Robert D. Pace
Abraham is one of Scripture’s greatest men. As the “Father of our Faith” he is known for marching forward and staking claim to a land of promise where God would settle His chosen people—the Jews. He would birth a nation that would eventually give mankind the Scriptures, the Savior, and the path to God. Against all hope, at 100 years-old he and 90 year-old Sara brought forth Isaac. As you study his life you discover Abraham maintained an undeviating pursuit of God. Once Abraham responded to God’s voice to leave his homeland and search for the Promised Land, he never wavered from his course. He was resolute and single-minded in following God. Abraham made God his Chief Partner and obeyed Him from beginning to end. As I begin this message I must tell you that this was pivotal to Conquering the Spirit of Containment.
The “Principle of Partnership” is powerful! It creates trust, loyalty, and unified energy to advance forward. And this is what God wants with His people. He wants us to invite Him into our lives, trust Him, believe Him, and conquer a restricting spirit of containment that would prevent us from claiming Christ’s best. But make no mistake about it, Satan knows these things! That is why he seeks to eradicate this relationship. He works tirelessly to prevent people from walking with God and rising to a higher level.
(Transition) But how does Satan seek to inhibit man’s partnership with God and keep him contained?
Satan’s Strategy to Contain God’s People
A. Broadly speaking, Satan seeks to contain Believers by creating complacency. And simply stated, complacency lacks any desire to move forward.
A good example is found in Joshua’s admonition to Israel at Shiloh in Joshua 18. Let’s read:
Joshua 18:1-3 says: “The whole assembly of the Israelites gathered at Shiloh and set up the Tent of Meeting there. The country was brought under their control, (2) but there were still seven Israelite tribes who had not yet received their inheritance. (3) So Joshua said to the Israelites: “How long before you will begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?”
Here was Israel free from the Egyptians and past their wilderness wandering. By this point, Israel had crossed the Jordan River and, with Joshua’s leadership, had made great conquests of the Promised Land. But seven tribes had grown content and failed to claim their territorial rights. They were ignoring God’s command to claim the Promised Land and sat complacently.
That describes many Christians today. They become content and neglect accessing more of God’s available; even His commanded promises! But this is not God’s method for dispensing His blessings. We can’t expect to possess our possessions once God has spoken and made His instructions clear to us. While God is willing to do His part we must understand that His blessings and promises are activated once we arise, exercise faith, and move forward into His will:
The Bible has made it clear: “faith without works is dead.” It takes faith, persistence, and activity to claim them!
That’s why Ecclesiastes 9:10 exhorts: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”
It’s why Jesus said in John 4:35, “Do you not say, `Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”
It’s why He urged His Apostles in John 9:4, “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.”
That’s why Colossians 3:23 says: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”
That’s why Paul reminded Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God.” (2 Timothy 1:6).
Never succumb to a spiritually complacent and lethargic lifestyle. It will most certainly imprison you with the bars of containment.
(Transition) Open your Bible to Revelation 3 and let’s investigate what the Apostle John says about this.
The Condition of the Laodicean Church
In speaking to the Laodicean Church Revelation 3:14-20 says: “’I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.
Do you see what spiritual complacency does? When the complacent Christian looks in the mirror he/she sees a reflection of beauty. But all God sees is the jaded and faded form of a person unpresentable to God.
And the complacent Christian is the very individual the world celebrates! The world tries its best to strip the Christian of God’s glory and radiance. I wants a Christian “in name only.” The world is delighted to celebrate the self-professing Christian who is inoffensive, indifferent and even apathetic about expressing his/her Faith in the Marketplace. But according to the Bible, the Lord appraises that Christian as “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” and their spiritual inactivity traps them a place of disuse in God’s Kingdom. But Christians don’t have to be that way! Let me draw a contrast from the eagle.
