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Faith and Reason


“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1Pet. 3:15).

Faith and Reason – many people see these two entities as the source of the great conflict in our system of beliefs. Many times in our Christian walk, we are not sure whether we should possess faith and discard reason; or for that matter embrace reason and abandon faith. If we appeal solely to reason without faith, we would become liberal Christians, rationalizing every miracle in the Bible to natural dispositions and reducing the unexplained to purely myths produced from the imaginative minds of the disciples of Christ. On the other hand, if we appeal solely to faith without reasoning, we will easily become heretics, proclaiming and practicing the truth in an illogical manner no different from the mystical cults. How do we reconcile faith and reason in our system of beliefs?
What is reason? Reason is the intellectual faculty of our mind in drawing conclusions based on facts of the evidences. It must be noted that the power of reasoning is not something we should despise, in spite of the conflict that it may cause to our approach to faith. In fact, the power of reasoning is from God. The ability to think logically and systematically is a blessing from the Most High. Hence, we have systematic theology – a course which brings about the understanding of God in a systematic and logical manner.

 

Faith, on the other hand, is not rational thought; neither is it irrational. The Christian faith is not about taking a leap in the dark. A person, who closes his eyes and crosses a busy street proclaiming that he has faith in God to protect him, is not a man of faith – as such a belief is totally an alien to the biblical faith. The Christian faith is not a blind leap in the dark. At the same time, it is also not the belief in the absence of evidence. Rather, Christian faith is a belief which rests completely upon biblical evidence.

 

Faith must not be seen as being superior to reason. Ponder for a moment – without the faculty of reasoning, would you have been able to understand the Gospel when it was presented to you? The Lord says, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isa. 1:18). The Gospel presents us as sinners who are unable to cleanse ourselves of our sins. It is only the blood of Jesus Christ which is able to cleanse us. If we are to put our complete trust in Christ, though our sins are as scarlet, yet they shall be white as snow. Isn’t the Gospel reasonable? That is why the Bible exhorts us to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you” (1Pet. 3:15). Because the faith that we have come to embrace is a reasonable faith!

 

But in like manner, neither can reason be made superior to faith. Without faith, how can you believe in a Saviour whom you have not experience with your senses – see, feel and touch? No matter how logical the presentation of the Gospel is, if the Holy Spirit does not work in the heart of the hearers, they will not come to the faith.

The Bible says, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is…” (Heb 11:6). On the one hand, the Gospel must be reasonable that it can be comprehended by others; on the other, without the working of faith, one will never be drawn any closer to the heaven even when he is presented with the most reasonable Gospel. Thus, faith is subject to reason; and reason to faith, such that with both working together, one can progress in his understanding of God and His will for one’s life.

 

Take the classic case of Abraham. In Genesis 22, Abraham was called to offer Isaac as a sacrifice unto God. This put Abraham in a great conflict. Why? Because prior to that, God had revealed clearly to Abraham that the covenant which God gave him would be through Isaac (Gen 17:19). Now, Abraham reasoned, if Isaac were to be sacrificed, wouldn’t that nullified God’s promise unto him? Here, Abraham had to wrestle between faith and reason – to sacrifice Isaac against God’s covenant or to spare Isaac against God’s command. How could he reconcile between two seemingly contradicting entities? If you were Abraham, what would you do? Eventually, Abraham went to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. He believed God had given him a clear command. At the same time, Abraham reasoned that God would not contradict Himself. In fact, Abraham, in his finite wisdom, believed that Isaac would be killed in accordance to God’s command but God would raise Isaac up alive again in accordance to the promise of God’s covenant: “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called” (Heb. 11:17-18). Bear in mind, that before that, there was no such incident of the miracle of one being raised from the dead ever recorded in the Bible! Such was Abraham’s faith and reasoning. With perfect hindsight, we know that this was not what happened. Instead, God intervened as Abraham was about to offer Isaac and provided a ram for the sacrifice.

 

We may not be Abraham, but many times in our spiritual lives, like Abraham, there is always a constant struggle between our faith and our reason. We have to constantly seek wisdom from the Lord to guide us in our decision-making: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (Jas. 1:5). If we are certain of God’s will for our lives which is biblical, do not try to find reasons beyond the Scripture for your reluctance in walking in the will of God for you. If we are fearful, then confess our lack of faith to God, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24). But if your faith is not rested upon the word of God, be reasonable as not to build up a castle on sand. Instead, acknowledge your lack of understanding and continue to search the Scripture and seek the Lord’s guidance. Blind “faith” will only lead to destruction.

