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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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The King’s Heart is in the Hand of the Lord


“The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Prov. 21:1).

Many times, we feel helpless in life. We find that many things in life are beyond our control. Whether we get a good grade in school or a poor one, whether we are promoted or fired, or whether our business blooms or folds – we often find the results at the mercy of others. How should we respond to such situations? When we desperately need a favourable decision from another person, can we trust God that He will work in the heart of that individual to bring about His plan for us? Or consider the instance when someone is out to harm us, or to ruin our reputation, or to jeopardize our career – can we trust God to intervene in the heart of that person so that he does not carry out his evil intent? According to the Bible, the answer in both instances is an emphatic “YES!” We can trust God. God is sovereign and He does intervene in the hearts of people so that they their decisions and actions will accomplish His purpose for our lives.

The Bible says, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Prov. 21:1). God does act in the heart of the people. We cannot appreciate the full force of this verse today as we live in a world of limited monarchies, where kings are largely confined to role of figureheads of the state. But during the time of Solomon, the king was an absolute monarch. The king did that which was right in his own eyes. There was no Supreme Court or Constitution to restrain him. The king’s word was law itself. His authority over his dominion was absolute. He alone will decide the destiny of his subjects. He would be the most powerful person in his kingdom. Yet, the Bible says that God controls the king’s heart. The absolute will of the most powerful person in the kingdom is under the control of God, as much as a powerful river is directed from its cause by the power of God.

God is sovereign and He has the power to direct the course of action in the affairs of this world. Imagine the following – you’ve been working for a cruel boss all your life. You are always overworked and underpaid. You have always wanted to get out of this but are unable to because your boss is a powerful person in the country. One day, you receive a call to serve under a new organization in a foreign land. You are overjoyed. However, you do not know you can break out of your contract. Moreover, you do not have the money to make the trip. You decide to go to your boss to ask him to release you and to give you money for the trip. What do you think the consequence will be?

As farfetched as this hypothetical situation may sound, what happened is that your boss gives you not only a little money but basically part of his fortune for you to go and serve someone else, though he opposes violently to this at the beginning. Sounds incredible, doesn’t it?

Well, this was precisely what happened to the Israelites when they were under bondage to their Egyptian taskmasters. You know the story – the Israelites were slaves and were oppressed under their Egyptian masters, but God intervened in the heart of Pharaoh, such that when the Israelites sought permission to leave and to worship the Lord, Pharaoh sent them out with the riches of Egypt. This was in accordance to the promise of God that the Israelites would not leave empty-handed but would “spoil the Egyptians” (Exod. 3:21-22). It was God working in the heart of Pharaoh to let the Israelites depart – something which was beyond the Israelites’ wildest imagination!

Now, if God controls the king’s heart, surely He controls the hearts of everyone else’s too – this is a logical argument from the greater to the lesser. Whether they are Christians or non-Christians, whether willing or non-willing, we can be assured that God is able to move the hearts of the people to carry out His plans. God is able to move the hearts of the people such that you may secure a job or be promoted at your workplace: “6For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. 7But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another” (Ps. 75:6-7). The people who seem to dictate your career are merely agents used by God to carry out His will and plan for your life.

How does this understanding help shape your response to the many uncertainties in life? First, we must learn to trust God. Our careers and destinies are in His hands; and not in the hands of others. No one can harm or jeopardize your future apart from the sovereign will of God. God has a plan for us even in our secular job and we are to walk in it. When we do that which is pleasing unto God, God is able to and will grant you favour in the eyes of people who are in a position to do you good.

Second, we should then look to God in prayer in all those situations where some aspects of our future seem to lie in the hands of another individual. We may not know God’s will on what He is going to do, but we know for certain that it is His will for us to seek Him in prayer. It is by prayer that the will of God is revealed unto us.

Third, a confidence in God’s sovereignty in the lives of people should also keep us from becoming resentful and bitter when we are treated unjustly by others. When we realize that the evil actions of others on us will never happen except that they are permitted by God, then we ought to think twice before becoming resentful or being bitter in our spirit. If God so allows it to happen for a purpose, should we not be happy too, to receive it from the Lord and trust in His wisdom? A spirit of resentment and bitterness is a result of our rejection of the Lord’s will for our lives.

At this juncture, however, it is important to leave you a word of caution in this deep understanding of God’s will for us. First, we should never blame our own shortcomings to the sovereign will of God. If you are lazy and get fired or fail your exams, do merely say that it is God’s will and you are unable to do anything about it. Yea, you may be under the chastisement of God’s sovereign will rather than receiving the blessings of God in such a situation. Second, we should not be purely passive just because everything is under the Lord’s control. God’s sovereign control does not negate the need of diligence to work out God’s will for us. We are called to “… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13). This aspect of working out diligently God’s will in our lives is a proof that God is indeed working in the hearts of the people – yours in particular. Have you yielded your heart to the hand of God?

