The Faith That was Once Delivered to Me 2

Jude 1:3 ( NKJV )
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

Yesterday I shared my journey of faith with you.  God took me from being a Catholic boy who was  not very religious at all to a born again, spirit filled Christian experience in a few short years.  A group of us, including my wife, began to cycle through the various Charismatic teachings that came through the Body of Christ through the 70’s and 80’s.  We finally came to a stream of teaching that later became know as the Word of Faith.

This stream of teachers were saying things that I thought should be true, but that I had never heard expressed before.  At the heart of what I heard was this simple truth.  The Bible, the Word of God, is not just a philosophical or theological book.  It is instead the true and dependable Word of the Living God.  It is something that we can depend upon.  It has the ability to cause our natural reality to conform to itself.  This is because the Bible is truth.  It is the highest truth in existence.  Every other true thing will conform to the Word if we apply it’s truth to the circumstance by faith.  This was a revelation.

We began to change our way of viewing life in general.  We began to view life through the prism of the Word of God.  The Word of God became our highest reality and our final word in every situation.  If the Word of God says I am healed, I am.  If the Word of God says I can prosper, I can.  If the Word of God says I can be victorious, I can be.  That is the final word on the subject.  This is the essence of Faith.

The bible is the one thing we have of God that we can touch with our physical being.  It is the bridge between the invisible God and the visible world.  I cannot see God.  I cannot feel Him physically, at least not very often.  I can see the Bible.  I can hear it, touch it, even taste it if I really wanted to.  The bible never changes.  It is the same in every language.  There may be problems in translation, but I believe God is bigger than those problems.  He watches over His Word to see to it that it is performed. (Jer. 1:12 YLT)

This emphasis on the written Word of God gave us a consistency of faith.  We knew what to believe.  In areas where the bible did not specifically cover the situation, it was covered in principle.  We began to see the Bible as a treasure trove of promises that gave us specific things to believe.  When the devil came against our faith we could go back to those promises, read them, confess them and remind the devil that “it is written.” 

This gave faith a new and exciting dimension.  We made mistakes.  We forgot to look at the conditions of the promises.  We didn’t understand that, if we wanted to be all the Word said we could be, we also needed to accept the fact that we could not be or do what it said we couldn’t.  We got some wrong interpretations that caused us to believe for some wrong things,  However we learned and we grew. 

The mistakes we made did not take away from the revelation we received.  The Word was true.  It was the final authority in our lives.  We would obey it and believe it.  God might do things that were outside of our understanding of the principles in the bible, but He would always honor those principles as long as we honored them as well.  We were determined and uncompromising where the Word was concerned.  God had to bring us through some youthful arrogance and some wrong attitudes, but we were firm on what we believed and, maybe for the first time, we knew how to find specific things to believe.  We had the Word.

Then life continued to happen.  We found out that there were battles to fight.  We found out that it was often easier to depend on natural solutions than to stand by faith.  There was not nearly as much opposition from the devil if we just trusted in the flesh.  Our gradual compromise was not so much in the area of sin as in the area of ease.  Some things we believed for didn’t happen.  There were many reasons why.  Some of them we understood and some we did not.  Either way there were disappointments.  Gradually we settled into a little less extreme view.  We still preached the “uncompromised gospel.”  We still believed it.  We just weren’t as radical in our application.  We lost our edge.

I believe the Word of the Lord to us is clear.  We need our edge back.  We need to trust God again the way we did before.  My friend Pastor Phil Crandall, while preaching in our church, said we need to get rid of play B.  I believe that to be true.  We need to get back to a real dependence on the truth of the Word of God.  We need to get a little more radical again.  We need to be a little harder on ourselves where compromise is concerned.  We need to be more mature than we were 30 years ago when we first heard this kind of teaching, but we need to put aside the disappointments and get back in the game.

Maybe you are new to this revelation.  Maybe you have walked in it for years.  Either way the thing our world needs right now is a people who know how to connect with God.  They need some people with houses built on the rock of hearing and doing  the Word of God.  They don’t need the church to have houses built on the shifting sands of compromise (Matt 7:24-27.)

I am going to get my edge back.  Would you care to join me?

