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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?

Categories
motivational

The Targeted Life: Success Secrets From Three Wise Little Creatures

One of the things I like most about nature is that it has a way of aptly describing some of the most profound principles that guide human life and existence. Principles such as Focus for example.
Even a cursory look at the outdoors reveals many ethics and conventions that are hiding in plain sight; ethics and conventions that are imperative for success.
These principles of success are apparent to all who will take even a desultory look.

I remember growing up and how I used to marvel at lines of ants transporting food from place to place. The level of focus they would show as they moved in unbroken lines heading toward their target. I would see how an insect or small animal would be dismembered with success within minutes by hordes of ants who would instantaneously transfer each bit to other ants through the line until it disappeared through one hole or the other.
I would see how those ants will give their complete focus and attention to the unfortunate prey as they ripped it apart with unwavering accuracy before carrying a portion of the booty and disappearing through a crevice.

I am told that an ant has 250,000 brain cells. It sounds like very much till you compare it with the number of brain cells the average human being is said to have- 10,000,000,000. This would mean it would take something like the brain capacity of a colony of 40,000 ants to produce the equivalent in one human being.
They obviously don’t have the mental capacity of a person but they still have enough sense to know to prepare for the future by investing and working today. They have enough sense to know that everyday is not summer and that one day winter will come, and with this knowledge they focus on accomplishing their objective.

I never saw an ant standing on one spot
I never saw an ant spending more time than was appropriate in interactions with other ants…it was almost always that silent conversation, “Oh, hello, how do you do? See you…” and he was off.

Ants have no rulers or guides, they have very little bureaucracy, and do not have many board meetings, yet they are able to accomplish a lot and prepare for moments of lack with success because of their unbridled diligence, focus and immense foresight. That one tiny ant you could just crush if you stepped on is said to be able to carry anywhere between ten to fifty times it’s weight. Think about a man who weighed 70 kilos carrying weights between 700 and 3,500 kilograms.
Amazing.

Ants also wear a natural armored suit. I understand that scientists call the hard, outer shell of an ant “chitin.” This armor is designed to protect them from a hostile environment and contribute to their strength. In a world where “wolves” will gobble anyone who shows vulnerability and weakness this is something we must learn from the ant. Life won’t give you an easy ride, and there is an abundance of mean people all ready to take advantage of those that lag behind the herd. The ant shows us how tough we must be if we will not only adapt to but also overcome a world which is largely belligerent and postures itself in a way inimical to any show of fragility or enervation. If we will make a success of our lives and endeavors there are one or two things we can learn from this little creature.

In just observing ants one can see how judiciously they use any opportunities that open up to them and just how resourceful they are, never letting anything go to waste.
The unfortunate insect or small animal that falls and remains in a place will have only moments before an ant sniffs it out and sends word to its companions. With untrammeled focus the ants will come in droves and pick apart their prey until there is absolutely nothing left.
In the observation of their general lifestyle one can delineate these principles that are so critical that they are fundamental to the very term success.

Another creature worth our observing is the locust. We can learn a lot from this insect on success and the principles that undergird it. Locusts are leaderless insects but they strip the field like an army regiment.
A single locust is hardly noticeable. In fact, by itself, a locust is harmless and insignificant. But when locusts travel together they become an entirely different proposition.
This principle of “joint effort” is described in the Bible in Ecclesiastes 4:9. The writer tells us that “two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.” In other words, there is strength in numbers.

The modern world refers to this phenomenon as “synergy” and many have used the following equation to define or express this concept:

1 + 1 + 1 = 4

With synergy, the sum of the parts is greater than the individual parts alone.
I will digress a bit…
I remember seeing a piece where wild geese and their behavioral patterns were being assessed; I was made to understand that a flock of geese in formation will fly 75% further than a single goose would.
I am also told that where the average donkey has the ability to pull two tons of weight alone two donkeys yoked together have the capacity to pull twenty two tons of weight.
That is the geometric progression that synergy offers.
Success is a product of several factors, and one of them is synergy.

You might have heard the popular adage, “No one’s an island,” if we will apply what we learn from the locusts and every other one of the animals we have mentioned it will be easy to accomplish very much, attain success, and get the best out of this short window we call life.

Another creature that gets my attention is the spider.
Spiders are phenomenal creatures. I have never seen any physical location so intimidating that they would not be able to make an audacious attempt to string together a web in. They will spin it in a shanty, and will not pass up the opportunity to do so in a palace.
For a spider every situation, every place, every environment is the same. The spider doesn’t seem to think there is any location he is undeserving of, give him the slightest opportunity and you can rest assured he will maximize it.
Watching a T.V interview of Zhang Xin, the 50 year old billionaire real estate mogul and the richest woman in China, who was born in extreme poverty in rural China the spider came to my mind.
When asked what one thing she would advise anyone who intended to toe her path to success she said, “When you see an opportunity, grab it.”
This seems to be how the spider thinks.

One other thing I like about the spider is the fact that it engages only on its own terms. The spider can trap insects and other animals that are between four and five times its weight. It does this and immobilizes its prey before, depending on the specie of spider, liquifying it.
The spider does not do this by allowing its prey dictate the terms of engagement, it does this by determining the terms of engagement; bringing its prey into its web. When it does this it fights from a position of strength and not from one of weakness.
This should be how we approach life if we want to make a success of it.
Face adversities and situations with boldness and use that knowledge and skill that is available to you.

In a sense, when I think of the spider I remember a quote from George Bernard Shaw.
He said, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world, the unreasonable man adapts the world to himself. For this reason, all change is dependent on the unreasonable man.”
I find that people who will live a fulfilled life and have the level of success they intend to will have to live their lives bucking the trend.
To be outstanding we must be ready to stand out from the crowd, and to stand out we must be willing to do what the crowd is unwilling to. We must take the road less travelled and swim against the tide of public opinion.

One thing that is consistent with everyone of the aforementioned creatures is their focus.

There is no discount on the price tag of success