A LIFE OF QUALITY
We continue to focus on what we can do to ensure that we stand in the last days. A major area we need to look into is to build a life of quality. There may be some overlapping truths with the areas of character and commitment; however, a life of quality is something so important that it should be looked at on its own. In this respect, we would be considering some significant aspects that reflect a life of quality.
The first aspect we can ponder upon is an adequate and wholesome knowledge of God and the truths in Christian living. For the child of God, without this adequate and wholesome knowledge, there can be no life of quality. Spiritual life would be superficial and with worldly influences and pressures present in abundance, the child of God would certainly be tossed to and fro in his faith and understanding. He would then be easily led astray by false teachings and wrong emphasis. In addition, it becomes very much easier for the child of God to pursue “beliefs” coloured by deception and distortion.
Once, I was involved in conducting a test for advanced first-aiders. And in the test, I realised how important it is, even in the area of knowledge of first-aid, for the student to have adequate and wholesome knowledge. Otherwise, the first-aider may become a stumbling block and even a danger to the injured instead of being a help. I asked a few candidates what they understood by the term “shock.” I was alarmed by the answers. The term “shock” here refers to a condition where there has been excessive loss of blood and the body becomes cold and clammy with fast but feeble heart beat. Such a condition is an emergency and the injured requires urgent blood transfusion and fluid replacement. It is significant therefore for the first-aider to know this condition and to recognise it in an injured person in order to be able to help save his life. You can imagine how taken aback I was when a few candidates told me that “shock” is a condition when they receive bad news or alarming news, like failing an examination. Of course, this meaning is what is generally used in the English language but it certainly does not refer to the circulatory shock that a first-aider must know and recognise. Some candidates were able to answer the question reasonably. For those who could not, they were obviously lacking in adequate knowledge of first aid. Even for those who could answer the question, quite a few demonstrated that they did not grasp the subject wholesomely. When I asked the question, “Is it possible for a person to be in shock even though there is no visible blood loss?” Several answered “no.” However, in reality, a person can be in shock because of internal blood loss as in the case of a massive fracture of a large bone, or rupture of an internal organ. In such cases, externally, there may be no blood loss seen, but the person may be very ill or in shock. Even in the secular realm, adequate and wholesome knowledge is important; how much more in the spiritual realm and in our spiritual lives? Inadequate and unwholesome knowledge certainly pose a threat to the lives of God’s people. This is one aspect we cannot afford to ignore.
The Corinthian Christians were endowed with many spiritual gifts. Not a few of them felt that they were wise and knowledgeable to a point that the apostle Paul rebuked them for their arrogance and boasting. In the epistles to the Corinthians, Paul demonstrated to them how inadequate and unwholesome they were in their knowledge as well as in their spiritual state. This unwholesomeness had resulted in the Corinthians being carnal, boastful, arrogant and quarrelsome, and they themselves were led astray by false prophets and teachers who exploited them in their inadequate state.
The Galatian Christians formed another group which displayed this trait of unwholesomeness in their knowledge and understanding of the gospel in particular. As such, although they started well in their Christian life, they were deceived into following another gospel by those who seemed so authoritative and impressive. The apostle Paul had to rebuke them sternly for their wrong direction and emphasis in their lives. Here we see clearly how essential it is for God’s people to have adequate and wholesome knowledge of God and the spiritual truths in order for them to be kept unblemished and unstained, particularly in the face of spiritual pressures of various kinds. The Scriptures refer to the example of the people of God in Berea who were noble-minded, for they received the word of God with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see for themselves whether what they heard were so (see Acts 17:11). For ourselves, we need to take heed of this example and discipline ourselves, with the Lord’s enabling, to study the Scriptures and to be men and women approved by God, handling accurately the word of truth. A life of quality would invariably imply a life where there is adequate and wholesome knowledge of who and what we believe in. Do we have this to see us through?