 

Faith and reason are not two irreconcilable entities in our Christian faith. Instead, they are twins which are essential for us to understand God and His will for our lives. Faith and reason are not the left and the right hands – where most people are stronger in one hand than the other, and thus hardly use the weaker one. Instead, faith and reason are likened to a pair of legs; both needed equally to walk properly. Every step taken by the leg of faith is always balanced by the leg of reason. Let us learn to embrace faith and reason together as we walk with God. Let us not just hop on one leg only as we walk in the will of God. What God has given us is a reasonable faith.

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Godly Rebuke Brings True Repentance


“It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools”
(Ecclesiastes 7:5).
What will your response be if you receive an email rebuking you of your errors? A typical first response would be to switch into an offensive mode, by replying with a nasty email directed to the sender, describing how wrong he was. Then, this is often followed by the defensive mode, by justifying the validity of the actions which you have been accused of, declaring how right you were. Rarely do we respond objectively to the accusations and do a self-examination before replying that email.

This could have happened to you if you were part of the church at Corinth. Though the apostle Paul did not write them an email, he did write them an epistle or a letter to rebuke them of their errors. The Church of Corinth was a gifted church. However, as abundant were their spiritual gifts, so were their sins. Divisions, strife, carnality, fornication, idolatry – you name it, they had it. The apostle Paul wrote them a weighty letter to rebuke them of their errors, so as to stop the rot. Nobody likes to be told that he is wrong. But nonetheless, the Corinthians responded positively to the godly rebuke with repentance.

That is the way with God – when we err in our ways, God sends us rebukes to help us to turn away from our sin and to turn back unto Him. One of the channels which God uses is His Word. When we read God’s Word, God uses His Word to rebuke us of our sins. God’s Word is God’s way of speaking to us – whether it be a word of comfort, encouragement or a rebuke. We never like such a rebuke from the Word of God – the truth hurts! Indeed, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). Because of this, many, who are deep in their sins, are fearful to read God’s Word – for they know very well that the Word of God will surely rebuke them. How true is the saying – either the Word of God will keep you away from sin or sin will keep you away from the Word of God!

Other than His Word, God also uses His messengers to rebuke us of our sins. Many times, when we sinned against God, we thought nobody knows. But when God sent His messengers, be it preachers or fellow brethren, to speak to us, we are suddenly brought into awareness of our sins. Sometimes God works in such a way that the messengers themselves are not aware of our sins when they deliver the message to us. Many times in my preaching, some people think that I am highlighting their sins when the Word of God is preached. But the truth is that I have no idea what their sin is. In my preparation, I would seek the Lord on the message which He would want to be ministered to His people. It is the Word of God preached that convicts us of our own shortcoming. The preacher is just the vessel whom the Lord used to deliver His message. So, if the Word of God convicts us through the preaching, be thankful. It demonstrates that you are still spiritually alive and not paralysed. Without the
Spirit working in your heart, you will not be able to feel the impact of the Word of God in your live.

However, there are times also when God deliberately sends His messenger to highlight our sin. For example, God sent Nathan the prophet to rebuke King David for his secret sin. Similarly too, God used the apostle Paul to rebuke the Corinthian Church of their many sins. What lessons should we glean from this?

First, we need to be sensitive to godly rebuke, be it through God’s Word or God’s messengers. Do not develop an attitude of listening to what we like to hear only. Learn also to develop an appetite to listen to all the Lord has for us, regardless whether it is pleasant unto our soul. The Bible says, “It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools” (Eccl. 7:5). True, none of us like to hear a rebuke. A rebuke does not have the melody of a song. It always hurts our feelings and our egos. At the same time, a godly rebuke can turn you away from the disaster of God’s judgment to come. Be sensitive to godly rebuke and it will help you avoid the displeasure of God.

Here is the second lesson for us – do not treat those who deliver godly rebuke to you as your enemy. The apostle Paul has this to say, “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16). And again, the Bible reminds us, “5Open rebuke is better than secret love. 6Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” (Prov. 27:5-6). A rebuke, when responded wrongly, could also bring an end to a friendship. But consider for a moment – if a person is willing to take such great risk to deliver a godly rebuke to you, what does this demonstrate to you? Such a person is sincere and is concerned over your soul – he is a true friend indeed who is not afraid to lose his friendship for the sake of Christ. We should learn to appreciate those whom God has sent to rebuke us and thank God for such faithful friends who are concerned for our souls.

