The Challenge

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When we least expect it, life sends us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait.

-Paulo Coehlo

When I was young I had a plan.

1.) Grow up… check! (Don’t ask Jennifer Smith)

2.) Get married… check!

3.) Live happily ever after… so far so good!

Unfortunately none of my guidance counselors ever warned me of the in between periods!

challenges warning

Who knew life would be full of so many challenges? I sure didn’t! I expected to grow up gracefully; but I have he scars to prove otherwise! I thought I’d meet the perfect woman and she’d be head over heels in love with me! And I met the perfect woman, the trouble was convincing her she was head over heels! I knew it, but she was stubborn! πŸ™‚ All joking aside, life has presented it’s far share of challenges. With every challenge I have been presented with an opportunity to grow and learn. And much of what I am today stems from the challenges I’ve experienced.

With that being said, there is a challenge that has claimed many casualties along the way. A challenge that is designed to not only discourage you, but destroy you! I’m talking about the challenge of your destiny.

In 2 Kings we read a remarkable story of a young man chosen by divine direction to be the successor of one of the greatest prophets who ever lived. Elisha was just a simple young man, a young man of great family values. He was a hard worker, as evidenced by his chore the day of his calling. What I find interesting is that God didn’t send Elijah to the School of the Prophets to find a successor. He didn’t search for the most prolific scroll reader, or the most dynamic prayer warrior! The young man God chose was a farmer on a plow. At first glance it’s easy to suggest that maybe Elijah missed the voice of God, after all he IS human! But upon closer examination we discover there’s more to the story. God wasn’t looking for just a religious man, the world at this time demanded more than that! He was looking for a man who was accustomed to having his hand to the plow, who would know what it was like to plow through tough environments, who would never go home leaving a task unfinished! God needed a man who was diligent!

As Elisha adjusted to his new life, remember he left everything behind, he begins to study the life of his mentor. He studied his prayer life, he watched his actions. He walked like Elijah walked, talked like Elijah talked; Elisha was consumed to be just like Elijah! What a great example to follow! If Elisha could be half of what Elijah was that is a success! But something happened in the spirit of Elisha during the 6 year span in which he followed the man of God. Suddenly young Elisha was no longer satisfied being just like Elijah. Elisha’s dreams began to enlarge! Call it arrogance or pride, but within the spirit of Elisha a longing for something bigger gripped his anointed mind! He became consumed with thoughts of greater anointing, greater miracles, greater signs and wonders! Finally Elijah has reached the end of his purpose, and as he senses the time drawing near asks Elisha what it is that he really wants. Years worth of dreams and visions spewed out of his mouth as he cried, “I want a double portion!”

I can almost envision the face of Elijah cringe as those words reverberated through his mind! “You have asked a hard thing.” Often times I think we focus so much attention to the fact that all Elisha had to do was see Elijah taken away from this world and he would inherit the mantle. But those words from this seasoned prophet struck a chord in my spirit recently. What did Elijah really mean by that? Is anything to hard for the Lord? Absolutely not! God is sovereign! He does as he pleases, when e pleases. If God wanted to send a 1,000 soul revival to your church this weekend he could do it! Elijah wasn’t saying this would be hard for God, he was saying this would be hard for Elisha. Elijah knew the position Elisha was in now, he full comprehended the price that had to be paid for that kind of anointing! You don’t just wake up one day with a double portion! Elijah knew there had to be a change in the spirit of Elisha, and the change could only come through the challenge!

In Mark chapter 6 we find the familiar account of Jesus walking on water. In this scene we can see an uncanny parallel to the challenge of destiny.Jesus commands his disciples to get tot he other side. He gave them direction, vision and purpose! These three ingredients are the catalysts to fulfill the call of God. What I find interesting is that Jesus withdraws himself from them before the challenge comes. Understand on the other side was Genesserat. It would be here where Jesus would perform one of his greatest feats during His earthly ministry. The Bible says that the people of Genesserat scoured the country side finding every sick, diseased, or lame person they could find. And scripture teaches that every one of them who came by and touched Him were healed! Satan knew what was awaiting these 12 disciples on the other side, so in order to prevent them from experiencing this he sends a challenge. Notice the Bible says that the wind was contrary, in other words, their circumstances were now in direct opposition to the will of God in their lives!

How many of us have answered the call of God, only to find ourselves wrestling with circumstances that are contrary to that call! This challenge is designed to send you back home with your tail between your legs! But as I read Mark 6 I discovered that although Jesus had withdrawn His presence from them, he never took His eyes off of them! I know there are times when it feels like you can’t find God! When it seems as if He has completely removed Himself from your circumstances. But do not allow that feeling to convince you that God has abandoned you! Trust in Him, he’s got His eyes on you and he’s watching to see how you respond to the challenge! Understand, it was their response to the storm that convinced Jesus to come to them walking on the water! It wasn’t as if Jesus had seen enough, it wasn’t like this was planned to happen at a specific time; Jesus was waiting on their response!

Mark 6:48 “…He saw them rowing and towing, for the wind was contrary unto them…”

The challenge was pushing them back, the challenge was telling them to give up and go home, the challenge was trying to distract them from their destiny! But in the middle of that storm 12 ordinary men found a drive inside of themselves and began pushing back at their challenge! The severity of that storm altered their direction, it caused them to question their purpose, but these 12 disciples never allowed the storm to rob them of their vision of their destiny! When they made up their minds to reach their destination regardless of the circumstances in their way, Jesus responded with His presence! They actually willed the presence of God into their circumstances through their actions in the storm!

Perhaps the Apostle Paul described this mentality when he told the church at Philippi, “I press!” I don’t know what tomorrow might bring, but I press! I don’t know what next week has in store, but I press! I can’t control the winds, the storm or the waves; but this one thing I do! I press towards the mark!

Something about that kind of mentality got Jesus’ attention! As Jesus approaches the boat, he calms their fears with these words. “Be of good cheer, It is I; be not afraid.” Suddenly it was as if blinders were removed from their eyes! Suddenly the very men who didn’t even consider the miracles of the loaves and fishes because they were consumed with their challenge had an understanding that would change everything! Now they realized, Jesus may not have created this storm, but He does control it! All this time Jesus was watching over us, all this time He was here! I just couldn’t see Him behind the lightning and the waves, because my focus was on the challenge!

Elijah understood the challenge that awaited that kind of passion and hunger for ministry. This generation is stirring with a hunger for greater things! But our adversary walks about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. We must be vigilant and sober in these last days! Let us not get so consumed with the challenge that we lose focus of the one who controls it! As Goliath screams at us from his mountain of intimidation, let us always be mindful of this one thing…. Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world! Sometimes it takes the challenge to change us, that’s why Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:7, that it was through the challenge that was IN his side that revealed what was ON his side!

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