The State of Living
by Rayola Kelley
Before I became a Christian, I was in what I refer to as “survival mode.” I am sure some of you know what it is like to be in such a state. Your main goal is to somehow get through each day. It is as though great weights are bound around your feet. It takes everything in you to get through daily responsibilities, knowing that you must face tomorrow with the same vain heaviness. Even though you have no real hope that tomorrow will be any different, you figure that the present waves moving through the avenues of your life will cause you to somehow bump along from one responsibility to the next, from one challenge to the next, from one crisis to the next, and from one minute to the next.
Bumping along with the waves of daily life is not what many would consider as “living life.” Granted, it is what it is, and it is also a state that many find themselves confronting. To most people this state is, at best, “surviving” with some success and at worst it is simply “existing.” When one is bumping along with the waves and tides of life, he or she is living in what I consider to be a comatose state.
When it comes to a comatose state, physically people go through the motions of daily responsibilities, but they lack any real concern about what is happening outside of their small worlds. Emotionally such individuals are closed down except for an occasional stirring of excitement for the temporary pleasure of life or an outburst of self-pity, frustration, or anger, which alerts those around them that they are still among the living. Spiritually, they are dulled down by hopeless despair that lacks any real expectation towards the future. These individuals have been disillusioned by life, disappointed by hopelessness, betrayed by broken dreams, left in utter despair by wrecked promises, and fearful of the future. In fact, as they look behind them, all they can see is debris, and when they look forward, all they can see is the emptiness of wasted space, time, and energy.
I can remember this state well. It all started initially because of the arrogance of my fleshly, unregenerate state. I had zealously gone forward to meet life head on, only to be rolled under by the challenges of life. At that point, life became too vast, and unpredictable to me. I realized I could not control it, and it was about to take me out into an ocean of uncertainty and despair. It was at this time that I decided I was going to survive, but as the waves beat against my resolve, a cloud of depression began to engulf me into an endless whirlpool of despondency. At this time, a morbid darkness gripped my soul. My resolve to survive gave way to suicidal thoughts, anger towards life, resentment that I had to go on in my present condition, and a heaviness that felt like a vice grip around my heart.
It was in such a state that I begin to cry out for a solution. I did not know where to look, what I was looking for, and what would I do when I found it, but nevertheless, I was looking. However, in a comatose state, there is no expectation present to find the solution. You look around without seeing, you search without finding, and you grope along without touching anything that you could consider substantial to hold onto. Once again, you feel the cloud of depression take a greater hold on you as you realize that you have not begun to even imagine the depth this depression could reach.
The truth is, most of us have experienced this state at one time or another. Perhaps, the description of it may vary, but the end results are the same. At this time, many people come to the end of themselves and discover that there is no real substance for them to continue to stand upon. To simply “survive” life will eventually leave you without strength, and to simply “exist” will leave you without any real substance.
As we face the darkness enfolding the world, it is important to consider our state of living. Much of our state of living will be determined by the type of relationship we have with God. It will not be enough to dance on the outside fringes of Christianity, take on some religious pose, or get involved with some great noble movement, we must be sure that we are in the direct current of the eternal life (Jesus) that flows according to the Rivers of Living Water (Holy Spirit). We must not take on some form of life, we must possess the life of the Son of God. The life of heaven is not a tide that flows in and out; rather, it is a current that flows from the throne of God. It is eternal, unchangeable, and unstoppable.
The key to standing in the darkness is to ensure the presence, consistency, and flow of the life of Jesus in us. In order to withstand the affront of darkness, we must develop the necessary substance that will cultivate the life of Jesus in us; and, to continue to stand when darkness is consuming everything around us, we must understand what it means to stand according to the authority of Christ and in the power of His Spirit.
To be able to stand, we must be born again of the Spirit according to faith established and confirmed by the Word, but to withstand will require something called, “integrity.” We are told in 1 Kings 9:4 that King David walked according to the integrity of his heart. Integrity points to upright character. Such character is best described as moral uprightness.