Another aspect of a life of quality is a high level and degree of vigilance in our lives. This is particularly needful in the face of the various schemes that can be employed by the evil one. A life of vigilance does not mean a life lived in constant fear and anxiety, wondering when and where the enemy would strike. On the contrary, vigilance can go hand in glove with confidence in the Lord and with the peace of heart and mind that is the privilege of every true child of God. We know that Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light, and many false apostles and deceitful workers disguise themselves as servants of God. In view of this, we see how very important it is for God’s people to be alert in their spiritual lives.
I recall a story in the second world war when the German army sent in some German officers disguised as British officers to penetrate the allies and to seek vital intelligence reports which may affect the outcome of the war. These German officers were highly trained to speak and to behave like British officers. So it would be difficult to discover their disguise. In one such story, a British officer suspected one officer to be a German spy. However, he found it very difficult to uncover his disguise. He finally had an idea. He decided to catch this officer off-guard by suddenly switching from the English language to the German language. This German officer was caught in the trap, for he spontaneously responded in German and was apprehended. It was recorded that quite a few German officers were successful in posing as British officers and gaining vital intelligence information for their forces. We see here how in physical warfare, deception and disguises by the enemy, when undetected, can cause so much havoc and damage. Let us be fully conscious that the dangers are as real and even greater in spiritual warfare. Let us not be caught unprepared and thereby suffer spiritual setbacks unnecessarily.
In practice, vigilance does not mean that we become suspicious of everyone and everything and start questioning every issue. It does mean, however, that we need to be careful in evaluating situations and decisions prayerfully. We should not react to situations hastily and in a manner that is typical of the people of the world. We should be careful of not speaking impulsively and saying things that may damage the kingdom of God and His people because we are personally hurt or misunderstood. It is important that we do not accept ideas and concepts which have not been clearly examined in the light of the Scriptures and godly principles. Sometimes, the exercise of vigilance may require the use of spiritual common sense. We are aware how some individuals have been tricked by confidence tricksters who managed to swindle their victims of large sums of money. In many of these cases, the situations could have been prevented by taking simple measures to countercheck the various points presented by the tricksters. These would amount to common sense in some instances; nevertheless, this may be lacking when they are panicky and lose control of the situation. In other instances, the same people involved would have chosen the wiser options.
As regards spiritual common sense, the children of God should not, for example, conclude that whenever there is something spectacular or supernatural, then it is necessarily the work of God. The Scriptures clearly reveal that the evil one is capable of performing feats that are supernatural. Similarly, a person who can impress with his speech, appearance and charisma need not necessarily be sincere in promoting the kingdom of God. There ought to be vigilance in examining what he has to say in the light of known scriptural principles. Nonetheless, many Christians would be easily carried away by such individuals or be impressed by works of miracles. This is a reflection of a lack of spiritual common sense and vigilance.
Another aspect of a life of spiritual quality is a genuine and true spirit of discipleship. Too often, many of God’s children do not realise the implications of being true disciples of the Lord and when pressures, perplexities and difficulties come along, many withdraw from following the Lord. We see such an incident recorded in John 6:59-67. Here, many withdrew from following the Lord and the reason highlighted by the Lord Jesus in verse 64 is the problem of unbelief. Earlier on, many of the disciples grumbled at the difficult statement made by the Lord. They were perplexed; they could not understand what the Lord was trying to communicate, and in their own frame of values and understanding, the statement made by the Lord was unacceptable. Perhaps, they were wondering how it is possible for one to eat the flesh of the Lord and to drink His blood. This did not make sense to them. So they doubted the Lord and withdrew from Him.
When we are faced with perplexing situations, when we need to understand why certain events occur and somehow we cannot receive satisfactory answers, how do we respond? We know that there are many spiritual truths and principles which are hard to understand. In this world, we should be aware that there are many questions which might remain unanswered or partially answered. Should we then begin to doubt the Lord and to abandon the path of discipleship, just like those who withdrew in John chapter 6? Can God count upon us as true disciples who have counted the cost and are committed to pursuing the course the Lord has assigned to us? Or are we easily shaken and is our discipleship so superficial that we easily crumble in our faith? The evil one can readily capitalise on the lack of quality of discipleship in our lives. It is so very easy for him to sow seeds of doubt and discord.
