Jesus has accepted them for who they are and to cooperate with others. They focus on self-preservation and promotion, rather than sacrifice and service. The disciples saw Jesus as a path to their glory. Jesus picked up a child and illustrated the humility necessary for the kingdom of God to come. (Mark 9)
Because of Christ’s grace, the only thing that can disqualify us is our continual refusal to surrender. Through Christ’s grace, he invites us to dive in and enjoy the blessing of being on his team. All we need is courageous faith.