The Faith That Was Once Delivered to Me

Jude 1:3 ( NKJV )
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

As I have been meditating on this verse of scripture my mind goes back to my own experience.  I was born again at 14 years of age.  I was filled with the Holy Spirit at 17.  My wife, or future wife at that point in time, was the one who led me to the Lord.  She and I and our friends explored just about every doctrinal idea that came down the pike during the 70’s.  Some of them were a little strange and some became foundational beliefs in our Christian experience.

After high school I opted to get married and not go to college.  I went to work in a factory.  My father was a blue collar worker and I knew that it was an honorable thing to do, but I was not prepared for how boring it would be.  I went into a little bit of a backslidden state due to discouragement.  I thought things would be different.  I used to tell the Lord that someone had made a terrible mistake.  Someone with my vast talent couldn’t be relegated to running machines the rest of his life.

During this period I began to hear some teaching.  The first one that got my attention was the message of covenant.  It captivated me.  This message indicated that God didn’t do things randomly.  It seemed to be saying that we, as believers and God’s covenant partners could expect certain things from Him.  It indicated that He would move on our behalf if we exercised faith in this covenant. 

Up to that point the prevailing thought in the teaching we heard was that God did what he did for reasons no one seemed to quite understand.  We read testimony books that inspired us, but it seemed that God moved for those people because they were drug addicts or prostitutes or in some other extreme situation.  Another main idea we were hearing was that He was a good God but bad things happened because it was His will so we should thank Him for them.  This didn’t seem right to me, but I hadn’t had a biblical reason to believe otherwise.  Now I was beginning to.

I began to change as a result of hearing this bible based teaching.  One thing led to another and God opened a door for me to enter into a mentoring relationship in ministry.  I left the factory April 1 1979 and never looked back.  At the same time we began to hear some other teachings.  They were by a group of people from a stream who preached what was known as the “uncompromised Word of God.”  Once again I began to hear things that I always thought should be true, but never heard expressed before.

I distinctly remember that one of the first things that made an impression on me was something one of these brothers said about prayer.  We were taught we would receive one of three answers when we prayed.  God would say yes, no, or wait.  There never seemed to be any criterion for why we got those answers.  It seemed that it just depended on what God’s will was at that point in time.  However we were also taught  that we had to keep asking God for what we wanted.  If we were persistent enough to prove to God we really had faith we would receive the answers to our prayers.

To me these ideas seemed to be contradictory.  If God said no or wait, why keep asking?  Those thoughts just didn’t make sense to me.  I knew I wouldn’t operate that way, but somehow I should accept that God did.  This new thought about prayer was that God answered prayer on the basis of what His Word said.  If it was in the bible and you prayed and believed then you could count on the fact that it would come to pass.  Wow!  God didn’t “work in strange, mysterious ways His wonders to perform.”  He gave us promises and actually kept them.  I thought, “That’s what I thought I was supposed to do, but no one ever told me God could be counted on in the same way.”

I have since come to understand that there are often conditions to answered prayer.  If we don’t meet the conditions we can’t expect God to answer the prayer.  However I have seen that these conditions are not random.  They are also clearly stated in the bible.  I have learned that God often works on us personally before he works on our circumstances.  That was also clearly taught in the Bible.

The revolution in my life came with the understanding that the Bible was not a mysterious book of ancient wisdom which we couldn’t quite understand.  The bible is a book of promises written to us personally as from a father to his children.  It is a book that contains all we need to know to walk consistently in the covenant of God.  It is the revelation of the terms, blessings and requirements of our covenant with God.  As such it is the key that unlocks every door and the source of wisdom and power in the life of the believer. 

I came to understand that the Bible, the Word of the living God is the key to unlocking victory in every area of my life.  This understanding was the faith delivered to me in the 70’s and 80’s.  More of my journey tomorrow.

The Faith That was Once Delivered

Jude 1:3 ( NKJV )
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

As we continue in our walk through the nature of faith in God, I seem to be a bit stuck on this verse.  I believe we live in an important day.  Each week the Lord seems to be taking me in different directions than what I anticipate when I preach at our church.  Last week our guest speaker preached almost the same things I have been preaching for weeks.  Once again I need to encourage everyone who reads this to pay attention.  God is saying something.  Faith is always a subject worth preaching, but when a word is given under the direct instruction of the spirit of God it is a word for that moment. 

God is saying we need to get back our edge of faith.  I believe He is saying so because we are going to need it.  On the one hand we need it now because of the opposition of the enemy.  These are difficult and trying days.  If we are going to flourish it is going to be because we know how to believe God.  We need our faith to continue to be victorious.  We always have, but I think this is a time where that is more true than ever.

