Conquering The Continuing Crises
“CONQUERING THE CONTINUING CRISES”
Here is a seldom considered truth. Human life is a constant confrontation—and (hopefully) resolution—of crises. If a person does not maintain a conquest of these crises, he will die. Every human being faced a major crisis at birth (and this is more true today than ever!), and this crisis is only the first among many.
In his book, Where Is God When It Hurts?, author Philip Yancey has a long paragraph that is worth examining many times. “Imagine what it would be like if you had had full consciousness as a fetus at the time of birth and could now remember all the sensations: Your world is dark, safe, and secure. You are bathed in warm liquid, cushioned from shock. You do nothing for yourself; you are fed automatically, and a murmuring heartbeat assures you that someone larger than you fills all your needs. Your life consists of simple waiting—you’re not sure what to wait for, but any change seems far away and scary. You meet no sharp objects, no pain, no threatening adventures. A fine existence. One day you feel a tug. The walls are falling in on you. Those soft cushions are now pulsing and beating against you, crushing you downwards. Your body is bent double, your limbs twisted and wrenched. You’re falling, upside down. For the first time in your life, you feel pain. You’re in a sea of rolling matter. There is more pressure, almost too intense to bear. Your head is squeezed flat, and you are pushed harder, harder into a dark tunnel. Oh, the pain. Noise. More pressure. You hurt all over. You hear a groaning sound and an awful, sudden fear rushes in on you. It is happening—your world is collapsing. You’re sure it’s the end. You see a piercing, blinding light. Cold, rough hands pull at you. A painful slap. Waaaahhhhh! Congratulations, you have just been born.” Fortunately, you have no memory of that trip down the birth canal.
Now, think of a parallel crucial reality in the Christian life, the moment of your New Birth. In a study of the New Birth, I have elsewhere explored the “painful” nature of the experience, both on God’s side (Calvary) and ours (conviction). The New Birth is a crisis experience, and it is only one of many in the Christian life. One crisis after another faces the newborn person, and many of the crises will typically last a lifetime. The human being is like a person with an upper respiratory ailment, who must always carry his oxygen tank with him, or die. The human being has this advantage: the world is a vast oxygen tank; but let him stop inhaling its vital ingredients and he will die. The human being is like a man walking across a minefield; he must negotiate the situation very carefully, or he will never walk that way again.
I want to mention some of the evident crises, suggesting that only disciple-making will enable the believer to fully face and resolve these crises in his life. Many believers carry the ravages of one or more of these crises, unresolved, into church every Sunday (and more) and do not (probably cannot) resolve them there. The very mechanics of church services preclude the likelihood of resolution in church. Like Adam hidden among the trees of the Garden, church members are hidden in the crowd in church pews. There is no “personal therapy” to address the crises they face continually in their daily lives. Let me attempt to identify some eight of these continuing crises. Please note that this list is only suggestive, not exhaustive.
First, there is the information crisis. The new believer does not know anything yet as he ought to know. In fact, he doesn’t even know his ignorance. He must learn many things to even be able to know how much he doesn’t know! Just yesterday, I read this sentence: “Theological minimalism (translate, ignorance of the Bible) is not permissible in the Biblical portrait of a disciple of Jesus Christ.” Every Christian should accept I Peter 3:15 as a major goal of his life: “Give the Lord God His proper place in your heart, and always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have in Christ.” Note the words, “prepared”, “answer” and “reason.” A Christian is “a-person-in-preparation” on a continual basis. The word translated “answer” is the Greek word “apologia,” from which we derive our word “apologetics,” the science of intelligent defense of the Christian message. And “reason” involves intelligent thought. So the information crisis must be resolved by each Christian.
Then, there is the identity crisis. Just as a newborn human infant doesn’t even know what a “human” is, or that he is one, so the newborn believer doesn’t know who or what he is. He has just been born; he has had no opportunity to study “spiritual embryology” and learn the truth about himself or his new life. In a day of wide-spread “identity theft,” the Christian must remember that he has a crafty Enemy who has logged a long history of identity theft—and he would love to victimize you today. Do you know the truth about who you are in Christ?
