In 1 Corinthians 14, the apostle Paul felt it necessary to address the issue of undisciplined commotion in the Corinthian ecclesia. In the course of his comments he stated an important principle which reveals a beautiful aspect of our heavenly Father’s character:

“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all ecclesias of the saints” (v33) The word confusion1 means “instability” or “a state of disorder”, and the apostle’s point is that such a quality does not proceed from God and, in fact, is entirely incompatible with His character. The net2 renders the verse: “God is not characterized by disorder but by peace.”

In fact, God is characterised by the very opposite of disorder. His ways are ordered, stable and sure. Paul went on to declare to the Corinthians that they had a responsibility to ensure that their gatherings were conducted in such a way as to be in harmony with this attribute of God’s character. Thus he wrote “Let all things be done decently and in order” (v40) Paul is effectively saying “worship God in this way, because this is what God is like.”

From the order and harmony of creation as described in Genesis, through to the remarkable structure of the book of Revelation, the Scriptures are replete with examples that demonstrate to us this aspect of our Father’s character—all indicative and illustrative of the mind and spirit from which it arose.

A particularly powerful instance is found in the vivid imagery of the Cherubim in Ezekiel… “they went everyone straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went” (1:12 net)

The description itself speaks of purpose, order, and deliberate well thought-out movements. This is our God at work. This is how He works. We perhaps see this principle most clearly when we contrast the description of the four cherubim of God’s glory with the graphic description of another four beasts.

Standing on the seashore with Daniel, we look out over a “troubled sea” to see an altogether different scene. One after another, four violent, hideous, wild beasts emerge. It is a picture of commotion, confusion and disorder.

If the Cherubim are indicative of the Kingdom of God and all that is compatible with it, the four wild beasts of Daniel 7 are indicative of fallen man and his kingdom.

Paul’s concern was that the Corinthians were behaving in a manner more compatible with the kingdom of man than the Kingdom of God! Little wonder that Paul expressed his desire to see their meetings conducted in a “decent” and “orderly” fashion.

However, it is not only in the context of our collective ecclesial life that these principles should find manifestation. The very same principles must surely carry over into the life of a disciple.

Our lives ought to be lives in harmony with the principles of order and peace. As ambassadors of the living God, our lives, too, should be characterised by purpose and intent.

Yet it must be obvious that living as we do in the kingdom of man, surrounded on every side by the bestial, the disorderly and the tumultuous (and having a natural tendency within us to gravitate towards such), it is a difficult task for the disciple in the 21st century to maintain the spirit which lives “decently and in order”. Indeed many would affirm that often they feel their lives are characterised by anything but order, calm and purpose.

Menlo Park, New Jersey, 1879

It was in a small laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey, where it all happened. By January 1879, Thomas Edison had invented the electric light bulb.

I wonder if we’ve ever stopped to contemplate just how much that single invention has affected our lives. The invention of the light bulb profoundly changed human existence and revolutionised the way we live.

In response to a question asked by his disciples, Jesus replied in John 11:9,“Are there not twelve hours in a day? If anyone walks around in the daytime, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.”

The Lord’s question here was surely rhetorical. The disciples did not need to answer it, for the answer was obvious. But perhaps we do, for when was the last time we had a twelve-hour day?

Reading through a history book about the middle ages recently, I came across this interesting excerpt quoting another historian—one De Quincey:

“De Quincy pointed out that the ancients everywhere went to bed, ‘like good boys, from seven to nine o’clock’.

Man went to bed early in those ages simply because his worthy mother earth could not afford him candles. She, good old lady… would certainly have shuddered to hear of any of her nations asking for candles. ‘Candles indeed!’ she would have said, ‘who ever heard of such a thing? And with so much excellent daylight running to waste, as I have provided gratis! What will the wretches want next?’”3

Since the invention of the electric light, one would surely have to agree that life has been made a little more complex. For all of us in this age, artificial light is but a flick away, and that has rendered us little masters in an area of life which was once out of our hands.

We now govern our own bed times! And indeed, how many of us manage that successfully!?

Not only that, but there is now so much to do! Small batteries now power mobile phones and those same mobile phones are now portable televisions, cinemas and internet chat rooms. Laptops run for hours and hours, and in many a café connect people wirelessly to the Internet, enabling them to bank, ‘google’ and ‘skype’ all at the same time whilst sipping on an iced latté. We could do all these activities at 12am in the morning if we wanted to. And many do, but at what cost?

Perhaps we are duped into thinking that with the aid of technology we can achieve so much more, saving time and money. No doubt this may be true to a certain extent—why buy a paper to read if one has the Internet? A number of websites can be consulted with the same subject being dealt with from different perspectives from different news agencies. At the end of one article is an interesting link to a related topic… we click our time away.

In an age of so many ‘time saving devices’ it is ironic that many feel we are left with fewer hours in a day and an even longer list of important things not completed by the end of it.

It’s not to say that technology is the only thing that is affecting our lives and seemingly increasing the pace of them, but indications are that many of us consider it a significant factor. Many feel as if life is sweeping them from one day to the next, and it’s a constant struggle to keep one’s head above water.

This leads us to the first questions that were asked in the survey referred to in the previous issue conducted between June and August in 2006.

Day to Day Life” Survey Results

Do you feel in control?

Absolutely 30%

Not Really 64%

No, I’m Sinking 6%

Does life feel purposeful and meaningful?