I also believe we have a tremendous opportunity.  This is a day of decision for many people.  What will they believe in?  What do they trust in for their salvation?  I don’t mean spiritual salvation necessarily.  I am talking about salvation financially, emotionally and in every other area of life.  What decisions will people make about their future and their family’s well being.  People are in a place where they need answers.  The government was the answer in many people’s minds, but increasingly they are seeing that this is a false hope.

The world needs to see a people who trust in something that will not change.  They need someone who can lead them to a savior who is always there and who has real answers to the problems of life.  We cannot show them that savior if our own faith is not active and effective.  This does not mean we all have to be perfectly prosperous or healed.  It does mean that we need to show the confidence that real faith in God provides.  We need to have answers to the issues of life that are not born in the uncertainty of doctrine or theology, but in the absolute assurance of the faith we have inside.

This is the faith that led you to salvation.  It is the faith that caused you to accept a Lord and Savior you could not see.  It is the faith that you trusted in to free you from an eternity of separation from God, and it is the faith that brought you the comfort of forgiven sin.  It must also be the faith that you trust in for every day life.  It must be the faith you trust in to meet every need.  It must be the faith that stabilizes you in an unstable world.  It is in there.  If you are a Christian it is living in your heart. 

Let’s get our edge back.  Let’s show the world that there is a living God who changes things.  Maybe we have not seen everything come to pass that we thought would.  So what.  I am saved.  I have a relationship with the living God.  I am free in the ways that matter most.  I need to let that faith and confidence rise to the surface.  I need to trust God for things that seem impossible again.  I need to communicate to those around me that I have the answers they seek.  Sometimes I don’t know what those answers are, but I know the one who does. 

How about you?  

Our Sabbath Rest

Exodus 20:8-11 ( NKJV )
    “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.
For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

(We were blessed to have Pastors Phil and Gina Crandall from Blue Ridge Chapel in Rocky Mount Virginia with us this week.  Here are some thoughts on their ministry.)

Pastor Phil had a wonderful message about the 7th day on Sunday morning, but I don’t have space to cover it here.  Check back at Livingwordgreene.com or look for the LWCC podcast on itunes.  This message should be available shortly.  In the mean time let me share a thought about this idea of a Sabbath rest. 

The good fight of Faith is just that, a fight.  There are times when we get weary.  God initiated the idea of the Sabbath, the 7th day, to remind man that there is a necessity that we find rest in God.  Under the law the 7th day required that the children of Israel refrain from all manner of work.  They were required by law to rest.  Jesus changed the emphasis in his teaching.  When he was caught healing or picking grain on the Sabbath, both of which were illegal under the mosaic law, he told the Pharisees that he was the Lord of the Sabbath.  Relationship with Jesus superseded the law. 

He also stated that the Sabbath was for man not man for the Sabbath.  God put many things in the Mosaic law as a type of what Jesus would bring to man.  Jeremiah 31 makes it clear that God actually had something else in mind.  He was eventually going to institute a new covenant where the law would not be a legal code but an inner reality.  The ultimate Sabbath was not a day legally set aside it was the rest of relationship with Jesus. 

Hebrews 4:11 tells us to labor in order to enter into the rest of God.  The word “rest” in this verse means the harmony of spirit, soul and body doing what each is supposed to do.  This is our Sabbath.  We do not have a day of rest but if we will do the necessary labor we can have a Sabbath in the midst of any faith battle.  In Hebrews 4 we find that the labor needed to enter the rest involves the Word of God, knowing the nature of our high priest and coming into the presence of God.  If we spend time and energy in these things we will find that we can rest in the middle of any battle.

This rest is not an outward rest.  It is an inner rest.  It is the rest that Jesus had in front of Pontius Pilot during his trial.  All around Jesus there was chaos.  In the middle of it Jesus was at peace and in complete control.  He was in a faith fight, but he was walking in a perpetual Sabbath right in the midst of it.

Are you a little tired from the battle?  You can’t quit because quitting means defeat.  You can run to the presence of the Lord, praise Him, worship Him, spend time in his word and in His presence and you will find a rest of faith.  You will find a peace and confidence that will enable you to continue on to victory.  We don’t have a Sabbath day requirement.  We have a Sabbath rest that is available any day in any week in any battle. 

