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

Discipleship Series
by Rayola Kelley

Last month I dealt with the subject of faith that allows us to experience the favor or grace of God.  Faith enables us to walk out our Christian life in victory. After all, faith allows us to stand firmly on the Rock of Ages, instead of being shipwrecked on it by the various winds of ignorance, delusion and unbelief. Such stability ensures us that the robber (Satan) cannot steal what has been truly grounded in Jesus (John 10:10; Ephesians 6:10-13).

Faith also allows us to withstand the different and sometimes contrary waves of temptation brought on by the attractions and philosophies of this present world, or age, in which we live. As we line up to the Cornerstone (Jesus) of our spiritual lives, we will be strengthened against the bombardment of that which is temporary (worldly), seductive (demonic), and heretical (cultic, religious, and antichrist), allowing us to withstand that which could subdue or kill the work of the Spirit and His Word in our lives.

Genuine faith also ensures us that when the evil forces bring false accusation against the immutable source of our trust, strives to oppress the spiritual confidence and liberty that establishes us as believers in our heavenly assurance, and with hatred and persecution tries to destroy the eternal life that is brought forth in us because of our testimony of Christ, we will remain standing in light of our heavenly leadership and authority. Truly, genuine faith towards God is what allows us to walk in and according to the life of Christ in us, stand in the power of His Spirit, withstand with the authority of His Word, and when all is said and done, we will remain standing because of who He is.

It is of the utmost importance that we understand how genuine faith towards God enables us to walk, stand, run, and eventually finish the course of our earthly journey. It must be first noted that the real faith first delivered to the saints has been under attack from day one. Many of the epistles are actually contending for the one true faith in which the pilgrim Church was clearly established.

Today is no exception. Genuine faith continues to come under attack as heretics have tried to abuse it for their own purposes, adjust it to their heretical views, undermine it to replace it with their worldly, New Age methods, and redefine it according to their particular gospel. As a result, it can be hard to try to come to terms with the faith that pleases God in the midst of the many false presentations of it (Hebrews 11:6).

Hence, enter the Scriptural warnings. Jesus questioned if He would find real faith when He returned. The Apostle Paul talked about faith that is found to be worthless if it is not securely placed in Jesus. He also mentioned that it could become shipwrecked if people fail to hold on to a good conscience concerning the matters of God (Luke 18:8; 2 Corinthians 13:5; 1 Timothy 1:19).

If religious people are not operating according to genuine faith directed towards the God of the Bible, what are they walking in and according to? As I have listened to different individuals’ perception of faith, it often operates according to two arenas: 1) the fleshly arena where the flesh or experiences are being exalted in accordance to how something makes a person feel, and 2) people’s particular preferences that have been greatly influenced by man-made religion, occult inspired methods, or worldly philosophies. In such arenas, people are putting faith in the type of environment they can set up according to their beliefs, practices and personal understanding.

Since we cannot please God without genuine faith, it is vital that we understand what real faith is and how it works. We must get rid of our unrealistic notions and embrace the faith that God wants to bring forth in our lives. Let us now consider the contrast, or comparison, of real faith with false presentations in regard to the areas that faith affects in our spiritual walk.

Perception of God: Genuine faith is solely directed towards the God of the Bible. Faith is a choice that chooses to believe God by believing His Word as being inspired and true. It is active in that it is ready to walk according to what the Word declares. Because faith chooses to believe God, it allows a person to discover God in His righteous, perfect ways. Clearly, active faith will result in a person’s perception of God being correctly established and fine-tuned. If a person has a right perception of God, he or she will be able to allow God to be God, and trust that He will work out the details according to His eternal plan.

The problem with a false presentation of faith is that it is based on an idol, an unrealistic concept or an erroneous belief about God. Since a person’s concept of God is vague, unrealistic, or wrong, his or her faith will usually be based on what God can do, not based on who He is. Such individuals will walk according to their presumptions about God and seek Him on the basis of orchestrating their life according to their personal perceptions, needs and desires. However, God does not operate according to what He can do, but who He is. Sadly, these people often put God to a foolish test because of their pseudo faith. These individuals have failed to understand that God’s ways are determined by His attributes and not by His power. Such people end up erring in their hearts about Him, and will end up walking in unbelief towards Him because He fails to perform according to their understanding (Hebrews 3:10-14).

Reality: Another area that genuine faith enables a person to properly confront is reality. People have a hard time with the harshness that plagues life. They are forever trying to become an exception to the rule, rather than accept the harsh fact that they are subject to the same life and similar challenges as everyone else. People, in their attempts to control reality, often devise means in which to protect themselves against the realities of life; or, they develop some code or practice that will supposedly earn them the right to remain untouched by the various challenges of life.

Hence, enters the temptation and futile attempt to control life with a heretically inspired faith. Obviously, in order to control the challenging or sorrowful reality that can intrude into people’s lives, they must know how to control God.  Those who operate according to the heretical belief and practices such as Positive Confession or Contemplative prayer believe they can control God regardless of His will, with their very words, their minds or with their prayers. They perceive that they can speak, imagine, or develop a right type of environment to bring something into existence, or in some cases they can use God’s promises on Him to force Him to give way to their desires.

