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

by Rayola Kelley

It seems that just yesterday, I wrote about how time flies in light of welcoming 2004 into our midst. The important events of 2004 will be entered into our history books. Now, we are about to welcome in 2005. Each New Year reminds us that life as we know it is winding down. As we celebrate ringing in a New Year, excitement grows concerning the possibility of another year of new beginnings. However, we must come to terms with the lessons of yesterday. Coming to terms with the lessons of yesterday ensures a healthy present and the ability to embrace the future with hope.

One thing I have learned about people is that unresolved issues plague them. Many times people will not confront unresolved issues in a proper, upright way to ensure healing and restoration. Ultimately, these issues mirror certain aspects about life and our personal character. They reveal our inability to control life, as well as weaknesses in our character. This unveiling creates fear, confusion, vulnerability, and anger. Such revelations cause our worlds to spin out of control. Even though we know that loss is part of life, struggles part of our character, and the inability to control our worlds, environments, and life a constant reality, we still can remain in denial, or be indifferent, or deluded about such matters.

I have learned that the only way I have been able to silence the unresolved issues of my life are to learn their lessons. These lessons have one goal: to reveal our need for God. Each lesson of life we learn causes us to realize that we are not God, and that life is not meant to revolve around us. Each lesson that rips away our self-sufficient or self-righteous cloaks to reveal our sins, selfishness and arrogance show us that we are in a desperate need of a Savior and Intercessor. However, each lesson that is experienced and applied to life brings us to a greater revelation of Christ, and establishes us firmly on the immovable Rock of Ages.

Therefore, as I consider the passing of another year, I do so in light of the lessons I have learned about life and about my personal character in 2004. It is important to point out that some lessons are not new, but are old. Past lessons sometimes must be more clearly defined or established. Each time a lesson is defined, God’s unchangeable attributes and ways are brought out. A person grows in adversity in his or her faith in God, and becomes more established on the Rock.

The lessons of life are simple. They reveal that God is the essence of our life. The type of relationship we have with God will determine the quality of our life. Today, many are caught up with quantity, not quality. Quantity represents what is surface, and is often a matter of outward show. Quality represents the substance of something. It requires personal investment. There may be a lot of activity taking place in the name of God, but quality is lacking from much of it. Quantity is man’s attempt to present a certain image to the world. Such attempts are contrary to the work of God.

Learning lessons also speaks of wisdom. Lessons are all around us. Jesus used the sparrow and the lilies of the field to teach His disciples. He used the examples of others to illuminate important principles and truths. The lessons found in creation remind us of simplicity, while the lessons found within humanity remind us of our vulnerability to the creation around us.

What lessons have you learned in 2004 about life? Take stock of these valuable tools. They promote wisdom, spiritual growth and character. Let them strip away the delusion or fantasy you may have about life or yourself. Let them serve as a wake-up call to how much each of us really needs God in our life. As Jesus stated, we can do nothing outside of Him. He is the vine and we are simply the branches that depend on Him for life, as well as to fulfill our purpose on earth.

It is also vital that we learn the lessons of yesterday as a means of preparation to learn the lessons that await us in 2005. If you fail to learn these lessons, you will find yourself going around the same old mountain. Each time you go around the same mountain, it becomes more unbearable. It is important that you learn to climb the mountain in front of you, so you can be prepared to climb the next mountain. Another important aspect about learning lessons is setting up the right environment in which to learn such lessons. Let us now consider the environment that is necessary to ensure that you learn the lessons of life.

Responsibility: The first part of establishing the right environment is realizing you are responsible for creating it. You must take accountability for what is going on in your environment. A person’s disposition and attitudes toward God and life determine environments. The problems in our environment originate with wrong dispositions. Most people maintain a selfish disposition. A selfish disposition expects life to revolve around it, rather than being responsible to ensure the right quality of life. People must take responsibility for their disposition to learn the lessons and to change their present environment.

Perception: Another important part of our environment is how we perceive things. Once again, most people start from the premise of self, rather than God. God and His Word must be the basis by which we judge and consider all matters in order to gain His perspective. Gaining God’s perspective will establish truth and liberty. Truth will bring hope, and liberty will give us the ability to receive from God. In the case of learning lessons, we will be able to receive instructions with the intent of gaining a heavenly perspective. Sadly, most people never get above the earthly to embrace the heavenly. This keeps their perception limited and worldly.

