We are living in a global civilization today that makes daily living convenient for the average person more than at any other time since the first human community formed. How many of us, on turning a faucet handle, pause to gaze at the wonder that is pouring out of the spout. When I was a teen, such a sight would have been a real wonder for me, at a time when the latest technology in my village was a pulley on my well to make drawing water easy. In those days we never sat on a ceramic commode but over an awesomely awful hole in the ground (which may be a remote reason some babies in the third world, who grew up to be famous people, in those days were named Sithole – to squat over that hole, the depths of which were frighteningly dark and abyssal, required much fortitude).
Decades ago, I was fascinated by the lifestyle of a minister of Christ, who said he began his day at dawn by having a shower. And that minister lived in a cold country! For me, even in a tropical country, taking a bath early in the morning was a shivering experience. It was only when I was an adult and taking early morning showers in a developed country did I realize what the minister meant. He meant a ‘hot’ shower. Now how could a youth in my primitive circumstances ever imagine that steaming sprays of water could be available 24 hours at the mere turning of a knob in the bathroom?
Well, I suppose by now you see what I am getting at. The simple daily appurtenances of modern life are wonders that we have taken for granted and don’t give a thought to…until. Until one of them stops functioning. The handle is turned, and not a drop comes out. The switch is oned, but the room still stays dark. The lift stops halfway down. The car breaks down. And worst of all in this cyber age, the internet is down. As one denizen of the virtual world said, ‘You disconnect from the internet and get this awful feeling, as if you just pulled the plug on a loved one’.
When one of our daily life-facilitators fail, panic strikes and our only thought from then on is about getting back the indispensable facility we hadn’t once thought about until now.
During the first Gulf War when Iraq annexed Kuwait, and bombs starting falling close to the borders of neighboring countries in the region, I was living alone in the United Arab Emirates, while my family was safely away in India. I continued my life as usual. But those with families in the country began to panic. Nobody knew if the war would spill over to the nearby countries. Supermarkets began to run out of bottled water as households stocked up essentials for a siege. But Saddam soon ran out of cartridges in his ammo boxes, and people were all back in their comfort zones as before, wondering what to do with the excess water and grains in the house.
This message is of no relevance to people living in, say, Syria, where, at the time of writing this, Christians are being targeted by both government and rebel forces. Many have fled the country and are barely surviving in makeshift refugee camps. A mattress, just enough water for a full bath, a small bite of something delicious occasionally, a little privacy for the couple to sleep together, a rudimentary school where their little ones can go safely, a few currency bills for a little shopping, a tv to pass their dreary time, some little other facility they had been enjoying all their lives before the war drove them out of their cozy sofas…these are the wonders the refugees are dreaming of at the moment now, even as I am debating with my stomach about lunch – whether I should settle for a tuna salad in the office itself or walk to the food court nearby for a couple of KFCs, which I hadn’t savored in quite a while.
The purpose of this message is not to persuade you to daily gaze in wonder at all the little blessings of daily living that you are taking for granted, although that would be good thing if one could do it. I have given scenarios of surviving without the basic amenities of daily living so that you can be prepared. And I am encouraging you to be prepared only because God first told me through his Word to be prepared, and it is my fervent desire that you too be aware of this fundamental life principle.
Child of God, keep the following basic understanding in your mind always.
‘The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all. For man also does not know his time: like fish taken in a cruel net, like birds caught in a snare, so the sons of men are snared in an evil time, when it falls suddenly upon them.’ Eccl 9:11-12
A person may be wise and prescient about the state of the world today. He plans his life accordingly and lives prudently. He has everything ready to face any adversity in life and still… And still evil times can overtake him suddenly, like a snare springing out of nowhere upon a bird and trapping it inside.
Time and chance happens equally to God’s people as to those who do not know God. I could give you countless examples of evil times swiftly befalling God’s people throughout history – from the day Joseph was abducted without the slightest indication of prior hostility from his brothers to the moment Job was instantaneously transformed from the most content man in the world to the most afflicted, and from the hour that David knew his family was abducted by enemies, to the days when faithful Christians were dangerously stranded between warring factions in World War I and II.