Return to the Path

1 Kings 19:15 ( NKJV )
Then the Lord said to him: “Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria.

(We were blessed to have Pastors Phil and Gina Crandall from Blue Ridge Chapel in Rocky Mount Virginia with us this week.  Here are some thoughts on their ministry.)

In yesterday’s post we saw that when Elijah bought into the lie of the devil he went back to a comfortable place.  He went back to a place where he had been safe.  We need to remember that faith puts pressure on the enemy and the enemy will press back.  It is our tendency to want to go back to the place where we did not feel that pressure.  The problem with that is we become stagnant.  We cannot be victorious if we run from the fight of faith.  There is a time to rest, but when we are involved in a faith endeavor we must be wiling to press through the resistance not run from it.

In the verse above we see what God tells Elijah to get him back on track.  Earlier in this chapter is the famous story of Elijah in the cave.  He knows God is going to speak to him.  He hears a mighty wind he feels a strong earthquake and there is a great fire, but the Lord is not in any of those things.  Often in the midst of a fight of faith we will look for the spectacular.  Elijah knew God and was not distracted by the spectacular.  However as soon as he heard a still small voice he arose.

Very often our faith battles are for things that could use a spectacular answer.  We look for them.  We are frustrated by the lack of them.  The truth is that we need to be listening for the still small voice of God’s direction and encouragement.  Elijah knew this and was ready to hear it when God spoke.  The message was probably not what he expected.

God tells him that he has not forsaken him and he exposes the lie of the enemy that said Elijah was alone.  However he also gives him the direction he needed to get back to where God needed him to be.  He tells Elijah to return on the way to the wilderness.  This doesn’t seem like much of a word but let’s look at the result.  God also tells him to anoint various people for various things.  Among them are his own successor. 

I often saw this as a negative.  I saw it as God saying, “You’ve failed and I am replacing you.”  However Elisha doesn’t take Elijah’s place for a long time.  What God has done is insure that Elijah’s ministry will continue.  He has released Elijah to train his successor not his replacement.  He also calls Elijah to anoint kings over Israel and Syria.  I find it interesting that Elijah, a prophet of Israel would be called of God to anoint a king over a rival nation.  The encounter with God at the cave releases Elijah into an even greater sphere of influence.

What was it that God said that so freed Elijah to be able to take the next step of faith.  He told him to return.  Another word we might use is repent.  He told him to get back on track.  He told him to quit believing the enemy and get back to what God had called him to.  I think God is saying the same thing to us.  We need to get our edge back.  We need to quit feeling sorry for ourselves because we haven’t seen all we wanted to see.  We need to get back on the road and get to work.

Sometimes the still small voice can carry quite a kick in the pants.  Why was God so direct with Elijah?  Because it’s what he needed.  God had backed him at every turn.  Elijah had been given what he needed to succeed and he needed to use it.  God does many things for us but he cannot believe for us.  We have to do that.  I want to encourage you today to get back on the way.  Get back to believing.  Put away the self pity and disappointment.  God has given you all you need to succeed. 

God has given us a little kick in the seat of understanding now let’s give one to the devil!

A Comfortable Place

1 Kings 19:3 ( NKJV )
And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.

(We were blessed to have Pastors Phil and Gina Crandall from Blue Ridge Chapel in Rocky Mount Virginia with us this week.  Here are some thoughts on their ministry.)

Yesterday we learned that when Elijah heard Jezebel’s threat he focused on it until he finally believed a lie.  The lie was not necessarily part of the threat itself.  The threat triggered his own weak tendencies.  He believed he was alone in serving God.  When we are in the midst of a faith battle we need to be careful that we do not believe the lie of the devil.  He will press us until whatever area is weak in our lives is exposed.  The end result is that we will give in to the pressure, stop believing God and quit. 

Elijah could have and should have responded to Jezebels threats by reminding himself of the great victory he had just won.  He could have considered the greatness of God instead of the power of the enemy.  When we are under pressure, that is what we must do.  There is always something you can thank God for. 

I want to point out another pattern that we tend to follow when our faith is under attack.  In verse 3 of this chapter it says that Elijah fled to Beersheba which is in Judah.  Judah is where Elijah had spent the three years after he went to the King of Israel and told him it would not rain.  Judah was the southern kingdom in Israel and it was a safe place.  When we are under pressure we will tend to find a safe place and go back there.  Faith, however, will lead us forward.  We will encounter battles but we will win victories.  The comfort zone we tend to fall back to usually will result in stagnation.