 

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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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Year End Plan


How time flies! With a wink of the eye, we are coming to the end of yet another year. There are only three more Sundays to the end of the year. In fact, to be exact, there are only twenty two more days before the New Year ushers in. Are you ready for the ending of this year? How are you going to spend the remaining days of this year? Many people of the world are actually looking forward to the end of the year because to them, it is yet another occasion where they could spend in partying, revelry and drunkenness. What about you?

There is nothing more meaningful than to end the year with the Lord – a time spent on reflecting upon the events of the year that have past, and to give thanks to God for the many blessings which God has bestowed upon us. As we meditate upon the Lord’s goodness and count our blessings, we must also remember our sorrows and how the Lord had delivered us in times of affliction. In times of despair, did you manage to see the smiling face of God behind His seemingly frowning providence? As Moses saw the bush which was burnt with fire but not consumed, we can truly say that it is by God’s mercy that though we are burnt and yet we are not consumed. The psalmist declares, “O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever” (Ps. 107:1).

The end of the year also denotes a time to plan for the coming New Year. It is a time to take stock of our lives and to mark our own progress report. Will the coming year be a better one that we have this year? Some may be planning an ambitious strategy for their businesses. Others may be planning their career moves, be it horizontal or vertical. Still others will be planning for their academic pursuit. Whatever plans you may have, are you planning it right?

The apostle James warns against presumptuous planning based on a self-confidence on the continuity of life: “Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (Jas. 4:13-14). The apostle is not against planning per se. In fact, it is prudent for the child of God to plan. However, the apostle does warn us against extrapolating our present to the future in a continuum, with the false confidence that all things will fall into our plans by themselves. Why? Simply because of the uncertainties in life, and the frailty that comes with it.

Some of us have never given a scant thought that our life may be easily taken away from us, like what James wrote concerning the rich man in this analogy. As an illustration, our life is likened to a seven-inch candle with each inch representing ten years. Some of our candles are barely burnt, some nearly burnt. Mine is more than half burnt. But regardless of how much candle is there left to burn, when the wind blows the light on the candle will go out. Such is the frailty of life! We cannot assume that we will live tomorrow simply because our candle still has many more inches to burn.

And because of this, we can never place our confidence in the flesh. Rather, we have to put our utmost confidence and trust in the Lord. As one says, “We may not know what tomorrow brings, but we know who brings tomorrow.” In like manner, the apostle closes his thought on this matter with the exhortation, “For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that” (Jas. 4:15). Hence, in all your planning, the words D.V. (Deo Volente – God willing) must be always added to it.

Often, many people do not plan their lives in the right manner. They will centre all their plans upon themselves and then circumvent it by asking for God’s blessings. This is not the way it should go. Instead, we should make God as the centre of our plan, and then to plan ourselves around His will. We submit ourselves unto Him and depend upon His strength and grace to work out His will for our lives.

In today’s economy, the bread and butter issue is at stake. It is not about wine and diamonds, but about rice and garments. The sociologists will tell you that these are the basic needs of mankind. And because of the instinct to fulfill our basic needs, sometimes inevitably, we have left God far behind in our endeavour. This is precisely what our Lord warns us against. In Matthew 6, the Lord Jesus says, “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” (Matt. 6:25). Although food and clothing are our basic needs, we ought to take care that they do not become more important than God. These are things that the world constantly seeks after.

But as Christians, we have to be careful not to let our basic needs overwhelm us. Rather, we have to depend on God to provide for us. Our eye must be focused on our great Provider. We have to live by our faith in God. Even as God cares for the sparrow, He will definitely care for us, who are of more worth than the sparrows. Jesus knows our frame and our needs. He promises us, “(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:32-33). Jesus is not saying that the basic needs are unimportant. Rather, we are urged against placing these needs as being more important than the kingdom of God. Thus, we are to seek the kingdom of God “first,” and then God promises that He shall supply your needs according to the riches of His grace. Would supplying us our basic needs be too difficult for Him who owns the cattle of a thousand hills and the wealth in every mine?

Thus, when you plan for the year ahead, put God in the centre of your life and work your plan around it. Do not forget about the kingdom of God. Plan how you can build up your spiritual life. Plan how you may serve in the church. Plan how you can help edify others also. Then submit the plans you have into the hands of our loving God. For those who truly seek the kingdom of God, they shall be blessed. May I leave you to meditate upon the words of the psalmist as he declared: “1Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Ps 1:1-3). May the Lord bless you as you plan your year with Him in the centre of your plans!

 
 

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