The Monastic Cycle: After God’s Blessing

THE MONASTIC CYCLE: WHAT USUALLY COMES AFTER PROSPERITY AND SUCCESS

One day a friend of mine called me up from the U.S to ask me a question. He had something that was bothering him, he said, and he needed to discuss this with me. 
He had a friend of his who had lived in Nigeria for a little while before heading off to the United Kingdom. While he was in Nigeria he was reportedly “close to God”, but after staying in the U.K for some years he found himself going down a more “rational” path. He began a series of soul searches and came up with questions he began to ask this mutual friend of ours.
Our mutual friend called me and this was more or less what the questions were about-
“If God exists how come He seems to be doing more for people that don’t know Him than He is for those that do?”
It seemed to Him that those who had no need for God were those that had more prosperity and success than those who did. 

He asked a pertinent question about many members of the Church in the developing world when he said, “Assuming some rich fellow who owned a dating agency walked into a Nigerian church and offered all the people who needed a job automatic employment, and gave brand new houses or cars to those that were in need of them, gave a salary increase to all who wanted it, and hooked every unmarried person to the man or woman of their dreams, what percentage of people would remain in the church? How many people would still serve God after they had their needs met?”

He also said how, going from home to work everyday, he would notice how the social welfare system worked and how the disabled and elderly were treated. He couldn’t help but think there really was no reason for God in a society that worked so seamlessly. His logic essentially was that the British that had continuously tended to an impious and godless position where they referred to themselves as post-modern and post-Christian actually had a valid point.
So he came out with the conclusion that people are only religious because they have needs. God is only relevant because people have needs, so the more needful a person is the greater the tendency is of his being religious.

My friend was perplexed that his friend had adopted this line of thought and wanted some reassurance from me.

I might have shocked him a little more after I immediately said to him- 
“There is a grain of truth in that…
This is because N-E-E-D is a four letter word that keeps man constantly motivated to seek God.”
Then I told him that although his friend’s assessment of “needs” was not incorrect it was incomplete. 
Material needs are the lowest level of human needs according to Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Human Needs”

            HIERARCHY OF HUMAN NEEDS 

                            /   \ (1) FULFILLMENT
                         /         \  (2) RESPECT          
                      /               \  (3)LOVE & BELONGING  
                   /                     \  (4)SAFETY
                /                           \(5)BASIC NEEDS
             /                                 \
          /___________________\

I said to him, “Even when material needs are met there will still be several others. At what point in time, for instance, would a person ever get to where he can say with all certainty that he can provide all the protection he and his family need?” I continued, “If he had all the guns and skills he needed to stave off armed hoodlums how much exactly would he have to protect himself in the event of an automobile accident, or plane crash?”
“If he had all the money in the world and could hire the best bodyguards, afford to buy the most sophisticated planes and employ the most experienced pilots he still wouldn’t have enough to buy up love and get everyone to like him. If he had everyone like him he would still not have everyone respect him. And even if he had everything in the world he would still not be able to buy fulfillment.”

The reason is quite simple, there are very few things that produce genuine fulfillment, and having lots of material possessions is not one of them.
Nobody can ever be fulfilled without God. 
An unprejudiced look at the situation and a  glance at all the needs stated above would show that nobody has transcended need. If nobody has transcended need then nobody has transcended God.
God does not cause need in order for people to seek Him, no, not necessarily. He is not an egotist.
Instead, think of it this way- He is all sufficient, and all the answers and solutions rest in Him. A disconnection from Him is a connection with the alternative- emptiness, a void, need, and nothingness.

This still doesn’t explain why it would seem that those who have no fear of God and are not inclined to religion appear to fare better than others. This still doesn’t explain why the fastest growth the Church records today is in indigent places like Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Why are there countries today that call themselves “Post-Christian”? 
Why are there countries today that believe they have grown beyond God?

Let me answer this by bringing something to our attention.