In my life I have often stepped out in faith and taken risks that seemed extreme unless I knew that God was with me.  I have seen God do wonderful things.  When it was time for our church to own a building we stepped out in faith and bought a property that needed renovation.  The circumstances were such that we actually started working on the building before we had a contract closed.  This was a risk.  We could have lost everything.  I knew it was God, however, and we ended up owning the building and property with very little debt. 

A few years ago  I knew God was telling us to expand.  We did not really need to expand in terms of how many people we had, but God said to do it.  When it came time to begin we had very little money.  I admit that it took me a while to get up the courage to go forward.  We were comfortable.  I didn’t really want to go through the process of standing by faith, pressing in to believe for the finances and doing the work.  The longer I delayed the more I knew we needed to go forward.  We were comfortable, but we were stagnant. 

Finally I took the plunge.  We had no money, but I made the decision to start two weeks from that time.  I broke ground for our new addition with no hope of going any farther than the first shovel of dirt.  By the time the date to begin came upon us we had the money to put up the shell and enclose it.  God is faithful.

We have been working a long time and are close to being finished.  It has required a continual press of faith.  We have had to raise money and put in labor, but we will soon be done and we will have no debt whatsoever.  Many times I have considered borrowing to finish because it would be easier, but God and the people doing the work have said no.  They encouraged me to press on to the end with the testimony that in a weak economy God was able to provide for the whole addition with no debt.

There is a time to rest and there is a time to go forward.  Faith is often uncomfortable.  When the pressure is brought to bear by the enemy you will be tempted to run to a place where you were safe and comfortable.  If the enemy can’t destroy you he is content to take you out of the fight.  Don’t let him!  We are in a war both corporately and individually.  We must continue to go forward.  We must continue to stretch our faith and trust that God will bring us through.  That is the only way we can win.

Seeing Led Elijah to Believe a Lie

1 Kings 19:10 ( NKJV )
So he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”

(We were blessed to have Pastors Phil and Gina Crandall from Blue Ridge Chapel in Rocky Mount Virginia with us this week.  Here are some thoughts on their ministry.)

In all my years of studying scripture I don’t think I have found another place in the bible that contains the contrast that 1 Kings chapter 18 and 19 do.  In 1 Kings 18 Elijah is the bold prophet of Almighty God.  He defeats the enemies of faith in a decisive battle that he initiates.  In 1 Kings 19 he is a cowering fugitive who fears for his life because of the threats of an evil queen.  As I read these accounts it seems to me that Queen Jezebel has no real power.  Elijah has taken it away, but because of his fearful response he gives it back to her.  I believe we do the same.  Satan has no power, but we give him power over our lives by yielding to fear and believing his lies.

Yesterday we read the verses that told us what happened to the mighty man of God.  Verses 1-3 tell us that Elijah saw the threat of Jezebel.  That indicates that he began to focus on that threat.  He not only heard what she said but he thought about it.  He gave credence to it.  The more he meditated on Jezebels threat the more he began to imagine how she might carry it out.  It became more and more powerful in his thinking until he could see it happening in his heart.  The only thing he could do at that point was run away.

The verse we are looking at today shows the progression of how the devil works.  He planted this negative thought in Elijah’s mind.  The more Elijah dwelt on this thought the more he believed it.  Eventually he accepted as truth a lie of the enemy.  What was the lie?  In this verse Elijah tells God that he is the only one left who is zealous for God.  We will see in a moment that this is not true.  Elijah has come to the point where he believes it is the truth.  Why?  Because he has meditated on the first thought, that Jezebel is going to kill him, until this becomes his reality.  She never said he was the only one.  That was simply his conclusion based upon the threat.

When we entertain the threats of the enemy we soon begin to “see” them coming to pass.  As we see them, our imagination will begin to build scenarios as to how they will happen.  These scenarios will grow to the point that we believe they are inevitable.  They will contain more and more lies that we accept as the truth.  In the case of Elijah the lie was that he was alone. 

