FACING THE ELEMENTS
By Rayola Kelley
Probably one of the greatest challenges we have is to honestly face the days we live in. Through the years we have adopted prisms in which we view events. These prisms could be religious in nature such as theology and doctrine, worldly in context such as philosophies, intellectually influenced such as indoctrination, culturally preferred such as biased attitudes, and morally inspired, which greatly affects worldviews and ethical values (Colossians 2:8).
The problem with these prisms is that they can lack spirit, heart, and moral character. They can appear to be pious, make sense, sound rational, come across as exceptional, and be acceptable to the world, when in reality, they will prove to be dead-letter, perverted, foolish, prejudicial, and wicked to God.
The other problem is that man proves to be a pendulum that swings from one extreme to another. He can be on fire with great zeal or as cold as a dead fish. He can be caring one minute and cruel the next. He can start out being reasonable and end up becoming totally obstinate. He can come across as committed in a situation, but fail to even cross the street to fulfill it.
Jesus warned the Laodicean Church in Revelation 3:14-19 about being lukewarm like the water that they had to continually tolerate. According to the information I read about this city, it had a couple of rivers that served as its source, but the waters had to pass through the hot mineral pools, causing the water to become warm and having an unpleasant smell to it that made it undesirable.
The problem is that even though the source of water was fresh, the route it had to travel to ended up in the prosperous city of Laodicea as lukewarm and undesirable. The water could not refresh and it could barely be tolerated to be partaken of. The dichotomy is that the mineral waters made the drinking water undesirable, but it added to the financial coffers of the city because some thought them to have healing qualities.
As Christians, we have a Gospel that is the power of God unto salvation. There is light, Jesus Christ, in the Gospel that adds warmth enough to melt a cold heart, the passion (heat) of the Holy Spirit to burn in our hearts with unwavering commitment and urgency, and the cool waters of the Word of God that can cleanse, revive, and refresh when the barren wilderness of this world becomes too great to endure (Romans 1:16; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Ephesians 5:26-27).
The challenge arises that instead of the heavenly waters flowing from the throne of God into our hearts, they are often channeled through waters that consume the warmth resulting in a coldness in our soul that robs us of any real distinction as to what is true and right, thus causing our Christian life to become an undesirable mixture, especially to our Lord (Matthew 24:12; John 7:37-39; Hebrews 4:2).
It is for this reason the Apostle Paul instructs us to do everything in moderation unto the Lord (Philippians 4:5). Moderation implies distributing, overseeing, and having charge of a matter, but doing it in an appropriate way that displays the meekness of spirit and the temperance of godly discipline. This response would ensure that all extreme reactions that are emotionally driven and arrogantly motivated are avoided, and that a matter will be handled in an honorable fashion by doing all things as unto the Lord.
In today’s world we are surrounded by extremes. Whether it is extreme weather that feels as if there is a heavy hand of judgment in it, or the abusive behavior of the lawless that causes intimidation and the conning and bullying practices of the corrupt, everything seems out of order. And, if there is order it is nothing more than controlled chaos ready to erupt at any moment. The Bible calls it perilous times (2 Timothy 3:1).
The truth is, the world has always found itself being caught up with perilous times. The corrupt can’t let the pure stand, the lawless can’t accept honorable authority without challenging it, the immoral can’t let righteousness go unchallenged, and the wicked will always work angles to come out on top of what is sane and right. As a result, they are always trying to mix up matters in order to profane that which is holy.
Weather reminds us that when contrary fronts collide it creates extreme reactions in the form of storms. Certain elements will also cause extreme heat and cold. For most people their comfortable temperature point is between 72-74 degrees. Depending on where they live, some are prepared to endure extreme cold and others extreme heat, but for a body to be comfortable and to properly function, it can only endure so much heat or cold before it will react in a negative way.
Right now, we are facing extreme heat for our area. Adjustments are being made to endure it, but the signs of fall are not coming fast enough. In the heat we have fires occurring all over the place, but when you consider other places in the USA, there are torrential rains that are causing flooding. It is true that God uses weather to try to wake up His people as to the spiritual condition of the nation, the church, and their own personal standing. But, like soldiers under pressure and under fire in some foxhole, ever facing the fragileness of mortality, there is not an atheist to be found among the unconverted, the agnostic, and the unbelieving.
Since there are very few true conversions happening in foxholes, the atheist may have considered religion, but will leave it in the foxhole letting out a sigh of relief that he left the “crutch” behind. Agnostics in the foxhole might consider that their philosophy is wrong, but if they survive, they come out thinking that they were right all along. And, when it comes to the unbelieving, their concerns were emotional and will quickly give way once again to logic that sees all such matters as being silly.