My relatives in Kuwait, who were Godfearing people and living carefree amidst the luxuries of a rich sheikhdom, were trapped in that country when they woke up one morning to find their city surrounded by Saddam’s forces. By God’s grace, the expatriates were allowed to flee the country without being shot. But none of them were able to take to their native countries anything apart from the clothes they were wearing and possibly one or two suitcases of essentials. But I heard the sorry tales from my kinsfolk of the huge quantities of precious stones, gold, money and other treasures they had accumulated over decades of hard work in that country and of how they had to leave them all behind in the modern apartments they abandoned when they fled the land. Fortunately, none turned back to retrieve a few of their precious stuff, like Lot’s wife wanted to, or they might never have made it safely out of the country. Many of these expatriates when they finally reached their homeland had to start life all over again with the merest basic necessities.
Disaster struck them suddenly. As it does millions of other innocent families and communities around the world every year. It could be a manmade calamity such as war, terrorist attack, persecution, or a natural catastrophe such as earthquake, tornado, tsunami, fire, plague. But the effects are the same: the affected people are left with barely nothing other than the clothes on their bodies. And that is when the difference between survivors who trusted God and survivors who trusted in their own abilities begins to be clearly seen.
So, first of all, understand that time and chance happens to everyone. Destiny’s presently favored children, who are going about luxuriating in their modern lifestyles, will wake up sooner or later to their shocking realization that destiny favors no one, not even the Godliest of people. Our Creator has deliberately made it impossible for any man, even those closest to him, to know if tomorrow adversity would continue to spare him, or if it would strike him without any warning. Let this truth not fade from your mind:
‘When times are good, enjoy them and be happy. When times are bad, think about this: God makes both good and bad times, so that no one really knows what is coming next.’ Eccl 7:14 The Voice
The New Living Translation puts it this way:
‘Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life.’
The Message version says:
‘On a good day, enjoy yourself; on a bad day, examine your conscience. God arranges for both kinds of days so that we won’t take anything for granted.’
The simple daily appurtenances of modern life are wonders that we have taken for granted and don’t give a thought to…until. Until one of them stops functioning.
The next understanding I wish to share with you is about the state of mind a person should have during both hard times and good times.
The very first principle of Godly survival in a disaster is to maintain a state of mind called ‘basic happiness’ or ‘primary contentment’ constantly, daily, in every situation, under any circumstances.
Actually, a person can never acquire the state of basic happiness by his own diligent application of ways to attain it. But that’s not what secular motivational writers and speakers teach. Their books and seminars expound to their audience how by applying various ‘secrets’ or ‘keys’ or ‘laws’ they can maintain a positive frame of mind in any adverse life situation.
I recall the years when my boyhood favorite band, The Beatles, looked to an eccentric guru, The Maharishi, for their spiritual guidance. The fab four grew up as Christians, at least nominally, but obviously they might not have found Christ charismatic enough to be their guru. The Maharishi had a better message of happiness for them. He wrote: “Being happy is of the utmost importance. Success in anything is through happiness. Under all circumstances be happy. Just think of any negativity that comes at you as a raindrop falling into the ocean of your bliss…within everyone is an unlimited reservoir of energy, intelligence, and happiness”.
Now if celebrities can somehow discover within themselves, through the guidance of their gurus, the reservoir of happiness, why do they need Christ, who has never once mentioned anything about ‘success’ or ‘happiness’ anywhere in his Gospel. He did, however, promise his own peace and his own joy within us though, even when we are going through a lot of unhappy and unsuccessful situations.
‘Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid…These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.’ John 14:27;15:11
Now, if we look at the fruits of what the celebrities learn from their spiritual teachers, where do you find the unhappiest marriages and the brokenest families on earth today? Don’t most celebrities in Hollywood and other woods have one or more gurus to lead them to the fountain of lifelong cheer? Yet the most successful of them are the most miserable as well. Just a few weeks ago, as I write this, came the shocking news of the suicide of one the cheeriest actors in filmworld, Robin Williams. His gurus gave him everything for the successful life except basic happiness.
Understand that only if God enables you by his Spirit can you be in a state of basic happiness always. This basic state of mind is a pure gift of God, and not the product of one’s effort in keeping any laws of happiness. So ask God regularly and persistently for this gift. And while asking God, there is some groundwork you can do for yourself to be prepared for any eventuality.
