CONFRONTING THE UNKNOWN
P. M. Joseph
A fresh year with all its varied opportunities have emerged, challenging the sensible among the sons of men to take stock of their lives before capitalising on them or plunging into the unknown. Largely, it is to avoid the errors committed in the bygone year by reckless living and free their conscience from further pockmarks. However, there is a minority who does it due to a sense of accountability and reverence for God, the author and architect of life. Here are a few things to do as we are presently confronting the unknown.
1. Let us not overlook our past. Naturally, most of us are relieved with the arrival of a New Year as our past can be buried and continue on with a clean slate. The past has had its share of umpteen unpleasant occurrences, which frequently stoke harsh and painful memories in most minds. Therefore, many prefer the past to be past and comfortably overlook its events. Logically, that is appropriate, as our past, when allowed to remain alive and active in our present, can stall our spiritual progress, tone down our commitment to Christ and bar us from following Christ with quality devotion and passion (Phil.3: 13). So, no sensible person allows the past to trespass into his present and spoil its prospects. However, there is another sense in which the past must not be forgotten or disregarded. The spiritually agile can identify and appropriate the past as a dynamic guide to navigate life through rocky terrains and treacherous waters, with the intent of avoiding casualties. Here are a few things that we cannot afford to forget.
We should not forget that we were slaves once (Deut. 5:15). The context of this verse is the last leg of Exodus. Immediately prior to entering Canaan, Moses was inviting the Israelites, who were years away from Egypt, not to forget their bondage-deliverance experience, but recall it frequently and vigorously. He reminded them that they were slaves there and were at the mercy of the locals. However, the Lord their God delivered them. He did it as an act of His sovereign Grace and its display. They did not merit it in any way. The experience of deliverance, as is the case with many, was active and alive in their minds for a while; but as time elapsed, their memories grew fainter and naturally, it mitigated their regard towards this great event and its sole author. Consequently, their loyalties diminished and suffered dent. The vigour and wholesomeness of any loyalty is inseparably laced to active remembrance and rigorous recollection (of the past). Presently, the Israelites were barely weeks from entering the Promised Land and the foci of their concentration were merely occupying the land. So, the land meant more to them than its Giver and once in there, they would have entirely ignored their deliverance and the deliverer altogether. Moses, having been with them for forty years, knew their mindset and thought-pattern intimately. According to Moses’ reasoning, the act of remembering could have been an acknowledgement of God’s sovereign mission in their midst, a tribute to it and an oath of allegiance, to remain faithful to Him. The opposite could have invited disastrous fallouts and it continues to be thus, even today. With their failure, in fact, their peculiarity and uniqueness as God’s children would diminish; their identity and uniqueness be lost. This was the aggregate of Moses’ logic. Knowing this closely, Moses made this passionate call of not forgetting their past, but keeping it glowing in their minds. In the New Testament dispensation, a similar recollection is expected from Christians. They are also the subjects of similar bondage-deliverance reality, far more severe than the Egyptian bondage. It is neither physical nor political, but spiritual. The fact that it is spiritual in nature makes it all the more momentous. Clearly, the reference is to Sin that subdues people, masters their minds and settles their destiny for eternity. It is from this spiritual state of dreadful bondage and thraldom that Christians are delivered with faith in Christ Jesus as Saviour. Christians are expected to give all credit and tribute to Christ for this experience, live reflecting this in daily living (Gal. 5: 1, Col.1: 13, Heb.2: 15). This, in turn, will fill them with indescribable gratefulness and premium loyalty to live life down to earth.
Then, let us not forget the quarry from which we are hewn (Isa. 51:1). This simple expression is a call to review a Christian’s cultural mooring with the intent of keeping track of his spiritual whereabouts and growth. Very often, in his demanding attempts to achieve and accomplish in life, these are conveniently forgotten. Each individual Christian should always be honest to look back to the ‘quarry’ from which he is cut and then, polished. No polished stone is where it is without a quarry or men who worked on it. This reminds, rather rudely, that it was a crude piece of rock almost worthless once, but now it is polished and priceless, thanks to the labour of many. This is an invaluable spiritual truth that invites to pay tribute to people on our way. En route to our present, many have played their part and contributed in every way so that our present is consequential, rich and significant. No one can have a present without this past and recalling the past can be a sobering agent to remain modest and unassuming.
Apostle Paul candidly reminded the Corinthians that not many among them were noble or rich to be acceptable before God. It reminded them that it was sheer grace that beckoned them to Christ and the ministry Many like Paul gave them their current spiritual rank and foothold. A quick glimpse into the ethnic quagmire and promiscuous culture, they once belonged to were sufficient to fill them with quality humility. Looking back at the quarry can produce the same spiritual impact and make a quick admittance like Paul that ‘we are what we are by His grace alone’. It can also produce genuine appreciation for the ministry inputs received from various people and be obliged to them in some ways. Ultimately, it will help us to be immensely appreciative of God’s unmerited favour to us-ward and live unpretentiously. This attempt can also be an open tribute to His Grace that came seeking and His faithfulness that keeps a Christian going day in and day out.
