We live in a world that is increasingly changing. In just a few decades we have gone from a pace of life that was manageable to a rate of change that is spinning out of control. An interesting chart can be found here that gives perspective on how many generations that it has taken for the development of some important things in our world today. It has been said that we are entering an age of accelerated change. “Because of the explosive power of exponential growth, the 21st century will be equivalent to 20,000 years of progress at today’s rate of progress” (Ray Kurzweil). Although I am not in total agreement with the humanistic and evolutionary theories of such futurists as Kurzweil and others, it is obvious that we are in the midst of extraordinary change!
Life as it was for millennia for the average person was relatively simple. Daily challenges consisted of simple routines that centred on the provision of food and shelter. For example we depended on such things as horses for a slow and steady means of transportation for thousands of years whereas in relatively a short time we are now able to drive or fly anywhere in the world in just a few days! In the future we may travel anywhere in minutes and hours in vacuum tubes! Another example of change was the need for people to cultivate and grow their own food in the past. Before the days of industry and city dwelling, people understood better the toil that was involved in growing food and the work of sowing and reaping. Today we shop for almost everything in large super markets and department stores. We drive through “fast food” restaurants and receive fully prepared meals in minutes with no thought of the time that was involved in growing and producing the end result (good or bad).
Unfortunately the consequences of today’s conveniences may not always be for the good of our culture and character. We are increasingly loosing important values. We are in danger or leaving behind a way of life that once produced important character traits such as perseverance and discipline. We are entering a time when important perspective of the past is being lost in exchange for new and shallow ways of living. What once demanded effort and pain is realized with little cost! Or perhaps is not really being realized at all?
The church and especially Christianity in the West has been and will continue to be greatly influenced by the desire to have a “shallow” existence. Over the past few years I have increasingly reflected on some of these changes and have desired for some time to share my thoughts on what I will term the “consequences of these changes” and how they have impacted the church and my own life. I am aware that my perspective is limited by the length of time that I have been alive – almost 46 years and that those who have lived longer would offer much more perspective regarding some if these changes. This will be the first of several blogs that will be devoted to this theme. The first casualty of change that I want to discuss is:
Waiting on God.
In times past people would gather to pray and wait on God sometimes for several days (examples would be during times of revival and camp meetings). These prayer meetings were a reflection of the collective lives of prayer that the participants lived out each day. Many rising early in the mornings before the labour of the day to seek the Lord. When they came together to pray it was an extension of a cultivated life of prayer and hunger for God.
Today prayer is almost non-existent both in the lives of believers and in the gatherings they attend. Leaders are too busy to pray and because they are not cultivating a personal life of prayer they do not encourage others to pray or exemplify a passion for prayer. Because of this we now face a dearth of Godly, spiritual leaders in our congregations. The modern church leader has little or no connection with God! Pulpits are used to deliver sermons that are void of the voice of God and there is no conviction and change in the lives of the hearers. There are three important aspects of prayer that I would like to touch on:
Hunger. Prayer begins with a craving and hunger for God. As a man I have many “natural” appetites. I have the desire to work, play, to have adventure, to love and be loved. These desires can easily consume my life and become my focus. A hunger for God is an aspect of prayer that needs to be cultivated in the life of the believer. Our natural food diet will have a bearing on our physical health and strength so also our spiritual diet will have a bearing on our spiritual lives. I believe that we can develop a spiritual craving for the presence of God and a greater desire to seek His face. This hunger and thirst for righteousness can and should be nurtured in our lives so much so that we are dissatisfied with what the world has to offer. The temptation to satisfy the carnal impulses will no longer have a hold on our lives (Galatians 5.16-26)
Desperation. When we become aware of the disheartening condition of the body of Christ, the dangerous deterioration of our culture and society and our own lack of spiritual fortitude we must express this reality by going to our knees in desperation before God. I am at a loss as to why we do not see more desperation in the body of Christ today. Never before have we been in such a dire need of God’s intervention in our society and the world that we live. I remember seeing the preachers of old so troubled at what they saw happening in the church and the world that they were driven to their knees, fasting and praying and crying out to God for His intervention and for revival. God would hear their prayers and move by His Sprit and conviction would come into the lives of those who heard their prayers and preaching. The presence of god was very real! This did not happen because of fancy church programs, talented musicians on the stage or large state-of-the art facilities. God moved because of people who walked with God became troubled at what they were seeing happening around them and they became desperate before God. Why is there little desperation in the church today? Why are we so consumed with building “big business” ministries with little focus on making disciples and Christ-like followers?
Contentment. When one lives a life of finding God there is satisfaction. Striving ceases. This is vitally important in this day of great change. We live in a day when people are experiencing a dissatisfaction with life and are searching for something that is meaningful and real. I believe that to walk in godly contentment is one of the greatest indications of having a deep spiritual life. During this past year something has happened in my life that has never happened before. I have always been a “night” person and found it easier to stay up at night and study and pray. Over the past while this has been getting harder to do and I have been forced to go to bed earlier, sometimes as early as 9pm! This has resulted in rising earlier, as early as 4:30 or 5am. This is not something that I planned or wanted to happen it has just happened. Naturally my quiet and prayer times have been switching over to the early mornings instead of the late evenings. What I have found, and I do not believe this to be a coincidence, is that I am experiencing greater contentment during the day. It seems that I am experiencing less desire to strive and more satisfaction in my life as I spend more time seeking God in the mornings!
Another casualty of change is “Knowing People”. Do we really know or take the time to know people and have deep fellowship? How do we deal with the temptation to have “virtual” relationships as opposed to “real” relationships? Please watch for part two coming soon…