We need to understand how the devil works.  I think Elijah already struggled with this thought.  He felt alone.  He was, after all a little different.  Not to many people would go up to the king and declare it’s wasn’t going to rain for three years.  He probably didn’t have any takers when he asked for volunteers to accompany him on that trip.  When Jezebel made her threat and he chose to focus on it, the devil played on Elijah’s tendency to feel alone, and before long Jezebels threat became the confirmation that it was true.  At that point his faith was crippled.

There is quite a bit of truth in verse 10.  Elijah had been very zealous for God.  The Children of Israel had forsaken God’s covenant, torn down His alters and killed God’s prophets.  Jezebel was out to take his life.  However was it true that he was the only one left?  No.  Look at this verse. 

1 Kings 19:18 ( NKJV )
Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

Elijah was not alone.  There were 7000 others who were zealous for the Lord.  It is important to understand that the lie Satan wants you to believe is surrounded by truth.  These truths, however taken in light of the lie become lies themselves that will cripple our faith and lead us into defeat.  What should Elijah have done when he heard of Jezebel’s threat?  He should have remembered that God with him had just killed 450 prophets of Baal.  He should have meditated on how he prayed after the battle and God brought rain in response to Elijah’s faith.  He should have thought about the thrill it must have been to outrun the kings chariot back to the city.  All of these things were just as true as the true things in verse 18, but they would have reinforced his faith not his insecurity. 

The devils strength is subtlety.  He will lead you down the wrong path by mixing truth and lies until you are in his grasp.  Don’t let that happen.  Today you are facing some true things.  You may need money to pay bills.  You may be fighting sickness or pain.  Your marriage may be in trouble or your children may be in rebellion or facing difficult times in their lives.  Those things are true.  However it is also true that God has met many needs in your life.  You have things to be thankful for.  I like to point our that if you can’t think of anything else at the moment, then thank God you won’t see one day in hell if you are born again. 

Don’t let the Devil twist the truth into a lie.  He is targeting some weakness in you life.  You don’t have to give in to that.  Gird up the loins of your mind with truth.  (Eph. 6:13-17)  The loins are the weakest part of the male body.  Paul tells us that the part of the full armor of God that covers them is truth.  Cover your weakness with the real truth of the Word of God, not the perverted truth that comes from the Devil.  How will you know the difference?  If a thought leads you away from God being more than enough to overcome in any situation, that thought is not from God it is from the devil.  If the thought, even if it is true, leads you to consider your weakness instead of God’s strength, it is from the devil. 

Put the good thoughts from the Word of God into your mind.  Meditate on them until you begin to see them come to pass in your imagination.  Do this and there will be less and less room for fear thoughts.  Soon you will see victory in your life.

What You See is What You Believe

1 Kings 19:1-3 ( NKJV )
And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.

(We were blessed to have Pastors Phil and Gina Crandall from Blue Ridge Chapel in Rocky Mount Virginia with us this week.  Here are some thoughts on their ministry.)

Over the last few weeks we have been studying faith.  This week Pastor Phil Crandall shared some things that confirmed what I have been preaching to our church.  I believe God is saying something about our need to develop faith.  When God confirms something out of the mouths of multiple witness, I think we need to pay attention. 

In the above scripture we see the prophet Elijah after a great victory.  He has defeated the prophets of the false God Baal, and returned Israel to faith in Jehovah, the true God.  When the evil Queen Jezebel hears of this, she sends a threat to Elijah.  It is interesting to think about who should have felt threatened in this situation.  Elijah has just completely defeated all that is loyal to Jezebel.  The people of Israel were on Elijah’s side.  Her prophets were dead.  All Elijah had to do was point to her as the problem and she would have been through.  Instead Elijah runs away.

What could have caused someone in such a position of strength to flee from an evil queen who had no power left?  The same thing that causes us to fear and through up our hands in defeat when the devil, a foe soundly beaten by our champion Jesus, threatens us.  Verse three says, “When he saw that, he ran for his life.”  The problem is in what he saw.

Elijah chose to focus on the threat from Jezebel instead of on the victory God gave him over Baal.  When it says he saw her threat it tells us the perspective he chose to view his situation from.  Have you ever climbed a large hill or mountain and looked down.  How different does the world look from the top of the mountain than from the bottom?  If you are looking up at a  mountain it can seem insurmountable.  The world seems small and the mountain seems so large.  You just can’t see much of the picture and the mountain dominates what you can see.