It is not uncommon that people interchange the concept of honesty and integrity. However, they are different. Granted, integrity involves honesty, but honesty may be void of integrity. What distinguishes the two is moral uprightness. You do not need to be morally upright to be honest, but you must possess moral character to possess integrity. When we are honest about something that is not pleasant, we are often trying to maintain some dignity or respect in the matter, but when we insist on personal integrity, we do so to avoid betraying who we are. At the end of the day, integrity allows us the freedom to look at ourselves in the mirror without shame or regret.
Clearly, integrity is that inward substance of strength that keeps us from veering off of what we know is right. It is that inner character that possesses resolve that will not be moved when tested and the right spirit that will not compromise what it knows to be true. However, such inner character is not given; rather it is forged in times of testing and adversity.
A good example of the forging of character can be observed in the establishment of faith. We know that faith is established and refined in the ovens of adversity (1 Peter 1:6-9). What many do not understand is that what is being established is integrity in our faith towards God, and what is being refined is the attitude that must be present to walk according to such integrity. Remember, we must walk out the Christian life by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). Integrity is what strengthens the legs of faith to walk in the ways of righteousness. It is for this reason that integrity allows God to take shepherd boys and turn them into kings, servants into military giants, and timid people into courageous leaders.
It will take integrity for us to stand, withstand, and continue to stand in the times we live in. Therefore, we must ensure that integrity is forged in us as the very life of Christ is cultivated and nurtured in our inner man. Let us now consider what integrity entails.
State: Integrity is a state that you live in. It is a perpetual awareness of who you are in the Lord and what you are doing in your life before Him. This awareness is established and maintained by living within the confines of moral rightness and excellent conduct.
Choice: The state of integrity is only developed when an individual makes the right choices in regard to God, life, and conduct. Integrity will cause the person to ensure this state by choosing what he or she exposes him or herself to, the companions he or she keeps, the agendas that are adopted, and what is pursued.
The choice of integrity reminds us that we must honestly choose the life God has made available to each of us (Deuteronomy 30:19). This means choosing the narrow ways of righteousness to secure the blessings and promises of God. I can testify that there is no drudgery in this type of life. Instead of settling for a survival mode, as a believer, I have pressed forward to experience the full, satisfying life of heaven.
The truth is personal integrity will not let a person off the hook. It serves as a moral compass in matters. For example, it will not heed to the path of least resistance by becoming flippant, complacent, and apathetic when it comes to finishing the course. In the Christian realm, it will go against the grain when tempted to give in to the arrogant, self-serving ways of the flesh. It will ultimately overcome the flesh.
Preference: Once integrity is worked in our inner character, it will cease to be an option that we must initially struggle with before it becomes our solution; rather, it will become the preferred way in which we walk. We are told that man prefers darkness because his deeds are wicked (John 3:19-21). Integrity has nothing to hide; therefore, it is not wooed by darkness to give in to the base way of the old man. Instead it will flee such darkness and walk in the liberating light of God’s righteousness.
The more that a believer chooses the ways of righteousness, the more the bent on his or her preference will change from the base ways of the old man towards the righteous ways of the new man. The more the bent is realigned to moral uprightness, the more natural the state of righteousness will become a normal preference for the Christian. The war between the flesh and the Spirit will cease to rage and become a whimper at best. And, the more righteousness is established and practiced, the more the person will exercise unto godliness.
As I observe the world, the more I become increasingly aware that this inner character is a must if we, as believers, are going to endure and overcome the great temptation that is upon the world. It is time for God’s people to put off the appearance of righteousness, the pose of pious religion, and the robes of self-righteousness, and in humility put on the Lord Jesus Christ(Romans 13:14). Godly integrity will allow us to wear the Christian life well in a dark world. It will become a means by which the light of Christ’s life will shine with authority, as well as penetrate the darkness with power and hope.
It is obvious that we have a short window of opportunity to secure our life in Christ before the night comes when no man can work. We must choose the ways of our Lord. In other words, we must choose the ways of integrity. In doing so we will determine the life we live and who we become in the end. Instead of feeling like a cork on the ocean of life, we will possess the anchor that will keep us steady in the way we walk out our Christian life.
We do determine the life we live by choosing the way we walk. The choice for the believer is clear. Joshua talked about choosing who we are going to serve in Joshua 24:15. However, the prophet Amos summarized it best when he said, “Seek the LORD, and ye shall live” (Amos 5:6).