Birthday reflection

Spiritual Life – A Reflection – Birthday 2015:

J.N. Manokaran

Moses rightly prayed, asking to teach him to ‘number the days’. (Psalm 90:12) He was not asking knowledge of arithmetic, rather spiritual insights to understand the purpose of his days on the earth. Life is a journey with so many panoramic and pathetic views; pleasant and painful experiences; joyful celebrations and solemn mourning; saving and spending; gaining and losing; hope and depression…etc. As the journey progresses, it is possible to become wiser and make the journey a legacy that would impact others.

Completing 53 years of journey is a miracle, considering my mother went to the eternal home of the Heavenly Father when she was 39 and our daughter at 27. My journey has been long and could be termed as turbulent flight or coaster roaster ride. Looking back to see the footprints in the sands of time is a healthy process. Few hours of silence and reflection can do magic. The ethos of my life, or value system I practice has helped me to achieve some distinct landmarks. Mountain climbers reach the peak and plant a flag once. Then they go for another peak. Nor they permanently reside on the top of one peak. In the same way, I consider life achievements like conquering a peak, one at a time; not dwelling there permanently; but attempting more challenging tasks. For example, getting one article published was a mountain peak; later publishing one book became a mountain peak; then getting the book in various Indian languages was yet another peak. Visiting other States in India was a mountain peak, later visiting other countries becomes a peak. There are many peaks in life that ought to be conquered, however, our resources, energy and time are limited. Again, we have to filter and plan for priority peaks.

In my life journey, I tried to find the underlying values and ethos for my moderate achievements. I found ten governing principles I learnt and that shaped my life.

  1. Solid Rock Foundation

Word of God, the Bible is a unique gift to humanity. From childhood, I was taught by my mother to read, memorize and meditate the Scripture verses. I have read the book of Proverbs several times, which I read through each month for many years. In fact, the Bible is unique which the author of the bible is the Holy Spirit. It is the only book, when I read the author is present to make me understand. It has been a joy for me to read the bible, go deep into the inexhaustible riches of God’s wisdom and love. Another uniqueness of the Bible is it is translated in almost all languages in the world, which is scarce in other religions. The reason is God wants to speak with me. Reading the Bible is listening to his voice. Sheep hears the voice of the Shepherd. (John 10:27)

Lord Jesus Christ taught that the Wise man builds his house upon the rock and the rock is His words. (Mathew 7:24-27) Reading the Bible has helped me become wise spiritually, mentally, emotionally and psychologically. As David prays (Psalm 23:3): Lord, Lead me in the paths of righteousness, I pray and seek the righteous, holy and noble path shown by the Holy Bible. The Bible has been my foundation to determine, decide and to prioritize the Kingdom of God and His righteousness in my life. (Mathew 6:33) My worldview, values, ethos, priorities, choices and decisions are derived from the Holy Bible.

  1. Solid Faith lifestyle

My faith, as a Christian is based on the Risen Saviour. In the whole history of mankind, it was Jesus, the Son of God, the only person who defeated Satan, rose from the dead and lives evermore. My faith is not a theory or rational treatise or a philosophy but on the person: Lord Jesus Christ, the Risen Saviour. It is not a feeling or just a fact, but the Truth.

This faith provides impetus to dream and to do the Impossible by human standards. It provides inspiration to attain the unattainable by world standards. As Paul declares, this faith has made us more than conquerors in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:37) God honoured and used even my faith which was the size of a mustard seed. (Mathew 17:20)

The life of faith is termed as “Adventure of Faith” by my friend Captain Thomas. Simple steps of faith, leads to giant leaps of accomplishment, provided it is according to the Will of God. The simple step of faith as family taken by stepping into Tamil Nadu Express on 15 February 1986 became a giant leap that has made us what we are today. Many such steps and sometimes missteps have been directed by God for His Glory and His Kingdom.

  1. Servant attitude

I am a servant and slave as Paul states, humble before God. (Mathew 20: 25-28) When I come to the foot of the cross, I know my status as unworthy sinner, before the Holy Son of God. Remaining in that place always in my mind has helped me to have a servanthood attitude. That does not mean temptation to take charge, dominate, seek human praise and accolades were not found in my life. They peep or pop their ugly head quite often, but God helps me to knock them down.