A prerequisite of basic happiness is that you should consciously keep reverting your mind to the one overriding reason for your living – to prepare for the incredibly thrilling life in the sooncoming Kingdom of God. No matter how dreary and gloomy the world around you, the clear vision of the joys and pleasures of Paradise should be more than enough for you to tide over every unhappy but temporary circumstance in your life. And then – of even greater encouragement – you have God’s promise that he personally will see to it that you survive through every adversity and be able to stand victorious and faultless before him.
‘Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.’ Jude 1:24-25
Another absolute prerequisite of basic happiness is a determination to delight in and live by The 10 Commandments no matter how bad the times are. God’s Word promises that a person who loves and keeps God’s Laws will never be perturbed by any adversity or unhappiness.
‘Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing causes them to stumble.’ Ps 119:165
Says the Contemporary English Version:
‘You give peace of mind to all who love your Law. Nothing can make them fall.’
Nothing can make you fall if you love God’s laws and keep them. No electricity, no money, no food, no water, no home – nothing can make a person who loves God’s law be overcome or devastated or panicked by any unhappy circumstance but he is always able to rise above every adversity by holding on to his Helper’s hand which is ever extended to him.
Sudden staggering disaster drives the Christless person, no matter how successful in the world’s estimate, to desperate acts of survival, and if that doesn’t bring him deliverance, he resorts to what he thinks is the only way out of his misery, suicide. But for the man or woman who has an overwhelming love for God’s laws and keeps them with zeal no crisis will overwhelm them.
‘Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction. I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have given me life.’ Ps 119:92-93
‘If I had not found happiness in obeying your Law, I would have died in misery. I won’t ever forget your teachings, because you give me new life by following them.’ CEV
Finally, basic happiness is not possible without contentment.
‘Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.’ 1 Tim 6:6-8
When bad times fall upon a Christ-based person, he doesnt focus his prayers too much on getting out of the situation immediately, although he would daily be asking God to deliver him as early as God’s will allow. But his greater focus is on asking God to strengthen him to go through the trouble that God has allowed in his life until he emerges out of it smiling. In the meantime, as he waits for his deliverance, he looks around at what remains in his life, and renews his gratitude for each and every one of them. He praises God more than he ever did before that he has the basics to live through each day without his family and he having to suffer acute deprivation.
Now, you can confidently ask God to provide you daily and always – in adversity just as in prosperity – your three essentials for the basic life. As long as God has given you these three basic blessings, you have no reason in the world to be unhappy or complaining because your some other material desire has not been granted.
You may not have a job, you may not have meat for meals regularly, you may not have matching shoes for your trousers, you may not have a tv, or a car, you may not have even a bicycle to ride on…but you can have basic happiness if you are able to feed your family and yourself two or three meals a day, have at least untorn clothes you can wear without embarrassment in public, and a place to sleep in safely.
Note, that I used the word ‘place’, not home. It may happen in some rare instance that a person may not have a home of his own to sleep in and have to find refuge elsewhere. But God in his great mercy ensures that such periods are very brief, and always restores a home for those who look to him for every need. I speak from experience, dear child of God, as most of my messages are.
One day – suddenly, as a bird caught in a snare, exactly as the Bible mentioned it – I found myself, my wife and tween daughter on the street, evicted from our residence for no fault of ours. (The owner of the apartment we had rented didnt pay his municipality taxes on time, and the officials sealed the entrance to it.) One hour, I was basking in security, the next, I was looking desperately for shelter.
We were in another country, and we had no relatives or friends to go to immediately. And I didn’t have the money to take a hotel room. The nearest person I could get help from was in another state. And night would be upon us soon. But, fortunately (for God-trusters, there is no word ‘fortunately’ or ‘luckily’ in their vocabulary; I use it here just as a common expression), I realized I had my office keys with me. Nobody will be in the office at night. I took my family to the office. And we spent a not-uncomfortable night there, sleeping on the office couches. Next morning, before office staff arrived, I took my family to the next state and put up with a friend for about three days. On the fourth day, we found ourselves in a good hotel room, without having to pay a cent from my side. After about a week, we were allowed to return to our residence.