Third, we also ought to learn to speak the truth in love, even if it is a rebuke and may not be pleasant to others. As preachers of God’s Word, we are called to “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2Tim. 4:2). There is no joy in rebuking others or when we are rebuked by others. Godly rebuke is necessary to bring one to repentance. To repent, one has to make two right turns in life. First, he must make the right turn away from sin. True repentance will result in a person turning away from his sin. Second, he must also make the right turn unto God. To turn away from sin and not unto God is pride and not repentance. Take the case of Judas Iscariot who betrayed the Lord. The Bible says Judas repented but he went and hanged himself. Judas is a good example of one who turned away from his sin and yet never turned unto God in repentance. On the other hand, by turning unto God without turning away from
sin is simply hypocritical. Many people wanted to turn to God, and yet at the same time, they refuse to turn away from their sin. This is not true repentance. True repentance comes about when we make two right turns in life: turning away from our sin and turning unto God.

My dear readers, has the Word of God been rebuking you lately and you are in need of repentance? Turn away from your sin and turn back unto God. Listen to the message that Isaiah has for you: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:7). May the Lord grant you a sensitive heart to His Word for His glory.

 

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The Strengthening of the Inner man


16That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man, 17That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love” (Eph. 3:16-17).

 

Some of us have been faithfully praying for our loved ones and also of the members of the church whom we know are going through difficulties in their lives. We are concerned for them. We wanted the best for them. That was the same spirit which the apostle Paul demonstrated to others whom he ministered unto. For example, the church of Ephesus was a congregation which was very dear to the apostle. Paul enjoyed a close fellowship with the Ephesians. He constantly prayed for them. What exactly was the apostle’s prayer for them? He prayed: “16That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man, 17That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love” (Eph. 3:16-17).
Paul was not praying that they would be given the physical strength to endure trials and tribulations. Of a truth, many times, we do need the Lord to give us the physical strength to go through hardship and trials in life. Going through difficult moments in life is indeed taxing to our body and mind. However, the more needful thing, as highlighted by the apostle, is to pray for the strengthening of the inner man in us. Many times, in our prayer for others, we focused only on the physical being and forgot about the inner man, the spiritual being.
Human beings are different from other creations of God. Plants have a body that can grow. They do not have a mind to think. Animals have a body and have a mind but they live by their instincts. For example, hamsters will eat their own offspring when there is a lack space for all of them to live in. Piranhas will eat up the weaker ones among themselves and only the fittest survive. Animals have no moral and reasonable soul within them.
Human beings are different because we have an inner being, and our inner being is created in the image of God – in righteousness, knowledge and holiness (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). Our inner being distinguishes us from other creations of God. Many times, we often neglect our inner being and concentrate on the external well-being of our physical body. In this prayer by the apostle Paul, we are reminded again on how important it is to pray that others would be strengthened not only in their physical being, but also that they might be strengthened with might by God’s Spirit in the inner man.
The apostle himself was learnt this lesson from God. At one time in his life, Paul testified that he was given “a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure” (2Cor. 12:7). We do not know exactly what this thorn in the flesh was, but it must have bothered the apostle tremendously for he was led to pray three times to the Lord to remove away this physical infirmity from him. After pleading thrice, what this man of great faith got was not the removal of this thorn in the flesh. Instead, the Lord replied Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2Cor. 12:9).
The Lord did not restore him physically. Instead, the Lord strengthened him in inner man with His grace so that Paul might be able to continue on in spite of the infirmity. And because of that, Paul can testify: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).
The physical body is merely temporal. We can only grow physically up to a certain age, where our body will no longer grow, and the slow process of decay will take over. But such a fact does not apply on the inner man! Our inner man can continue to grow in faith until the day when we meet Christ face to face. In fact, the older we all, the more our inner man should grow in grace and in the faith. The growth of the inner man is never limited to the physical body.
The apostle prayed: “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith” (Eph. 3:17). We can only have Christ in our heart by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). Every man should not only confess Christ but possess Christ in his heart. Some may have sincerely asked Christ to be their Saviour. However, they also need to make Christ their Lord too. Many people only want Christ to save them from their sins, but they would not want Christ to be Lord of their lives. They would only want Christ to be their Saviour but not their Master. To them, Christ must come when they call; and He must leave after their needs are fulfilled. The apostle Paul prayed that Christ must DWELL in our hearts. Christ must not be merely a guest to the heart, to come when needed and to disappear when not wanted. Christ must dwell within us and be a resident in our heart. My friends, is there a permanent place within your heart for Christ? If not, why?
Perhaps, one of the reasons is that you may not have fully experienced the love of God for you; you may not have fully comprehended the magnitude of the love of Christ. Jesus has loved us with an everlasting love. The Son of God left heaven’s glory and to take on the form of a lowly man out of His great love for us. His love for us led Him to the Calvary Cross to lay down His life for His beloved: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). One stanza of the well-loved hymn, The Love of God, goes: “Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made, Were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade, To write the love of God above, Would drain the ocean dry, Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.” God’s love for us extends far beyond the widest ocean and tapestry of the open sky. Such is the wonder and matchlessness of the love of God!
My dear friends, our life on earth is a pilgrimage and will never be easy. Our physical body is fragile and can be easily broken by the storms in life. What we need to do is to root and ground ourselves deeply, not in the wisdom of this world, but in our Lord Jesus Christ. At times, where you felt lonely, remember that you are not alone. Christ is with you. Look to the cross and you will see His love. Root and anchor yourself in the love of Christ and you will no longer be easily shaken in the midst of the storm. You will remain steadfast in faith because you know that no one can ever take away the love which Christ has for you: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). Be strengthened in the inner man by rooting yourself in the love of Christ.

