How Should We Then Live?

           “I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under the heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted (Ecclesiastes 1:12-15).

       I received a call from someone a few days back and the caller wanted to know who I am? My answer about this program and a few other things that we do as workers of the Lord’s kingdom brought about another question from him “But who are you and why is your number on my phone?” I expressed my regret that my number somehow reached his phone memory but later got to thinking about my identity. Who am I beyond what I do and what is my goal for life?

            What comprises individual identity? – God created everything on the earth, the trees and plants to sustain the living creatures; then the living beings – the animals, the birds and every other living thing. And then God brought every beast of the field and every fowl of the air “to Adam to see what he would call them; and whatever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof” (Genesis 2:19). Giving of a name to someone or something is to declare ownership and Adam was thus revealed as the one having authority over all other living beings. Name provides an identity to an individual and then comes the family, the clan, the race, the country and the religion. In addition the professional identity is another aspect of an individual. Thus a son/daughter assumes her individual role and authority according to what God destines for that person.

           King David moved on from one to the other identity all throughout his life – from the shepherd son of Jesse, to victor over Goliath, to anointed king of Israel but hiding from Saul – the reigning king; to king and finally the ancestor of the Savior Messiah. David still humbled himself before God to ask “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” (Psalm 8:4) David understood the authority of the Creator over him and the role that God who ‘knows us before we are formed in the womb of our mothers’, had assigned to him (Jeremiah 1:5).

           Identity of assigned role and personal goal – God declares very clearly that He cares for each person on the earth and “He has a plan for each one” (Jeremiah 29:11). God has set a plan for me and He has already made available all the required resources for fulfillment of that assigned mission. We in our ignorance act in contravention to the plan and the resources are frittered away on our plans – the financial, physical, intellectual, social and spiritual resources. TATA Sons, the industrial giant of India has its mission “To improve the quality of life of communities” and the entire organization functions with this basic principle as a guide. Mr. Rattan Tata, the then Chairman of the company, personally stayed put outside the Taj Hotel during its seize by the terrorists and thereafter personally ensured the well being of everyone who suffered a loss due to injury or death of a loved one.  

         Personal goals help us to formulate strategies for guiding our lives on the required path and our resources are the utilized to fulfill that. Do I have a goal for my life, is it compatible with God’s will and am I moving in that direction? Anyone who has achieved greatness has always relentlessly pursued the assigned goal without getting distracted by worldly matters. Apostle Paul does not prohibit marriage but considers it as a distraction from working for the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 7:32-33). The Apostles and then the missionaries left the comforts and security of their homes and nations to venture out into unknown territories at grave risk to life and suffered persecution and death. William Carey came to India to take the Gospel to the people of this country and for this created the grammar for the local languages, translated the Scripture to make it available and changed lives. My father-in-law joined the ‘First Baptist Church’ Mokokchung, in Nagaland as a Founder Pastor and travelled far and wide on foot to save souls. At 50 years of age, on realizing his physical inability to travel long distances on foot, for want of any other mode of travel, he resigned from his appointment to continue to assist the next person, younger in age. Personal goal was not allowed by him to cause any adverse impact on the required goal of reaching out to others.

            Do I have an identifiable mission or goal for my life? Does it include my family members – including their personal goals and expectations? I joined the army at a very young age and my professional life overshadowed my personal life even so when my father desired to have a trench coat that I had, I refused on a petty pretext. I failed my parents, my wife by being away most of the times that she needed me, failed my children by never being there to guide them or just enjoy their growing up. Everyone has genuine expectations but do we balance those or get so focused on our own goal to let them down. 

            Accountability and balance – God desires accountability in everyone’s life to maintain balance in various spheres. Adam was given all authority over everything in the Garden of Eden to ‘tend to it’ yet God was there every day to take account and help him attain a balance. This balance gets disturbed when the power of flesh over spirit and vice versa is changed due to sin; flesh causing laziness, overpowering of desires/lusts over holiness and entertainment over time spent in prayer and worship. Each believer has a unique identity as a child of God and anything that pulls us away from that relationship is unbalancing the equation.

           Samson was blessed by God with immense physical strength (Judges 13:24) – a lion roared at him and he tore it apart Judges 14:5-6); and he killed 1,000 enemy soldiers using a donkey’s jawbone as a weapon (Judges 15:15). But he lost all power through sin with Delilah and finally died with 3000 others celebrating his ruin, by pulling down the roof of the building. In like manner King David sinned with Bathsheba, forcing God to punish him and this relationship changed the history of Israel. David loved God to be called as ‘Man of God’s heart’, donated 5000 talents of Gold and 10,000 talents of silver and much else for construction of the temple yet failed to have a balance in life.

           Solomon, the wisest man on earth, built innumerable things, impressed others with his knowledge, yet brought his nation to a state of bankruptcy and revolt. His son, Rehoboam, received no teaching from him and became a spoilt child king, disregarding the advice of the elders and caused the split of Israel in to two kingdoms. Jeroboam, an untamed man caused not only the physical  split of the nation but also spiritual isolation by turning his people away from God with disastrous consequences. Their responsibility to God, their families, nation and to themselves was compromised due to this imbalance. The journey of our life requires that we do not sink into sin, do not move on a collision course with others and most importantly to understand and follow the reason of our being here.