Next, we should not forget the way we walked (Deut. 8:2). This is another quick reminder to mull over the course of one’s walk. As obvious, Christian life is a live testimony to the Lord’s dealings and a commentary to His involvements with us. Each and every incident in life is an active indicator to this end. We should always live with this in sight. It will help us appreciate life and its content without criticism and ill will. We will conclude this section with a profound quote from historian Santayana who said, “He who forgets history (past) is condemned to repeat it.”
2. Let us hold fast our confession. As part of confronting the unknown, this is the next thing that we should be doing. The word confession, in this context, refers to the system of faith we Christians profess. As followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have been endowed with a unique system of faith. Its uniqueness springs from the simple fact that its content and object are the historic person of Christ and His teachings. As a pont of fact, Christian faith, destitute of Him is an apparent sham and life without Him is, as William Shakespeare said ‘a tale… full of sound and fury signifying nothing.’ But with Him around, life is meaningful and highly significant. As a point of reminder, He is central not only to this faith, but also to the whole of creation. Human history is, in fact, His story. History is incoherent without Him at its centre. It was attested by none other than renowned historian Wells who said, “ I am not a Christian, but a historian. As a historian, I must honestly admit that, that penniless creature from Galilee is irresistibly the centre of all history.” Further, there is none like Him in all of human history, past or present, who is absolutely unique. His life is impeccable, His teachings peerless and His influence non-pareil. It is history that His teachings have transformed civilisations after civilisations and revolutionised individual lives down the aisles of time. Societies in tandem were transformed in the past with the appropriation of His teachings and patterning life after His. Even now, the transformation that He produces is on in countless lives, and history corroborates it unequivocally. More, the work that He accomplished through death remains the only means for salvation and He endues every saved one with His presence, as he trusts Him. He remains unchangeable yesterday, today and tomorrow by being faithful to those who own Him. Further, they are eternally secure in the hollow of His hands and He will return in the near future to gather His people. It is this unique person who a Christian finds as the object of his faith. There is nothing more worthy than holding on to such a distinct faith, though it is hard at times. The simple invitation, here, is to cling to Him passionately through thick and thin and the faith He affords.
3. Let us maintain high quality commitment. With the unknown in the offing, the next invitation is to maintain quality commitment and sustain its momentum, in opposition to the ubiquitous shallow one. Christians of the early centuries were recognised for their quality commitment to their Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, He was dearer to most of them than their own very lives (Rev.12: 11), a truth confirmed categorically in history by the innumerable deaths as martyrs. An irrefutable passion for Christ and His teachings was manifest in their approach to life and its involvements. Their top-notch devotion to Christ distinguished them from the religious around and expounded their values of life. One remarkable characteristic of this commitment was that it did not expect anything in return for its loyalty. Life was a glad abandon for Him. Commitment, in Christian perception, is the willingness to place the Lord Jesus and His claims above everything in life and this keenness helps one go the extra mile in obeying Him. It is also a peculiar state of mental preparedness in which He alone matters and everything else, whether life or death, affluence and penury, is immaterial. Apostle Paul displayed such a sterling quality throughout his life and it found expression in his farewell address at Miletus (Acts 20:24). Let us maintain and demonstrate such top quality commitment in all our involvements. Anything below that is an open affront to Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
Finally, Let us wait eagerly for the Lord’s return. As the year advances, it is time to remind ourselves that we are drawing closer to the Lord’s return and the end of our pilgrimage. This proposition, in a normal situation, should excite a believer and vex an unbeliever. But weird as it seems, the prospect simply fails to enthuse most believers adequately and the impact almost identical in both. Is it because they feel comfortable here, with Him away or uneasy with His coming? Whatever may be the answer, lethargy is manifest across all spectrums. At one time, the Lord’s return was the Church’s prime prospect and mainstay. Amidst her historic pangs, She held on to this expectation passionately and weathered all odds knowing that her Lord is on His way back. Positively, this prospect had, in the past, spurred the Church in her mission to swamp the world with His Word and win it for Him. Moreover, this proposition inspired individual believers to live creative and dynamic lives. In short, Christians imbued with this hope were effervescent as well. However, presently there is an aberrant wane in the quality and mood of that expectancy though the anticipation is not altogether missing. The keenness to see the Master back is utterly lackadaisical; what was an acute anticipation is, now, a weak whimper. This apathy is palpable in her way of life and tragically, reflected in her failure to influence her environs positively. Consequently, the church in a locality has degenerated into a mere hub of worship, and not a locale where the warmth and corrective presence of the risen Christ is experienced tangibly. Formerly, the Church, while anticipating the Lord’s coming, detaching herself from the world, stayed intensely consecrated to Him and for His exclusive use. But the reverse is obvious from her present attachments, which does not speak well of her, but betrays her proverbial allegiance. Now, as we daily confront the unknown, the Lord expects that we be committed to Him and His coming acutely, reflecting it perceptibly in all frontiers of our lives and contacts, both collectively and individually. May God help us.