(Illustration) The eagle builds its nest in the tallest trees or loftiest mountain ledges. It employs unusual skill in constructing that nest too. First, the eagle arranges thorns, jagged stones, and other sharp objects as the nest’s infrastructure. It then applies a comfortable covering of wool, feathers, or fur. Eventually, the eagle uses its habitation to birth and feed her children. But the little creatures aren’t destined to remain in that environment. Inevitably the mother will “stir the nest.” She does this by removing the comforter and letting the protrusions pierce her young’s flesh. Until this juncture, the chicks had their food delivered and dropped into their mouths, but once the nest is stirred they become so miserable they willingly search for another habitat. This was the mother’s objective. It wasn’t cruelty, it was to produce discontentment with their life of ease and mature them. (Adapted from Ruby Miller’s writing.)
This illustrates how the Heavenly Father deals with His children. And I’ll guarantee you most here have experienced this. At some point, when life was relatively normal, the Spirit swooped into your comfort zone, raised your “misery index” to an intolerable level, and you had to scramble for any place other than where you were. But that’s what God wanted! He brought the discomfort because He wanted you to stretch your wings and soar!
(Transition) But there’s another strategy Satan employs in his effort to contain God’s people.
B. Satan contains Christians by creating covetousness.
Luke 12:13-21 says this: Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.
Covetousness exists when people hoard their blessings. And this is the antithesis of God’s purpose for blessing people. God “created man in His image” so we could be a rushing river; not a stagnate, stale reservoir! He created us to both receive and disseminate. And when we comprehend this purpose of God it prevents us from the mentality that says: “Lord, all I want is enough for me.”
(Example) When God called Abraham from his homeland in Mesopotamia, Abraham was wealthy. He could have argued, “Lord, life is good and I’m content with my welfare. I am surrounded by family and friends. I’m satisfied with life.” But he didn’t. He accepted God’s offer and God gave Abraham a name of world-renown!
(Transition) Again, you will restrict God’s supply if you operate as a reservoir rather than a river. But there’s yet another strategy Satan employs to contain people.
C. Satan contains Christians by creating a “defeatist attitude.”
You’re familiar with the “defeatist attitude.” It manifests when you hear people say: “God’s promises operate for others, but not me.” Or, “I can’t outwit Satan, he always gets the upper hand.” Or, “I’m not sure if I’ll ever get a break in life.” Now don’t start thinking of someone else that embodies this attitude! Does it describe you?
Sure Satan “roams the world seeking whom he can devour.” But the Good News is, “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.”
Yes, John 16:33 says, “In the world you shall have tribulation,” but the next stanza says, “be of good cheer I have overcome the world.”
Peter said: “Be self controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. [But the next verse says:] (9) “Resist him, standing firm in the faith” (1 Peter 5:8-9). That means, even when Satan barreling toward you in a freight train you can resist him, stop the train on its tracks, and even push it back!
Why are all these things possible? It’s because “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
(Example) I want you to notice how Jesus handled Satan. Do you realize Judas, the Apostolic treasurer, was a crook? He was an out-and-out thief! And Jesus knew Judas was stealing from the treasury the whole time Judas was with the Apostles. Turn to John 12:4. And let’s read: “But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, (5) “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” (6) He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.”
Do you know what Jesus did when Judas confiscated the ministry finances? In some mysterious way, Jesus graciously supplied ‘more than enough’ to meet the Apostles’ travel needs. He never grumbled about Judas dipping into the treasury, He simply trusted His heavenly Father to furnish an overflow. So if Jesus, our Example, believed His Heavenly Father for supplying more than enough, we can too!
We will always need more than ‘just enough’ to pay the mortgage, utilities, insurance, and the necessities because the thief will always plunder our treasury! We will have flat tires, incidental needs, guests to feed, and unexpected expenses. So don’t accept the defeatist attitude; believe God for an overflow!