 

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Looking Beyond the Impossiblity


“With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27)

Have you ever been in an impossible situation before? For example, it could be a major problem at work where there is no solution in sight. Or, perhaps you could be in such a tight financial constraint where there is no way out of the pile of debts that you are in. You felt trapped and without a solution at the horizon. What should you do?

Well, when you are in such an impossible situation, you have to examine your own life first. Why were you in such a situation? Was it a result of a particular sin? For example, a person may run into a financial crisis which could be due to a gambling debt or a collapsed business. Though both are in a similar financial predicament, yet the former is due directly to his sin of being addicted to gambling while the latter is due to something beyond his control. For the former, the impossible situation that occurs is God’s means of chastisement to bring one to the awareness of his sin, and to humble him and to draw him back to God. Impossibilities in life are God’s means to draw us close to Him.

But there are times you may be in an impossible situation, not because of disobedience, but rather because you choose to obey God. How do you reconcile the fact that when you decided to follow God wholeheartedly, you landed into an impossible situation? Take the case of the Israelites (Read Joshua 3). For 38 years the Israelites had been wandering in the wilderness, unable to claim the land of blessings which God had promised unto them because of unbelief. When the older generation passed away, God called Joshua to lead the new generation into the Promised Land. Joshua and the Israelites were careful to follow God’s instruction closely. And just as they were ready to enter into the land of Canaan, they were faced with the impossibility of crossing the mighty Jordan River. Although the area which they intended to cross was actually shallow enough for they to go through in normal days, however, at that time of the year Jordan River was at its greatest ferocity and overflowing its banks. How could an estimated group of 2 million people, be able to cross that great river, with both the young, old and infirmed among them? They landed in that impossible situation simply because they were following God’s instruction out of obedience and not disobedience! Nonetheless, as they looked unto God for deliverance, the Lord opened the River Jordan for them to pass through.

This is an important lesson for us. When there is a river of impossibility before us, and we are confident that it is the Lord who has led us there, and not because of our sin, then do not despair because God is going to lead us through the midst of impossibility. What is required of us is to follow God wholeheartedly and trust Him to lead and guide. The Israelites were commanded to follow the movement of the ark – they were called to go after the ark when they saw the priests bearing it up (Josh. 3:3). Following God when there seems to be no way out requires a great amount of faith and obedience. Faith – to believe that God’s promises will never fail. Obedience – not only to believe, but also to act on it.

Also, in such a situation, it is advisable to keep our focus on God. The Israelites were called to follow Ark of the Covenant from a distance of 2,000 cubits (~900m) and not to go near it. Why? So that everyone could have their eyes focused on the ark! The Ark of the Covenant was a symbolic representative of God’s presence with them. They must not lose sight of the Ark as they followed it.

