worldThe Scottish evangelist and teacher, Oswald Chambers, wrote.
“No Christian makes much progress in the Christian life until they realise that life is more chaotic and tragic than orderly.”
Ever since the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden, these words of Oswald Chambers have helped to define the world in which we have been called to live and serve.

The purpose of this paper is to understand how we might live out our calling as leaders in a world of chaos and tragedy, in a second choice world, that Paul described in his letter to the Romans in chapter 8.
“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who His children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as His adopted children, including the new bodies He has promised us. (v 18-23 NLT)

Following the fall, the gate to the Garden of Eden was forever shut. The new heaven and new earth with the second coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ await us. Right now, we live in the in-between time.
To live out God’s calling today in a second choice world of chaos and tragedy can at times seem daunting. In a time of great distress, King David, in Psalm 11, contemplated the options that lay before him. Perhaps you have been in a situation like him when he asked the question, “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
David seemed to be speaking to those who were advising him to run from his enemies. His reply, “In the Lord I take refuge. How can you then say to me, ‘Flee like a bird to the mountain!’”
vid could resign from his calling to lead his people and retreat to live life in a less stressful situation, or he could find refuge in the Lord. He chose the latter.

The one thing that every leader in the Bible had in common was that they all lived in a second choice world in which they came to live out God’s sovereign purposes and calling.

We see this even in the life of Jesus who left His home in heaven, His first choice world, to live out His Father’s purposes on earth. Paul describes it this way….
“Jesus who being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:6-8

Viv Thomas in his book Second Choice said, “Jesus lived redemptively. He entered into our dislocation to heal our twisted and broken lives. Is it possible to see similar redemption demonstrated in our worlds of second choice? Can we deal with our second choice worlds in the way in which Jesus dealt with His earthly experience? Can we see our pain, disappointments, and difficulties as opportunities for us to live our lives to the full and see them work redemption in this world? The gospel says we can.”

The Chinese word for crisis provides us with some helpful insights. It is made up of two Chinese characters – one signifying “danger” and the other signifying “opportunity”. It is like a two-edged sword. As we read through the Bible, we continually see these two characteristics co-existing; a time of crisis that threatens danger but also creates unprecedented and unforeseen opportunities. Time and again in the Bible we see that the very situations that create crises for leaders are the very situations that open doors of opportunities. And such situations call for leaders to live with perspective, to see them through God’s eyes.

Such a situation occurred in Acts 8 where we read that “persecution broke out against the early church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned for him. But Saul began to destroy the Church. Going from house to house he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.” (v 1-3)

But those who were scattered in this time of crisis had perspective for we read in the next verse (4) “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said.”
Here we see that in this time of crisis in the early church, persecution brought both danger and opportunities. It was persecution in Jerusalem that resulted in the gospel spreading to Judea and Samaria, just as Jesus commanded in His great commission.

Living in a second choice world requires us to live with perspective and to live purposefully. Solomon, perhaps the wisest person who ever lived, said in Ecclesiastes, that living without perspective, is to live a life that is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

The writer C.S. Lewis, speaking to his wife when she was dying of cancer, referred to life in a second choice world as living in the Shadowlands, real life was yet to begin. What we are experiencing right now is a pale image of the reality that awaits us in heaven. Paul said, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see God face to face.”  1 Corinthians 13:12 In New Testament times, a mirror was formed from polished metal, which could only reflect a dim and imperfect image. But there is coming a time where God will exchange our dim images for a face to face encounter with Him.

Both Solomon and C.S. Lewis were reminding us that Christians are to remember not to live lives as if this second choice world is all there is; we are to live our lives with an eternal perspective and make it our priority to store up treasure in heaven rather than treasure on earth. C.S. Lewis said, “All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.”
To live with perspective is one of the most critical things we need to do if we are going to make sense of the world we live in today with its uncertainties and injustices, where the groaning seems to be getting louder and the too hard basket for our national leaders is getting bigger.

So how do we make sense of living in a second choice world where “all creation (that includes you and me) has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to this present time.” One writer, Eugene Peterson, the author of The Message responds, “We are glutted with information, but we are starved for wisdom. We know so much about everything (under the sun) but we can live astonishingly trivial lives. Why do we know so much and live so badly? Well, partly at least because we as a culture are admiring all the wrong people and have lost touch with the wise.”

One of the tests of a worldview is how well it stands up to the challenges of real life. When we inevitably face times of chaos and trauma, and there is no encouraging news, does our belief system meet the challenges?

The Bible is full of the lives of leader mentors who lived in a second choice world and whose worldview helped them stand strong in the challenges they faced.
One such leader was Daniel who lived most of his life in a second choice world away from the familiar world into which he was born. Daniel was handsome and intelligent with an aptitude for every kind of learning and was taken forcibly from his family in Jerusalem at the age of 14 by the invading Babylonian army and deported to Babylon some 800 kilometres away. He served a cruel king for the rest of his life, 70 years.

Viv Thomas writes, “Daniel teaches us that it is possible to bring light into the darkness that surrounds us. Wicked people can be transformed, dark places can become places of brilliant light. Daniel teaches us that places of second choice can be first class if we allow God to work them out.”

