RESPONDING TO OPPORTUNITIES
P. M. Joseph
As the New Year is unfolding itself with all its varied possibilities, potentials and uncertainties, most Christians are vigorously turning a clean page in their commitment to their Lord. Primarily, it is to make life's existence meaningful and its involvements relevant. Undoubtedly, every life deserves such acute attention as the Lord Jesus has high stakes in each of them. Besides, it is a move that augments life's effectiveness and increases its productivity tapping latent potential in individuals. Further, it can be taken as an effort to compensate for the wasted opportunities of the past year, which weigh on minds leaving an agonising pockmark of remorse. In short, sincere attempts are made by many to improve the quality of life and it is definitely a commendable effort. We will identify a few measures that might add quality to life, substantially.
First, we should learn to accept us as we are. One of the greatest predicaments that humankind faces is the crisis of its identity, which refuses to accept life as it is. Basically, it springs from the failure to acknowledge the content and purpose of life as the Creator intended it to be. It triggers an endless chain of struggle in people to feign someone other than what they actually are, concealing their authentic identity. Undoubtedly, this struggle is the mother of all human dilemmas and it compounds his frustration injuring his behaviour and quality permanently. It condemns average life as a mere pursuit of pretense with nothing significant to achieve. Needless to say, it mutilates a man's inherent beauty, gorgeousness and grandeur, which the Creator implanted. In consequence, man becomes an ugly caricature of the original, defeating God's creative ingenuity and expertise. But when we acknowledge our true identity, we defeat this malaise and accept the Creator's purpose physically. The struggle, to be some one other than what we actually are, is universal in nature and Christians are not entirely free from this. The simple suggestion here, at the threshold of the New Year, is to acknowledge our physical identity and spiritual uniqueness as they are, the way we are created so that the designer's intention is fully achieved and well reflected. This can also be an implicit way of acknowledging God's right to design and plan after His own sovereign prerogatives. Alternatively, discovering one's true identity is a breakthrough in perception as it affords a glance of the Creator in action as a master craftsman with His tour de force. It makes submitting to life's individuality a delight and rewarding as well. Despite all its liabilities, it is this triumph of acknowledgement that all should aim at objectively to appreciate their roles. By and large, this appreciation guides man to mirror and reproduce God's attributes and nature, His perfect beauty and character through his deficiencies and imperfections. Here the focus of human attention shifts from himself to God, making Him the nucleus of soul's appeal and pleasure. Further, it is a pledge to become all that the designer intended him to be, making his potential fully operational and useful for revealing God in his historic context. Everything that a man is, his colour, parentage, size, rearing, and ethnic mooring, along with his temperamental swings, now lean toward the above end. Also, this insight helps a man to realise that everything related to him is under the direct purview of God's intense concern and allows him to act in strict compliance. He planned every life the way it is, for reasons best known to Him and it is at its best when appreciated that way with no struggle. On the contrary, all human complexes, both superior and inferior, which plague average men, emerge due to the deficiency of this insight and skewed understanding of one's identity. So, instead of wasting energy to feign someone other than what we are, we should aim to be what we are naturally and exploit our inherent potential to the maximum. Then alone life can be significant as it is intended to be and settle the question of identity permanently. Therefore, let us appreciate our identity unreservedly.
Then, we should fine-tune our attitudes. The fine-tuning of our attitudes is another important measure through which the quality of life can be enhanced. It is needed because inherently human attitude is crude, jagged and improvised currently and far from original. It is now a parody of what it was and not identical with the original. Its objectivity, quality and scope have been changed past any detection. Therefore, it cannot serve God's intended purposes than dent to His repute. Initially, God proposed human attitude to be like a rudder that control a mighty ocean-going vessel and efficiently maneuver it in its course. As a ship has no recourse to any sense of course and direction, except with a rudder in place, and lost in its absence, so is human life without fine-tuned attitudes. A ship is worthless with a dysfunctional rudder, however technically perfect it might be; so defective is human existence, devoid of fine-tuned attitude. On the contrary, even mighty cruise liners are controlled and maneuvered by a trivial looking rudder. Thus attitudes, like a rudder, play a major role in the navigation of human life in its course. Proper application can navigate life towards God's purposes and productivity. Conversely, its indiscreet employment can ruin life. God deposited attitudes in all to help individuals to attain their utmost merit that He has in His mind. Sin that incapacitated this inborn faculty of human attitude with a debilitating blow and it continues to reel under its influence with an aptitude for the negative. However, God seeks to revamp and set straight human attitudes through His Son's advocacy and this is possible only with the inputs of His Spirit. The only human attitude that was ever God-friendly on earth was that of our Lord Jesus Christ and our challenge this year should be to appropriate and emulate Him, His attitude and walk. In this year, let this be our target and thrust, His impeccable and sterling attitude. Apostle Paul challenged the believers of his generation "to have the same attitude as that of the Lord Jesus Christ" as the mandatory divine expectation and it is still valid. In passing, appropriating the sterling attitudes of our Lord Jesus in practical living is the only way to break away from the tyranny of the old attitude and that alone will be interpreted as satisfactory Christian living.
