Several years ago, our company held a business retreat that, as they normally do, featured a motivational speaker. He had worked his way into the Olympics in one of the solo sailing events. It was a good story, as he came from a disadvantaged country and family. And, it was motivational.
The slogan used for the retreat (and the title of the book describing his accomplishment) was something like “No Barriers, No Defeat!”
The various sessions had that as the theme, and the speakers adapted it to their subject. The organizers did an excellent job of weaving those words throughout all the sessions and events. When the gathering ended at lunchtime on the third day, the excitement was evident. We left as a group thinking: “we can do it – no barriers, no defeat!”, and as individuals applying it to ourselves: “I can do it – no barriers, no defeat!”.
But, as usual, in the aftermath of such a retreat, getting back into the day-to-day work can bring down the excitement level. The same problems exist, the routine is still routine, and there are still barriers and defeats – no matter what words you say.
Much like those described as in the “rocky ground” in Jesus’ Parable of the Sower, there was a group who heard the words and got excited, but quickly lost motivation when the troubles arose once more.
Jesus explained that the seed being sown was the Word of God and in the rocky ground, it didn’t take root (the Holy Spirit had not prepared their heart to be “good ground”). The “rocky ground” folks were acting on their own emotions and strength.
And, that’s where most of us were as we stated: “No barriers, no defeat”. We thought if we just tried hard enough, focused clearly enough, and were strong enough, we would win all the battles. But, we know that’s not true.
The poem “Invictus” has a line: “I am the master of my fate”. I once thought that a powerful statement, but now understand it’s nothing but silliness and arrogance.
I’m not implying that we shouldn’t work against barriers to do what needs to be done. Neither am I implying we should give up if things are hard to do. No, I’m saying we have to change our focus.
We have to turn from any “man-centered” thinking (such as the Invictus line) and turn to God. Not saying what we will do (on our own), but acknowledging, as instructed in James 4:13-17, that if the Lord wills, we will do this or that. Recognizing, as Jesus says (John 15:5), we can do nothing apart from Him.
And, with those passages and this Scripture, we can fearlessly (yet humbly) go against whatever barriers may exist: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13 NKJV.
Through the years I’ve modified the slogan we used that week. The first variation, instead of “No Barriers, No Defeat” became “No Arrogance, No Conceit”. But, on consideration, I think it may be more appropriate to say “No Barriers, No Defeat – with God!”