Have you ever considered the fact that the countries that call themselves “Post-Modern” or “Post-Christian” are countries that were once called “Christian countries”? 
As an aside, has it ever dawned on you that ALL the countries that fit into the genus “First World” were at one time referred to as “Christian countries”?

We will take a look at the second question at a later date.
Let us look at the first now. 
These countries that believe they have grown beyond God were mostly Christian countries at some time. China is not among them, nor is North Korea as, especially in the case of the latter, they cannot be called “Post-Modern”. China is still on the path of modernization so we will concentrate on the Western nations that were all part of Christian civilization at some time.
Without exception these countries attained national transformation through a familiar path, and true to type fell away afterwards. It is nothing new, and is a pattern ingrained in the process.

Gordon Cosby, the founding pastor of Church of the Savior in Washington D.C, noted a pattern as he studied the evolution of religious orders.
First, an idealist attracts people with a strong sense of devotion. The devotees then form a community. Usually there are certain behavioral traits  that become prevalent in most of such communities. One of such traits is discipline- hence the strict rules of founders of orders like Benedict and Ignatius.
 Disciplined groups tend to prosper, this is because discipline creates industry and industry produces wealth, but that very success ultimately undermines the group’s commitment and leads to self-indulgence, and at this point the movement begins to fall apart. 
All these happen and then someone comes along to revive the spirit of idealism. After this happens the cycle starts over again. 

Cosby has called this the “Monastic Cycle”. 

We see this pattern through history. The movements led by idealists such as Ignatius of Loyola, Francis of Assisi, and Benedict of Nursia, demonstrate this very sequence. 
If we take a look at the early Benedictines we will see that in keeping with their culture of devotion and discipline they worked hard to clear forests and cultivate land, investing their earnings in drainage, livestock, and seed. A few centuries later they were hiring people to do the work while they sat back to enjoy the fruit of their labor, such as Benedictine brandy. At times half the order’s revenue went into maintaining the luxurious lifestyles of the abbots. Every so often a reformer would arise to remind the order of the original Rule of Benedict, and start a revival, only to see the same downward spiral and negative pattern eventually repeat itself. 

Beginning with Adam and Eve’s brief sojourn in the Garden, human beings have shown a remarkable inability to manage prosperity and success.
In Old Testament days, whenever the economy boomed and peace prevailed the Israelites attended less and less to spiritual things and instead looked to military power and  alliances for their security. 
In the prophets’ telling phrase they forgot God. We turn to God out of need, and forget Him when things go well. 
That is customary with human nature.
And so we as individuals also succumb to the Monastic Cycle in the same way that nations can and do.

It is this pattern that most of the people that are part of Western Civilization have subsumed into.

Two centuries ago, John Wesley warned Methodists about material success and it’s effects on faith when it is not put in its place-
“I fear, wherever riches have increased, the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion. Therefore, I do not see how it is possible, in the nature of things, for any revival of religion (Christianity) to continue long. For religion (Christianity) must necessarily produce both industry and frugality, and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and 
love of the world in all it’s branches.”

Union with God will inevitably produce prosperity and good success. This theme runs not only through the Bible but is consistent with human experience. 
Even before noting the fact that the Bible characters that were the most godly were also the wealthiest (the likes of Abraham, Job, David, and Solomon readily come to mind) a cursory and dispassionate look at several communities in Nigeria, Africa, and the developing world as a whole will show that those that admitted the gospel and the missionaries that brought it usually  end up faring much better than those that hold on to idol worship and deities constructed by their forbears.
In the same community there is usually a considerable distance between families that have accepted even the most  basic precepts of the gospel and those that have cohered to idolatry and diabolism. 

The question usually for us as individuals and nations is, just like with countries who have experienced significant prosperity and success,- “Can we stand to be blessed?”
It’s not a proposition of whether God will bless us or not if we seek Him the right way, it is more an issue of whether we will change when He does.

Will we cave in to the pattern of the Monastic Cycle?

14 Replies to “The Monastic Cycle: After God’s Blessing”

  1. Interesting. Any tip on how we can manage success and still stand upright before God without going through the monastic cycle? Thank you sir.

