There’s a popular myth – perhaps unspoken – that says everything should be easy if you’re doing the right thing. But that’s just not true. Call it “the resistance,” spiritual warfare, or inertia, but the fact is that if you’re trying to do anything of significance you will face opposition. Coming to terms with and overcoming opposition will make the difference between success and failure in almost anything you do.
Change is usually painful, and almost always difficult. Every system wants to maintain the status quo. Your brain want to keep right on practicing the same bad habits, thinking the same negative thoughts, or enjoying the same addictions. Your family system wants to continue the same unhealthy or dysfunctional patterns of relating. Your church or business wants to remain at the same level, getting the same results as it is now, instead of growing.
But the truth is that to maintain is to go backwards. A plant or tree that ceases to grow begins to die. It’s the same with your own health, or that of your family, church, business, mission, or ministry. You must put energy into a system to keep it from deteriorating. In the long run not changing is almost certain to be more painful than the hard work involved in change.
That energy needed to create change will be opposed. Everything good, helpful, or significant has always faced tremendous opposition. Jackie Robinson faced it while becoming the first black African American to play major league baseball. Albert Einstein faced it while overcoming his lack of formal education to become one of the most successful inventors of all time. The Apostle Paul faced it while taking the message of the gospel to the entire then-known world.
Whatever your mission, you will face opposition as well. You’ll have to learn ways of overcoming opposition if you want to do anything positive, whether it’s lose 20 pounds, write a book, grow a church or business, raise children well, get out of debt, or leave other people better in some way because you were here.
Keys to Overcoming Opposition
Consider these keys to overcoming opposition, whatever your mission may be:
- Face the enemy within. We are often our own worst enemy. Problems in our thinking and character issues are usually the most important when it comes to facing opposition. Are you grappling with negative thinking, procrastination, pride, fear, lack of integrity, addiction, or some other internal foe? As difficult as facing an internal enemy can be, these are obstacles that you can do something about. Look at yourself honestly, and refuse to let the enemy within win. Get some help if you need to, but these are things you can change.
- Use criticism wisely. A true friend is not someone who only tells you the good things; you need others who can be honest in showing you your blind spots and pointing out where you need to improve. Not all critics have your best interest at heart, of course, and some need to be ignored. Whether from friend or foe, look at the criticism you receive as dispassionately as you can. Learn what you can from anything truthful, and let the rest go.
- Don’t rely on institutions. Systems develop a life of their own, and are often the most resistant to change. The bigger the institution, the harder it is to change. If you have a mission, a vision, a desire, see it as something God planted within YOU. Don’t wait for others to acknowledge, accept, or desire what you have to offer before taking action. Just because major league baseball, your church denomination, or the bosses in your company don’t see it doesn’t mean you don’t. Begin where you are. If that means working outside the institution, so be it.
- See opposition as a sign you’re doing something significant. If you weren’t, nobody would care. See the fact that you’re encountering opposition as validation that you’re trying to do something important. Use the opposition as fuel to increase your resolve. Adjust your strategies if necessary. Be clear on your most important goals. Choose your battles thoughtfully. But the fact that something is hard may be evidence that you’re doing the right thing.
- Stay true to YOUR assignment. God gave you a job, and He didn’t give the identical job to anyone else. If others don’t understand your assignment, or appreciate it, so be it. You may need to go back to God regularly to keep His assignment clear in your heart and mind. God’s assignments are unique to you, and they generally don’t involve attacking other people unless those people are truly evil. Be as clear as you can on what your assignment is, and focus on that. Don’t become distracted by others who disagree.
- Pray. Always. Pray for wisdom and insight into the next step in your assignment. Pray for the courage to not allow opposition to dissuade you from your assignment. Pray for God to open the doors necessary for you to do what He’s asked you to do. Pray against evil – not against people – that would seek to stop God’s purposes from being fulfilled.
There’s always something you can do to move forward in the direction of the mission God has given you. Perhaps you need some personal development. Perhaps the support you need is available somewhere else. Perhaps an institution, company, or group of people who might have benefited from your efforts is uninterested, but there’s always another opportunity elsewhere.
Get used to opposition. The more successful you are, the more significant your assignment, the larger the opposition you will face. Be like Nehemiah: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3)
You can come to the place where you see opposition as a gift. It tests your strength, makes you stronger, and validates your significance.
Do your job, as you understand God has given it to you. And let the opposition rage on.
Your Turn: Have you faced opposition in fulfilling your mission? What do you think that means? Leave a comment.
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