Are you a Pillsbury Doughboy Christian?
Why Does God Tell us to Do Something then Deliberately Obstruct Our Progress?
Lorraine Day, M.D
Why Does God Deliberately Obstruct the Very Things He tells us to do?
Many new Christians believe that when they accept Christ and become a Christian, their life will be easier. After all, doesn’t Jesus say,
“Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble ; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
“For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
But frequently, when one truly accepts Jesus and gives up everything in his or her life to Him, that is when the trouble begins.
The Exodus: God said, “Let my people go” then God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so Pharaoh would NOT let the people go.
God appointed Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. God said to Moses,
“Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth My people the children of Israel out of Egypt…
“And God said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee. When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.”
“And I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey.” Exodus 3:10,12,17
But as soon as God had told Moses that He would deliver the Israelites from slavery, God told Moses that God would obstruct the process. Pharaoh would NOT let the Israelites leave.
“And I am sure that the king of Egypt will NOT let you go, no, not by a mighty hand.” Exodus 3:19
The Bible tells us that Pharaoh hardened his own heart.
But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said. Exodus 8:1
And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go. Exodus 8:32
And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants. Exodus 9:34
The Bible then tells us that it was really God who hardened Pharaoh’s heart.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might show these my signs before him: Exodus 10:1
So God told Moses to deliver the Israelites from slavery, then God immediately obstructed what He told Moses to do.
Here is God’s answer:
“And I am sure that the king of Egypt will NOT let you go, No, not by a mighty hand.
“And I will stretch out My hand, and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go.” Exodus 3:19,20
If Pharaoh had allowed the Israelites to leave Egypt after the first plague, or even after the fifth plague, the action would have been attributed to Pharaoh - and Moses rather than to God.
But with plague after plague culminating in the death of the first-born in every family in Egypt, including Pharaoh’s first-born, it was obvious that God was in charge.
In addition, the process of Egypt going through the ten plagues none of which touched the Israelites built faith in the Israelites. Even though they were supreme complainers and whiners, over the yeas in the wilderness, the second generation began to trust God. That was the generation that entered into the Promised Land.
God told Moses and the Israelites what He wanted them to do, then God thwarted all their efforts to fulfill His will. But through this process, God strengthened the faith, perseverance, patience, and restraint (self-control) of the Israelites (“fruits of the spirit”).
And God brought glory to Himself, not only among the Israelites, but among all the surrounding nations, proving that God could save His own.
King Saul and David
The Israelites had demanded a king against God’s advice. So God finally gave them a king King Saul who behaved badly as God predicted he would. Then, years later, God told Samuel to anoint David to be king, even while King Saul was continuing to rule.
It was then, after being anointed king, that David’s real troubles began. For years, King Saul stalked David, trying to kill David in hopes of retaining his (Saul’s) place on the throne.
Yet during this time, even though David knew that Saul wanted David dead, David did not kill Saul, even when he had the chance. He left the events to God. David did not try to force God’s hand. When the time was right, God would allow David to rule.
Why did God put David through this grueling experience? Why did God have David anointed King, then restrain David from becoming King even to the point of David being hunted as a wild animal by King Saul?
God was testing David’s faith in God to protect him. God was also testing David’s willingness to allow God to determine the time David should be proclaimed King, rather than David taking matters into his own hands.
Through this experience David learned to have faith, patience, perseverance, and self-control, all parts of the “fruits of the Spirit.” These experiences helped purify David’s character to be more like Christ.
And God glorified Himself in Israel and the surrounding countries by saving David’s life.
Daniel, the Government, and the Lions’ Den
Possibly the only person in the Bible about whom God had nothing bad to say, was Daniel. But what happened to Daniel?
Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego, were taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon. Being taken captive by a conquering nation was trouble enough, but the four young men also refused to eat of the “King’s table” - an offense that could have cost them their life.
Later, Daniel came under a death sentence with the rest of the wise men when the King’s dream could not be interpreted. Daniel was saved by God from execution as were all the other wise men - when God gave Daniel the interpretation of the King’s dream.
Much later, when Daniel became a high official in the government, having won the confidence of King Darius, the Medo-Persian conqueror of Babylon, Daniel’s government colleagues were envious of Daniel’s close relationship with the King. They conspired to eliminate Daniel by contriving a law that would ensnare Daniel, a law that required everyone in the kingdom to worship only the King.