It doesn’t matter who you are or what measure of faith you possess, everybody needs exercise your faith for something. And in many cases, God wants you to do more than believe Him to merely sustain you through the desert. He wants you to believe Him to part the Jordan River and transport you into the Promised Land. You’ve seen God’s provision of water and manna, and that has increased your faith. But now the Lord has giants for you to conquer, and lands for you to claim. And the grueling ‘process’ of getting you into your Promised Land involves an ever-increasing faith for breaking out of your area of containment. That’s why the Apostle Paul said: “Forgetting the things that are behind, I press toward the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
(Transition) But there’s another way Satan contains people:
D. Satan convinces some Christians they lack skill; thus, without skill, they assume it’s impossible to break free from containment.
Saints of God, skill is wonderful! Proverbs says, “`A man’s gift makes room for him and sets him before great people” (Proverbs 18:16). Skill helps us find our place in life and excel in areas of personal expertise. And everyone here is proficient in some way:
Some people are gifted with intelligence that can plumb the depths of science, psychology, or mathematics. And standing close-by are the teachers that can communicate that knowledge to students.
Some people have muscles, bulging with extraordinary power, which make them stars at Olympic Games.
Still others have the steady hands of a surgeon or artist.
The list is endless: God has blessed people with verbal skills, creativity, benevolence, and so forth.
But as wonderful as skill is, it is limited and often insufficient. That’s why Jesus didn’t say, “You will receive ‘skill’ after the Holy Spirit comes upon you” (Acts 1:8). No! Human skill and proficiency would have never been enough! Jesus said, “You will receive ‘power’ after the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” And the reason Jesus promised power and not skill is because the Holy Spirit’s power is unlimited! Nothing is impossible when the omnipotence of the Spirit arrives. And notice this promise of power that is threaded throughout the Word of God:
Matthew 10:1 says, “He called his twelve apostles to Him and gave them power to dive out evil spirits and heal every disease and sickness.”
Mark 6:7 says: “Calling the twelve to Him, He sent them out two by two and gave them power.”
Luke 10:19 says, “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpent, scorpions and all the authority of the enemy.
Luke 24:49 says, [Go to Jerusalem] “and stay in the city until you have been clothed with power.”
(Transition) Turn Acts 9 and let’s investigate the difference between human skill and power from God. Let’s read:
Peter’s Power at Joppa
Acts 9:36-43 says: Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. 37 In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.”39 So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43 And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner.
What a testimony Dorcas had! She was a beloved woman whose benevolence brought her renown throughout the First Century. But when she fell sick, no medical skill or procedure could restore her.
When it comes to attending an enervated human body I am exceedingly grateful that I live in the 21st Century! Thank God for Physicians, skill, anesthesia, and high-tech medical devices. I want these developments. But despite the progress of this dispensation, skill and proficiency have their limits. And that’s why it is imperative to have “power from on high”!
Imagine how this story of Dorcas’ death played-out: After implementing all life-saving devices, the Physician’s efforts had faltered, and death had triumphed skill. But that’s when Peter entered the room. As Peter stared at distraught faces he said, “Respectfully folks, it’s too late for medicine or resuscitation to intervene. So skill dropped its head and shuffled away. But when man’s skill limped out God’s power leaped in! And when the Apostle touched her brow Dorcas stood up! That’s what “power from on high” accomplishes!
Folks, when life overwhelms you God is still able to triumph. “Nothing is impossible with God.” Stop complaining about your “lot in life” and give God an opportunity to move! “Power from on high” can do anything.
(Transition) With that said, I want to explain how God can give you a breakout and liberate you from a place of containment. And the first point deals with Determination.
Breaking the Spirit of Containment
1. In order to break free from containment you must understand that ‘determination’ conquers containment!
I believe most people are born with an innate anti-claustrophobic, anti-containment nature. We don’t want life to close-in on us or be controlled by people with an overbearing nature. We want to soar with the eagles and live in spacious places. But to access these dimensions it often involves exhibiting an “I-will-not-be-denied” determination. The Lord wants to see firm fortitude, resolve, and tenacity that looks at God in prayer and says: “Lord, I have a problem, but you have the answer. I’m not going anywhere until you assure me of victory.” Like the Syrophoencian woman whose daughter was demonized, you must get so persistent in prayer that God understands you won’t stop petitioning until He descends with an answer.