The heat has a tendency to zap energy and the cold all warmth. The heat causes hyperthermy and strokes and the cold hypothermia and frostbite, and both can lead to death. When it comes to spiritual heat it points to wrath and when it comes to coldness it points to a cold, indifferent heart that lacks soul and is void of life.
It is true we need heat but it must be the flame of the Holy Spirit that sets our hearts on fire with the fervent heat of dedication and love for God. We need to have the crisp clarity of vision of what is true. We can’t be stopped by the scorching heat of destruction or the coldness of indifference. We can’t let the present environment take the wings of expectation out of hope or decide to get by while failing to be faithful to occupy by faith until we are called home (Proverbs 29:18; Luke 19:13; Acts 2:2-4; Romans 5:5).
It is important to understand what will cause a mixture in our lives that can keep us teetering on being a skeptical agnostic in these dark times. The first thing that must be noted is that faith is missing from the equation which is followed by the fact that Scripture is not being upheld (Hebrews 4:2). Faith that is not mixed with the necessary action to possess the promises of God will cause spiritual bankruptcy. In Hebrews 3:19, it was noted that the children of Israel did not enter into the rest of the Promised Land because of unbelief.
Unbelief is the product of a carnal mind. The Bible is clear that the mind must be transformed for the carnal mind minds the things of the world more than the matters of God (Romans 8:5; 12:1-2). It possesses a worldly attitude towards how things must be done, quickly tries to rationalize a situation in the courtroom of logic, and has a tendency to slide into unbelief when things to do not make sense.
Philippians 2:5 instructs us to let the mind of Christ determine our reality but that requires the work of the Spirit of God. For the Holy Spirit to transform our mind we must first determine that the Word of God is absolute truth, represents the final say in all matters, and will not adjust to the influences of the present age. When a present reality is being challenged, we must align ourselves with the Word of God and come into agreement with the Lord to ensure a matter is kept in the right perspective.
Another ingredient that causes a bad spiritual mixture is the world. In the world there are things we need to function, but if we are driven to the side of being dependent on it, we find ourselves involved with a whoredom relationship. The world offers many idols, and idols rob our heart of affection towards God, closes down any spiritual avenue that would inspire growth and advancement, and undermines our witness in this world (1 Corinthians 10:14; Colossians 3:2).
Part of the idolatry and pursuit of the world has to do with the idea of happiness. Man allows the propaganda of the world to convince him that the romantic, unrealistic, self-serving ideas of happiness are found in relationships that are not realistic, or one-sided, or empty material possessions, worldly successes that sometimes require one to sell their soul, and accomplishments that allow one to ride high on some emotional wave to only hit the shoreline of reality. The reality is that the world’s idea of happiness is temporary and proves vain in the end because there is no real substance behind it. It does not matter what mountain one climbs to achieve success in this world, there are always other mountains that must be conquered in search of something that will actually bring lasting satisfaction to the soul.
Another reason for extremes has to do with fear. Fear robs of power to overcome, kills the personal assurance of love being present, and destroys soundness of mind. It either paralyzes and isolates one into a corner of paranoia and utter despair, or it drives a person into a panic that lacks any real direction. Both insipid worlds prove to be insane.
It is for this reason we are told in 2 Timothy 1:7 that God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and sound mind. As believers, we have the Spirit of God in us that is all-powerful, the love of God that has been shed abroad in our hearts that will enable us to overcome all fear of judgment, and a sound mind that can’t be moved from what it knows to be true.
It is also true that we live in insane times, and those in charge know that there are only a few ways to control people. There is fear through threats, bullying, and persecution that disables people from attempting to move forward. Since fear often walks hand in hand with ignorance and unbelief, it can cause man to remain stuck in despair, producing the fruit of unbelief.
When people fail to stand up against threats because they have not counted themselves as being dead to this world, they fail to strip all authority from the idle threats of fear, putting the power back in their hands to withstand and endure. When they withstand against bullying with the assurance that God is in control, they often discover that all power is taken away from the bully, and when they continue to stand in and with the Word of God, they discover that persecution for the sake of Christ is reasonable service and that they will endure in the power of God. The other thing that enables them to endure is that suffering is for a season, and that the death of the saint is the greatest deliverance. After all, every believer is not here to live their life but to impact the lives of others for the glory of God (Psalm 116:15; Matthew 5:10-12; Ephesians 6:10-14; Revelations 12:11). The Apostle Paul made this clear in 2 Corinthians 5:8-10).