Because Daniel continued to pray to the God of heaven, he was thrown into the Lions’ Den a sentence that was sure to end his life. But God prevailed and saved Daniel by shutting the Lions’ mouths.
Notice that God did not save Daniel from being thrown into the Lions’ Den. He allowed Daniel to go to the point of death and then delivered him.
Why? Daniel’s faith in God was tested, and Daniel passed the test. Through these experiences Daniel’s faith, patience, perseverance, and self-control were increased. He developed the “fruits of the spirit” and became more like Christ.
And God was able to glorify Himself in front of the entire government of Medo-Persia, showing that God could save His own.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego
After being taken captive by Babylon, along with Daniel, these three young men became leaders in the Babylonian government. However, when the King erected a statue to himself and demanded allegiance from all in his government, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow down to anyone or anything other than the God of heaven.
The King was furious and asked for the furnace to be made seven times hotter. He gave the three men one last chance to bow down to the image, but they refused. They responded to King Nebuchadnezzar,
“We have no need to give an answer in this matter.
“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
“But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” Daniel 3:16-18
The three men were bound and thrown into the furnace to certain death. But God delivered them completely.
“And the prices, governors, and captains, and the king’s counselors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their garments affected, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.” Daniel 3:27
What did God accomplish by allowing this to happen?
God tested the faith of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. God taught them patience, perseverance, and humility (the “fruits of the spirit”).
And God glorified Himself throughout the world, proving that He could save His own even from the fiery furnace.
The Return of the Israelites from Babylon to Rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem
After years of captivity, God impressed on the heart of Cyrus, King of Persia, to allow the Israelites to return to Jerusalem to re-build the temple. This caused great rejoicing among at least some of the Israelites, although only a small minority returned to Palestine.
The majority of the Israelites had become comfortable and prosperous in Babylon a pagan nation and refused to return to their homeland.
But shortly after the Israelites returned to their land, the trouble began:
“Now when the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the Lord God of Israel. . .
“Then the people of the land tried to discourage the people of Judah, and trouble them in building,
“And hired counselors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus King of Persia, even until the reign of Darius, King of Persia.” Ezra 4:1,4,5
God told Adam and Eve, “Don’t eat of this tree.”
God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil yet put the tree right in their “front yard” to tempt them daily. Eventually they succumbed to the temptation of the serpent, Satan, who told Adam and Eve that they would not “surely die” but, in fact, they would “become as God knowing good and evil.”
If God did not want Adam and Eve to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, why did God make the temptation so obvious, personal, and close-up?
Adam and Eve fell for Satan’s temptation the first biblically recorded time they were tempted. And by yielding to temptation, they brought severe disaster and suffering to themselves and their family. One of the results of their sin was the fact that their son Cain murdered his brother Abel.
It would be horrible in this violent era for a son of parents to murder, in cold blood, his own brother. Just think what horrible heartbreak it caused Adam and Eve two previously sinless individuals to see what their sin had caused in their son, Cain. Not only did Adam and Eve lose their son Abel through death, but their murdering son, Cain, was banished from their presence.
Why would God set things up this way? Through the horrible experience of infecting the whole human race with sin and death, Adam and Eve learned how bad sin really is, and how much they had lost. The rest of the approximately 900 years of their life was spent in trying to restore that lost relationship with God.
Why was this part of God’s Plan?
Through these experiences, Adam and Eve learned what sin really was, and is, something they had no personal information about or personal experience with previously. They learned the havoc they had wreaked on their own family and the entire human race to come, and recognized that Satan was a liar, and their need for God to run their life.
It took their whole life over 900 years to see the full impact of their sin played out in their progeny, and to re-connect with God in a much different way than they had known Him before. They no longer took Him for granted.
They learned that in order to embrace and appreciate “good” one has to know what “evil” is by experience. God had told them up front what would happen if they ate of the tree, but an explanation even by their Creator was not convincing enough for them. They had to experience the “fall” themselves. Only then did they understand the horror of sin!
In their journey back to finding God, they learned patience, perseverance, humility, and self-control all “fruits of the Spirit.” Also, they were given the promise of a Saviour a Saviour not only for their own family but for the entire human race. Jesus would succeed where Adam had failed.