Then, there is the inventory crisis. Though he became an instant “spiritual millionaire” the moment he was saved, he doesn’t have the slightest idea of that truth or of what it means. He is like a baby into whose bank account an inheritance of $100 million was deposited at birth, but he knows nothing about money, value, wealth, stewardship, expenditure, etc. Do you see how important disciple-making is in “walking him through” these things (and many, many more) item by item? Christian, do you know how much you are personally worth to Christ, and what vast resources you have to function and to serve on His terms as a Christian?
Then, there is the immaturity crisis. Babies are not born mature, and the mere fact of birth does not guarantee maturity. This is especially true spiritually. In fact, without good “parental care,” the newborn will likely never adequately mature. The New Testament has much to say about this crisis and its cure, but it cannot be simply taken for granted. The Christian community needs an army of “spiritual pediatricians” who can assist babies in matters of hygiene and growth. Again, disciple-making builds these skills into the disciple.
Then, there is an idealism crisis. To see this crisis, all you must do is observe or interview Christians with regard to moral and ethical issues in today’s culture. The veteran Christian is often completely shocked to see that there is little ideological difference morally and ethically between a Christian and a non-Christian. The Christian has often absorbed his moral views from his culture instead of forming them from Scripture. Furthermore, many of these ethical infants are in church on a regular basis, but somehow, the morality of the Master never reaches their conduct and practice. In fact, the standards of Jesus and the Bible get absorbed in social and selfish interests, and the Christian becomes a kind of moral chameleon. This would be dealt with face to face and item by item and as often as necessary in disciple-making.
Then, there is an interpersonal crisis. A baby must be taught social skills regularly in his growing years if he is to emerge as a relational human being. If he is allowed to drift, his relationships with others will be influenced, damaged and then controlled by his own selfishness. He may try to monopolize and manipulate people subtly (or aggressively) for his own advantage. This is often a major crisis in a believer’s life, and may never be resolved. He has “spiritual surges” in special church meetings and on other occasions when he becomes convicted and tries to correct this problem, but he often slowly drifts back into inadequate relationship patterns. Again, disciple-making addresses this problem and offers and applies the Biblical answer as necessary.
Then, there is an insight crisis. Or it might be called the illumination crisis. According to the Bible, no person (including a saved person) can truly understand revealed truth without a miracle of the Holy Spirit. An unsaved person receives his first miracle in this area the moment he is saved. “Except a man be born again, he cannot see.” When he is born again, it is as if God issues him a new set of eyes. In the hush of his heart, he might say, “Where in the world have I been? I see!” But just as a newborn baby’s eyes must grow and develop and be trained for proper use (and as he grows, discrimination must be taught in what he is to look at), so it is with a newborn Christian. Again, the New Testament has a great deal to say about the resolution of this crisis, and every Christian should master the related Scriptures and be able to use them to help other believers. This is reasonably guaranteed in disciple-making.
Then, there is an implementation crisis. Or it might be called the incarnation crisis. The issue is, How does a believer incarnate or implement all the demands, dimensions, delights, etc., of the Christian life? One Christian said with a groan, “It’s easy to ‘love your enemies’—until you get one!” Most Christians never realize how impossible it is for the flesh, the performance of the self-life, to “live the Christian life.” “The Christian life isn’t merely difficult—it’s impossible!” one struggling believer exclaimed. The reason many Christians never realize this crisis is that they “tame down” the Christian life to casual dimensions, totally removing the miracle element. Their entire Christian life is a casual, tame go-to-church-and-see-my-friends, enduring all the pontifications and hoping I can get an occasional blessing from one. Frankly, any resemblance between the Christian life as it is revealed in the New Testament and the daily life of the typical Sunday morning church-goer is purely coincidental. Alexander Whyte, the great Scottish pastor, said, “The true Christian life requires moment-by-moment miracles.” I agree. Thus, if you are not living a life that requires moment-by-moment miracles, you are not living the Christian life of the New Testament. A “pew potato” Christian will never know the need for such miracles, but a Spirit-walking disciple/disciple-maker lives with this necessity every day. Furthermore, the powerful Presence of Jesus Christ is specifically promised to the person who lives to fulfill the Great Commission (in which the only command is to “turn people into disciples”).
No wonder Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him (adjust to Him in faith and make Him known), and He will direct your path.” Note the three mandates we are to fulfill, then the promise of His guidance. These are good “first steps” in facing the crises that encounter every Christian.