Contend

I was listening to a sermon, and the preacher said: ”revelation is not what you know, but what has become a reality in your life”.  He was challenging his congregation to realise that it’s not sufficient to know what God says. We must also be able to demonstrate the reality of His word with our lives. This assertion is uncomfortable for some, including me, because it highlights something often missing in our Christian experience: consistent, reproducible results. We can sometimes quote Bible passages with accuracy and provide the etymology of the Greek and Hebrew words used, but we can seldom point to a demonstration of those truths in our lives. For me, this suggests we’re missing something. How can we be Jesus’s witnesses when the truths we profess aren’t evident in our lives [Acts 1:8]?

Take, for instance, the verses in Psalm 91 about trampling on snakes [v13] which Jesus echoes as He commissions those who believe in His name [Mark 16:18]. Both passages state that believers need not fear serpents. In one, Jesus categorically says neither snakes nor deadly poison will harm those who believe in His name. Did Jesus mean it literally, etc.? I’m sure there are different schools of thought. However, we know that a viper bit Paul in Malta. But as the natives looked on, expecting him to drop dead, he just shook the snake off his hand and went on as though nothing had happened [Acts 28:3-6]. So, whatever arguments we may have about what these two verses mean, there’s evidence that at least one person made this a reality in his life.

Apparently, I and about a third of the population have a fear of snakes. So, what is it that makes Paul different from me? We both know what God’s word says about ophidiophobia, but his reality is different from mine. (We can also extrapolate this idea to the aspects of life where we find a disconnect between our reality and God’s word). As I pondered this, I was drawn to Elihu’s words in Job: “…there is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding” [Job 32:8]. I believe this breath is the difference between cerebral understanding and spiritual understanding. The latter opens the eyes of our spirit to see what God is saying with clarity and believe it with conviction. This is revelation, and it should drive our choices and actions. If so, how much of Scripture do we understand deep down in our spirits instead of just intellectually? Could the difference in our spiritual understanding be responsible for the chasm between my results and Paul’s?

God’s integrity backs His word [Isaiah 55:10-11] and guarantees a predictable outcome when His word is acted upon with revelation. Hence, faith comes by hearing God’s word [Romans 10:17]. Although God’s power produces the results, we still have a part to play. To start with, we must know something before we can understand it spiritually or intellectually. Consequently, in God’s kingdom, knowledge is a prerequisite to understanding and revelation and both, are prerequisites to wisdom. This wisdom is found on the lips of a person with understanding [Proverbs 10:13,23]. It confounds those who consider themselves to be wise [Isaiah 29:14]. It, therefore, makes sense to me that we must first fear (reverence) God before we can possess real wisdom, and what we discern of God’s purposes becomes the extent of our understanding [Proverb 9:10]. Consequently, we’re instructed to acquire this wisdom because it’s fundamental to life [Proverbs 4:7] and foundational for every other pursuit [Proverbs 24:3-4].

Something is becoming clear to me: it’s dangerous to make decisions without this wisdom. However, I’ve found that while many of us agree on the necessity of making wise decisions, few of us value or insist upon making decisions predicated on the wisdom found in God’s word. I found it difficult to accept this at first. But when I observe my life, I’m compelled to ask questions like “how much of God’s word do I know as it relates to the different areas of my life such as relationships, finances, prayer, fasting, business, etc.?” “What are the precise results God wants my life to showcase in these areas to bring Him glory?” “How much of what Scripture says in these areas of life do I understand in my spirit?” “In areas where I have results, can I mentor others to achieve the same results?” “Would a non-Christian observing my life ask about my results because they’re uncommon?” “Am I shadowboxing, or are my decisions and actions informed by revelation?” [1 Corinthians 9:26].

Centuries ago, God lamenting the choices of His people said: “My people perish because they lack knowledge” [Hosea 4:6]. This observation remains accurate today. So, when confronted with jarring statements and questions that probe the lack of consistent results in my Christian experience, I’m faced with a choice. Do I admit that something I don’t know or understand could be responsible for where I find myself, or do I ignore it or make excuses when my life isn’t showcasing the signs Jesus said it would? Do I compare my Christian experience to others around me with similar results and conclude that there’s no cause for concern [2 Corinthians 10:12]?

Unsurprisingly, God wants much more for us. He wants us to be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding [Colossians 1:9-10]. He wants everything He has declared over us to become our reality. Nevertheless,  we must contend for that reality in prayer [Ephesians 1:17-19, James 1:5] and study [2 Timothy 2:15], believing that the breath of God will grant us understanding and revelation so that we may walk circumspectly [Ephesians 5:15-17], and produce results [John 15:8,16]. Are you prepared to contend?

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