To be Chosen a servant of God is a great privilege and honour, entrusted with an awesome responsibility. I am grateful to God for all the privileges and honour I receive just because I am called to be a servant of God. Like Paul, I cannot say that I did not use the right, but would love to. (I Cor 9:15) It also weighs me down as the responsibility is huge and certainly burdensome. It is not glamorous as some think, but pain and suffering that would result in glory in eternity or future.

As a servant, I am alive by His grace. When I was just 12 years old, I would faint in the playground of my school. This happened few times and taken to doctor for many tests and they diagnosed that I had Primary complex. The treatment was long, painful and the result was not sure. I had to take injections daily for about six months. I refused to have it elsewhere except in my arms. Then the injection was for alternate days, then two days a week. I used to walk alone every time to the doctor about 20 minutes walk from home and walk back after injection.

I escaped being knocked out by a speeding ambassador car as a naughty boy. Satan tempted me to commit suicide as a teenager. Malaria almost killed me when I was a missionary in Haryana. Tuberculosis in lymph nodes almost killed me because of the two wrong tests done by doctors. So, I am conscious, I am alive to be His servant and his servant alone.

  1. Steward mindset

God is the source of all lives in the world. Hence, all humanity, the earth and its fullness belong to him alone. (Psalm 24:1) As a Christian, I acknowledge the Lordship of Lord Jesus Christ, which means all belong to him. What is in my power and under my authority are given for temporary custody. The owner and master is the Lord and I have been given the ‘power of authority’ to execute on his behalf. In that case, I do according to the Master’s desire and will, pleases him and accomplish his plans and goals. The life, life skills, knowledge, wisdom, experience, expertise, talents, gifts, time, treasure, influence, relationships…etc all belong to him and have to be used for his glory.

Stewardship involves optimistic, optimum, creative, responsible and strategic uses of all that have been given to me by God. Being optimistic, I have to use my resources in faith to accomplish great things and fruitful things. Naturally, I am pessimistic thinker, however, His Word and grace have helped to think become positive thinker, possibility thinker and optimistic thinker. I have seen people squeezing diligently the toothpaste out of tube to the last trace. That taught me optimism; optimum use of resources. That also means to avoid all unnecessary, unwarranted expenses. God is the creator and has created us to be creative. I get bored with routine and always explore newer ideas. Stewardship involves creativity and using our resources creatively. David used pebbles creatively with sling to defeat Goliath. (I Samuel 17).

All God’s blessings belong to him and I try to use it responsibly as I have to give account to God. While I was serving in Public Works Department (PWD) in early ’80s; there was a commotion in the office I worked. There was a quarrel and bitter, acrimonious debate between the Office Manager and Accountant. The bone of contention was the payment made by the accountant to office driver. The jeep driver has presented bills for 200 punctures in the jeep tyre in one year and the accountant has paid the amount. Manager asked: “How can there be 200 punctures of jeep tyres in 200 working days of a year?” Accountant replied: “I do not see the jeep or tyres. I just see bills, if it is proper I pay.” Manager shouted: “There should be purpose for each expense. Logically, it is not possible to have than many repairs in a single jeep.” Accountant brazenly said: “I see bills, cash and ledger, nothing else.” I prefer to be like the Manager who saw a link between each expense to the purpose or goal or vision of the organization.

God given resources should be strategically used. For that there is a need for strategic vision.

  1. Strategic vision

When our children were studying in high school, my wife used to teach both of them mathematics. When they confront a difficult problem, they will call me and read the problem to be solved. Generally, i listen and would say, this is the answer. They will look into the answers section and say that answer is right, but how to work out the steps. Most of the time, I did not know the steps. Somehow, my mind calculates (bypasses steps) and arrives at the answer or solution. That has become my lifestyle or life principle. I always work from answer or solution to the problem. Doing all things with a clear vision or end in the mind.

Albert Einstein: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Strategic vision questions the existing patterns, systems, structure, methodology and even results. Then critically study to evolve a new way of doing things. Strategic vision always has long range thinking as well as planning. I always ask the question to myself and other: “Twenty years from now, how do you see yourself?” If I have to be in such position, then I have to do something today to accomplish that. Otherwise it is not Strategic Vision but Slumber dream.

  1. Soldier Focus

A soldier is alert, active and awake 24/7.  Paul states that we ought to live like soldiers. (II Timothy 2:3) The preparedness is the key, for an effective performance. A soldier could be drafted, any time. For a soldier the job description is not in the minor details, but in the macro expectations. Arguing about minor details is waste of time and saps our energy. I focus on the essentials and do not bother about non-essentials.