Once you reach the summit and look back you can see how large the surrounding area really is.  You can see that the mountain is just a part of the picture.  Your perspective is one of conqueror not of the conquered.  Any army knows they must have the high ground.  From there they can view the whole battlefield and command their world.

It is the same with faith.  What you see is what you will believe.  The perspective you are looking from will determine your conclusions about your situation.  If you choose to stay at the foot of the mountain and look up at how difficult it is, you will always be defeated.  Your defeat will not be due to how big the mountain is but due to how big it looks.  You will give up.

If you chose to see the mountain from the top, it will not look so big.  It will not dominate your view.  You will be able to look over it and see how big God really is.  You will not give up but you will say to the mountain, “Be though removed!”, and it will obey you.  What you see is what you will believe. 

What is your perspective today.  Elijah chose to see how strong Jezebel was instead of how great the victory of God was.  What do you see.  I chose to see how great the victory of Jesus was over Satan, not how great Satan is in my circumstance.  I choose to magnify God and not the problem.  Look at this verse.

Ephesians 1:19-23 ( NKJV )
and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.   And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church,
which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

The power at work in us caused us to be seated in Christ Jesus in heavenly places.  These heavenly places are not just above the opposition of the enemy, but far above everything that the world or the devil can throw at us.  It is our choice to see our life from that perspective of to see it from under the feet of the circumstances. 

What do you see today.  Is it causing you to flee or is it causing you to know you are more than a conqueror in Christ.  It’s up to you.

The Good fight of Faith 2

1 Timothy 6:11-12 ( NKJV )
But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

In yesterday’s post we talked about what a good fight is.  If we were talking about the world it would be enough to say that a good fight means we were competitive even if we lost.  However when we are looking at spiritual things we are fighting with God as our ally.  We should never lose.  A good fight is one that is fought correctly.  It is fought with the right tools and by God’s rules.  It is a fight worth fighting and if all those things are in place, one we should win. 

The next question to ask is, “How do we fight a good fight.”  In this chapter Paul tells Timothy that he must first flee some things and then pursue others.  If He did that, Paul tells Timothy he will be able to fight the good fight.  The things to flee are pride, strife and the love of money.  What then should we pursue?  The list is in verse 11.

We are to pursue righteousness.  Righteousness most often means right standing with God.  This is a condition produced by our acceptance of the work of Jesus in salvation.  In Matthew 6:33 Jesus instructs us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.  In this context righteousness means to do what needs to be done the right way.  I believe we can apply this same thought to what Paul tells Timothy.  We need to pursue living life the right way, God’s way.  We need to do what we need to do according to God’s standards and principles.  If we want to have a functioning, victorious faith we need to pursue this kind of lifestyle.

Next we are to pursue Godliness.  A very wise minister friend of mine defines Godliness as being Godlike and God centered.  If we want to live by faith we must be both of these things.  He then adds faith, or faithfulness, love, patience and gentleness.  These are all fruits of the spirit.  If we want to really live by faith these fruit must be produced in our lives. 

We are to pursue these things.  Both flee and pursue are very aggressive words.  To flee means to run away in terror.  To pursue means to follow in order to overtake and capture.  Faith requires that we be aggressive both in fleeing from what is wrong and pursuing a lifestyle that does what’s right.  We cannot expect our faith to be there when we need it and then just be passive about our Christianity the rest of the time.  Faith is a lifestyle.

As we look more and more at our faith in God, let’s begin by looking at our whole life.  Are we fleeing what we need to flee.  I don’t really need to tell you what you need to flee.  You know the things that hinder your faith.  Don’t just think about dealing with those things.  Flee from them.  On the other hand, are you pursuing what needs to be pursued.  If you do, you will have much less to flee from. 

If we do these things our faith will be ready when we need it.  It will already be healthy and functioning when the challenge arises.   We will be able to believe God for victory in any and every situation.  We won’t be trying to believe when the challenge comes.  We will know our God is with us and will meet our every need. 

Take some time today to ask the Lord to help you make the changes necessary to fight the good fight of faith.

The Good Fight of Faith

1 Timothy 6:11-12 ( NKJV )
But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

As we have studied the woman with the issue of blood from Mark 5, we have seen the power of both conviction and decision where faith is concerned.  Once again, we have looked at faith in light of a definition from Easton’s Bible Dictionary that describes faith as a state of mind where one is convinced that a certain thing is true.  Although we will learn that faith is certainly more than a mental exercise, there is a strong mental component.  The things in life or in our relationship with God that we are convinced are true will either free us or hinder us when it comes to believing God. 

