Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

   The Box
   by Rayola Kelley

Does the term “Fireside Chats” ring a bell with you? It is where the promoter or leader would casually sit, with supposedly a fireplace in the background, and chat about the issues presently affecting the landscape. In this article, I want to have such a chat with you about faith. In a way, I want to reason with you about what constitutes the faith that was first delivered to the saints.

I, for one, have struggled greatly with this issue. When I was first saved, I had an understanding that my salvation was the result of believing the Biblical evaluation that was pronounced upon my spiritual condition. Without any doubt I knew I was a sinner. I had identified hatred in my heart, perversion in my conclusions, confusion in my thinking, emptiness in my soul, and discontentment in my life. I had come to the end of myself and realized there was nothing I could personally do about my condition. It was clear that I needed to be saved and only something outside of my limitations could accomplish such an incredible feat.

Salvation of my soul was my first encounter with faith. It was that measure of faith that served as the incredible seed that allowed God to impart the very life of Jesus in me.  It was incredible to think that faith, the size of a mustard seed, had connected me to the glorious work of heaven.

However, that small measure of faith was just a beginning. There was an incredible ocean that needed to be explored in regard to faith. Each measure of faith that was imparted to me would be greater than the measure before. Each impartation of faith would expose me to the vast storehouse of God’s possibilities and promises.

This brought me to the reality that faith required me to be an explorer. It would make me a stranger in the world as I explored the possibilities of that which was unseen. It would make me a pilgrim as I sought out my real destination. As my status caused me to venture forth in my faith, I would have to take steps into the unknown. To explore the unknown I would have to take risks that could result in failure, or bring me to the abyss, teetering on the edge of absolute destruction.

Each journey would bring me to a type of Job’s outcome. I would have to choose to trust the Lord with everything in me, regardless of the uncertain outcome. In times of great adversity and conflict, I would have to maintain my ways before the unseen and tangible worlds around me to be able to give a defense of the faith I possessed (Job 13:15).

The problem is that in our ignorance towards the Christian life, we can often romanticize about genuine faith until we have to walk the walk. When the Apostle Paul talked about walking by faith and not by sight, he understood what it entailed (2 Corinthians 5:7). Paul had indeed walked the walk. We can actually identify some of the steps he had to take. Sometimes circumstances forced him to walk in a certain direction, other times the Spirit led him, and in many cases he had to simply obey what he knew was right in light of God’s Word, his calling, and his mission.

As I considered the walk of faith, I realized that what prevents us from taking such steps towards a greater life and ultimate destination of heaven is that so many of us are entangled or enslaved in a box. You might be wondering what box I could be talking about. The box has to do with our way of thinking.

When the Apostle Paul made reference to walking by faith and not by sight, he was referring to walking according to our own understanding. We know what Proverbs 3:3-7 states, “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.”

The Apostle Paul made it clear that our minds have to be transformed by the Spirit, thus no longer being conformed to the world’s way of thinking (Romans 12:2). Clearly, the great battle for faith takes place in the mind. The mind serves as a narrow, limited box that has been conditioned and indoctrinated by the world to oppose genuine faith.

Like all boxes, the mind will encase what it contains. Trying to operate outside of the borders of this box will bring each of us up against formidable walls. Every time a person gives way to the hindrances created by walls, faith becomes a casualty. These walls become the mountains that are too great to climb, the chasms that are too deep to bridge, the roads that are too winding and precarious to travel, and the rivers that are impassable. These walls magnify circumstances that will hold people down and establish foundations that will make their walk uncertain as they try to balance their feet on shifting sands.  It is for this reason that these walls must be identified.

The first wall that will immediately erect itself when personal understanding eludes us is fear. The fear of the unknown will produce mountains in front of us. When fear takes hold of our mind, it becomes paralyzed as chains of anxiety and despair strangle our resolve. Instead of taking a step back, applying the mustard seed of faith, and looking upward to our only hope, we often find ourselves hitting our head against an entrenched barricade, or cowering in the corners of absolute panic. Instead of taking hold of the immovable Rock and source of faith, fear takes hold of every aspect of our souls. It becomes the ever looming mountain before us that appears too great to climb; therefore, all is lost. It is for this reason the writer of Hebrews 12:2-3 made this statement, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your mind.”

The second wall is pride. Pride produces the high peaks of opinions. In other words, it is not unusual to have high opinions about our personal worth and abilities. This personal worth often translates into self-sufficiency. Instead of putting our faith in the character of God, we will put our confidence in our strength and abilities to get through a matter. It is for this reason the Apostle Paul reminded us that our sufficiency is of God (2 Corinthians 3:5). He also made this statement in Romans 12:3, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”

The problem with our pride is it is arrogant in its conclusions and will not humble itself before that which would prove worthy or beneficial. Pride will scoff at the ways of faith. It will always deem faith as being weak and silly. Since pride always wants to come out on top, it is not unusual for great competition to ensue as we strive to climb over obstacles in order to come out on top. This fleshly motivation is also quick to move away from taking personal responsibility for its limited, but divisive ways, causing the person to spiral downward into the great gulf of hopelessness. In such a condition people cannot afford to be wrong; therefore, they are not in the position of getting it right. In such a state, these individuals will lack real wisdom as they give way to the folly of their arrogance and foolishness.