(Transition) I want you to notice how King Jehoshaphat responded when he went to war against three armies. 2 Chronicles 20 records this event.
(Example) With Israel’s military forces exceedingly outnumbered the outlook was grim. But Jehoshaphat determined there was a way of escape. Notice his resolve in 2 Chronicles 20:3. And I want to read this statement from several versions of Scripture:
(ESV) Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord . . . .”
(KJV) “Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord. . . .”
(AMP) “Then Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself [determinedly, as his vital need] to seek the Lord. . . .”
(NAS) “Jehoshaphat was afraid and turned his attention to seek the Lord. . . .”
(NIV) “Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord. . . .”
Whichever version you read it’s evident that Jehoshaphat turned his unflinching focus on God and God’s power to secure this victory. Notice these expressions once again: Jehoshaphat “turned his attention,” he “set himself,” he “resolved,” and he steadfastly “determined” that God would secure this victory for Israel. And the Lord answered Jehoshaphat’s prayer of determination in remarkable fashion. He sent confusion, mass hysteria, and unbridled panic among the invading troops and they turned their swords against each other!
Folks, the Lord knows how to turn your enemies against themselves. He can strike panic in the hearts of your enemies while you’re sleeping. But it often takes digging in your heels and believing God to the very end!
Have you ‘determined’ to remain steadfast and unmovable until God triumphs over your enemies? The Lord knows how to liberate you from a place of containment!
(Transition) Let’s investigate another way you can overcome a place of containment.
2. Forcefully opposing Satan conquers the spirit of containment.
I want you to recall Joshua’s admonition to those seven Tribes of Israel that became complacent and contained and wouldn’t claim the ‘bigness’ that God offered them. He said to them in Joshua 18:3, “How long before you will begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?”
That is what I hear God asking people today: “How long before you will begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?” Does this describe you? Many people will miss God’s bigness because they won’t arise and contend for His promises. They assume if God has something bigger for them He will dispatch it on their doorstep.
Saints of God, you are freed from a place of containment when you “contend for the Faith”; when you aggressively march forward; when you shake-off your languor and advance toward your promises. And as you aggressively pursue your promises and invite the power of God to enter your life God will do great and awesome things!
(Bible Example) Let’s illustrate it this way: When you read the Old Testament’s account of God promising the Israelites the land of Canaan it came in dramatic fashion. Moses withstood the power of Egypt to liberate Israel from bondage and brought forth plagues, darkness, and the death of firstborn males. He even went forth to split the Red Sea as a passage for Israel’s escape. When Moses died, Joshua parted the Jordan River, stopped the sun, and toppled the Walls of Jericho. The Lord wanted the Israelites assured that Canaan was theirs. He wanted them to know His promises were sure, so He demonstrated it with indisputable signs and wonders. But, even with God’s supernatural display of power, the Israelites couldn’t say to their enemies dwelling in the Promised Land: “Alright Amalakites, Jebusites, Perrizites, Hittites, and all you other “ites,” sign your mortgages over to us and get out of our land.” No, Israel had to advance into Canaan, march around walls, set ambushments, wield the sword, pillage cities, and attack from every angle.
You see, God’s power operates through people that are willing to move forward and fight for their promises. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17). We must “resist the devil” if want him to “flee from us.” You can overcome a “spirit of containment”!
In closing, I want to instruct you with these words: When Satan attacks and life is tough, don’t resign in defeat or take it lying down. Rise up, read the Word, Believe God, exercise faith, and march forward. Get spiritually combative and possess your possessions! That’s the “word” I have for you. Whatever you’re doing for God, intensify it. The enemy of your soul will always attempt to suppress you, so determine to oppose him and employ the power of God to conquer the spirit of containment.