The result of such a perspective is unbelief towards God.

Change: One of the most important aspects of learning the lesson is the change it will bring about on a personal level. Christianity is all about a changed life. The main reason I learn lessons is for the purpose of changing what is wrong about my character or my life. The Christian life is about the great exchange of putting off the old to put on the new. The problem with most people is that they are quite comfortable with themselves, regardless of how miserable they may be. Although they might not like the product of their misery, they still prefer their comfort zones to change. At least in their comfort zones, they still feel they have some semblance of control. In order to hold onto their comfort zones, these people will associate the things they do not like about their world to those people or things that dare make them uncomfortable. It is in this perverted logic that people transfer the problems caused by their own deviance of character on to others. They fail to see how the things of life will always intrude into the delusion they possess about themselves. In the end, these people will direct their anger at that which intrudes into their world, rather than accept the need for personal change and take responsibility for their own character and conduct.

Lifestyles: Genuine change will manifest itself in lifestyle changes. To change a lifestyle, you have to change the way you perceive your life A good example of a lifestyle change surrounds our diet. Many people’s New Year resolution will be to lose weight. However, losing weight is not just a matter of shedding some unwanted pounds. The real key to weight loss and maintaining it is changing the way we eat. This requires changing our lifestyle. Lifestyles are made up of habits. Habits are reinforced by attitudes. Attitudes are determined by our value system. The strength of our value system is established by the strength of personal character. As you can see, changing a lifestyle is not an overnight process. It takes weeks to break a bad habit. In those weeks, you have to change your thought process, or the way you look at something or value it. The truth is that unless we have integrity, we remain true to the lust of the flesh. In other words, we will naturally go with what makes our flesh feel good.
It takes tremendous discipline to change the thought process. Paul refers to it as bringing all of our thoughts into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). To change a lifestyle, you must take responsibility for the way you are, before your perception about it will change. Most people fail to change anything in their life because they must change their lifestyle. Few have the character to take on such a task because they have a selfish disposition and self-serving attitudes that lack initiative, character and purpose.

Dependency: To change a lifestyle, we must change our dependency. It is natural to depend on our personal intellect, strength and abilities to overcome an obstacle. However, any attempts will lack wisdom, character and the right spirit. If we manage to change something, we become arrogant or self-righteous. The real key to change comes down to changing our dependency. For Christians, we must change our dependency from the cursed arm of the flesh to a total faith in God. We must seek His wisdom, strength and will to ensure godly change in our life. The greatest failures in my life can always be traced back to my dependency being placed on everything but God. God is the One who is in the business of changing people from the inside out. He is the One who gives a person a new heart and spirit, thereby changing his or her attitudes. He is the One who becomes our strength and hope, thereby changing our character. If God is not in a change, then there will be no real change to speak of. It will lack real character; therefore, it is temporary.

Learning lessons takes integrity and willingness to change what is not acceptable to God, and to come into a place of total consecration and dependency on God. We see this in Paul’s life. He made this statement: “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: Lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:27).

   Castaway means reprobate. Reprobate means unapproved, rejected  and worthless. The Apostle Paul is the only writer who deals with the subject of being reprobate. People can be considered reprobate in three areas: their minds (Romans. 1:28), their faith (2 Corinthians 13:5; 2 Timothy 3:8), and their works (Titus 1:16). People who fail to learn the lessons of life can become reprobates in their minds. Such a mind will no longer retain the knowledge of the true God, because it has failed to put into practice the principles of God. These same people can become reprobates in their faith because they do not possess a real faith in Christ. Rather, they have created a Christ of their own imagination. Such people will become reprobates in their works because their works have nothing to do with God and His work, but with selfish motives and agendas. Obviously, it is easy to become a reprobate in your life before God.

As we are about to embark on a New Year, resolve to learn the lessons of life. Do not let 2004 pass you by without having something of eternal value to show for it. These lessons will point you to your need to know, love and serve God in greater measure. These lessons will not only show you how needy you are of God, but you will also come out with a consuming revelation of God that will change how you look at God and at the gift of life he has entrusted to you.

With this challenge in mind, we want to wish you a prosperous New Year!