Similarly, in order to follow God successfully, we must focus on God. Focusing on the impossibility of the situation will render a great fear in us. Remember, the brave Peter, when he saw Jesus walking on the sea towards their boat, he requested if he too could on the water to the Lord. Such was his faith! His request was granted and Jesus bid him “Come.” While he was walking on waters towards Jesus, his eyes momentarily shifted the focus to his side. The Bible says, “But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me” (Matt. 14:30). When you follow God, keep your focus wholly on the Lord. Focusing on the difficult situation will do you no good. It will only develop fear in you. Focusing on God will develop your faith. The Bible reminds us, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). This is the only way to overcome the difficulties of our situation successfully – that is to follow God and to focus on Him in times of impossibility.

The reason why God leads us into an impossible situation and then leads us out of it again is to fulfill His higher purpose for His greater glory. For the Israelites, the purpose was to strengthen their faith and at the same time to strike fear in the hearts of the heathen nations in Canaan. The same applies to us. God may bring you into an impossible situation so that He may strengthen your faith and so that He may use you to manifest His handiwork to others. It is God’s intention for the saints to draw near unto Him at such moments and to yield themselves completely unto Him, acknowledging their own inadequacies and at the same time calling upon His might to save. Impossibilities in life are God’s means to draw us close to Him. God’s deliverance is an opportunity for us to testify of God’s goodness in our lives.

My friends, if you are in an impossible situation in life, do not despair. If it is due to your own sin, then it is God’s means of drawing you back to Him. Repent and return unto God and He will abundantly pardon. If it is not due to your sin, rejoice because it means that God is going to do something special in your life. Believe that though it is impossible humanly, God is able; for “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). God is going to manifest His handiwork in your life.

Follow God wholeheartedly and focus on Him during this difficult time of waiting upon the Lord. Be prayerful and yield yourself completely to His divine guidance. The Lord says in His Word, “8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9). God is done with you yet. For beyond the river of impossibility is the land of blessings awaiting for you. Again, the Lord says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jer. 29:11). God never fails. God never fails. Put your trust in Him and He will lead you through.

 

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Antidote for a Fretful Heart


“Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity” (Ps. 37:1).

Sometimes, life can be quite frustrating. Have you ever encountered situations where just as you are about to drive off for an important meeting, your car broke down; or when you urgently needed to print your report, your printer malfunction? How would you feel when faced with such trying circumstances? And when we look to the world today, it seems that God is not in control. There is much unfairness in the world, with the believers receiving the bad end of it. Why is it that most of time, it seems that those who gossip and back-stab others are the ones who get the promotion as compared to the honest and hard-working employee? Why does God allow the wicked to prosper while the righteous have to suffer through life? And the more you ponder over such issues, the more likely you are to be frustrated and fret over them. You know that it is wrong to envy others but at the same time you cannot help feeling so. What should you do?

The psalmist encourages us with these words: “Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity” (Ps. 37:1). He did not deny that he himself felt like us too at a certain point of his life. He lamented: “For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Ps. 73:3). Yes, the psalmist too was frustrated and envious when he saw the prosperity of the wicked. But how did he overcome it? He said: “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end” (Ps. 73:17). My friends, if you have been frustrated with life, then perhaps today, when you come to the sanctuary of God to seek God, you will find the answer to overcome your frustration and fretfulness.

The word “fret” is often associated with the word “fire”. It has a lively imagery to it. It is like starting a fire for the BBQ where the initial coals will glow after a hard time of fanning them. Thus, “fret” in its raw sense means “to glow, or to kindle”. It signifies the beginning of a strong fire. Applying it to our emotion, to fret over something means we are starting to glow with the fire of anger. And if our fretfulness is left unchecked, it will turn into a huge fire that will not only destroy others but also ourselves. When we fret within ourselves over the wicked, we will feel annoyed and agitated. We may do that which is not advisable. Our joy and peace will be taken away from us.

Psalm 37 is the antidote for a fretful heart. The psalmist begins by saying: “1Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. 2For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb” (Ps. 37:1-2). The psalmist tells us that it is a waste of time for us to wring our hands in fretfulness and frustration over the work and prosperity of the wicked. Their success and boastings are merely temporal and worthless. Very soon, they will fall and will be cut off. One day, they will have to meet God face to face and have to answer for their actions. God will judge them according to their evil deeds. Billionaire Forbes will say “He who dies with the most toys wins” to express the world’s mantra on capital greed to enrich one at all cost. But, let this be clear, he who dies with the most toys is dead and in judgment and his toys become meaningless to him: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27).