  2. Thanks for the piece. I think an antidote to the hubris of ‘monastic cycle’ is remaining “small in one’s eyes”- deliberately adopting humility as a way of life. That way, one is constantly reminded of his past and consequence of profligacy and prosperity.

  3. Sir this write-up is apt one need to really think about what he wants. Success make people forget God only the wise who are con-
    Stantly in tune with the Holy Spirit with remember God evening in times of abundance. Thank you sir.

    1. I understand your point and it is a valid one. But there are some fundamental differences between the Arab nations and the ones we have mentioned in the article.
      You might remember that the Arabs are descendants of Ishmael, Abraham’s son with the maid,and even though the child was rejected God still gave him a blessing after Abraham cried to Him. This is what largely accounts for the levels of mineral and oil deposits under their soil.
      Secondly,you need to do a little search and compare how many inventions the Arabs have made with the number of inventions by the Jews and those countries that embraced the gospel. Being able to buy development with oil wealth is not the same thing as attaining or accomplishing development following the standards of the Kingdom

  4. Pastor, good evening and happy new year. Interesting article by the way.

    My thought: In a country like Nigeria where every nook and cranny is doted with churches or places of religious gathering, where the people seem highly religious, pay tithes and potray their religious inclinations outwardly, isn’t it paradoxical to see that it is this same country that has some of the highest level of corruption, child abuse, extra-judicial killings, rape, etc. Meanwhile countries like the US, France, Spain, where folks are hardly religious – probably due to their level of “economic boom and peace” – exhibit the least occurrence of these vices.

    What is missing?

    1. Good question from an interesting and correct observation.

      The gospel bred industry in Europe. This was because of its emphasis on values and virtues.
      You see there are two sides to the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is the gospel of grace (which focuses on salvation, the free gift of grace, and the benefits of redemption) and there is the gospel of the Kingdom (which focuses on values and virtues). The former produces babies and the latter produces change agents. Values like diligence, hardwork, integrity, chastity, generosity etc are all noted in the Bible and when imbibed they create a culture whose nucleus propels and sustains change. The gospel of the Kingdom produces this.

      The gospel of grace is meant to open the door and grant access into Heaven’s riches (prosperity, divine healing, long life etc) but we are not meant to stop there. Those riches are a means and not an end.
      The end is to institute the government of God on earth- “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”; unfortunately many people have held on to the first part without moving beyond it. This is a large part of what is obtainable now in Nigerian Christianity. Part of the reason for this is the present day emphasis on the gospel of Grace particularly as purveyed by the American church now.

      1. You are right, the gospel of the Kingdom has been highly neglected in Nigerian churches today and in the hearts of men.

        My next question: How do the ministers (of the word) and pastors help focus the people past the gospel of grace (which is all you hear today anyways) and onto the gospel of the Kingdom.

        I have done a study of the Western world and how they have achieved massive reduction in corruption, vices, etc, without necessarily improving morals. I came to the realization that there are just two basis: respect for one another and love for one another. The black nations have failed in these and hence our nemesis. This is why Jesus in Mark 12: 30-31 noted that there is no commandment greater than love for God and fellow man.

        1. While respect is a very important factor it goes beyond respect for each other.
          There are values their forebears imbibed from the Scriptures and these values became a culture for them as God’s Word became their compass.
          Years later, even though their descendants have let go of the Principal they still hold onto the principles He served them.
          You see that what the devil is trying to destroy in the 1st world today are those principles that made them great.
          Principles like respect for human rights (one of whose expressions is embodied in the Commandment “Thou shalt not kill”) they held on to are being redefined to allow for the murder of millions of innocents through unjust wars and primarily abortions.

          Spirits of perversion are released through the most hideous forms of immorality in homosexuality, pedophilia, and pedarasty.

          Values like hardwork are being undermined and many locals in Europe do not go to school anymore because of an effective welfare system.

          These are the tools of destruction Eloka. Unfortunately they don’t see this

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