Serving in a Secular Set-Up

Published on April 7, 2010

By Lunminthang Haokip

Introduction: Whichever way we look at it, whether we are conscious about it or not, the plain truth remains that, vain as the chain of human hobnobbing with hobbies is, we all are serving one thing or another. Some serve amorous desires and others fabulous designs. When off duty, many officers are busy doing things close to their own hearts like gardening, floriculture, collecting puppies, sports, gambling, weekend outings etc. A few high-ranking civil servants are inclined to be contentedly glued to the TV, take cursory glance at newspapers and magazines while nibbling at wifey’s latest gourmet recipe. The lot willfully waste time idly cushioned on a spongy sofa only to soon develop a double-chin below the lips and a bulging paunch around the waist. However, there are some with ambitions aiming at an assembly seat at any cost, desiring to be re-tyred after retirement. Such types tirelessly meet people; lunch with strange favour-seekers, and make promises of help and involve themselves in local social affairs.

Own Mis-Serves: Some motivated social-climbers choose to serve deified demi-gods-in-power only to desert them later when goaded by the latter’s diversified demeaning demeanours. Yet, there are others in the elite strata who, on their own volition, “gladly spend and be spent” for the cause of their tribes and clans just to get a spattering of flattering words from home-spun spin-doctors who wax eloquent in sobering gatherings, in return. Yes, many of us serve “the creature rather than the creator” (Romans 1:25) and in the bargain, prolong the spiritual stupor wherein our nature tutors our sensibilities to feed the worthless part of our souls.

A Secular Set-Up: The word ‘secular’ is concerned with the affairs of this world; something not spiritual. But the unfortunate truth about it is that in our land, secularism cannot escape partly losing its pristine propriety as it is made to pass through the prism of religion in practical use. Whereas it means total aloofness to anything religious in the west, nearer home, it becomes paying equal respect to every religion. Likewise, when we are bound by rules to be indifferent to anything political, some of us get a vicarious thrill in breaking norms to secure favours through cleverly covered-up slimy activities at others’ expense. That is why we see our system giving birth to insecurely secular set-ups where one is lured into calculatingly push files around to eke out a decent living.

Authority from God: Secular set-ups may be a governmental establishment, a non-governmental organisation, a charitable trust or a relief agency. A good number of our churches, which are meant to be factories where sins are recycled to produce new hearts, are so overburdened with overdues and overheads that they simply become sick-units meriting to be dubbed as more secular than spiritual. All said and done, God’s hand and purpose are behind every civil establishment and its lesser undertakings. Therefore, St. Paul exhorted “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Romans 13:1).

Who to Serve?: Everywhere right from bean-laden Eden garden to the hidden den of Bin Laden, it has been God’s burden that the overflowing milk of divine kindness, out of cardiac curd, churn out creamy hearts willing to serve the Lord. The Almighty made His irreversible one-line whip on this matter clear, “You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him… (Deut. 6:13) and spelled out in no uncertain terms why it was to be done and what failure to do so would follow. “For the Lord your God is a jealous God among you, lest the anger of the Lord your God be aroused against you and destroy you from the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy. 6:15).

You may like to differ. I am rule-bound, you may say, to work for the system, my organisation, my subject or the poor. But then, what do all these owe their existence to? Will there be life, leave alone civil orderliness, if a life-sustaining element like the air is withdrawn for a few minutes from the atmosphere of human habitation? “And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you indeed receive it, why do you glory as if you had not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). The creator rightly claims authority over every being and thing. “For the world is mine and all its fullness” (Psalm 56:12).

Buffer-Stocker: Unpredictable and fluctuating fortunes around the world evidence the credibility of the fact that He even is the utter saver of buffer stocks in national and individual coffers. “The silver is mine and the gold is mine, says the Lord of host” (Haggai 2:8). Servant of God, Joshua certainly knew that the chosen people’s security lay in serving the lord, “…..But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). He crafted for himself a distinguished career-graph as a leader who had an unflinching faith in Deut. 4:7, “For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him?”