The promise of a Saviour was given to Adam and Eve immediately after their sin.
And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou are cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:
And I will put enmity between thee (Satan) and the woman (Eve), and between thy seed (those who are against Christ) and her seed (Jesus Christ, and His followers); and he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel. Genesis 3:14,15
Satan would “bruise” the heel of Christ by instigating wicked men to kill Christ. But Christ would “bruise” the head of Satan by brining to nought everything Satan was trying to do because Jesus would rise from the grave and ascend to heaven, becoming the “Saviour of ALL mankind.” (1 Timothy 4:10)
The death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ brings the maximum glory to God.
God had Cyrus allow the captive Israelites to leave Babylon to go back to Jerusalem to re-build the temple, but then God thwarted the attempts of the Israelites to do what God wanted them to do.
“Then the people of the land (surrounding nations) tried to discourage the people of Judah, and troubled them in building.
“And hired counselors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius, king of Persia.
“In the beginning of his reign, they wrote unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. . .
“Be it known unto the king, that the Jews (Judahites Judeans) which came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and the bad city, and have set up the walls thereof, and joined the foundations. . .
“. . . so shalt thou find in the book of the records, and know that this city is a rebellious city, and hurtful unto kings and provinces, and that they have moved sedition within the same of old time: for which cause this city was destroyed.” Ezra 4:4,5; 7:12-15
“But when it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and that the gaps began to be stopped, then they were very angry.
“And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem and to hinder it.
“. . . And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease.” Nehemiah 4:7-11
Why did God prompt Cyrus to allow the Israelites to go back to Israel to rebuild the temple and then immediately obstruct their progress?
Obviously to test their determination to overcome the obstacles, to test their tenacity, to strengthen their character and ultimately, by prompting Darius to protect the Israelites in their endeavor, to show God’s great deliverance.
Joseph was sold into slavery, falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, and falsely imprisoned before he developed the strength of character necessary to rule Egypt.
Joseph’s jealous, wicked, brothers were planning to kill him and lie to their father by telling Jacob that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. After cooler heads prevailed, Joseph was thrown into a pit to die but later retrieved only to be sold into slavery, never to see his mother again.
How much more trouble did Joseph need? It turns out a whole lot more trouble.
After gaining the respect and confidence of Potiphar, and becoming the head of Potiphar’s household, Joseph was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife and thrown into prison. He remained there for at least two years until he was called on to interpret Pharaoh’s dream after which he was released from prison and became second in the kingdom.
Eventually, Joseph was reunited with his brothers whose lives and hearts had finally been changed and who sought forgiveness from Joseph and from God. And Joseph was able to see his father again.
After Jacob died of old age, his brothers feared that Joseph would have them killed for what they had done.
“And when Joseph’s brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will perhaps hate us, and may fully repay us all the evil which we did unto him.
“And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying,
“So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of they brethren, and their sin: for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him.
“And his brethren also wept and fell down before his face, and they said, Behold, we be thy servants.
“And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?
“But as for you, you intended evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” Genesis 50:15-20
Because of Joseph’s years of suffering and character development, not only was he able to rule Egypt during a major crisis but he had a heart to forgive his brothers for their horrible vengeance against him.
The Prophet Jeremiah’s Torture and Imprisonment at the hands of the “Organized Church” of the day
The Lord said to Jeremiah:
“Take these a scroll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations. . . It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them: that they may turn every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.” Jeremiah 36:2,3
Israel and Judah had once again, rejected God and followed the ways of Baal. God had chosen Jeremiah to warn them of the calamities that would come to them if they did not return to God.
Jeremiah’s scribe wrote the words dictated by Jeremiah and took the scroll to the leaders who then informed the king of the scroll. The king sent his closest aid, Jehudi, to fetch the scroll and read it to the king. The king was in his winter house and “there was a fire on the hearth, burning before him.”
“And it came to pass that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves (of the scroll), he cut it with the scribe’s knife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth.” Vs. 23
Other leaders were aghast and made intercession to the king that he should not burn the scroll, but the king “would not listen.”
The message from God to Jeremiah was the he should tell the king and the people that they had strayed far from the Lord and that Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon would be coming to take them captive. God said that if the king and his court and all the Israelites would willingly go into captivity (which they deserved because they had left God), none of them would lose their life. But if they didn’t, great calamity would befall them.