Another reason many, even in the Christian realm, never overcome fear is because fear is worship and people surrender to it, allowing it to take the person captive into a small world where the person perceives themselves as a victim to the situation. They fear the possible fallout of humiliation, consequences of suffering, and results of failure. When you ask them what they fear, they really can’t say because it is like admitting to giving way to some invisible enemy of unbelief. They are allowing the possibilities of the worse scenario that can happen to them to play out in their imagination, which encases them in an attitude of self-pity that whimpers that all is beyond their control.
Yet submission to the invisible enemy of fear makes it an idol. Fear is meant to rob us of any power to simply stand by faith against its lies, tear down any resolve to keep believing in what God has said because it becomes bigger than God in the mind, while destroying any hope of overcoming in the power and might of the Holy Spirit.
Another way in which extremes operate is to keep people dulled down by causing them to go to sleep in a compromised state, become stiff-neck towards any spiritual conviction, and totally unresponsive towards truth. This type of individual can’t hear the truth, has no inclination to respond towards it, and is rooted into their own interpretation of what is reality.
It is important to remember that people physically go to sleep at different times. For instance, some immediately go to sleep, while others have to establish an environment in which they can land in order to sleep, and a few have a terrible time going to sleep because their body is agitated in some way. For example, if I eat something that my body is allergic too, I find myself unable to go to sleep because my body is awakened and reacting to it.
This is true for those who have become spiritually asleep. They have no real concern spiritually because they often lack discernment and figure that everything will work out alright in the end. This lie is a comfortable pillow they can surely sleep on. There are others who figure out how to take away, ignore, or silence any spiritual concerns so they are able to go to sleep without being bothered with the reality around them. They may fall back on a doctrine, take some poisonous pill of heresy that allows them to believe they are immune from the situation or allows the darkness of their sleep to hide a wrong spirit or attitude, while wishfully thinking that as long as they sleep, they can dream well while ignoring the storms slamming against their hiding place. Like Jonah, they are content to go down with the ship, but in certain situations there are others who will wake them up to the raging storm (Ephesians 4:14; Jonah 1:13-17).
There are those who are wide awake because their spirit is vexed with sorrow due to the destruction taking place, their souls heavy with sadness, and their minds aware of the terror operating in the darkness. For such individuals there is no sleeping. They know if they don’t land on some stable place of rest, that they could easily go mad, but they know they must keep their wits about them if they are going to finish the course.
We see this in Jesus’ life. The cross loomed before Him and He wrestled before the Father. His spirit was willing to endure the ordeal, but as He said the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. He had to endure the cross in His humanity, knowing that the flesh becomes the greatest whimpering coward or a great compromiser when it comes to facing its demise. It will sell its soul to live, gamble away what little decency is left to survive, and adjust to whatever to simply come out on the other end.
It is for this reason that Paul told sleepy Christians to awake to righteousness. He reminded each of us to redeem the time for the days are evil and in order to do that we must walk circumspectly according to our vocation (1 Corinthians 15:34; Ephesians 4:1-3,14-17).
The truth is the world will never go back to what is considered normal, nor can those who have been awakened go back to sleep. America is a sinking ship because it is being taken down into a cesspool of sin, and if something is not done soon to shore it up with moral substance and fill in the cracks with righteousness, it will go down. But what Christians need to remember is that what I call the visible church will go down as well. Many people may prefer to sleep on in these challenging times, but forces are heading our direction that will not only wake us up abruptly, but if not thwarted, will lead us to slaughtering pens. God desires to find those who will stand in the gap for America and for the church. Abraham interceded on behalf of his nephew, but God could not find ten righteous men in Sodom to spare it. David interceded on behalf of Jerusalem and stayed the judgment. Surely, there are enough of God’s people to stand in the gap to change the course of the storm and defuse the winds of judgment.
The reality of the cross of Christ stands as a beacon for seeking souls, His empty grave a light of hope to the wandering vagabond, and His justice the balm for an ailing nation that has lost it way because of absolute corrupt leaders. His penetrating light reminds us that no matter how dark, His light is still greater, no matter how hopeless his power unlimited, and no matter how wretched, His love reaches into the very depths of hell, His grace covers incredible distances scorched by sin, His mercy crosses incredible canyons of despair, and His redemption is the rope that will pull us up and out of the swirling whirlpools of death.