What We Believe
Next, we should know clearly what we believe. God expects His people to be well informed and thoroughly educated in the things of God, particularly in everything they believe. Both the Testaments of the Bible emphasise this sufficiently and promote it. The believers in our generation are not exempted from this desirable expectancy. It simply underlines the need to be conversant in all what a Christian believes in. Their understanding must be absolutely sound and intelligent and Biblically systematic. Further, they must be sufficiently equipped to defend it vigorously from the prevalent unfriendly and hostile assaults (1 Pet. 3: 15). The current intellectual pursuit is to assail Biblical truths as a mark of their cerebral perspicacity and prowess! This suggestion must also be viewed against the prevalent skeptical world, which is academically well resourced to mount an assault on the legitimacy of our faith. Being ill-informed is unfortunately tantamount to conceding the claims of our faith. Under the existing situation, the defense of faith is a necessity, as well as an obligation. Further, the dynamics of ungodliness is so acute presently and its challenge to sabotage Christian faith too powerful for any intelligent mind to ignore except at perils of its existence. Only a well-informed mind can withstand and thwart such potent assaults effectively and safeguard faith for time and future. Incidentally, ignorance in the things of God can no longer be tolerated or taken as bliss, given the above state of affairs. Further, life's quality and its consequence are honestly contingent on the insight one treasures and its productivity proportionate to one's genuine understanding of God and godliness. Therefore, we should meticulously aim the clarity of our faith. There are a few things that we should particularly be conscious of. One, we should know clearly and categorically that the Bible is the only divine revelation and guide available to man. Every other religious book, however appealing and attractive that might appear, is simply a forgery or phony. It can only mislead minds, however promising its contents may be. Therefore, they must be discarded without any qualm. Then, God can only be the One whom the Bible portrays. His attributes and nature are clearly represented therein and they are eternally permanent. The portrayal of God is so compelling that it insists astute godliness as response from the reader. Every other representation of God is counterfeit and godliness deceptive; therefore they must be rejected instantly. Further, man is totally depraved, fallen and sinful as the Bible realistically portrays him as. He is alienated from God through sin and fugitive from godliness. By birth and nature, he is destined for hell fire unless redeemed through the Cross of Christ. Finally, sin is a devastating reality and the cause of all ills on this planet. Every human predicament is deeply indebted to this malevolent factor. The only answer to the predicament of sin is salvation available to a repentant sinner through faith in the Son of God. God will approve only those lives that dare to put their implicit trust in His Son (1 Jn. 5: 12). He who finds the Son finds life and all the rest are damned. These are the basic Biblical truths that every Christian should understand categorically and subscribe to vigorously. Therefore, Let us be clear about our convictions.
Finally, we should have a consistent worldview. One position that makes Christian life unique is its non-conforming worldview. It looks at the world from a totally different angle and finds it as God finds it--infertile and sterile for Godliness to germinate or grow. By virtue of his commitment to Christ, a Christian prefers this non-conformist perspective than the popular. This, in turn, makes him dissimilar to his neighbour. He applies parameters to analyse the existing social troubles and applies only those solutions that God approves. World and its facilities are looked at as God looks at them and not beyond. Further, a Christian understands the term world from the Biblical perspective and does not refer to the visible material one only. The word applies precisely to the unseen godless outlooks and value systems that subtly govern the emotions, intellect and will of man and seal their destiny permanently. So, a Christian stands up against the rampant values system and resists its influence as it discourages integrity, loyalty and transparency. The present value system is just gain-oriented and profit is its motto. Its only concern is material progress and no technique is too low to employ if the above end can be achieved. It disregards ethical, social and spiritual dimensions of behavior with disdain. Such is the philosophy undergirding this value system. A Christian should keep clear of this system lest he should impair his soul. This was the concern and substance of the Lord's Prayer for His people that while they remained in the World, they should not be assimilated into it (Jn. 17). The deduction is, not only their outlooks and values should be different, but more importantly they should conform to His ways ardently. The world lives for the present ignoring the eternal. But a Christian should long for the eternal with a restricted concern for the present. While worldly values keep God neatly out of its purview of thinking and application, a Christian should situate Him at the centre insisting for God's will to be accomplished here just as it is perfect in heaven. The world as a system of values usurps the place of God in human life, but a Christian dislodges the world from his life preferring His will over his. While the world insists that material well being is all that man should target in life, leaving no thought for the spiritual, a Christian disagrees saying 'a man shall not live for bread only and life does not consist of things man possess.' Finally, as the world concludes that life ends in the grave with no eternal consequences, a Christian maintains real life lies beyond the grave. There alone lies his satisfaction and fulfilment. While the world invites to live for the present, with no thought for the eternal, the Christian outlook is vice versa. It is this kind of Christian worldview that Christians need.
May God assist us to employ these simple guidelines to improve the quality of life as a response to the opportunities at our door step.