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Faith

Why is it so hard to have Quiet Time?

by | 16 August 2017, 4:49 PM

Imagine you are doing poorly at a subject in school. (Maybe some of you don’t have to work too hard to imagine this.)

Maybe you keep failing your exams. You may even be thinking of quitting school – to put you out your misery. Maybe you’re forced to attend tuition in the faint hope that something might change if you would only go through the motions.

Yet you refuse to put the quality time in. You take the textbook out of your schoolbag, and almost immediately put it back in again. The Teacher hasn’t even opened his mouth, and you’ve already upped and left the lecture theatre.

If I love God without knowing what is on His heart — without even knowing Him — then what is my faith really made of?

For so many of us, this might be the picture of our Quiet Time. How many of us can really spend unhurried time with God? I’ll be really honest: There are many days where I find it incredibly difficult to just sit still. I often can’t wait to get QT over with — can’t wait to depart to the day’s next thing.

“Desire without knowledge is not good — how much more will hasty feet miss the way!” (Proverbs 19:2)

In such times I might feel like I’m walking with God. But in truth, if I love God without knowing what is on His heart — without even knowing Him — then what is my faith really made of?

Just like we can’t build strong relationships on one-liners, rather than deep conversations, we can’t know God when we give Him just 5 minutes a day. If at all.

FAITH IS LIKE A MUSCLE

Quiet time is about discipline. You know the jargon: Faith is like a muscle — when we use it, God makes it strong.

To extend the metaphor, quiet time is like going to the gym. Some of us can’t wait to get in there — we need that hour. That time in the room strengthens us for the day; indeed, for life.

But some of us aren’t quite there yet, and I’m one of them. There are many days where opening my Bible and being still before God feels like dragging myself to the gym in the morning. There’s just such great inertia. Why? My faith-muscle feels too small to lift the weight of discipline and really seek God.

“Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.” (Revelation 3:2)

This warning to the church in Sardis jumped out at me as I read it. There are days where my faith-muscle feels so dry and shrivelled up, you might think it’s atrophied. Dead.

How desperately I need God in my struggle against laziness and sloth.

Perhaps I look at the other facets of my faith — active service in the body-life, vibrant prayer-life — and count them to myself as righteousness. In truth, and it pains me to say this, I might often be just ticking boxes elsewhere. The Laodicean church reminded me of my own heart:

“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (Revelation 3:17)

I lie to myself: This is good enough. How Satan loves to lie to us, telling us that mediocrity is good enough. “Good enough” isn’t good enough. Lukewarmness isn’t good enough.

How desperately I need God in my struggle against laziness and sloth.

ALONE AND AWAY

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)

“After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone.” (Matthew 14:23)

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place.” (Mark 1:35)

I feel like the least qualified person to talk about quiet time. Ultimately, I can’t make you spend unhurried time with Him, any more than you could make me.

But I’ve resolved to spend unhurried time alone with God. Just Him and I.

I must.

/ gabriel@thir.st

Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.

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Here I am, send … him

by | 14 August 2017, 5:05 PM

 “But Moses said, ‘Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send somebody else’.” (Exodus 4:13)

Early last year I was jogging along my usual route, to the bridge by the river. When I got there, I took my headphones off and, in the corner of my eye, I saw a migrant worker sweeping up leaves.

The first thought that came to mind was: Pray for him.

I simply began to pray. I offered up the usual words: “Lord, be real to him and let him find You. Send godly people into his life – send them his way that he may know You.”

But as I was praying, I felt a sudden weight in my heart which seemed to say: Maybe I am the one who should go. I should be that guy I’m asking God for.

I pray these prayers so often. But behind such prayers, there was a part of me that was hiding from what He’s called us – me – to do: Love one another and share the Gospel.

Please send somebody else. That’s what I’ve been praying.

HERE I AM, SEND …

I walked over to him. I greeted him, shook his hand. And we became friends: Sambak from Tamil Nadu, and Gabriel from Sengkang.