How to Serve: On the week-days, we are being herded and huddled in heartless work-places where system-misgoverned mindsets are insensitive to creed but receptive to greed and submissive to need. To them that fear men and fear God, that cheer the world but sneer at the Word, and that go ultra-glam in attire but force a slam and snap a satire on moves to impact the soul, ‘ungodliness with discontentment appears to be great gain’. However, when the carnal going gets tough, the tough-in-spirit gets going, no matter his plight thereafter. Pressures and moves to ill-gain can only be checkmated by a steely resolve to suffer rather than shuffle one’s stance that is rooted in the warning of Job 15:34, in letter and spirit.   “……And fire will consume the tents of bribery.” God is best served in secular set-ups when insular white-collar incumbents insulate themselves from the recurring idiosyncrasies of deceit and dishonesty. Heroes of unfaith with zero faith balance will echo the hollow error that clean hands can only bring sorrow of penury. Isaiah 33:15 & 16 promise otherwise, “He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, He who despises the gain of oppression who gestures with His hands, refusing bribes… He will dwell on high… bread will be given him, His water will be sure.”

You Cannot Serve: Concerned and offered the ultimate choice, Joshua’s people toed the leader’s line, “We will serve the Lord.” Yet, in Joshua Chapter 24:19, the faithful servant of God cast an aspersion on the make-belief bellowing, “You cannot serve the Lord for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.”
Occupational Hazard: It’s sad that even today man jumps into the bandwagon of the hazardous profession of doing God’s work without “having their hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience” (Hebrew 10:22). Being holy and jealous, the Almighty cannot tolerate sin. So He sent His sinless son that through Him, souls-gone-berserk may settle the sin problem that they may single-mindedly obey the Lord their God. Nevertheless, the natural “human heart is deceitful… and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). This is the outcome of the forbidden betrayal of Eden. Repentance, confession of sins and setting things right are indispensable to cleanse the deterring filth in the heart and the spirit that the soul may be reined in to submit to the obedience of Christ. Only a sanctified heart will delight in serving the Lord.

The OLS Hang-Up: Many Sunday-worship particular grey-hearts among the white-collar fraternity who are regularly irregular in prayer meetings on the week-days, think that they are doing God’s work with generous doses of altruism. But you cannot kill the bull with the butt facing it, can you?  There is a gulf of difference in worshipping to please God and in doing so to please self and men.
Of late, it becomes kind of fashionable for weirdly counselled salaried Sirs to stop taking everything from cigarette, khaini, chilli, tea, sweetmeats and orders from domineering wives except taking graft. Riding high on the deriding wave of flattering platitudes following trumpeted charitable activities on their part, these hot favourites of tide-observing tithe-care-takers, even dare to assume ecclesiastical responsibilities. What can sorry minds and guilty hearts deliver apart from spiritual tepidity? Psalm 24:3&4 clearly states, “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord (read pulpit)? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart…..”

OLS-Trap: Problem lies not in the laudable religious zeal of the well-meaning likeably pitiable suckers, but in their failure to pull themselves out of the debt-trap of OLS-officer-like status. Comfort comes as a guest, stays on to become the host and lingers on to enslave us all. It is a pity that late-rising, sumptuous food, 7-star lifestyle, designer cars, top-notch-schools and branded wears, hi-mega-pixel mob-phones, abroad holidays etc. are considered essential to acquire OLQ-officer-like-quality. Incidentally, OLQ can also be Zero-LQ. In actuality, the modern toys and gadgets play spoilers to several promising testimonies and trip many who labour in God’s vineyard by pushing them into the devouring bottomless-pit of materialism.

