Knowing what to do

Imagine a young lady on a transatlantic flight. She’s sat next to an elderly passenger who suddenly faints in her seat. The young lady panics and her fright is palpable. She’s screaming and trying to get everyone’s attention. She has no idea what’s wrong with the elderly passenger or how to help her. Six years later, the young lady is on the same flight and another passenger slumps in his seat. Now, it’s someone else’s turn to panic. Someone shouts: “Is there a doctor onboard?!” The young lady leaps out of her seat and rushes to the scene. She’s calm as she attends to the poorly patient. After a few minutes, the sick passenger opens her eyes, and there’s resounding applause on the plane. So, what changed for the young lady? Was it just the passage of time?

Of course, it wasn’t just the passage of time. In the intervening six years, the young lady earned admission into a university and graduated as a medical doctor. So, between her first and second experiences of encountering sick passengers at thirty-thousand feet, she had amassed knowledge which enabled her to respond appropriately in a challenging situation. The passage of time would have made little difference if the young lady hadn’t gained the requisite knowledge to handle such situations. Something similar happens with first-time parents. They’re often flustered and overwhelmed when their baby cries because they’ve yet to learn what to do. However, by the second or third child, the same parents can discern why their baby is crying and deal with the situation with minimum fuss. 

Life is a series of circumstances, and those who excel often do so because of how they handle the vagaries of life. The Bible says time and chance happen to everyone under the sun [Ecclesiastes 9:11]. That’s a decree backed by the integrity of God’s justice system. It’s irrelevant whether you’re a Christian or not, rich or poor, strong or weak,  intelligent or dull. As long as you live under the sun, you will have at least one season of opportunity; your time and chance to excel. Often the challenge is that many of us are unprepared when that window of opportunity arrives. So, we either fail to recognise it or fail to take full advantage of it because of our ignorance. Consequently, our life-changing opportunity passes us by, often never to return.

In his epistle to the Church in Ephesus, Paul instructed the people of God to live circumspectly, as wise men and women, using the time they have to sharpen their discernment [Ephesians 5:15-17]. Doing so would enable them to understand God’s will. The implicit guarantee of Paul’s instruction is that those who discern the will of God and obey it will invariably excel in life. In essence, that is what it means to know what to do. Life will test all of us, whether prepared or not. Challenges and unexpected situations are unavoidable. If you panic when they come, it’s proof that you don’t know what to do. That statement might be difficult to accept for some, but if you examine the life of Jesus, the One we’re meant to emulate, you find no record of Him panicking when confronted with challenges. The composure in the face of trials was also evident in many of His disciples after Pentecost. So, it’s possible to live without panic not because there are no challenges but because you always know what to do when they come.

In my view, the first step to an excelling life is to believe it’s possible to maximise your time and chance and remain composed in challenging situations. We must become utterly convinced that God doesn’t want us to be fearful, worried or panicked by the circumstances of life [Matthew 6:25-33, Philippians 4:6-7]. Nevertheless, He doesn’t magically impose such serenity on us as we face trials because God isn’t a magician. Rather God desires our composure and actions to be anchored on knowledge. Put differently: God is glorified when we know what Jesus would do if He encountered the challenges or opportunities before us and act accordingly. Such mastery of life isn’t accidental; you don’t become a doctor or know what to do with a crying baby by default.

As I examine my life against these truths, I find many situations where I don’t quite know what to do, circumstances that cause consternation, and past opportunities I missed or failed to recognise. I can’t blame God, my parents, my race, where I was born, the government, the economy, anyone or anything else for my predicament if I was unprepared when time and chance presented themselves. Nevertheless, God isn’t interested in regret or blame. He’s a God of second chances, and I know He hasn’t given up on me becoming all He desires me to be. He’s also willing and able to restore time and chance [Joel 2:25]. However, I must also desperately seek knowledge and ruthlessly eliminate areas of ignorance in my life to maximise future seasons and opportunities God brings my way.

So, what about you? Have you maximised time and chance in your life? Do you know what to do in the situations you’re currently facing? What guarantees do you have that what you’re doing will work? If your answers to these questions aren’t positive, I want to encourage you; change is possible because the God of the Bible is a Redeemer. If you’re reading this, you have life’s most important commodity: Time – which you can use to transform your life with God’s help. In His word, you’ll find all the knowledge you need to excel in life [2 Peter 1:3]. And if you submit to His Spirit, He will order your steps [Psalm 37:23] and bring you to His destiny for us [Jeremiah 29:11]. 

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