It is significant to note that the Lord Jesus did not compromise on the standard of discipleship for His followers (see Luke 9:23-26). To deny oneself and to take up one’s cross daily is part and parcel of true discipleship. These may be painful to some. Many find it hard to say “no” to self and “yes” to God. Many shrink back from carrying their own cross. In fact, they will have nothing to do with suffering or pain, even if these are for the sake of the Lord. They would not mind the more pleasant aspects of following the Lord but they fail to recognise that the disciple must be prepared to walk the narrow path and to experience “Calvary” in their lives.
Luke 9:62 states very clearly and soberly what it means to follow the Lord. However, it is not uncommon for many to look back or even to turn back. The Lord might be asking us this same question, “Would you also go away?”
For some, an area that is difficult to give up is the area of human relationship. It might be a family member or a loved one. When it comes to the issue of loyalty to the Lord and acknowledging the Lord first before everything else, quite a few may find it hard to respond as true disciples (see Matthew 10:34-37). It is relevant to take note of what the Lord brought out in this passage:- “For I came to set a man against his father and a daughter against her mother and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.” This will be especially true in the context of the last days. Although the Lord is a God of love and He has come to bring peace on earth and salvation, yet here He clearly stated that for those who follow Him and seek to love Him above all else, situations of conflicts may occur in family relationships.
After exhorting the Ephesian believers to be strong and to put on the full armour of God, Paul came to verse 18 of chapter 6 where prayer was singled out as a very important aspect in the battle against the evil forces. Paul wrote, “With all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18). Here we see beyond any doubt the importance and significance of prayer in our war against the negative spiritual forces. Certainly, the quality of our prayer life is one area that contributes to a life of quality in our walk with God. When we refer to how we can stand in the last days, prayer and the quality of our prayer life must feature prominently. This is especially so as we recognise that much of the pressure and persecution in the last days are engineered and orchestrated by the evil one and his allies. We cannot hope to effectively counter his attacks and manipulations if we forget that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the powers and world forces of this darkness and the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. We need to learn to pray, and we need to pray at all times in the Spirit. It is not just time set aside for prayer – it is in fact a posture and an attitude of prayer – praying at all times, manifesting a prayerful spirit as we serve the Lord and as we encounter various events and situations in life. It is continually being prayerful in big things and small things, in daily events and in major decisions and by prayer, to move God to demonstrate His power and His sovereignty to the glory of His name.
E. M. Bounds in his book, “Power Through Prayer”, made a statement which we will do well to pay heed to. He said, “What the church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organisations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Spirit can use – men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Spirit does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men – men of prayer.”
As we approach the last days, we would see more and more organisations, more and newer methods, all mainly through the efforts of men who seek to contribute to the kingdom of God. Let us however not forget that we need to serve God in God’s ways and by His enabling. And prayer features prominently in this respect.
We have considered one major area that can help us to stand in the last days. We need to cultivate a spiritual life of quality. We saw aspects of such a life – adequate and wholesome knowledge of God and the truths, vigilance, a true spirit of discipleship and a quality prayer life. A life of quality would ensure that we have the capacity to withstand the onslaught of the increasing pressures and negative influences in the last days. However, let us take note that a life of quality takes time to develop. A soldier does not become a warrior overnight. It takes years of training and hard work. Similarly, a life of quality spiritually may take many years to cultivate. Truths need to be learnt. They need to be reinforced over and over again; spiritual reality needs to be experienced, and those who are spiritually hungry and teachable would grow to assimilate them and to make them part of their lives.
Those who are unhealthily impatient and want quick results may miss the boat. In fact, they may even end up spiritually crippled and ineffective. On the other hand, there is no room for laziness and complacency. We need to take time to grow and to develop wholesomely with all diligence and perseverance. Nothing less than a life of quality would overcome in the last days. If we seek to be among those who would stand and overcome, then we cannot afford to live our lives carelessly. We cannot ignore the pursuit and cultivation of a life of quality.