Seasons change. Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” This passage in Scripture contains hard things to hear. Do we realize there is “a time to uproot (verse 2)….a time to tear down (verse 3)….a time to scatter stones (verse 5)….a time to search and a time to give up (verse 6), and….a time to throw away (verse 6)?” These are all things that we forget are part of life, but we still may resist them.
Some of us are in the same place that we have been for a long time.
It's the end of one season, and the Autumn leaves are beginning to signal the coming of another season. The Hebrew Year 5777 is about to be ushered in. God may have recently been instructing you to make a change. Consider the following 4 enemies of positive change as you tune into His instructions.
4 Things That Hold Us Back
1. Religious spirits. Religious spirits thrive on tradition, inflexibility, legalism and religious control. In Scripture, the Pharisees were leaders that set high standards for their followers, standards that they, themselves, didn’t meet. In Matthew 23, Jesus said of the Pharisees, who were the embodiment of the religious spirit, “They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”
In a modern example, a young man sought to accept a job for better pay and more responsibility at another company. Despite his excitement and belief that this opportunity was from God, his Christian advisors discouraged him.
They stressed the importance of loyalty and commitment to his current employer. They emphasized the risk of change, the possibility that he would not like the new job (he was secure and enjoyed his current placement) and questioned the young man’s own ability to hear God well.
This is what religious spirits do. They cause you to question that God could have a better place or opportunity for you because they like the way things are. They place rigidity and caution over faith and freedom. They oppose change, creativity or the possibility of your soaring beyond your current situation, especially if you are moving out from under their influence.
Spirit-guided brothers and sisters are not threatened by change and expect God to do new things in our lives.
Isaiah 43:19 says, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Religious spirits will resist our perceiving God’s new thing. Tradition, commitment and duty will come against the freedom to move ahead.
2. Misunderstanding of church authority. God has given us leaders and elders in our church to protect and guide us. They make peace, teach, pray for us, make decisions for the best spiritual interest of the body, and are vigilant to protect us from perils such as deception.
Church elders and leaders are not put in authority to run our lives. Since we all contribute different gifts to the functioning of the whole body (see I Corinthians 12:12- 31), variety and different opinions and ideas should flow and be accepted. Submission is expected, but within the realm of authority that God has given, and not beyond that.
Church elders and leaders are not put in authority to run our lives.
For example, a woman was asked to teach a Bible study on a certain topic. She didn’t feel this was what God wanted. Instead she felt led to ask a few women to pray with her in her home. The elders forbade her praying in her home with these women. This was overstepping their authority.
It’s important to understand that we are responsible to guard against false authority. People sometimes try to control one another and claim that they have authority over one another in ways that they don’t. We must be vigilant. In the event that you truly feel led to do something that is encouraged in Scripture in your life outside of the church, or that you feel God wants you to do in your personal life, and it doesn’t violate God’s Word, you have the ultimate choice, not church elders or leaders.
It’s important to understand that we are responsible to guard against false authority.
Sometimes we stay where we are because we are influenced not to leave (and are hence controlled) by another person. Other times, we don’t want to leave because of a misguided sense of commitment, loyalty or indebtedness to a leader or supervisor or friend. We may put our affection for a leader ahead of obeying what God is saying. We may not be able to accept that God would be able to “replace” the person. We may have developed ungodly loyalty toward another person.
This can effect our personal lives. We may make vocational choices that accommodate the church in order to please specific individuals. Or we may relocate to be more accessible for church needs. The important thing is to hear God's directions and to guard against the persuasion of man.
For example, a man and women felt that a church wasn’t able to spiritually nurture their children. They had been with the current Pastor since he began leading the church. They both were deeply committed and involved in all aspects of church life, but the church had few children and this hadn't changed for years. Their children were in need of fellowship. When they expressed their need to leave, the Pastor was devastated. This delayed their leaving, despite their conviction that it was time to go.
It can be difficult for leadership to let people go, but holding onto them for the good of their church, over the respect for the responsibilities and priority of family is wrong. When this couple broke the soul ties between the Pastor and each of them, they felt peace and the freedom to leave.
Once ungodly soul ties are revealed, they are easily broken.
When words like "rebellion" and "betrayal" are associated with a common sense choice that you make and believe that God is urging you to make, it may be an indicator that the ties between you and other people may be ungodly. Once ungodly soul ties are revealed, they are easily broken (see Freedom From Soul Ties).
4. Focus on a church or ministry rather than the Kingdom of God. We all want our church to thrive and grow. Some churches grow by welcoming people into the Kingdom of God. This is the ultimate church growth! Other churches grow by becoming the new church home of people who have left other churches. This is just shifting around the Kingdom. It's not the ideal way for a church to grow, but such change can reposition people to use their gifts differently.
Sometimes shifting around the Kingdom results in individuals growing more and doing God’s work more effectively. It’s important to be where God wants us to be. Other times, churches become fat because they use their resources for their own improvement above reaching out to the community and world.
It’s sad, but churches can discourage people from making changes for their own selfish reasons. This is because they don’t trust that God will bless their letting go of people and resources for Kingdom work. Our commitment is to God’s Kingdom, not a particular group of people.
In fact, in Luke 14:26, Jesus’ respect for “family” of any sort is made clear. He says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” He isn’t saying that we should hate our families. He is saying that He needs to be first, above all other relationships. If He leads us away from a church “family,” this is not lack of commitment. It’s actually the opposite in some cases. Sometimes we are called to make changes that we would rather not make, but obedience always has its rewards.
It's imperative that people be where they can soar in their gifts. If there is a extended delay in their being released in their gifts, they need to consider going where they will be utilized and honored. We don’t need to be perfect to serve God. We just need to be humble, teachable and willing to serve in love.
It's imperative that people be where they can soar in their gifts.
For example, a woman was gifted in intercession for governments and nations. Her church ministered admirably to their community and nearby city, but didn’t follow prophetic leaders that provided intercessory guidance nationally. When she began attending a church where her gifts were encouraged and honored, she began to thrive in her intercessory gifts. Nobody sinned. God just had different plans for her.
All four of these things; religious spirits, misguided church authority, soul ties and church, rather than Kingdom, focus can keep us from making changes in our lives. Whether it be in our vocations, families, churches or relationships, when God directs us to do so, we need to get going!
We may feel a strong pull to stay put, or when we finally do move, to look back, but we must resist that pull! Luke 9:62 says,“Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’” You can’t plow a straight row when you are looking back at where you came from. Harness your energy to move ahead!
Paul looked ahead. In Philippians 3:13, he said, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” There comes a time when we need to let go of what is keeping us back, and we need to move ahead in faith. God has good things for us! We can trust Him to be with us as He guides us.
If you have been reluctant to move on, and have kept looking back, unable to trust that you heard God right, rejecting all risk, consider taking that risk. It’s possible that you have missed out on good things and what God really has had for you to do! As you move into this new Hebraic year, may God help you let go of anything that is holding you back. Remember, there is a time to uproot (Ecclestiastes 3:2). May your eyes be set forward, and may you never look back!