I didn’t really know what to say beyond the usual small talk, so I thanked him for keeping our country clean as he flashed a warm smile, nodding.

It was time to leave, and I said “Goodbye Sambak, see you.” He replied enthusiastically: “Tomorrow!”

Please send somebody else. That’s what I’ve been praying.

That night I wrote a letter with a verse, and put it – along with some money – into a red packet for Sambak. In the morning, I made the short drive to the bridge, praying along the way that God would help me to find Sambak.

I got out of the car and walked to the river, where Sambak was standing, at the promenade. It was just him and I at the water – a strange providence must have cleared the crowd for a conversation. We shook hands and I explained that as it was Chinese New Year, I wanted to bless him with the red packet.

He took it with both hands, with delight – but I had the distinct sense that he valued our new bond forged more than the money. I managed to pray with him, and he even introduced his friend Valaidum to me.

I see now that as I took a step of faith into Sambak’s life, God moved and blessed him through me.

MOVING WITH GOD

Later as I drove home, I listened to Evidence by Elevation Worship, which features the church band playing a musical backdrop to Pastor Steven Furtick’s exhortations. The impassioned Pastor was shouting at the top of his lungs:

“We’re not waiting on the move of God, we are the move of God! We can’t stay here, we gotta go. We’ve got a church to keep, we got a God to serve. We’ve got a Gospel to preach. We’ve got broken hearts to bind. We’ve got hurting people to heal! Move, Church!”

It made so much sense to me. We must pray constantly, but we must also move.

This isn’t strictly theologically-sound practice, but because I had met Sambak at 9:12am, I decided to look up 9-12 in Romans 12 when I got home. In it, Paul says: “Do not be slothful in zeal”.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:9-12)

I realised my prayers were just that at times – slothful in zeal. I speak of change and desire it – yet am too lazy or unwilling to do anything about it myself.

At the end of the day, what is faith without deeds? (James 2:14-26)

We must pray constantly, but we must also move.

I write this without being legalistic. Neither am I on a performance treadmill. Prayer is amazing, but our work as disciples doesn’t stop there.

I believe there are times when it isn’t enough to just pray. We also need to move for God, and actually do what He has called us to.

Let’s be that guy we’re praying for God to send.

/ gabriel@thir.st

Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.

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Singapore, the place I’ve learnt to call home

by Mark Lee | 8 August 2017, 4:48 PM

What does home mean to you?

It’s a question I’ve often asked myself. I was born in Singapore, but my family moved overseas when I was 5, so I spent many of my growing years abroad, where home at various times took the form of a taste, a familiar smell or a brand new place.

I didn’t have a singular place or idea of home — and even if there was one, Singapore definitely wasn’t it.

So you can imagine my rancour when my father moved our family back to Singapore in 2007. As I look back, however, I can see God moving in those painful years – helping me exchange my old ways of thinking for a higher mindset.

Having to return “home” to Singapore helped me realise that accepting a place as home requires a posture of investment.

My sister and I found that the first few years of being back in Singapore were extremely difficult, for so many reasons. But one big factor that was in our control, but which we failed to appreciate at the start, was that we simply weren’t looking to invest into Singapore as a place and people of our own.

Having been exposed to a plethora of cultures and perspectives in our international community, we initially wrote Singapore off as small and lame. As far as we were concerned, Singapore was a semester break and an obligation — not a home to build.

I didn’t have a singular place or idea of home — and even if there was one, Singapore definitely wasn’t it.

It took a lot of heart work before I was able to even begin to invest into the lives of those around me in Singapore. I faced regular disappointment and discouragement in my attempts to open up or to get to know the born-and-bred Singaporeans.

I had to deal with assumptions: “Huh, but you stayed in China for 8 years. Your Chinese should be better than ours what?”

Or disbelief and cynicism at my thought process: “What? Who even thinks that way?”