Of course 32%

Most of the time 60%

I wish! 8%

One would expect to find a group who ‘have it together’ and feel like they are ‘in control’ and living lives of purpose and meaning. We would perhaps expect to find this group of people in any survey, but especially would we expect to find it in a group who have been the recipients of a “high and holy” calling such as ours. One would also perhaps expect to find a group who felt they were not succeeding at all in this regard.

But the majority of us, it would seem, feel as though we are neither ‘here nor there’. We are ‘not really’ in control. Our lives feel purposeful and meaningful ‘most of the time’, but we are struggling. Some would perhaps suggest that this is the most realistic position to occupy in this life. Bad days are ‘par for the course’, so to speak.

We are bound to experience frustrations and disappointments in our life, for this is the futility that all mortal life has been subjected to in order to produce hope and longing for the Kingdom within us. Yet knowing our Father’s purpose in our lives of probation, we should ourselves be acutely aware that the mundane has meaning and purpose in our own lives, and the challenge is to maintain patient [2] continuance in well doing in such circumstances.

To put the above results into perspective, the results indicate that in an ecclesia of 100, six people feel that they are ‘sinking’.

Do the 30 or so who are succeeding know who they are? Is the ecclesia picking up its wounded and dying? Or are the majority so absorbed in their own ‘up and down’ struggles that those who have all but given up are passed by unnoticed?

The Most Difficult Thing

Given the opportunity in a free response question to detail what the most difficult thing about our modern lifestyle is, the answers were quite revealing and in many cases, unanimous.

What is the most difficult thing about our modern lifestyle?

Management of time 48%

The distractions and temptations all around 30%

Work and financial pressure 10%

The issue of sexual immorality 7%

Loneliness and lack of genuine friendship 2%

Miscellaneous 3%

By far the majority expressed that the most difficult thing about modern life is the issue of time. Finding it, balancing it, wanting and needing more of it, using it effectively, and; “why does it go so fast”!?

Examples of typical responses were:

  • “Time! Not enough of it, and when you have it, there is so much to do, and so little time… It is because life has become ‘fast’.”
  • “It’s so busy and fast, that when you do have a bit of spare time it’s so easy to just sit in front of the TV and waste time.”

The apostle Paul urged the disciples to “redeem the time” or “make every minute count”4.

Clearly many feel that they are not managing to do this effectively. Many of us are reaching the end of the day and not feeling as if our time was utilised effectively. We feel as if we ran out of that ‘precious commodity’ long before we were able to use it to get the ‘important things’ done.

The next “most difficult thing” according all respondents was avoiding “distractions” and “temptations”. Many were very specific about the distractions which were proving difficult to ignore and the temptations which were difficult to resist. Listed were: “novels”, “movies”, “television” and “internet”.

Examples of typical responses were:

  • “Ease of access to non-profitable things that bite into your time”
  • “Having the strength and motivation to leave doing those worldly and non-profitable things I enjoy (like books and movies), and moving to my Bible for reading, study or meditation.”

Our usage of these ‘distractions’ is later explored in this survey as future articles will show. However, it is worth noting in this context that many declared that their concern was that these things “wasted their time”. It is also worth noting that in the above examples “distractions” were referred to as “nonprofitable things”, leaving us with the paradox that many of us finding ourselves willing to spend what we know to be precious (time) on what we know to be ultimately “unprofitable”.

It should be noted that these figures above do not necessarily suggest that “loneliness” (2%) is a minor problem, for it may be the feeling of a much higher percentage, only that something else was more prominently in their mind as ‘more difficult’.

The Most Irritating Things in the World

Another free response question was, What irritates you most about the world?

What irritates you most about the world?

The godlessness 25%

The prevalence and growth of wickedness 23%

Materialism, greed and humanism 20%

War, violence and suffering 13%

Lack of genuine care for others in society 8%

The fact that I’m attracted to it 7%

Miscellaneous 4%

It is clear from the above results that brethren and sisters are especially frustrated with what is a godless world. Many of us are upset that there is such ‘zero care factor’ these days concerning God, the Lord Jesus Christ and the deeper things of life. This was expressed often in terms of frustration at not being able to reach people in personal preaching efforts.

A close second was, as one brother put it, “the ubiquity of iniquity”. Twenty-three percent of respondents are most irritated (perhaps irritated is not strong enough a word) by the moral depravity which appears on every hand, and wickedness which appears to be increasing.

The third ‘irritant’ mentioned was materialism, humanism and greed. It is interesting that often brethren and sisters linked ‘materialism’ and the ‘pressure of keeping up with the Jones’s’ with the philosophies of this world—humanism.

Perhaps these things do not surprise us. These issues around us should increase our longing and desire for the Lord’s return. It is curious to see however (as we will) that as much as we are ‘irritated’ by the world, and as much as we deplore its ‘godlessness’ and ‘moral depravity’ we are caught up in its entertainment to an alarming degree. And who would deny that often the world’s entertainment is characterised by the very things we claim to deplore?

Are we using the weapons of our warfare? Each day we are to “redeem the time” (Eph 5:16) and use it effectively—God’s way. Bible study and prayer are powerful tools in our “profession” (Heb 3:1). Examples of God’s faithful and beloved servants can light our path.

These issues will be addressed in the next article: “The Weapons of our Warfare”.