Satan’s Obstacles, or God’s “No”?

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” – John 4:7

As I woke up on the much-anticipated day, I was not at all sure that what I had planned was really from God.

The “much anticipated day” was the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. I had hoped to engage in my own kind of outreach, taking advantage of the “mission field” in the streets of Louisville – the estimated 10,000 people attending.

For years I had been trying to get a group together to mingle with the attendees, introducing them to the gospel through the testimony of the life of Patrick, patron saint of Ireland. I had prepared a 4-question, multiple-choice quiz that I would offer people, to test their knowledge of just what it was they were celebrating (besides “green beer and poor choices,” as my friend Rachel put it). I had put together colorful booklets with the quiz and the explanation of the plan of salvation, which people could keep if they’d like.

Plans had fallen through in past years. There was the year the weather had been cold, windy, and raining; the year the Covid lockdowns started the exact scheduled day of the parade; the following year, when the parade had been postponed; and at least one year where everyone who had told me they’d go with me had had “something come up” at the last minute. (No judgment.) This year I had started with a handful of people that had been whittled down to one young lady who, it appeared, was indeed committed to come with me.

But I had a sick feeling in my stomach, that feeling you get when you wonder what-the-heck you’ve gotten yourself into. Although I knew God’s opinion was the only one that mattered, I had let myself be affected by some who had opined that the approach was a bit gimmicky, comments that my explanation of the Trinity (actually, St. Patrick’s explanation) was insufficient theologically, and some unspoken messages I was sensing, whether intended or of my own imagination.

If you’ve read many of my posts, you know that I put scant confidence in the opinions of others or emotions. Emotions can lie. I have had ample experiences when the Word of God and my emotions were giving me opposite messages, and I needed to choose which one I would act on.

Then that age-old question of how to discern the will of God comes in; are these misgivings His way of telling me today is not the day to do this – or perhaps there is never a good day to do this?

Or, is this an excellent day to reach others, and is what I’m feeling an attack from the enemy of my soul, using my emotions to try to stop the plan?

I have learned that God is much more interested in my obedience than in my emotions. Besides, once I make the decision to obey, the feelings often will fall into line. But to obey His will, I needed to know what that will is. So I did the best thing to do in these situations; I prayed.

Part of the answer came in the form of familiar Scriptures, and the rest could be credited to the Holy Spirit, or what some might call logic or “common sense.”

The Scripture that came to mind was the fourth chapter of the gospel of John, which tells of Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman at a well. The woman was alone, coming to draw water at the hottest part of the day. The other women had already drawn and left; this one was an outcast.

Jesus began a dialogue with her by asking her for a drink of water. Over the next few verses, the conversation transitioned from talking about water to the relationship between Jews and Samaritans, to Jesus’ cryptic statement that if she knew who He was, she’d ask Him for “living water,” to the woman’s five failed marriages, to the question of whether Jesus was a prophet, to theological differences between Jews and Samaritans, to Jesus finally telling the woman outright that He was the Messiah.

Considering this story of evangelism by Jesus Himself, I came to the conclusion that one person’s “gimmick” is another person’s meeting someone where they are.

At the well, rather than going up to the woman and saying, “Hey, I’m the Messiah,” Jesus used water as a bridge her heart. I entertained the notion that it was probably OK for me to use a celebration of St. Patrick as a springboard to discuss of the gospel that he had shared with the Irish. It might not be everyone’s way of evangelizing, but since there are many different kinds of unbelievers, it could well take many kinds of believers to reach them, including quirky, retired teachers like yours truly.

Granted, the shamrock is an insufficient explanation of the Trinity, but when I had asked my critic for an alternative, we had agreed that it’s something none of us can adequately explain. Besides, far from being seminary students, many of the people at the parade might not even know God loved them! I would meet them where they were – surrounded by images of shamrocks – Patrick’s object lesson to the pagans.

Thus, I decided to ignore my misgivings for the time being and just obey the Great Commission. We have Jesus’ command to spread the gospel, and as far as I know, He never said anything about having to feel like it. I did pray that if doing this wasn’t God’s will, that He would put a roadblock in my way that I could not get around. (I’ve known Him to do that before.) Satan might introduce all kinds of inconveniences, but unless they made it impossible to go on this mission, I would assume I had the green light from the Lord, and He would help me get around any and every obstacle.

In a few hours it would all be over with.

To be continued…

Prayer: Lord, how we let our emotions dictate! Forgive us and help us to practice obedience in the small things, so when the really difficult trials come, we’re ready to obey You in the face of excruciating obstacles, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

20 thoughts on “Satan’s Obstacles, or God’s “No”?

    1. I know, right? It seems I spend as much time whittling my piece down as I do writing it in the first place. I don’t want to leave anything important/interesting out, but I also don’t want anyone to take one look at the length and think, “Forget it…” Everybody’s busy these days, so I appreciate every reader who takes the time to stop by. โค

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  1. As always, Ann, I appreciate your not putting too much emphasis on feelings. It seems to me that your plan for how to talk to people from this group on this day made a lot of sense; it reminded me of missionary friends of ours in Slovenia who have ministered to people there using the Bible, naturally, but also the words of a rather well-known theologian from Slovenian history–well-known in terms of name only for most of them, however.

    I had to smile at your phrase “green light from the Lord;” the use of this color was probably unintentional on your part! ๐Ÿ˜€ Looking forward to Part 2 of your story.

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  2. Looking forward to reading the next part. I agree with not giving too much emphasis on emotions. I pray and even when I do not feel it I know I must obey.
    Ann, what you said about – there are different kinds of unbelievers and so our approach too need not be the exact same for every one, that is a very good point.

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    1. Thanks, Manu. I do think we get intimidated too easily because we aren’t like this or that person who shares the gospel differently. If God had wanted us all to it one way, I suspect He would have made us all the same. (How boring.๐Ÿ˜)

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Nanette. I do something similar. Every morning as I recommit my heart to Jesus, I thank Him (out loud) that my emotions aren’t in charge. They don’t get to define me or dictate what I say, do, focus on, believe, or choose, Jesus does.

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  3. Ann,
    What a cliff hanger! Do we have to wait until next week to read the rest of the story?
    My thanks again for a timely lesson.

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    1. Idk, Ruth. I’m tempted to post it today. If I do, would y’all be upset with me if I don’t post anything next Friday? Just trying to “work ahead” a bit, because I have a lot going on right now. But perhaps I am a little OCD about posting EVERY week… I’ve only had one reader say she looks for my post every Friday. Anybody else have an opinion on this?

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  4. I look forward to reading how this goes. I’ve definitely been in the position where I’m wondering if my emotions are God’s warning to me or my fears. It’s always a relief to know that’s a normal question ๐Ÿ™‚

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