“The wind blows hardest at the top of the mountain.” –Unknown
Perhaps you’ve heard the quote above in one variety or another throughout the years. I first become most intimately familiar with the concept through Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. Pressfield penned War with writers and creative types in mind, but its message broadly applies to all of us.
While not a Christian (as far as I know), Pressfield’s writing contains some deeply spiritual themes. I for one believe this is because every act of creation sparks within us the image of God. Regardless, Pressfield names a force called “the resistance,” which simply put is the sum total of all that stymies or impedes our endeavors. Some call it writer’s block, others call it procrastination, others yet call it leisure time. Whatever you call it; the resistance is real. I’ve felt it and fought it, and I’m sure, regardless of your profession or calling, you have too.
I believe there is a spiritual sort of resistance all Christ-followers encounter. It’s a tangible opposition to the work of redemption. Certainly Paul and the earliest apostles felt it. In fact, it was rare for them to enter a city and not experience opposition. Their arrival in Antioch was no exception. Wherever they found eager and open hearts, they also found hostile and dissenting parties.
There are a couple quick lessons we can learn from Acts 13 concerning spiritual resistance and opposition.
1. If we’re preaching the gospel, if we’re attempting to expand the Kingdom of God whether in word or deed, we will experience resistance.
This could be as direct as verbal objections, terse words, or ad hominem attacks. Or it could be as subtle as the passive resistance of systemic injustices that oppose godly change. Paul and Barnabas experienced this in nearly every town they entered.
2. Redirection is not the same thing as resistance.
Not once, but twice, Paul was turned back from a location by the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 16, 21). We sometimes have a tendency to interpret all challenges as spiritual attacks and persecution, but this is not always the case. There are times when we experience pushback because God is course correcting. Other times, we experience pushback because we’ve made a foolish decision. Neither one of those situations should be considered persecution or spiritual opposition. Rather, they are opportunities to learn, grow, change. Be careful in discerning the difference between these different scenarios. Paul and Barnabas certainly had to be.
3. Sometimes we’re called to rebuke the resistance.
In Acts 13, we see an instance in which Paul and Barnabas rebuked the resistance (v. 10). Paul, being filled with the Holy Spirit, didn’t mince any words about it either. He was incredibly direct. Likewise, there are times when we are called to push back against the resistance to the gospel with boldness.
4. Other times we’re called to endure the resistance.
It takes careful and discerning conversation with spiritual leaders and intentional time in prayer to know the difference, but there are times when our posture is to be one of endurance and perseverance. Not every manifestation of the spiritual resistance or oppression can be immediately rebuked and overcome.
Whether from a stage or in a break room, whether online or in a coffee shop, if we preach the gospel or enact gospel-centered justice, we will encounter resistance and opposition. Remember though—we, like Paul, can only confront and endure by the power of the Holy Spirit.
May we be rooted and established in His love, trusting that knowing how to respond when we face opposition will become clear as we venture on.
Written By Andrew Stoddard