Preparing ahead is another key. A soldier has to prepare in peace time for war time. The war may not happen in near future or even never happen, but a soldier has to be prepared. In ministry, God can summon me to any position of leadership as required for His kingdom. So, every day is a day of preparation. Every experience is an investment. Every expertise or set of skills obtained by doing simple things becomes strategic weapon. Every challenge is a new opportunity to prove my worth. In that process I always discover open doors, because preparation meets opportunity.

  1. Shepherd Heart

This came late in my life. For me relationships, were not important and did not cultivate wide network of friends. Later, I realized relationships are sacred and God ordained. I cannot ignore them. Hence, I began the habit of nurturing meaningful, insightful and authentic relationships. Paul was also late in understanding this. He rejected John Mark as unfit for missions. (Acts 15: 36-41). Later Paul realized Barnabas was right and reconciled with John Mark. (I Timothy 4;11)

A shepherding heart is Grateful, Gracious and Generous. I have learnt to be grateful to God first for bringing various kinds of people in my life. Most of them have contributed in my life and some have made my life difficult, but the pain they give, is always a growth pain. I am grateful to friends and critics for their contribution in my life. Friend encouraged me, while critics challenged me to do better. Lord has taught me to be gracious towards others as He has been gracious to me. Being gracious means to be courteous, respect each person as created in the image of God, treating people with dignity. Sometimes, it is difficult, but I strive to be gracious to one and all. Generosity is a Christian virtue. Christians have always generous with their knowledge, treasure, talents and skills to help others.

Always I try to think how can I bring the best out of a person, provide best of the opportunities and motivate for higher purpose and vision. Suddenly, I realized there are many who responded to my words of encouragement and have marched well ahead in life. A shepherd knows the needs of the sheep even without the expression from sheep. A Christian leader should be able to smell the needs of others and help them. Many times I have failed in this aspect.

  1. Sufficient Grace

Christians are familiar with the term grace. The mercy or favour shown by God to those who do not deserve is grace. I realized grace cannot be borrowed, stolen or earned. Grace is free gift from God. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:9) In weakness, sickness, defeat, humiliation, failure and setbacks; I have experienced Lord’s grace. When I think I do not have enough to face the situation in terms of courage or skills or abilities or help; His grace has been supplementing grace. When I face disappointment and discouragement God’s grace has been compensating grace. When I understand that there are no helpers, partners and resources, I experience the Complimenting grace. When I need strength, wisdom and reach the end of the road, I experience Completing grace. The orthopedic surgeon said, my bones will be healed after my accident, but only 85% functional. I said to that Christian doctor that His grace will make me 100% fit. For 16 years I have experienced that.

Doctors found that I have High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol levels, and High sugar level. God added a High Calling to that and of course, his marvellous grace.

  1. Surprising Supply

Paul writes that those who preach the gospel should live by the gospel. (I Cor 9:14) All Christians are required to serve the Lord. Yet, There are few people who are called to serve the Lord on full-time basis. God called us to do his ministry full time and God enabled us to obey that call. We learnt to live by faith and trust God for all our provision. It is amazing to look back and see how each and every time God was faithful to provide our needs (not demands or greed). We look back and wonder, how God provided our need to provide for our daughter’s study in Russia and Belarus. She needed five times of our family income at that point of time. We stepped out in faith, He provided.

10,          Sovereign God

Facing adversary situations is not easy. Like Psalmist, I ask my downcast soul to look up (Psalm 42:5), remember His Greatness, Faithfulness, Perfectness, Graciousness and loving kindness. Joseph got a dream, but the path was not a cake walk. His own brothers tried to kill him and later sold him. He was victim of false allegation and forgetfulness of friends. Joseph trusted God that Sovereign God is leading him, ordering his circumstances and his future was secure in Him. Sovereign God even overrules my mistakes, blunders and stupid decisions. Sovereign God also in his love do not answer my prayers, as some of my prayers are suicidal and stupid. When I face difficulties because of the mistake of others, I take refuge in the Sovereign reign of the Lord.

Conclusion

This is just scribbling of my thoughts that ran through my mind, as I look forward to next year of my life.

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About J.N. Manokaran

Preacher, Teacher and Writer. Serving Lord Jesus Christ through Community Bible Study
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