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3 Obstacles That May Be Holding You Back By Dr. Steve A. Brown

Discover How to Overcome What’s Holding You Back

So, what is holding you back?

Elite runners regularly ask themselves this question. They watch endless videos to catch any movement that might be slowing them down. They seek out lighter running shoes and even sleep in oxygen tents to gain a tiny edge.

When I reflect on this question as a leader, I usually focus first on the external forces and obstacles that are holding me back. However, as Christian leaders we also need to discern the internal obstacles holding us back. And we need to find ways to “throw off anything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1).

The list of possibilities is long, so over the next three posts I will focus in on three internal obstacles that hold Christian leaders back: mindset, fatigue and blindspots and then provide practical tools to throw them off.

A Leader’s Mindset

How our mind “is set” is incredibly important and powerful. How we think directly impacts how we love God, how we live and how we lead.

Dallas Willard makes this point in Renovation of the Heart when he writes:

“The prospering of God’s cause on earth depends upon his people thinking well…Bluntly, to see God well we must think straight; and crooked thinking, unintentional or not, always favors evil. And when the crooked thinking gets elevated into group orthodoxy, whether religious or secular, there is, quite literally, ‘hell to pay.’”

Three Mindset Obstacles

1. Negativity – Discouraging news reports, disruptive change and very real losses around us breed negative thought patterns. A negativity spiral can start, and it can quickly become hard to stop and hard to contain. Leaders simply can’t afford to add to the pandemic spread of negativity.

2. Entitlement – Difficult times are also prime breeding grounds for the quickly spreading weed of entitlement. Despite being blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing and being co-heirs with Christ, we begin to believe that we deserve or are due better.

3. Flirtations – Running hard miles can stir daydreams about escape. We fill in the following blank with a flirtation: “Maybe I would be better off if I ____________.” Filling in this blank isn’t usually helpful, holy or stirred by the Spirit.

Are any of these mindsets an internal obstacle right now? If so, they won’t help you run your race with perseverance. Your mission is to throw them off.

Overcome the Obstacles

1. Refix Your Eyes

As Thomas Watson beautifully wrote long ago in A Divine Cordial:

“The first fruit of love is the musing of the mind upon God. He who is in love, his thoughts are ever upon the object. . . . By this we may test our love to God. What are our thoughts most upon? Can we say we are ravished with delight when we think on God? Oh, how far are they from being lovers of God, who scarcely ever think of God!”

We need a bigger, clearer and fuller picture of the truth and magnitude of who God is and to trust that He is still on the throne and actively about His business.

In the midst of all that is going on around you, what do you need to do to regularly create space to fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2)?

2. Shut Down Unhealthy Soundtracks

You have both the choice and ability to shut down unhealthy mindsets. As Dallas Willard writes in Renovation of the Heart , “The ultimate freedom we have as human beings is the power to select what we will allow our minds to dwell upon.”

When these soundtracks begin to find a voice in your head, you need to shut them down. This is living out 2 Corinthians 10:5: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

You can start taking thoughts captive and making them obedient to Christ by prayerfully (and even verbally) calling out and rejecting unhealthy and sinful thoughts. Next, you need to change the mental channel by fixing your eyes on God and declaring specific biblical truth.

Seek to shut down these soundtracks as soon as possible. The longer you let an unhealthy soundtrack play, the harder it is to shut down.

3. Ask yourself these closing reflection questions:

  • What mindsets are holding you back?
  • How can you refix your focus more firmly on Jesus?
  • What internal voices do you need to shut down right now?

Remember to examine your movements, like an elite runner, to evaluate what’s holding you back. And then fix your eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of your faith. Part 2…


Dr. Steve A. Brown is the President of Arrow Leadership and is the main contributor to the Sharpening Leaders Blog. For the last 30 years, Arrow Leadership has been equipping Christian leader to break through barriers, grow in capacity and lead more like Jesus.

Arrow Leadership is The Outcomes Conference 2023 Sponsor for the Personal Leadership Track.



What is Christian Leadership Alliance?

Christian Leadership Alliance equips and unites leaders to transform the world for Christ. We are the leaders of Christ-centered organizations who are dedicated to faithful stewardship for greater kingdom impact.

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