The woman with the issue of blood was convinced that if she could get to Jesus, if she could touch his garment, she would be healed.  This was not a direction from God but a decision on her part.  She made a choice and that choice carried her through some major difficulties until she saw her need met.  The short term of faith was hard for her, but the end result was worth it.  We are no different.  Often our short term is difficult, but if we do not give up we will always see the right results in the end.

Paul tells Timothy to fight the good fight of faith.  A good fight is one you win.  Sometimes we are content to say, “We didn’t give up.  We put up a good struggle.  We lost, but it was a good fight.”  In some sense that is true, but when we are talking about God, He never loses.  A good fight is one that is fought properly.  With God as our ally, if we fight the fight the right way losing is simply not possible.   What are the elements, then, that make for a good fight of faith.

Paul gives Timothy some clues.  He uses 2 very aggressive words.  The first is flee.  If we are going to fight the right way there are some things we have to flee.  We find the first group in vs 3-5.

1 Timothy 6:3-5 ( NKJV )
If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness,
he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.

The first thing I want to highlight is pride.  Faith is, by nature a matter of confidence.  Confidence and pride are two sides of the same coin.  There is a term that describes them well.  Reciprocal.  I was never very math oriented, but I know that reciprocal fractions are fractions that have the same numbers only in reverse order.  1/4 and 4/1 for instance.  The thing about reciprocals is that they cancel one another out.  If you multiply 1/4 by 4/1 you get 1.  Put in any numbers for the numerator and denominator and the result will be the same.

Faith and pride are reciprocals.  If they try to occupy the same space they will always cancel each other out.  Where spiritual things are concerned this is always a bad thing.  It always results in no results.  If we are going to fight the good fight of faith we must eliminate pride from the equation.  If I am in real faith I am absolutely confident of success.  But I must always remember that the success I am confident of does not depend on my faith but on God’s power.  My faith is simply the vehicle that enables God to move.  If God does not move my faith means nothing.  God can move without my faith, but my faith has no power without God’s moving.

This pride may manifest many ways, but Paul points to one we should be careful of.  If we find ourselves arguing and caught up in disputes with our brothers or sisters we are allowing pride to work.  We may think we are defending the truth, but Paul makes a rather harsh statement.  He says that we know nothing when we give into this kind of thing.  Why.  Because the strife and pride cut off our faith and the “knowledge” we may be displaying is ignorance where it counts.  This opens the door to a whole list of undesirable things that all cancel the effectiveness of faith.  They must be done away with if we are going to fight properly.

The very last statement in verse 5 leads us to another major area we must flee.  He says that people who are destitute of the truth think that Godliness is just a means to gain.  We must withdraw from that thought.

1 Timothy 6:6-10 ( NKJV )
Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.  And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

I believe God delights in blessing His children.  I believe prosperity in every area of life is the inheritance of the children of God.  However the point of faith cannot be gain alone.  In order to fight the good fight of faith we need to remember that this world is not the point of anything we do as believers.  Money, wealth and prosperity are powerful enticements particularly in our society.  He says that those who will to be rich, who make being rich the point of life, fall into many problems.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with being rich.  I don’t think either having or not having wealth is a true gage of spirituality.  The fight of faith, however, cannot be conducted if the pursuit of wealth takes the main place in our thinking.  It leaves too great an opening for the devil to tempt us, deceive us and lead us into wrong thinking and wrong believing.  He says this wrong focus causes people to be pierced through with many sorrows.  As a pastor I have seen this first hand.

The blessings of God should be a result of our faith not the focus of it.  Does that mean we can’t believe for specific things?  Not at all.  We must find promises in the Word, meditate on them and believe that God is going to bring them to pass in our lives.  That should be the result.  The goal must remain to please God in all things.  To live as He would have us to live.  We should spend more time focusing our faith on right living than on receiving blessings.  If we won’t find promises that will help us overcome sin, walk in truth and love one another, we will find it difficult to receive the blessing of the ones that promise healing and prosperity.  We must be willing to flee from the love of money if we are going to fight the good fight of faith.

That brings us to what Paul tells timothy to pursue. But, alas, that must wait for tomorrow.