Daniel provides us with a helpful case study; a boy of 14, the student most likely to succeed in his class, had everything taken from him – his family, his country, his plans, and even his name. It was possible for him to not only survive in a second choice world, but to thrive. And we know that he did thrive because there were two indispensables that couldn’t be taken from him wherever he went.

First, he had a living relationship with God. God was not just a God who resided only in Jerusalem. God was the God who would never leave him or forsake him. Daniel never compromised himself, he always had an audience of one and always lived a life of faithfulness to God.
Second, Daniel knew that his God was a sovereign God who was in charge of the history of the world.  Perhaps he took heart from Joseph’s words to his disloyal brothers, when he said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”  Genesis 50:19-20
From an early age, Daniel found that life was more chaotic and tragic than orderly, yet he knew that it was not his circumstances that would determine his life, rather it was his attitude to his circumstances that would determine his life. He knew that in a second choice world he could not choose his circumstances, but he could choose his attitude to his circumstances.
Viv Thomas wrote, “Living realistically demands that we anticipate and even embrace the chaos of the world in which we live. Even if our lives look good and we are feeling fine, there are many people in our community that are not…. In our community are a mixture of rational and irrational; joy and misery; hope and despair; people living with their past and at the same time anticipating some sort of future.”

More and more as I study the New Testament Church, I find that I need to read the unfolding story against a backdrop of persecution and uncertainty. But in the midst of it all, we find Paul’s attitude was unchanging. He could write triumphantly, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

I have never heard of a course for leaders called Leading in a Second Choice World, and yet the more I think about it, the more I believe it to be an indispensable requirement in every leader’s preparation.
Leading in a second choice world requires people who are full of faith and believing that God is working out His sovereign purposes in the experiences of their lives and who are abiding in Jesus their Lord and are supernaturally empowered by the Holy Spirit. People who have walked away from a first choice world of comfort and predictability and are fully alive in their second choice world. They have dismissed as myths the ideas that we can be tempted to long for, if we are going to live victorious Christian lives. It is the lives of Daniel and Joseph, and Moses and Abraham, and Paul, and Joseph and Mary and Jesus and many others that lead us to put to death the following myths and face life in a second choice world with courage and integrity and hope and resilience.


I need to be in my first choice world to have CLOSE FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD.
Daniel teaches us that it is not just in times of quiet retreat that we can have close fellowship with God, but it is also when we are in the lion’s den and the fiery furnaces of life that we can be fully alive and experience the deep presence of God. To long for our first choice worlds of comfort and peace can stop us from taking faith steps that lead us through the open doors of opportunity that God has for us.

I need to be in my first choice world to be HAPPY.
The problem with this myth is that happiness is dependent on circumstances, on living in an ideal world that is free from pain and negative experiences. However, we are promised joy in our second choice world. It is a fruit of the Spirit and can be ours wherever we go. Paul wrote a joy filled letter to the Philippians as a prisoner in a Roman jail while he was facing a death sentence. He said to the Corinthians, “in all our troubles, my joy knows no bounds.” 2 Corinthians 7:4 What a paradox! Nehemiah went a step further and told the Jewish people who were rebuilding the wall of their city under difficult circumstances that “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

I need to be in my first choice world to be SECURE.
When Daniel left Jerusalem and was deported to Babylon, he was stripped of all his familiar worldly securities. But there was never any indication that he lived an insecure life. He understood that security wasn’t found in a place or in possessions or in a position of power, rather security was found in the presence and promises of a God who would never leave him. Daniel knew that his life was in God’s hands and that his God was the sovereign God over all the kingdoms of the world.

For now, we live in a second choice world, but at the same time we “join with all creation in looking forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.”

So how do we live as leaders in our second choice world? What lessons can Daniel teach us so that we wont just survive, but that we will thrive and live life to the full that Jesus promised? John 10:10