I consistently received a mixed message from others. They somehow knew me so well they felt they could confidently assume this or that about my identity. But at the same time, my thinking and my way of doing things were so foreign that they couldn’t possibly comprehend my side of things.

The irony was biting, and for a long time I was bitter with my “fellow” Singaporeans for failing to understand me. The last thing on my mind was investing myself into this place or its people.

Which left me with two choices:

1. I could give up, and stonewall every Singaporean who crossed paths with me, and think “this one’s just another overassuming, narrow-minded Singaporean”.

2. I could continue trying — putting myself into social situations where I would be readily identified as strange or not-really Singaporean, and keep working at integrating.

I often struggled to choose the second option, but by God’s grace, I persevered. Looking back, it was my church and cell group which really helped me to plug in. With them, though I was still the not-so-Singaporean Singaporean, I could still lay claim to one undeniable commonality:

I’m a Christian, you’re a Christian, I love God, you love God. We’re not that different, are we?

Honestly, there were some days where the awkwardness between my cell members and I was so palpable. We were just so different — at times it really felt that this professed love for God was the last and only thread which bound us together.

All I could do was just cling to this thread and pray unceasingly to God.

That the larger Singaporean society was far from welcoming — this was grudgingly acceptable in some sense. What pained me was that my God-fearing family could not, and would not, understand me.

Frustrated, I would often retreat to cry to God — plonking my tear-stained face into His embrace.

In time, He revealed the basis of my frustration and pain to me: Deep inside, there was a vast need to be understood and loved. I was hungering for identity.

I’d go as far to say I wanted to be completely understood and completely loved.

As He embraced me, I discovered the One who knows and loves me fully. Our Lord God knows us fully — down to the very hair (Luke 12:7). And He loves us fully too — nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).

Deep inside, there was a vast need to be understood and loved. I was hungering for identity.

When my spirit felt close to death, the Word of God came to life. It has continued to be life to me on my path of being Singaporean — indeed for living on earth. I realised that if God fully knows and loves me, I don’t need to feel downcast or pressured when I’m not Singaporean enough. When I’m not understood or loved enough.

In God, I am known and loved more than enough. From this position, as I followed God — knowing my identity in Him — I could then better know and love the people He placed in my life. No longer on my terms, or for my purposes, but His.

We’re not responsible for whether or not others take care of us or understand us — unless we’re deliberately trying to make it hard for them to do so. But we are responsible for our relationship with the One who does those things best: Our Lord and our God.

For me, adapting to Singapore — or indeed any place, people or situation — has to first begin with the question, “What is God doing here? And how can I be a part of it?” 

When I started to ask such questions, God began to reveal His fingerprints in my life.

As I look back on my difficult transition years, I can say with full confidence that God knows what He’s doing. He never forces Himself upon us, but always invites us to recognisereceive, and realise His ways in our lives — and then relay those higher ways to others.

Our part is then to consistently grow in knowing our Father God intimately — that we may be true bearers of His intimacy, no matter the people or place.

This world needs a Home, and we’re bringing it down to them.

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Maybe the green pastures aren’t all that green

by | 3 August 2017, 7:04 PM

The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters” (Psalm 23:1-2)

All my life I had envisioned the “green pastures” in Psalm 23 to look something like the classic Windows wallpaper, “Bliss”. You’re definitely acquainted with it: rolling hills against a pastoral landscape.

Picture-perfect peace.

In this world, however, most of us know by now that life isn’t all that simple. Perhaps instead of peace, some of us feel preyed upon in this world. For some of us, the peaceful images of the Psalms have no resonance — our “quiet waters” might look more like a raging river (Psalm 23:2).

Or the “right paths” might be roads we once knew a long time ago, but can no longer find (Psalm 23:3). Certainly, our present struggles and anxieties may feel more real to us than God. And yet in spite of them, He – our great Shepherd – is still greater.

