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CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMCNews) — "It really doesn't matter what got you in this room today, here's one thing I can promise for every one of us: We will all face obstacles," said Mike Linch, senior pastor at NorthStar Church, Kennesaw, Ga.
Linch addressed TMC faculty, staff, and students in a message titled "Overcoming the Obstacles" at Truett-McConnell College's Oct. 13 chapel service.
Expounding on Numbers 13, Linch related the story of the Israelites' quest to Canaan. Just as the Israelites, obstacles can make Christians question everything they know and everything they believe, Linch said.
Obstacles are distractions Satan uses to sway believers from their purpose, Linch noted. "Once Jesus Christ has your heart," Linch said, "the enemy can do nothing with you but distract you from the purpose God has called you."
Linch said the Israelites did not attain the Promised Land the first time because "the obstacles froze them in their tracks."
Referring to the account of David fighting Goliath, Linch said Israel's warriors "were overanalyzing their obstacle and did not do anything."
Similarly, instead of listening to Caleb and "taking possession of the land," the nation of Israel decided to listen to the other spies, who said, "We cannot attack those people; they're stronger than we are," Linch noted.
"You're going to have critics to the purpose and dream God has you called you to," Linch said.
"When God has called you to do something great, study it, analyze it, [and] do it. If you over-analyze it, you will do nothing," added Linch, recounting the many critics he encountered when planting NorthStar Church in 1997.
"If we had figured out what we were doing long enough, we would still be at the drawing board trying to figure out how we would do it," Linch said. The more than 2,000 people who have become Christians through NorthStar's ministry "might not know Christ today if we stayed at the drawing board."
The second reason the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, Linch said, is because "they underestimated God's power" and "wrote God out of the equation." God promised the Israelites a land flowing with milk and honey, and "because the group of ten who could have said 'We can' said 'We can't,' the whole nation lost,"
Citing Joshua 1, Linch stated three facts that believers can learn from Joshua about overcoming a great obstacle: You become strong and courageous when you have to, you believe what God has said, you trust in what God can do, and you know that God is with you.
"Courage is standing in the face of fear," said Linch, illustrating his point by recounting a lunch with fellow pastor Ike Reighard and several CEOs in Atlanta. During the lunch, Bruce Wilkinson, best-selling author of The Prayer of Jabez, told Reighard that he believed in Reighard's dream of establishing a church in Kennesaw and handed him a $10,000 check.
"Who else believes?" Wilkinson asked, looking around the table.
The CEOs wrote checks. Obstacle overcome.
Believers also overcome obstacles when the Word of God begins to live in their hearts, Linch added. If the Word isn't in your heart, "You're in trouble," he said.
Even when circumstances say different, "You can always trust God.... God will never leave your side. If you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, I don't care how big your obstacle is, and I don't care how daunting it may look -- it is never you versus [the obstacle]. It is God versus [the obstacle]."
Encouraging students to hold fast to their purpose, Linch added, "You will fail and have times when things don't work out, but you're never alone. When he is on your side, you can't lose. Even if you fail, you win."
The pastor related a story of a Native American boy's rite of passage. He was blindfolded and left in the forest to fend for himself with only his bow and arrow.
"Can you imagine how dark it got about midnight?" Linch said. "Out there, that kid never felt more alone, never felt more abandoned, and never felt like God and his father were farther away."
As the sun began to rise over the hills, the boy saw the silhouette of someone nearby. As the sun became brighter, he noticed it was his father, who stood guard over him all night.
"Physically, if Christ walked around the room today," Linch said. "He would grab your chin; he would pick it up and say, 'Listen, I know my father has called you to great things. Can I tell you some good news? I will never leave you; I will never forsake you; don't let that thing beat you. I am with you."
Vicky Kaniaru is senior staff writer at Truett-McConnell College.