The third wall is that of logic. We are instructed to not become wise in our own eyes. However, all of our ways seem clean in our own eyes (Proverbs 16:2). The reason all of our understanding seems so right is because we have approached the matter from every logical standpoint there is, and in our minds there is no way we can be wrong. However, we are told that God’s ways and thoughts are not the same as ours. In fact, they are much higher (Isaiah 55:8-9). As people maneuver the dangerous twists and turns of life according to their logic, they often find themselves missing a turn and plummeting head first down the steep hillside of failure.

The initial rush of missing our turn may be exciting, but the end results are devastating. Logic will often leave us in a heap of confusion, uncertainty, and despair. Not only do we discover how limited our logic is, but it is incapable of reaching the heights of excellence when it comes to obtaining the ways and thoughts of God.

Even though our logic is limited, earthbound, and incapable of seeing the whole picture, it will mock faith that trusts the simplicity and truth of Jesus Christ. It will perceive itself as being so much more superior in its so-called “rational” state that it will see genuine faith as being foolish, ridiculous, and silly. It is for this reason the Apostle Paul gave this instruction in Romans 12:16, “Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.”

The fourth wall consists of vain imaginations. Imagination has a way of making a matter impassable when it comes to advancing in a situation. Imaginations can run as wild and fast as any river. They can exaggerate how wide or great the challenge is, while dramatizing the odds of what it would mean to properly cross over a matter to finish the course.

When it came to inheriting the Promised Land, the children of Israel imagined that the cities were too fortified, the iron chariots too great, and the soldiers too fierce for God to enable them to possess the land. They could not see how they could get around or pass through such strongholds without being utterly consumed by that which was greatly exaggerated and exalted by their imagination. Granted, the cities were fortified, the iron chariots swift, and the soldiers trained, but in light of God’s power, cities would fall, chariots would become weighed down and rendered ineffective, and soldiers would be reduced to nothing more than the size of ants, scattering in every direction.

Vain imaginations will push faith aside as they give in to their own vain currents of ridiculousness. Since they have no boundaries, they will overflow any sound reason and rush headlong towards the falls of destruction. At such a time, our focus is not being turned towards the character and ways of God. It is for this reason the Apostle Paul made this statement in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, “(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

This brings us to the bottom or foundation of the box. It is known as unbelief. Faith is a choice that finds its foundation in our will. I choose to believe what I know is true about God and His ways. It is only from the basis of such belief that I can get my bearings enough to step aside from the mountains of fear, step around the high walls of prideful opinions, deem the precarious route of logic as an utterly dead end, and close the dam on my vain imaginations. In other words, I must step outside of what I have deemed to be the comfortable, controllable, and convenient, but insidious box of my carnal mind in order to gain God’s perspective.

It is vital that I get my bearings by putting my faith in the immovable Rock of heaven. If I fail to do so, I will discover that my foundation is the shifting sand of unbelief. As I sidestep the uncertainty of my situation, I will discover that my ceiling is not that of God’s truth, but a sick reality that leaves me in a state of denial, delusion, or fantasy. Instead of being prepared to believe that God is bigger than every mountain, I will give in to the mountain of fear. In such a state of unbelief I will arrogantly trust that I am capable of getting myself through a situation, rather than flinging myself on the Rock in search of leadership and safety. Instead of being ready to reason with God about the matters of His kingdom and my pathetic ways, I will logic why His ways are foolish and my ways are correct. Instead of challenging the rapids of my imagination with child-like confidence and obedience, I will be swept away by its current towards a collision course with the jagged rocks of foolishness.

When it comes to faith, the biggest battle takes place in the mind. It is too easy to bounce back and forth from one insipid wall to the other in order to try to make sense out of the unknown, control the overwhelming, pull back the unpredictable, and bring matters back into the confines of our limited understanding. If it is not bad enough that we are bouncing back and forth in our decisions and emotions, we find ourselves losing our footing on the shifting sands of unbelief as we hit the ceiling of a reality that is void of heavenly hope, truth, and sanity.

Perhaps you might be relating to this particular article. Maybe you want to quit feeling like a ping pong ball, get off the merry-go-round of ridiculousness, and land at the place of sanity in order to gain clarity in the midst of the overwhelming. You first must cease to depend of what you think you know and humble yourself before that which possesses the eternal perspective. You must repent of trying to understand according to your own perspective and seek to know the heart, mind, and will of God. You must quit wrestling against or repelling away from that which is unknown, and desire to embrace that which is eternal.

Faith is clearly a choice. And, the choice we must make up front to exercise mountain moving faith is to step outside of the limited box of our natural thinking. We must turn our focus heavenward, set our affections on that which is heavenly, and put our full trust in the abiding, faithful character of God. We must choose to trust that He will work out the unknown, bring about the incredible, do the impossible, and ultimately be glorified in it. As we put our trust in Who God is, what He said, and what He will ultimately accomplish for His glory, we must walk in expectation of it all being brought forth in our life.

The question is, are you walking according to your personal understanding, or according to faith that is solely directed towards God?