Monday, January 21, 2013


Character amidst Chaos

Navigating one's family through the rough seas of modern living is no simple task!  As rough, truly rough, as a storm off of the "Cape of Storms" - can be, it is still nothing like the ten to twenty year-long storm facing parents in raising, educating and caring for their children!

The very thought that today’s families must accept that they have to continually live in and daily experience a life of chaos deeply troubles most people. Our current lifestyle choices, tensions and pressures -- together with the insecurity related to finances, social confusion and violence have brought many families to levels of deep financial and emotional stress.  Of course we all know that chaos and uncertainty have always gone together, but our knowledge of what to expect in itself resolves nothing. 

In fact knowing we must accept uncertainty only adds to our sense of uneasiness. None of us would volunteer to live in a period of anarachy with its’ endemic uncertainty. No one asks for a chaotic set of circumstances. NO ONE WOULD CHOOSE A STORM OVER A GOOD WIND AND CLEAR SAILING! Most anyone would prefer clear direction, stability and order over the stress of uncertainty and confusion.  At least, that’s how we surely imagine we want things to be, and it is how most of us wish things would be. In fact, all of us can picture how life “ought to be” in a “normal” world.

Yet, we must be aware of the danger of having a “smallish” or “provincial” way of thinking or of developing a limited or “short-term” mindset. How we imagine life and how we picture life may be far from reality. Scrounging around for ways to excuse our lack of being proactive toward the problems of our real world simply will not do! Avoiding a commitment to finding real solutions is simply not an acceptable response. The family and church’s only acceptable response (in these times), is a “lightening fast” reaction and spirit of innovative leadership. A practical and applicable Biblical strategy is needed and it alone will work – the world has no reply or answer.

The fact that our world has and is changing at a amazing pace is really not open to argument. The paradox of life is increasing with life itself growing in complexity. Our world is now a totally mobile society. Trying to stop this mobility or resisiting this fact of life will accomplish very little. In its hyperactive state the techno-world is producing change at such a frenzied rate that any response seems outdated. Uncertainty is now the norm and the rising philosophy of Post-modernism[1] only ascerbates the belief that crisis is approaching.  

There is without doubt a type of madness afoot, and further complicating matters is the sense one gets that there is really nothing left that is truly predictable. Most Christians seem troubled by the chaos, confusion and constant change but we must not allow this uncertainty to keep us from NAVIGATING CAREFULLY ... i.e., by“thinking smart” or being truly alert and prepared. In fact, the uncertainty of our current time in history needs to be approached as an exciting - new opportunity.

For genuine Christians - as people of faith - the reality of a “sin-challenged” and constantly fluctuating world are realities that can lead us to greater opportunities for spiritual growth. (2 Cor. 4:7-12) Uncertainty in society is, for us, just another issue of our on-going pilgrimage or journey; an issue that calls for a greater measure of faith. There is far more to Christian living than just setting (and possibly successfully reaching) goals.  Success, i.e. completion with its rewards, is in itself a deceptive concept.  The life of faith is a life of pressing on towards the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus and faith never accepts that it has “arrived.”

The last few generations have been fixed on the ideas of productivity, achievement, efficiency, and – of course- success. We have promoted the idea of “arriving” at a point where we would have finally earned and achieved a deserved rest. For many, the only goal they hold for their five-day workweek is the deserved weekend rest at the beach or the holiday cottage. But rest is at its best the most illusive of dreams and at its worst, for those who’ve determined to achieve it at any cost, it will prove to be the most sick of jokes. The nature of emerging society is its many intangibles but theanswer is nothing less than collective or team involvement, creative responsiveness , and coherent vision. 

The need for a growing desire to view today’s challenges as exciting opportunities is essential. A world full of intangibles demands a detailed and differentiated response. Returning to tried, tested and traditional responses will only bog us down. The instability, unpredictability and frustration call out for new responses of increased innovation, flexibility and attention. Should we make the decision to become proactive in a truly Biblical way toward our modern society’s increasingly chaotic pace, we can expect, among other blessings, hope as a result. Genuine hope in God’s love, leading, guiding and control can remotivates the believer’s focus on others. This focus on others in turn leads us to seize the opportunities God is Providentially placing in front of us. This faith in action is absolutely necessary for the Christian who wants to go forward amidst a society going in every sort of direction.

If we are to do the will of God in these amazing and bewildering times we must consciously, and daily, if not passionately rededicate our lives to see uncertainty as a learning opportunity and not a threat! By using the term, rededicate - I should explain that I am refering to actual performance, not just empty or idle promises. By “dedication” I am refering to personally being extended, consistent, trusting, inspiring, and balanced. Such strengths are the renewing and fruit producing work of the Spirit. Sheer will power is not sufficient for these things.

To face the many intangibles of our post-modern world, sound Biblical principles need our unending attention AND FOCUS. We need to achieve a most extraordinary level of personal, family and local church responsiveness and learning. If we are to encourage spiritual champions instead of spiritual victims we must expand our commitment to learning how to change but to do so without yielding the truths, principles and values God has revealed to us through His Holy Word.

Some good individual and family NAVIGATION essentials should include: Submitting ourselves to the control of the Spirit of God through a thorough study of and obedience to the Word of God. Giving a greater commitment to listening to our family and others so we .can be more innovative in our responses to their needs. Appreciating the value of our family as a uniques and compact team that can quickly adjust and meet today’s fast-paced challenges. Learning how to work with our own family and families and groups within our church as types of “self-managed” and strategic learning partnerships. Allowing the Word of God to direct us, and guide our prayer lives in a more day to day and realistic basis..Viewing attention to others – especially to individuals - as of paramount importance! By weekly planning how our family could serve others more effectively. By giving individual ‘quality time’ for training our family members for greater service to others. By expecting and respecting the need for individuals to take spontaneous initiative in serving others and in witnessing to lost friends. By maintaining a sense of urgency about our Christian home life – yet doing so with a real commitment to maintaining our family’s order and integrity.By constantly improving and enhancing our partnership relationships in our marriage and family (and within our church friendships). By loving God, His Word and others more- this includes the lovely and unlovely, the cooperative and the difficult types as well !

Using Christlike character amidst a chaotic world is not an option but a necessity for those who follow Christ Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. By applying the truths of Christianity in an uncertain society the tension necessary for building God glorifying character traits results. Our lives and acts, together with our thoughts depend on the strengths or grace we call Christian character. The development of this Christlike character is essential for every individual believer, every Christian family and every member serving with others in a local church.

[1] Blackwell, Marc S., Snr., “Dialogue Motivators,” Cape Town, 1999, The Church Ministiries Institute. The central tenants of Post-modernism state that (1.) Nothing is absolutely sure. (2.) Nothing is absolutely wrong or evil. (3.) Every individual’s lifestyle deserves acceptance. (4.) One’s lifestyle choices are personal and should be interpreted on the basis of the individual’s own subjective standards. (5.) The ethical and moral aspects of our lives is simply fatalistically controlled or a matter of pure chance, thus no one must be understood as personally “guilty” or responsible by others. (6.) Our various individual, family and national cultures are ethically and morally neutral. In fact, culture needs to be understood as “free” from any real liability or accountability.