    God’s servants knew that wherever they went they could count on God’s presence being with them.
    Living in a second choice world did not change Daniel’s priority of daily spending quality time praying to God. “Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to God, just as he had done before.” Daniel 6:10 Daniel knew that if he had an intimate relationship with God and nothing else, he had everything.
    Following Daniel’s miraculous release from the lion’s den, even King Darius “wrote to all the nations and peoples of EVERY language in all the earth, that people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. For He is the living God and He endures forever; His kingdom will not be destroyed, His dominion will never end. He rescues and He saves; He performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.” Daniel 6:25-27
    What an amazing testimony from a pagan king regarding the omnipresent God whom Daniel and his three friends worshipped.
    Daniel understood that God was in charge of the history of the world. His faith in God caused him to believe that no matter what happened to him, his God was still in control of the unfolding events around him. Consequently, it was Daniel’s attitude to his circumstances, rather than the circumstances themselves that was of importance to him. He could not choose his circumstances, but he could choose his attitude to the unfolding circumstances of his life.
    A.W. Tozer in his book, The Knowledge of the Holy, explained God’s sovereignty by picturing planet earth as an ocean liner that is bound for a fixed destination at a fixed time. On board the liner (planet) are passengers who are free to move about, but all the while the liner is carrying them toward a predetermined destiny. And so it is that Jesus will return to planet earth at a time determined by God to wrap up the history of the world. In the meantime, we have limited freedom to move around on planet earth without altering its final destiny.
    Seeing the world through God’s eyes can never be achieved by determining what is the most logical thing to do because the Lord said, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
    The men of Issachar in David’s army had perspective. It was said of them that they “understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” 1 Chronicles12:32. Jesus gives us the key to having God’s perspective in our lives when he said, “The Son can do nothing by Himself, He can do only what He sees His father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all He does. Yes, and He will show Him even greater works than these.”
    John 5:19-20 In saying this, Jesus was describing how He came to model a life for us to live.
    Daniel lived his life with God’s perspective because he had an intimate love relationship with God. He was prayerful and could be trusted with a calling that required courage and an uncompromising walk of faith.
    Second choice worlds are worlds of uncertainty and insecurity and require us to build our lives on a strong unshakeable foundation. Time and again Daniel had to be uncompromising as he lived his life in a pagan world according to his Godly convictions. And so it is with each of us and we can only do this when our identity is lived out on a strong unshakeable foundation. Our identity was never meant to be found in what we do, rather in who we are. That is why God spoke the words, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17) before Jesus began His earthly ministry. Jesus found His identity in His sonship before He began His earthly ministry.
    Paul spoke out an important leadership principle when he said, “we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people, but God, who tests our hearts.” 1 Thessalonians 1:3-4
    God could entrust Daniel with great responsibilities because he passed the tests that came his way at critical times. Like Job, when God tested him, he came forth as pure gold. Job 23:10. This leadership lesson is one of the most important lessons that we need to take to heart, and yet I fear it is one of the most underrated lessons. We not only need to trust God but know that God needs to be able to trust us before he can entrust us with his purposes.
    Moses reminded the children of Israel of this fact when he said to them, “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your hearts, whether or not you would keep His commands.” Deuteronomy 8:2
    The devil, our enemy, is real and not to be ignored. He is “the god of this age who has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4
    We need to be “alert and of sober mind. Our enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8
    In the second choice world we cannot be indifferent to the presence of the devil, rather we need to “be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power,” and “put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Ephesians 6:10-11
    To live in a second choice world and not daily take our stand against the devil’s schemes is to leave ourselves vulnerable to his attacks.
    Although Daniel was deported to a foreign land as a boy of 14, it was in this land that God sovereignly raised him up to have the opportunity to witness to the most powerful person on earth. Although Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, he ultimately became the second most important person in Egypt.
    It is in the second choice world that God calls us to live lives of greatness as we live as lights in a world of darkness and as salt in a world that has lost its purpose and flavour. We must give ourselves to the lifesaving mission of God now because there will come a day when the second choice world and the season of mission will come to an end, where the season of harvest will be over. That is why, “Now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6:2
    Right through the Bible we read of heroes of the faith who courageously suffered for their faith, because they knew that there was more to life than this world. “They were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us….”
    Hebrews 11:39-40
    And yet there are many Christians who live their lives trying to create a heaven on earth rather than treasure in heaven. This world is not our eternal home.
    Henry Morrison was a missionary who served the Lord for 40 years in Africa. Unknown to Henry and his wife, President Teddy Roosevelt was also on board the ship that was taking them back to America. When the ship pulled into New York harbor, thousands of people were cheering the president, but when Henry and his wife looked around, there was not one person in attendance to welcome them home. He shared his discouragement with his wife who comforted him with the words, “Henry, you have forgotten something, you are not home yet.”

There is more to life, we are only living in the Shadowlands; the gate to the Garden of Eden was forever shut, we now await for the return of Jesus and life in a first choice world. In the meantime, Paul gives us perspective on how we are to live in our second choice world when he wrote to the Philippians (1:20-24)

“I trust that my life will bring honour to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ, so I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes it is better that I continue to live.”

Years ago, I had the privilege of spending time on a number of occasions with a great Christian leader, Mr J. Oswald Sanders. The last time I met with him he was writing another book, Heaven, Better By Far. He was 90 years old and he said he was writing it because he was going there soon. He was dying of cancer and he said he was doing his homework in preparation for his impending arrival in heaven. He said he was quite expectant regarding the future because heaven (his first choice world) was better by far. I never saw him again and his book was released soon after his death.Heaven Better By Far J.O.S.
And so I close by reminding you that “living means living for Christ, and dying is even better….to go and be with Christ would be far better…..but for your sakes it is better that I continue to live…..” in this second choice world that seems to be groaning more than ever.

And the apostle John who was exiled on the island of Patmos off the coast of Asia by the Roman authorities was privileged to have a vision of God’s first choice world. In the second last chapter of the Bible we receive some insight of heaven which Paul and Mr Sanders understood to be better by far. I close with these wonderful words to encourage you as you continue to make your journey on mission for God through this second choice world.

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth”, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea, I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things (second choice world) has passed away; He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.”  Revelation 21:1-7