If God allows you to be without shelter suddenly – say, because a whirlwind blew your roof away, as happens frequently in tornado frequented countries – don’t panic. It becomes God’s responsibility then to provide you temporary shelter until you are back in the comfort of your own home. Such times will be very rare, most likely not more than once a lifetime.
But whirlwind or earthquake or war, one thing you will not be deprived of for even a single day is your daily food and clothing and a place to sleep safely. That’s God’s promise you can count on with your and your family’s whole lives.
You will be wise to be always mentally equipped at all times to face any unexpected change in your circumstances. And when bad times come, understand that the trouble is not a sign that God is not protecting you or that he is not pleased with you. Instead, understand it is the surest sign that God has found you spiritually mature enough and he can now trust you to go through the flood or the fire safely. Let him hold your hand as he gently and steadily leads you out of the danger zone and to safe shore.
‘He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.’ Is 40:11
‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior’ Is 42:1-3
The man gifted with basic happiness will never moan or grumble as long as he has food, clothing and a place for him and his family to lie down safely. Such a man will trust God to supply him with everything else at the right time, but until then he will be content with the barest essentials of life.
If you tend to fret because you are not having a more comfortable life, then God may have a mild rebuke for you, as he had for one of his faithful but complaining servants. In the words below, instead of Baruch, put your name there. God is no respecter of person, and what applies to Baruch applies to every man and woman of God:
‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to you, Baruch: You have said, ‘I am overwhelmed with trouble! Haven’t I had enough pain already? And now the Lord has added more! I am worn out from sighing and can find no rest.’ Baruch, this is what the Lord says: ‘I will destroy this nation that I built. I will uproot what I planted. Are you seeking great things for yourself? Don’t do it! I will bring great disaster upon all these people; but I will give you your life as a reward wherever you go. I, the Lord, have spoken!’ Jer 45:2-5 NLT
I have faced a few critical situations in life where I and my family had to live the basic life for several days and even weeks. The latest was about two years ago, but mercifully, it was relatively mild compared to what we had gone through in the past, and it lasted only a few hours.
On that morning I rose from bed tired, having woken up several times in the night to attend to my senile mother’s needs. My first need of the morning was for a cup of refreshing coffee. I turned on the tap to wash my coffee mug. There was no water. I then switched on the water pump, but the pump was silent, and I noticed the electricity meter showed no electricity coming into the house. The meter had conked. I took my mobile to call the electrician. He was not picking up, even after several attempts.
The situation could have been panicky for me had I not known Christ, and had I not some months earlier decided that no matter what acute contingency happens to disrupt my daily life, I will not allow myself to panic or become desperate because I know my God is in total control of everything that happens in my life.
But it was indeed a critical situation. I found comfort in the fact that at least I could get some essential water by drawing it from the well manually. But that would require a bucket and robe, and they were not available. Then, I suddenly remembered with dismay. My income for my monthly needs was totally dependent on my freelance work, for which I was absolutely depended on the computer. And that very day was the deadline to submit an important work. Without submitting this work on time, I would be in financial straits. There was only one thing that could deliver me from this crisis. I appealed to our Father in heaven in my desperate situation. And he sent an immediate answer.
A thought came to my mind seemingly out of nowhere. The thought was, ‘Open the meter box, and check one of the fuses’. I am a greenhorn in mechanical and technical matters. Nevertheless, I opened and pulled out one of the fuses. The fuse wire was burnt out. I was able to replace the wire, and the electricity came back.
But what if the thought of opening the complicated switchbox hadnt come. My whole day would have been one continuous affliction, and if I didnt get the electrician somehow, it could go on to two or more days of severe crisis in several areas of my life together.
If a day ever comes in your life that you have to resort to the three-blessings basic life, here is another of God’s assurances to you and your family for such a time, paraphrased in parenthesis by me:
‘Though the fig tree may not blossom,
(Though the economy of my country has crashed)
Nor fruit be on the vines
(Nor do I have any means of income)
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
(Though all my projects have failed)
And the fields yield no food;
(And my business is yielding no profit)
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
(Though creditors have seized all my assets)
And there be no herd in the stalls—
(And I and my family are left with only our basic lives)
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills.’
Child of God, as long as your Father in heaven has daily provided you all that you need for your basic happiness, rejoice. Rejoice daily.
‘Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!’ Phil 4:4