But neither the king, his administration, nor the people, would listen.
False prophets arose who said the opposite of Jeremiah. They told the people to fight the Babylonians and to stay in the land.
Because Jeremiah branded them FALSE prophets, Irijah, “a captain of the ward” accused Jeremiah of defecting to the Babylonians and Irijah and “the other princes” were “angry with Jeremiah and struck him and put him in prison.
Jeremiah told the king and the people,
“Thus saith the Lord, He that remaineth in this city shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth forth to the Chaldeans (Babylonians) shall live: for he shall have his life for a prize, and shall live.
Thus saith the Lord, This city shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon’s army, which shall take it.
“Therefore the princes said unto the king, We beseech thee, let this man be put to death: for thus he is discouraging the men of war that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words unto them: for this man seeks not the good of this people, but the harm.” Jeremiah 38:2-4
Nothing has changed throughout history. The leaders of the government (“Homeland Security”) were accusing Jeremiah of being a dissident following the Word of God rather than agreeing with the government’s evil ways and therefore NOT being supportive of the troops in the government’s war. So the king let them put Jeremiah in a dungeon without food or water, to let him die.
“Then Zedekiah the king said, Behold he is in your hand: for the king is not he that can do anything against you.
“Then they took Jeremiah and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah, the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with ropes. And in the dungeon there was no water, but only mud: so Jeremiah sunk into the mud.” Vs. 5,6
Then one of the officers came to the king and said, “You can’t let Jeremiah die in the depths of the dungeon with no food or water.” So the king ordered men to take Jeremiah out of the dungeon and put him in a regular prison and give him a piece of bread and some water each day.
It is obvious that when Jeremiah did what God asked him to do, Jeremiah encountered nothing but trouble!
Eventually, Nebuchadnezzar’s soldiers did come against Judah, and Zedekiah and his administrative leaders and his family fled. But they were captured by the Babylonian soldiers, who then forced Zedekiah to watch them slaughter Zedekiah’s sons, after which, the soldiers put out his eyes and took him captive to Babylon in humiliation and disgrace.
Then Nebuzaradan, the Babylonian captain of the guard of King Nebuchadnezzar’s troops, released Jeremiah from prison. It is important to note that the heathen nations gave Jeremiah far more consideration and respect than he was given by the supposed “Chosen of God” the Israelites, who claimed to worship the God of heaven.
So why does God obstruct the very things He asks us to do?
It is a well-known fact that the muscles of the body atrophy and become useless if they are not exercised regularly. In order to increase muscle strength, the muscles must have resistance.
It is no different for the mind and the character. The brain atrophies and deteriorates unless it is strengthened by use. Watching and reading trivia weakens the brain and contributes to dementia, Alzheimer’s, and a vacuous zombie-like state where one cannot make important decisions. But diligent study of difficult concepts strengthens the mind.
The character and moral fiber of an individual is strengthened only when difficult challenges are met head-on and overcome. That’s why we need “trouble.” That’s why God promises us “trouble.”
“In this world, you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
The body, mind and character are developed and strengthened only when they are met with severe resistive forces, including serious trouble. You can’t build Six Pack Abs without major resistance exercises. You can’t have a sharp mind without developing it by studying difficult concepts. And you can’t have a Christ-like character unless you learn to overcome trouble.
God wants strong Christians, not Pillsbury Doughboy “Christians” like the soft, almost marshmallowy cartoon character seen in the Pillsbury advertisements.
After Adam and Eve sinned, God responded, in essence, “What you need is trouble.”
“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground: for out of it was thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Genesis 3:19
Before Adam and Eve sinned, they were not required to till the ground. They ate fruits and grains that essentially raised themselves. The fruit was picked from the tree, and the grain was plucked from the plant.
But after sin, Adam and Eve needed hard work to keep them out of trouble, and to perfect their character by teaching them patience, perseverance, humility and self-control the “fruits of the spirit.”
All the great men and women in the Bible who were chosen by God had a lot of trouble to overcome: Moses, Joshua, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elijah, Daniel, Peter, James and John, John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene, Paul, and many more.
God wants Christians who are strong mentally, physically, and spiritually, not those who are weak and easily swayed. As the book of James states:
“He that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” James 1:6,7
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.
“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Ephesians 6:10-13