How can one honestly control reality? The truth is no one can control reality. People are like corks on the ocean of life. The winds of adversity will blow and the waves of destruction will come crashing down into each of our lives, testing our character, exposing our point of reliance, and shaking every false way until it ceases to stand. The only thing we have control over is how these various challenging intrusions are going to affect our lives.

Genuine faith is not used to change our realities; rather childlike faith mixed with the wisdom and strength of God allows us to honestly face present reality. God cannot impact our lives with liberating truth unless we are dealing in reality about a matter. The reason most people resent reality is because it clearly exposes each of their inabilities to change a matter, their need for God’s guidance and intervention at all times, and His abiding faithfulness to see them through situations.

By putting our confidence in the Lord during such dark times, we will allow Him to take us by the hand and guide us through each difficulty. This brings us to the next important point of faith, it prepares us.

Preparation: Most people have God in a controllable box of theologies, doctrines and religious notions. This box allows them to maintain their comfort zones, as well as operate from what I call wishful thinking. Such wishful thinking entails the concept or the idea that bad things only happen to bad people; therefore, it will not happen to my family or me because we are church-going Christians. However, bad things do happen to good people. No one person or family is exempt from the curse of sorrow, despair, loss, and death that plagues the world in which we live. Such an unrealistic notion may be pleasant and desirable as it allows such individuals to live in fantasy or denial about the challenges that life can present to them at any time, but it will also prevent them from being prepared to stand and endure when confronted by the challenges of life.

Since we, as Christians, are to walk by faith, we are to continually advance in our Christian life in taking on the new man, in our understanding about God, and in our spiritual growth. Active faith will not allow us to put confidence in any type of status or convenient works, while we simply try to wish the fullness of our life in Christ into existence; rather, it will cause us to go forward according to the leading of the Spirit and godly instruction to discover life. It is not a matter of thinking about the incredible life we can have in Christ, but it is about experiencing it on a daily basis. Faith is not a matter of hoping for this life; rather it is about walking in expectation of inheriting the promises of it. The Bible clearly tells us that what has not found its origins in true faith, or has not been properly mixed with it, finds its origins in the sin of unbelief (Romans 14:23; Hebrews 3:19-4:2).

Hebrews 6:12 states this about faith: “That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”  Note: we are not to be slothful towards our life in Christ, wishful in thinking about the type of life we could have in Him, or hoping that somehow this life will come to us, we are to be active in following the faithful example of those who truly inherited the promises of this life through patience. Patience not only points to the character to endure, but it allows that endurance to be developed through the trying experiences of life.

We are clearly living in precarious times. Genuine faith will cause us to live in expectation of our eternal future, while faithfully occupying in this present age until our Lord comes for His Church. But, it will not allow us to live in wishful thinking and denial about the times in which we life. Faith will always choose to believe and consider matters according to what God’s Word says about the times we live in, regardless of how frightening or uncertain they may be. We can make plans concerning our present world, but we must realistically avoid holding tightly to them. James tells us in James 4:13-15 that by making plans, in light of this present world, as if we can bring such matters about, is evil. After all, our life is a vapor that quickly vanishes, and the only real declaration we can make about the things of this world is “if the Lord wills it, then it shall be.” This brings us to the final point of genuine faith, that of faithfulness.

Faithfulness:  Faithfulness requires endurance. We know that God is faithful to see us through a matter to its completion, including salvation. People can put their faith in God’s power, personal words, religious activities, and deeds, while living in denial or according to wishful thinking, but such points of reliance lack faithfulness to see a person through to the end. In fact, most people end up disillusioned, but such disillusionment is often directed at God and not at their failure to walk by sincere, child-like faith.

Genuine faith possesses the quality of faithfulness. Although there are people who are aware of the times in which we live, they may or may not be preparing for them. Many consider such preparation in terms of physically being ready for the grave uncertainties that are coming upon this world, such as famine. However, preparation for the Christian is in relationship to spiritual preparation more than physical preparation. Granted, there is nothing wrong with seeking God as to how to physically prepare for the times we live in, but as believers we must realize that we must be prepared to stand in faith against the present darkness, withstand by faith with truth, and remain standing even if it might cost us our lives, as we know them.

Without faithfulness that is established in the faith walk, we will not be able to stand or endure to the end. After all, it is the active walk of faith that makes us open to the leading of the Spirit, as we are being prepared to truly stand.

Are you faithfully walking by faith, allowing the Lord to prepare you spiritually for the times we live in or you operating from the premise of wishful thinking, that all will ultimately turn out alright? Wishful thinking might keep people in an ignorant state, but it will never change the harsh wind or waves of circumstances or the impact they might have on our lives. Wishful thinking will not only cause you to become shipwrecked in your faith, but it will also produce disillusionment and unbelief towards God.