Self-Denial: The root-cause lies in the misleading attitude of taking ourselves and life too seriously. The only antidote to this hell-bound roller-coaster ride on luxury’s lap is to cultivate CLQ-Christ-like-quality that glories in the cross and self-denial. St. Paul thrived on self-denial.. .”..Nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy….”(Acts 20: 24). If not inspired by that you may even try MLQ-Moses-like quality. He performed the other-worldly act no other prince ever dared to do, “…choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrew 11: 25).

Hero of Zero-Compromise: In normal usage, zero is equated with a thing of no value. But when a believer is hell-bent on zero-compromise, his spiritual value shoots up to saintly heights. Any day, in any inference of holiness, Daniel figures as the vantage point of reference. The mere mention of the Nebuchadnezzar-chosen civil servant-on-probation, evokes credence to every instance of invoking towards adherence to righteous conduct in public life. Why is it so? Because “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meant nor with the wine which he drank..” (Daniel 1: 8).

Daring to be Different: Cash-strapped and trapped in socio-cultural mishmash in alien land, any lesser bugger would have succumbed to the pulls and pushes of trashy behaviour. A firm mind and a burning desire to attain divine standards of holiness saw the young man from Israel through in tempting heathen environs. Health and ability to interpret vision and dreams came Daniel’s way as fruits of obedience. “For God giveth to a man that is good in His sight wisdom and knowledge, and joy…” (Ecl. 2: 26).

The Belly Can Bedevil Joy: Several public servants may either be born with or acquire knowledge and wisdom. However, we cannot say the same when it comes to joy. No ploy that the crafty employ will give the joy God gives to “he that is good in His sight.” Daniel’s secret of integrity that resulted in joy lay in his wisdom to check the impulse to hunger for delicacies. “Be not desirous of dainties: for they are deceitful meat (Prov. 23:3),” Solomon warned thousands of years back.

Nevertheless, on the palatial dining tables of many notable noble men, plates fly when the hot food-items served on a silver platter fail to tickle the pampered palate of the temperamental (70% temper and 30% mental) hosts. The habitual reluctance on a spoiled-sport’s part to stomach in anything less delectable, after tasting culinary blood, culminates in a palpably compelling passion to grab graft. That is how the belligerence of the belly belies myriad believers. “Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel” (Proverb 20:17). When filthy gain attracts terror, even savouring the best food becomes a horror. Feeding on simple items like pulses and water, Daniel and Co. grew 10 times richer in wisdom and understanding than the magicians and astrologers of their time (Daniel 1:20). Proverb 19:22 substantiates the truth that honesty and integrity alone can make one hassle-freely happy. “The blessing of the Lord makes one rich; and He adds no sorrow with it.”

Time to Obediently Disobey: Agreed that “There is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God (Romans 13:1).  Also agreed that civil government is one of the institutions God built up throughout the ages for His will to be given top-priority in. But the creator cannot agree with any decree that insists on anything contrary to free-will worship of the living God. The civil disobedience of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed Nego raised the hackles of king Nebu. They were cast into the fiery furnace; yet, God’s grace managed to salvage them from graver adversity. Daniel’s refusal to be disloyal to divine avowal by defying royal statute may have landed him in the lion’s den. But then, that his God delivered him from seemingly un-retrievable doom delighted King Darius to declare “I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must tremble and fear the God of Daniel” (Daniel 6:26).

Catch-22 Situation: Often we do come across similar catch- 22 situations in our daily dealings. The choice is either to hold on fast to wholesome holiness like Daniel did or spin and bend (rules) like Beckham’s kick. Nothing apparently desirable comes out of guarded godly living. The heavenly-minded in earthly circumstances is dismissed off as someone queer, demure and bereft of sanity and detached from reality. Here where compromise is the key that opens doors of ambiguous ambitions, deceit seems to pay rich dividends. The weak in courage is strong in cunning. The wicked plots and waits to be sadistically amused by the disastrous stumbling of the righteous. The amoral will leave no stone unturned to demoralize the morally astute and wreck his faith in standards of moral uprightness.