Instead of following the ways of the world, the psalmist urges us to follow the ways of the Lord: “Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed” (Ps. 37:3). To trust in the Lord means to have faith and confidence in God. To trust God is to have confidence in God’s sovereignty and God’s wisdom in the affairs of this world and in our lives. We can only trust God when we have a strong personal relationship with God and have faith in Him. It would be awful hard to trust God if you do not believe in Him in the first place. We have been taught from young never to trust a stranger. The same truth applies. In order to be able to trust God, we must first know Him and know His ways. The more we comprehend God, the easier it is for us to trust Him. Trusting God requires faith.

Second, the psalmist also urges us to “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (Ps. 37:4). To delight ourselves in the Lord means to take pleasure in and to enjoy God. We are not merely to acknowledge God’s presence, but rather, we are urged to take pleasure in Him. When we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart. It is not the other way round – God gives us our desire and hence we delight in Him. No! The “desires” are granted only after we “delight” in Him. When we delight in God, there is a change in us. We no longer see the world as a fulfilment of his pleasure and rewards. The pursuit of the material things of this world will fade in the light of the brightness of the glory of God. The aim to please God and to do His will becomes our desire. Surely God will be glad to grant unto us such a holy desire!

Third, the psalmist urges us to “Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass” (Ps. 37:5). In the Hebrew, “to commit” means “to roll over.” It means that we are to surrender ourselves unto the Lord and to transfer over our burdens of our work unto Him. My friends, are you encumbered with a heavy burden in your life today? Then, be not fretful but learn to cast your burden unto the Lord: “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved” (Ps. 55:22). Jesus promises us: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). How wonderful it is to have a Saviour who cares for us!

Finally, the psalmist urges us to “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass” (Ps. 37:7). It is interesting to note that the word “rest” in this verse means “to be silent”. What does this tell you? To be silent in the Lord implies that we should not complain and blame God for things in life. We should be willing to accept whatever the lot God has for us.

Consider your life – has the Lord ever short-changed you? Has not the Lord often showered His grace on you in times of need in the past? Let us not take God for granted but learn to rest in the Lord. We have to learn to wait with patience for the Lord to fulfil His purpose in our life. He is not done with His work in your life yet. Truly, the Lord is good unto all who seek Him and wait upon Him: “25The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. 26It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD” (Lam. 3:25-26). My friends, there is no point feeling frustrated in life. The antidote for our fretful heart is to be found in the Lord – put your trust in Him, delight in Him, commit your ways unto Him and rest and wait upon Him. Have you?

 

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God’s Love For His People


A rabbi wrote a book entitled “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” which became a widely acclaimed and best-selling book in the 1980s. In this book, he tried to make sense out of a tragedy in his own family. He concluded that “God wants the righteous to live peaceful, happy lives but sometimes even He can’t bring that about. It is too difficult even for God to keep cruelty and chaos from claiming their innocent victims.”

The writer, of course, was not alone in his denial of sovereign control of God over the events of our lives. In fact, many Christians as well as non-Christians frequently speak of misfortune and accidents, of circumstances beyond our control as things that just happen by chance, bad luck or fate. Down through the centuries, sickness, suffering, and sorrow have always raised questions and doubts about God. Many often come to the flawed conclusion: “If God is both powerful and good, why is there so much suffering, so much pain and heartache in the world? Thus God is either good but not all powerful or He is powerful but not all good.”

But we who are of the faith should never have to come to such a conclusion. Let it be known that God is perfect in love and that He cares for you, and He has a purpose in His will for you. When we face difficulties in life, we often murmur and complain. We fire questions to God. We ask God why He acted in the way He did or why He did not act when He should. We think and act in a manner as if we are wiser than God. The Scripture asks us this question, “38Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good? 39Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?” (Lam. 3:38-39). Some people find this part of Scripture stumbling. How could ‘evil’ be permitted by God? Isn’t He a good God? Then, how could a good God allow evil to happen in the lives of the righteous?

But brethren, ponder for a moment. Do you realize that many times we enjoy ‘good’ things at the expense of others? When we get our promotion, it simply means that someone has lost it. Isn’t this true? To help us understand this topic clearer, let us consider the ultimate blessing of God – the gift of eternal life. We thank God for the gift of eternal life. We thank God for not giving us what we deserve, which is the punishment for our sins in hell. We thank God for giving us what we do not deserve, that is to be with Him forever in heaven. We thank God for Jesus Christ who has cleansed us from our sins. Yes, as redeemed people of the Lord, we are truly thankful to God for this great and precious gift of salvation.

