Perception Versus Reality
By Terry Pugh
Do you know what the biggest problem in the world is, preacher?” The question was asked of me by a mechanic working on my car. I was confident that he was going to share the answer with me, so I waited. I doubted that he was going to reveal anything especially. Insightful. “Too many people are so sure of stuff that ain’t so,” he said.
After pondering that thought and observing people, I have come to believe the mechanic is correct. People believing things that are not so, is the cause of conflict in marriages: It is the cause of most wars between nations. It is the reason many people are not saved.
The saints in the Laodicean church were sure that they were rich and increased with goods. They were so sure that they had need of nothing. What they perceived to be true and what was reality were two different things. They were wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. In reality, they made God sick, and He was ready to spew them out of His mouth. (See Revelation 3:14-17.)
It is important to understand that truth and facts are not the strongest influences on our behavior. How we perceive a particular situation determines the way we think, feel, and respond. Reality has little effect on our behavior. Only when we are forced to deal with the consequences of ignoring reality do we alter our thinking and actions.
The actions of the believers in Laodicea were not influenced by the truth of their condition—they behaved according to their perception. Because they were sure that they needed nothing, they were confident in themselves. They did not see their need of God so they did not look to Him for wisdom and guidance.
Jesus told the story of a certain rich man who had reaped an abundant crop. It was so great that he was making plans to build bigger barns. As he observed all he had accumulated, he was sure that he was financially set. He would store enough goods to last many years. What he perceived to be true caused him to say to himself, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke 12:1621). What he perceived to be correct and what was real were two different things. The reality was that he was a fool, and he was going to die that very night.
Humans do not possess the natural ability to determine direction. We do not possess an inner compass. If we take the best outdoorsman into an unfamiliar wilderness blindfolded, he cannot tell which way is north. Even after the blindfold is removed, he is unable to point toward north. In order for him to determine direction, he will first have to observe reference points outside himself. Only after he has checked the position of the sun or the location of moss on the trees, can he determine the correct direction.
We do not possess an inner compass that helps us determine direction in the natural world. Neither do we posses an inner spiritual compass that gives us spiritual guidance. Everyone must find spiritual direction from an outside source. Jeremiah confirmed this when he said, “0 LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).
We face two challenges when we seek to find spiritual direction. First, we do not possess the natural ability to find true spiritual direct. Second, we do have a natural tendency to go the wrong direction. The writer of the Book of Proverbs joined with Jeremiah when he said, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
The reason we cannot find the right direction and are pulled to move in the wrong direction can be found in the Book of Jeremiah. “The heart [mind] is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). We are walking through life with a faulty compass.
Paul spoke of this struggle in his writings to the church in Rome: “I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot- perform it. [I have the intention and urge to do what is right, but no power to carry it out.]’. For I fail to practice the good deeds I desire to do, but the evil deeds that I do not desire to do are what I am [ever] doing” (Romans 7:18-19, Amplified).
Inverse-twenty three of the same chapter; Paul admitted that he was under the pull and
influence of two laws that warred within him. He referred to this struggle when he wrote to the church in Galatia. He said, “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would (Galatians 5:17).
Paul also gave us the secret for overcoming the influence of the flesh when he said, “Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
We all live with the reality of the law of gravity. Everything we do is governed by this law. However, there is another law that can supercede the law of gravity. If we design the wings of a plane correctly and move the plane fast enough, we operate within the law of aerodynamics. As long as we obey the law of aerodynamics we live above the law of gravity. The exact moment that we disobey the law of aerodynamics, the law of gravity immediately takes over.
As long as we live by the law of the Spirit, we soar above the pull of the flesh. Paul said, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” However, the moment we stop walking in the Spirit, the law of the flesh immediately takes hold and pulls us down.
Since our hearts are “deceitful above all things” it is often difficult to determine if we are soaring or grounded. We can be like the Laodecians who were deceived into believing that all was well between them and God. We must continually take reality checks by asking ourselves probing questions and answering them honestly. We must ask ourselves, “How much influence does my flesh have on my decisions and actions?”
If we recognize that our flesh is determining our choices, then we know we are not walking in the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit is the only hope we have of living a life with purpose and direction. Otherwise, we will follow the yearnings of a deceitful heart.
The writer of the Book of Proverbs summed it up with wisdom that, if applied, will save us from a life of misunderstanding, heartache, and conflict: “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” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
From, “Pentecostal Herald”/www.pentecostalherald.com / February 2008, by Terry Pugh
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