God’s Delight: The believer ought to be “wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove” (Mt. 10:16). His duty is to duck and dodge. Even then, no turn of his will be left unstoned by the stony-hearted. Tricky traps will be laid to mentally arm-twist him to toe the line of worldly control. But no law is greater than the Ten Commandments. Pharaoh ordered the mid-wives of his land to kill the male Hebrew babies at delivery-time. The God-fearing midwives obediently disobeyed the bloody decree sagaciously, saying, “The Hebrew women are lively and give birth before the midwives come to them” (Exodus 1:19). God was immensely pleased. “Therefore God dealt well with the midwives and the people multiplied and grew very mighty” (Ex. 1:20).

Explore Your Core Competence: That you can do best without giving much effort is what you are most competent in. But efficiency in doing things carnal or worldly does not augur well in description of traits spiritual. What is counted as cherished-competence in shady circles, the trustworthy will rapidly learn to mentally encircle as shallow pretence. You can only add gems of virtue to your spiritual deposits when you open the spirit-operated account of conversion. 

Before accepting Jesus as my personal Saviour, I had wasted my God-gifted flair to piece words together in pen-pushing to fish in troubled social waters. Now it thrills me to the core, from soul to sole, to put in ink the wonderful ways of the Saviour who ransomed me from an awesome bondage and a wearisome passage-to-hellfire. The spirit of the Lord helps me to discover the hitherto under-cover core competence of pen-pushing as a potent weapon to serve the Lord.

Employ Your Core Competence: “He has filled them with skill to do all manner of work of the engraver and the designer and the tapestry maker and of the weaver….”(Exodus 35:35).

God gives varying types and tides of skill to every individual which, if not taken to the floods of opportunity, get washed away on the shallow shores of obscurity. In 17th century England, John Bunyan of The Pilgrim’s progress-fame, was a poor struggling tinker who earned name and fame through door-to-door tinkering. William Carey initially was a part-time cobbler and pastor who was ridiculed by high-brow snobs as a “miserable enthusiast” and even “an uneducated upstart.”  But his “expecting of great things from God and attempting of great things for God” moved heaven to later promote him as professor of Oriental Languages in Fort William College, Calcutta (then), and the translator of the Bible in 44 languages and dialects. It all proved that latent talent flourishes and soars in direct proportion to the strengthening of one’s faith and the deepening of one’s commitment.

Work Out Your Competence: Where is your place in God’s kingdom, dear brother? Is it in singing or playing music, preaching or organising, writing or witnessing, spiritual ballet-dancing or distributing tracts? Some know and others don’t. What you can do better than others and that you enjoy doing for hours at a stretch with no trace of fatigue, and for which you do not expect any reward is your core competence. Identifying it and polishing the rough edges come easy once you mortify self, sit loose to the world and live dangerously for the Lord. The thrilling experience of blissful joy and contentment will all be yours if you can serve the Lord with the gift you excel in. There isn’t any limit to the rich harvest you will be reaping as a bonus. “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous (Roman 5:19).

No Rewind Button: In IPL matches we see. Good batting alone cannot win a match. We need adroit fielding too. God in His infinite mercy diversify the talents He showers us with that we mortal humans, in our finite existence on earth, may fit in His plan of salvation to mankind. Let’s put ourselves in the field of his purpose and get cracking and kicking – focusing solely on the main role assigned to each of us; and score as many spiritual goals as we can in this extra-time of grace before the ultimate umpire blows the final whistle in the game of life that has no rewind-button.

Coaches of Life: God’s servants are putting on the coaches’ boots and fighting back impulses to run off God’s side and succumb to the irresistible offers made by the bookies and punters of the material world. They are guiding and chastening us for our own edification. It is good to remember that whenever there is any mismatch of role to a player, it is the coach who sulks and fumes; but he erupts in crazy delirium when goals are scored and victory smelled.

The writer is additional deputy commissioner under Manipur government, India.

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