But have you ever considered the fact that a good thing such as eternal life could only come at the sake of the ‘evil’ which befell another? In order for us to be saved, the Lord Jesus Christ had to die. His death on the cross – an unnatural and horrendous death, at the prime of His life – would have been termed as an ‘evil’ befalling Him. If you were living during the time of Christ, would you, like Peter, try to prevent Christ from going to cross to lay down his life because you love Him and want Him to be with you? If you were to see the whole issue from a localized perspective, you could have asked God the same question, “God, why did You allow Jesus to suffer the death of the cross?”

But did Jesus complain to God, “God, why me? Why do I need to die on the cross? Why this wicked and evil form of punishment has to be imposed upon me?” Jesus never questioned God. Instead, Jesus willingly went to the cross to lay down His life. He said, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4:34). Jesus was wholly determined to walk in the will of God, regardless of how difficult it may have been. His humanity prompted Him to pray and to yield His will completely to conform to the will of the Father: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39). Let us learn from the example of Jesus. Why did not Jesus complain when evil befell Him? Why was He able to accept the will of God? The answer lies in the fact that He trusted God. He knew God’s perfect love for His people.

My friends, God loves us with a perfect love. God demonstrated His love towards us by offering His only-begotten Son as a sacrifice for the atonement of our sins. God’s love for us is pure and perfect. Salvation is not free. It comes with a heavy price tag – the precious blood of the only-begotten Son of God. Because of the sacrificial act of Jesus, salvation is made free unto us. We have been redeemed with a great ransom paid in full by the Son of God. Such is the love of God for us!

Now if God loves us so much by not even sparing His Son, we can be assured that God will care for us. Would God stop loving us after saving us? It makes no sense that God would redeem us with a great ransom and after that, to cast us aside. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). God’s love for His people will prompt Him to give what is best unto His people. Such must be your conclusion based on the Word of God.

My friends, there are times when we will be faced with difficulties in life. At such moments, we could hardly be able to comprehend fully the will of God. We would not be able to see the hand of God working in our lives. What would you do? Despair? Disappointed? No! Instead, return to the foundation of the relationship between you and God – anchor your faith in the love of God for you. Have this assurance that no matter what is happening in your life, God has loved you and God still loves you. Put your trust in God. No matter how you would want the things to go your way, yield yourself completely to the will of God. Pray like our Lord Jesus, ‘Not as I will, but as Thou will!” Then, you will find peace even amidst the storms. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jer. 29:11).

Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of the Passion Week. As we enter into the holy week, let us remember the sufferings our Lord Jesus had to endure on behalf of us – how He suffered humiliation, torture and shame at the death of the cross. As you cast your eyes upon the cross, may you be reminded that it is the love of God which drew our Lord Jesus to the cross. It is the love of God for us that we are redeemed and given eternal life. God has indeed loved us with an everlasting love. He continues to love and care for us. Nothing in this world “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39). Trust God when circumstances in life make us unable to comprehend the working of God. When trusting become too difficult, yield yourself wholly to the will of God even as our Lord Jesus Christ. Look to the cross. God loves you.

 

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Progressive Revelation


5Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Prov. 3:5-6).

One of the hallmarks of a Christian is to walk in obedience to the will of God – for we know this will be well-pleasing unto the Lord. As we take this journey, we realize that it is easier to stray from the narrow path and find ourselves in a spiritual wilderness. Sometimes, this could be due to our lack of submission to the will of God. Another possible reason is that we could not discern the will of God in our lives. The latter is perhaps, by far, the most difficult aspect concerning the will of God in one’s life. Though we have the Holy Scriptures to guide us in the general direction, however, there is no clear-cut formula to discern God’s will in certain episodes of our life.

