Thursday, February 2, 2023
Overcomers Series Part 3 – Overcoming The Obstacles To Your Future                          
By Rev. Dr. Kelvin Calloway, Contributing Writer
Published January 18, 2023

Rev. Dr. Kelvin T. Calloway (File photo)

Scripture: Revelation 12:7-12

This year’s King Holiday Celebration theme, “Why We Can’t Wait,” is taken from his book by the same title published in 1964. The seed of the book is his “Letter From The Birmingham Jail” written a year earlier on April 16, 1963. He was in jail in Birmingham because of his non-violent protest against racial injustice in Birmingham, Al which according to King was “the most segregated city in America.”

His letter was a response to a public statement of concern and caution by eight White religious leaders of the South who called their non-violent direct action “unwise and untimely”. In his book he expands on his initial response outlining the obstacles facing African Americans in achieving the full citizenship guaranteed every American in the constitution of the United States.


African Americans King said, had experienced “three hundred years of humiliation, abuse, and deprivation.” The obstacle facing them was a lack of confidence in politicians and government whose slow efforts in addressing the inequality of discrimination towards African Americans in education, housing, voting, and economics. The obstacles facing them were so great according to King, that they could no longer wait for the politicians or the government to address them.

John in his prophetic letter to the seven churches in Asia Minor writes to them regarding the revelation of Jesus Christ that he received from the angel of God about the end times (Rev.1:1-2). In writing to the seven churches in Asia; in Ephesus, in Smyrna, in Pergamum, in Thyatira, in Sardis, in Philadelphia, and in Laodicea, he tells them that the Lord knows all about them.

The Lord knows about their good deeds, their hard work and their perseverance (2:2). But He also knows that they had left their first love (2:4), and had eaten food sacrificed to idols (2:14), and had tolerated a false prophetess (2:20). He knows that even though they proclaimed to be alive, that they were dead (3:1). And because the Lord was coming back again, they were encouraged and exhorted to hold on to the [faith] they had (3:11).

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Then the angel reveals to John a vision of the throne in heaven where day and night those in heaven were saying, “holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come” (4:8). Then John saw a scroll and a Lamb but no one in heaven was worthy to open the seal and he began to weep, until he heard one of the elders saying don’t weep, see the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David is able to open the scroll (5:1-5).

Then John watched the Lamb open six of the seals and witnessed the great day of wrath that was to come (6:17). After that John said that he saw an angel coming from the east with the seal of the living God. Then he heard the number of those who had been sealed; 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel (7:1-8).

But after he heard the number of those who had been sealed, he saw a great multitude that no one could number dressed in white robes. And one of the elders asked who were they and where did they come from? And the elder said these were they who have come out of great tribulation and have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb (7:9-14).

Then the Lamb opened the seventh seal and there was silence in heaven for about half hour. And John said he saw seven angels standing before God and God gave them seven trumpets and then the angels prepared to blow their [horns] (8:1-6).

After the blowing of the seventh trumpet, John tells the churches of Asia Minor the story that many of us have heard about the origin of Satan. The story is found in John’s apocalyptic vision In Verse 7ff of the text. John says that there was a war in heaven and Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels and threw them out of heaven (12:7-9).

It is with this apocalyptic imagery that John makes the churches of Asia Minor aware of the obstacles to their future. The end is near and they must overcome these obstacles to get to their eternal reign with the Lord.

The empire was an obstacle to their future (V.7). In John’s vision Michael and his angels fought the dragon and his angels and the dragon and his angels fought back. When you strike the empire, the empire will strike back (V.7). In Ephesians 6:12 Paul says to the believers at the church in Ephesus that they wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph. 6:12).

The empire to which Paul and John has reference to is not some “deep state” or covert political adversary but spiritual wickedness in high places. Spiritual wickedness is the oppressive societal structures and negative responses that seek to undermine the work of God.

In Chapter 2 of his book entitled, Matthew and the Margins, Dr. Warren Carter broaches this idea of the empire striking back as a response to God’s initiative of sending Jesus into the world. “Herod and the settled elite of chief priests and scribes respond negatively to the birth of Jesus. Herod employs military, religious, and social resources and strategies (Dr. Carter says) to thwart God’s work. His murderous actions, allied with the inaction of the religious elite, demonstrate the oppressive structures from which Jesus is to save the world” (Carter, Matthew and the Margins, p.75). The empire was an obstacle to their future.

There are oppressive societal and systemic structures seeking to thwart the future that God has planned for you. According to Jeremiah 29:11, God has plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). Even though sometimes you may think that you have no future, God has a future for you. The empire is an obstacle to your future.

Not only was the empire an obstacle to their future but the enemy was an obstacle to their future (V.9). The dragon, the devil, the Satan and his angels were thrown out of heaven because they led people astray (V.10). Your enemies, your haters, and those who don’t mean you any good, are obstacles to your future. They are led astray from loving you to accusing you by the accuser of humanity himself. They obstruct, and oppose, and harass and resist God’s plans for you. Their enemies were obstacles to their future.

The last obstacle to their future was evil itself. In Chapter 7 of his letter to the first century believers of the church in Rome, Paul says that when he would do good, evil was always present (Romans 7:21). Perhaps Paul’s greatest obstacle to his future was the evil within. As freewill moral agents created in the image and likeness of God, we have the possibility for good and the propensity for evil. Just maybe the greatest obstacle to our future is not the evil without but rather the evil within.

In Verse 11 John says that they overcame the obstacles to their future by the blood of the Lamb (V.11a). They overcame the obstacles to their future by the shedding of Jesus’ blood on Calvary to take away the sins of the world. Don’t know what it was for you, but I know it was the blood for me. One day when I was lost, He died upon the cross.                                                                   I know it was the blood for me. You can overcome the obstacles to your future by the blood of the Lamb. There is still power, wonder working power, in the precious blood of the Lamb.

And then John says. they overcame the obstacles to their future by the word of their testimony (V.11b). The word of your testimony can overcome the obstacles to your future. Knowing what the Lord has done, is tangible evidence of what the Lord will do. You can’t make me doubt Him, because I know too much about Him.

I answered my call to ministry under the pastoral ministry of The Rev. Dr. P.H. Lewis @Bethel AME Church in Mobile, Al. He was the pastor of Brown Memorial AME Church in Selma, AL where the march from Selma to Montgomery began. He told me about the incidents of Bloody Sunday on the Edmond Pettus Bridge and how they were eventually jailed for violating the Alabama Anti-Protest laws.

There were so many of them that day that all the police patty wagons were filled and they had to load the protestors on school buses to take them to jail. As they were being carried to jail Dr. Lewis said they began singing. And while they were singing the young white national guardsmen who was guarding them started shouting at them; shut up, shut up, stop that singing. When they looked at him they saw tears streaming down his face.

The singing Dr. Lewis said had gotten to him and he could no longer contain himself. When I asked Dr. Lewis, “What were they singing?” He said, “They were singing what had become the theme song of the Civil Rights Movement, ‘We Shall Over Come. We shall overcome, we shall over come someday.”   Amen and Amen and Amen!

The Rev. Dr. Kelvin T. Calloway is the senior pastor of Bethel AME Church in Los Angeles.

Categories: Religion

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