Overcome Obstacles to Your Progress!

YOUR car is in gear, and the engine is running, but it refuses to move forward. A mechanical problem? No, a large rock is lodged in front of one of the wheels. Removing it is all that is necessary to get the car moving.

In a similar way, some who are studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses have obstacles that can impede their spiritual progress. For example, Jesus warned that such things as “the anxiety of this system of things and the deceptive power of riches” could “choke the word” of truth and hinder growth.​—Matthew 13:22.

For others, ingrained habits or weaknesses block their progress. A Japanese man named Yutaka liked the Bible’s message, yet he had a serious problem with gambling. He had often tried to conquer this bad habit but had failed. His addiction had cost him a small fortune, three homes, the respect of his family, and his own dignity. Could he remove this stumbling block and become a Christian?

Or consider a woman named Keiko. With the Bible’s help, she had rid herself of such vices as idolatry, immorality, and fortune telling. However, Keiko admits: “The biggest obstacle for me was smoking. I tried to quit many times but couldn’t.”

 You may likewise have what appears to be an immovable obstacle standing in the way of your progress. Whatever it is, be assured that with God’s help, it can be overcome.

Recall Jesus’ counsel to his disciples after they had failed to expel a demon from an epileptic man. After Jesus succeeded where they had failed, he told his disciples: “If you have faith the size of a mustard grain, you will say to this mountain, ‘Transfer from here to there,’ and it will transfer, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:14-20; Mark 9:17-29) Yes, a problem that may appear to be like a looming mountain to us is tiny and insignificant to our all-powerful Creator.​—Genesis 18:14; Mark 10:27.

Identifying Impediments to Progress

Before you can overcome your obstacles, you must identify just what those obstacles are. How can you do so? Sometimes a member of the congregation, such as an elder or the person studying the Bible with you, will call something to your attention. Rather than resenting such loving counsel, you should humbly “listen to discipline and become wise.” (Proverbs 8:33) At other times, you may become aware of your weaknesses through your study of the Bible. Yes, God’s word is “alive and exerts power.” (Hebrews 4:12) Reading the Bible and Bible-based publications can expose your deepest thoughts, feelings, and motives. It helps you to measure yourself according to Jehovah’s lofty standards. It reveals and identifies things that might impede your spiritual progress.​—James 1:23-25.

For example, suppose a Bible student has had the habit of dwelling on immoral fantasies. He may see little harm in doing so, reasoning that he is not actually doing anything wrong. In the course of his study, he comes upon the words of James 1:14, 15: “Each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire. Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin; in turn, sin, when it has been accomplished, brings forth death.” Now he sees just how detrimental continuing in this course would be to his progress! How can he eliminate this impediment?​—Mark 7:21-23.

Overcoming Obstacles

Perhaps with the aid of a mature Christian, the student might do some additional research in God’s Word, using the Watch Tower Publications Index. * The heading “Thoughts,” for example, directs a reader to a number of published articles that deal with overcoming harmful fantasies. These articles highlight helpful Bible texts, such as Philippians 4:8, which says: “Whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well spoken of, whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is, continue considering these things.” Yes, immoral thoughts must be replaced by chaste, upbuilding thoughts!

During his research, the student will no doubt discover other Bible principles that will help him to avoid aggravating his problem. For example, Proverbs 6:27 and Matthew 5:28 warn against feeding one’s mind on sexually provocative material. “Make my eyes pass on from seeing what is worthless,” prayed the psalmist. (Psalm 119:37) Of course, simply reading these Bible texts is not enough. “The heart of the righteous one meditates,” says the wise man. (Proverbs 15:28) By pondering not only on what God commands but also on why he so commands, the student can come to have a deeper understanding of the wisdom and reasonableness of Jehovah’s ways.

 Finally, the one striving to overcome this hindrance to his progress should freely seek Jehovah’s help. After all, God well knows our makeup, that we are imperfect, made from dust. (Psalm 103:14) Incessant prayers to God for help, coupled with strenuous efforts to avoid indulging in immoral fantasies, will eventually yield a very desirable result​—a clean, unburdened conscience.​—Hebrews 9:14.

Do Not Give Up

Whatever difficulty you are struggling with, realize that relapses may sometimes occur. When that happens, it is only natural to feel frustrated and disappointed. However, remember the words of Galatians 6:9: “Let us not give up in doing what is fine, for in due season we shall reap if we do not tire out.” Such devoted servants of God as David and Peter experienced some humiliating failures. But they did not quit. They humbly accepted counsel, made needed changes, and went on to prove themselves outstanding servants of God. (Proverbs 24:16) In spite of David’s mistakes, Jehovah called him “a man agreeable to my heart, who will do all the things I desire.” (Acts 13:22) Peter likewise lived down his mistakes and became a pillar in the Christian congregation.

Many today have enjoyed similar success in overcoming obstacles. Yutaka, mentioned earlier, accepted the offer of a Bible study. He relates: “Jehovah’s support and blessing on each forward step I took helped me to overcome my gambling problem. I have much joy in experiencing the reality of Jesus’ words​—that with faith, even ‘mountains’ can be moved.” In time, Yutaka became a ministerial servant in the congregation.

What about Keiko, who had an addiction to tobacco? The sister studying with her suggested that she read various Awake! articles on the subject of tobacco addiction. Keiko even displayed the words of 2 Corinthians 7:1 in her automobile as a daily reminder to stay clean in Jehovah’s eyes. Still, she could not quit. “I was so frustrated with myself,” Keiko recalls. “So I started to ask myself what I really wanted​—did I want to serve Jehovah or Satan?” Once she decided that it was Jehovah she wanted to serve, she prayed earnestly for help. “To my surprise,” she recalls, “I was able to stop smoking without much pain. I only regret that I didn’t act sooner.”

You too can succeed in overcoming obstacles to your progress. The more you conform your thoughts, desires, words, and actions to Bible standards, the more you will gain a sense of self-respect and confidence. Your spiritual brothers and sisters, as well as family members, will be refreshed and encouraged when they associate with you. Most important of all, you will deepen your relationship with Jehovah God. He promised that he would ‘remove any obstacle from the way of his people’ when fleeing Satan’s control. (Isaiah 57:14) And you can be assured that if you put forth the effort to remove and overcome obstacles to your spiritual progress, Jehovah will richly bless you.


^ par. 12 Published in a number of languages by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

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Jesus promised that with faith, mountainlike obstacles would be overcome

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Reading the Bible strengthens our effort to overcome spiritual flaws