          Principles for a balanced life – The world today is fast changing and a ‘New normal’ gets established continuously. To criticize others as being the reason for our non performance, changing moral values – where women are asked to proclaim their abortion as a great achievement rather than sin are par course. But does everything and everyone has a price? A man was asked to share his wife for a night by a billionaire for payment of a million plus as compensation – the fact that the offer was made went unnoticed and the debate was on the choice itself and the options for the couple. Life in such circumstances requires certain basic principles for all, irrespective of their faith and belief.

         First, Avoid all distractions from your goal/mission – Saul was a tall and handsome man who went looking for the lost donkeys for his father but was anointed as king of Israel. He was destined to be king but on seeing his waning popularity, did not wait for the High Priest, Prophet Samuel, and offered sacrifices on the altar in clear violation of rules of God’s worship. This led to his rejection by God and selection of David as king in his place (1 Samuel 13:8-14). Saul was assigned the mission to rule over Israel but tried to become a priest instead and lost everything. 

         Second, Honor sacred rights of others – Man is a social animal and each of us is a part of the whole. God did not create us to be isolated from everything else and a woman is part of a man to complement him and both make each other complete in their individuality and togetherness. The family in each other, in society and finally in the world becomes a part of God’s plan for the whole universe where each has his/her own part with individual responsibility and rights. Parents have a responsibility towards their children and so do the children towards their parents. Parents abandoning their children especially young girls at railway stations and other crowded places has become as common as undergoing an abortion, compromising the rights of children, born or yet unborn.       

           Elderly parents being thrown out of their own homes by their children causing untold misery is equally common. Every parent faces this question in his/her life to continue in a job to provide better facilities to their children or give up on extra responsibilities at the cost of future growth. I carried on in the Army service, posted to various locations away from family and as a result compromised their future growth over my professional growth.

        David as anointed king is made to suffer by hiding in caves away from his home and feels homesick longing for water from the well of his home in Bethlehem. Three of his warriors risk their lives to enter the Philistines’ garrison to fulfill his wish but David refuses to drink the water and pours it unto the Lord, on the ground (2 Samuel 23:14-17).  On the other hand the same King David, blinded by lust, not only sins with Bathsheba, Uria’s wife, but causes the death of the husband.

             God has not only commanded us to love and worship Him with all that we have but He also earnestly desires that we shower the same love on others (our neighbors) also. The rights of our colleagues, women, children and even animals are equally important and we cannot infringe on the rights of anyone to achieve our goal. We have a command from the Lord Jesus to “make disciples of all nations” but God has given them a free will to accept or reject the offer of salvation. Lord Jesus’ emphasized on this basic principle “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1), where the actual command is condemn not anyone for their color, creed or sex but love everyone for what they are. Mistreatment of anyone causes more damage to our own self than others through feelings of guilt, sin and resentment of others leaving aside the wrath of God. 

          Thirdly, maintain balance in life – Scripture does not command us to become heretics and live the life of monks. Lord Jesus fulfilled His worldly responsibility for His mother by placing her under the care of His ‘most loved disciple’ Apostle John. Before starting His ministry He was with His parents performing all responsibilities of being the elder son “and was subject to them” (Luke 2:51). Apostle Paul even specifies the rules for fasting and forbids both husband and wife to not use this as an excuse to deny conjugal rights to each other (1 Corinthians 7:5).

          Solomon “kept nothing from myself and did whatever my eyes desired, I withheld not my heart from any joy, for my heart rejoiced in all my labor” (Ecclesiastes 2:10). But the same King learnt the hard way to preach “Have you found honey? Eat only as much as you need, lest you be filled with it and vomit” (Proverbs 25:16). Not only in eating but in every sphere of life God desires balance from us thus on the one side He commands total commitment and love for Himself but also commands us to love our neighbor equally well.

          What should be our goal? – Apostle Peter provides the key in his Second Epistle “to them that have obtained like precious faith with us” and he reminds all of us that God in His Divine power has given to us “all things that pertain to life and godliness”. Nothing has been left out and these things are available to us through our Savior and Lord to make us eligible to be transformed into Divine nature. Apostle Peter then exhorts all believers to add virtue to their faith, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self control, to self control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to this add brotherly kindness and to all this add love. Apostle Peter then issues a warning “If you do these things, an entrance will be provided to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:2-11). Scripture has revealed all along the ages one single fact “God is love” and He holds this as an important part of life of everyone and to love your neighbors is the important command in addition to loving God.

         God has set a definite goal for each of us who are privileged to be called children of God, to be conformed into His Son’s image (Romans 8:29) but this we can never achieve on our own. It is with His grace available to all, though undeserving, that we may achieve this. Man is but “a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).  Solomon received knowledge and wisdom from God but then put God out of his life to end up saying “It is all vanity and chasing after the wind”.  Finally he realized his inability to achieve anything to conclude “Fear God, and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

          Lord Jesus cursed the fig tree for not bearing fruit while having an abundance of leaves, which is a sign of fruit bearing (Mark 11:12-14). The Savior does not want to see a façade being created but He searches the hearts and minds of all. We cannot lead a life wearing a mask of faithfulness to God for He is All Knowing and nothing is hidden from Him.

            Lord Jesus directed Ananias to go and bless Saul, who was blinded by the revealed glory of the Light of the World. On his hesitation to go, the Lord finally revealed the mission assigned to Saul, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:15-16). We come to the Lord seeking relief from our worldly worries, disease and financial troubles, have we ever considered that after getting yoked together with Him, He takes on our burden to enable us to share someone else’s.   

            Man’s goal should be to prepare for eternity for every work of his will finally be judged by the Lord. Is this really what we are working for?

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