Take for example, the life of David. The Philistines gathered at the valley of Rephaim when they heard that David was anointed king over Israel (2Sam. 5:17-23). David enquired of the Lord if he should fight the Philistines and the Lord answered “Go up”. God gave David the victory. In the next verse, the Bible records that Philistines spread themselves again at the same place to fight against David. Presumably, a time period had lapsed between these two gatherings. A case of déjà vu? What would David do? David was not presumptuous in discerning the will of God. Again, he enquired of the Lord on what to do but this time the answer was “Thou shalt not go up” (2Sam. 5:23). This episode highlights to us the dynamic will of God at work. God’s will on what we should do is not constrained by a specific prescribed formula; whereby a same set of parameters in a certain situation will warrant the same response from the Lord. This is clearly demonstrated in the case of David and the Philistines. Such is the difficulties in attempting to discern God’s will for our lives by our own human wisdom!

The silver lining in the cloud of God’s dynamic will is that God never leaves us clueless and directionless about what to do. Instead, He guides His people through a progressive revelation of His will. This was clearly seen in how God guided Abraham in the execution of His will concerning the promise of the seed. When God called Abraham out of the Ur of the Chaldees, He promised Abraham that He would make of him a great nation (Gen. 12:2). Abraham was already old but he was filled with faith and looked forward to the fulfilment of this promise of God. A number of years passed by quickly and Abraham still had no son. What could Abraham do? Abraham did what any “good Christian” will do – he attempted to help God to accomplish His will! How? He intended to adopt his faithful steward, Eliezer, to be his son. In this manner, Abraham reasoned that God’s promise would come to pass. But God had other plans. He revealed to Abraham that “he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir” (Gen. 15:4). This means that Abraham would have a biological son to inherit the promise, and not an adopted son. With this insight, Abraham realized his error and realigned his walk in the will of God; and attempted to have a child biologically.

A number of years passed by quickly again, and Abraham tried hard and had yet to have a child with his wife Sarah, let alone a son. What could Sarah do? Sarah did what any “good Christian” will do – she attempted to help God accomplish His will.

She offered her handmaid, Hagar, to Abraham to bear a child for them both (Gen. 16:1-3). This was a common remedy in the ancient Middle-East culture then. Abraham hearkened unto his wife and went in with the maid. Hagar conceived and gave birth to a son, Ishmael. Abraham must have thought that finally God’s promise unto him was fulfilled. It was at such moment that God again revealed His will further to Abraham – Ishmael would not be the heir to the special blessings of God’s promise unto him. Instead, the heir would be a biological son whom Abraham would have with Sarah and would be called Isaac (Gen. 17:19).

Had Abraham erred in his faith over this whole episode of fulfilling God’s promise? Had he been rebelling against the will of God by taking in Hagar to bear a child for him? But, think for a moment, and put yourself in Abraham’s shoes. When God gave Abraham the promise, God did not stipulate how this heir would come about. Hence, Abraham intended to adopt his steward to be his heir. When God revealed that the heir would be his biological son, Abraham thought that having a child with Hagar would not be violating this will of God for the child born would indeed be a son from his own bowels. It is only when God further revealed unto Abraham that the heir would be a son whom He would have with Sarah, and would be called Isaac, then was the revelation complete.

An important lesson for us to learn in this aspect of Abraham’s life is the nature of the revelation of God’s will. God’s will is dynamic and God does not reveal all the details of His will to us completely at one go but progressively. To walk in this will of God requires us to constantly tune our frequency to His will. We cannot assume the path we take towards this destination is correct. We have to enquire of the Lord constantly – to check our action such that it is coherent to His will every step of the way. For example, if you are called to be a missionary and you heard that there is an urgent need for missionaries to India. In your own human wisdom, it would seem a logical and obvious choice for you to serve there. However, that may not the mission field which the Lord wants you to be in. We cannot simply assume the will of God in our life by the parameters we see and determine God’s will by our own wisdom. We need to pray and seek the Lord to ascertain His will. The Bible reminds, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9).

At times, the will of God is not clearly revealed even when we seek Him in prayer. Take note that this is the wisdom of God. If He were to reveal everything to us immediately, the tendency of our human nature is to attempt to live a life by our own wisdom, independent of God. But if God reveals His will progressively to us, we have no choice but to learn to depend upon God each step of the way. Such is the wisdom of God! So, in regard to doing the will of God, we must learn not to act presumptuously, notwithstanding all our good intention. Instead, let us learn to seek out God’s will for our life diligently each step of our ways and follow God’s leading and guidance through a progressive revelation of His will. We need to trust God and not our own human wisdom. So, let us “5Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Prov. 3:5-6). Have you been trusting God to lead you in His progressive revelation or are you living a life leaning upon your own understanding?

 

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