I’m not saying this to trivialise your pain. By greater, I mean that God meets us where we are — but won’t leave us there. Greater means he leads us for His name’s sake — for His glory (Psalms 23:3). He’s got His eye on greater, higher things whether we’re in good times — or in our darkest valley (Psalms 23:4).

We must believe that God desires to guide us to life — and all we need to do is follow Him.

THE END IN MIND

I do get it. The narrow path is so difficult to find because we live in a culture that has conditioned us to put our heads down in the grind (Matthew 7:14). The Singaporean hustle really looks like a logical way to life. But do you want to finally look up when you are 50 only to realise you’ve missed God’s best for you?

The problem is that the process becomes life itself, and we forget all about the destination. We punched in “paradise” into the GPS early on — but stopped for something cheaper and easier.

In light of worldly wisdom and logic, it’s worth considering what David’s starting point was: I lack nothing.

The problem is that the process becomes life itself, and we forget all about the destination.

He wasn’t kiasu. He didn’t fear lack, like we are so prone to. He didn’t strive. Don’t forget that this was a man who had lived both as king and cave-dwelling fugitive. David understood both gain and pain.

And yet he had peace — true peace — which came only from God.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters” (Psalm 23:2)

What does God do for His sheep when they allow Him to lead them? I believe that in His mercy, He first makes His sheep lie down. He makes us stop in our tracks — when all we want to do is run around and do our own thing.

Then He gently whispers: Stop striving. Here is everything you will ever need. Trust me. Lie here for a bit, be still, and I will refresh you. Trust me.

WITH EYES WIDE OPEN

In David’s time, green pastures certainly weren’t like the pastoral ones on our wallpapers. They probably were more like life-sustaining, little patches of life through a desert.

In such a harsh environment, the sheep would require their Shepherd to guide them, often to places that might not look promising, like a rocky outcrop. But often, after a long climb up steep rocks, there would be life-sustaining nourishment.

For us, being good sheep doesn’t mean having blind faith. It means having faith and being obedient — counting the cost and following the Shepherd. It takes trust — trust in the Shepherd and His character — but we gain peace from doing so (Isaiah 26:3).

Instead of simply counting the cost of following the straight and narrow path — count the cost of not doing so.

We desperately need to know what it really means to follow Christ. We must never confuse the peace of following God with coasting in life. True Christianity isn’t about frolicking in worldly abundance and chilling out on nice green pastoral hills.

It’s war.

It’s a lifetime of fighting where souls are at stake. Indeed, the race and “the good fight” (1 Timothy 6:12) rage on each and every single hour of our lives on earth. With such a difficult road to travel on, it’s little wonder that many of us take detours or shortcuts through the woods.

But instead of simply counting the cost of following the straight and narrow path — count the cost of not doing so.

TRUST — CAST — REJOICE

When we consider how much is at stake and how fiercely we must fight, we may become anxious. In keeping our peace and eyes on the heavenward prize — here are some handles:

  • Trust the Lord (Proverbs 3:5-6)
  • Cast your anxieties on Him (1 Peter 5:7)
  • Rejoice in the Lord (Philippians 4:4-7)

When we align our lives to His will, we’re placing our whole lives in His hand, and now the LORD Himself is going to act (Psalm 37:3-5) on our behalves.

What an assurance it is that peace doesn’t lie in our abundant surroundings — in mere things so prone to flux and change. Instead, true peace comes from trusting and walking with an unchanging and sovereign God. Think of Jesus who rested peacefully in the boat’s stern (Mark 4:35-41) as the storm raged — Peace lies in the boat with us.

So what to the raging river. So what to the storms of this life. And so what to the sting of death.

The Lord our God is with us and for us: there’s no more need to be afraid.

/ gabriel@thir.st

Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.

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My way or a higher way?

by | 27 July 2017, 3:49 PM

The way we are in bad traffic — or in any trying situation for that matter — reveals a lot about our character. 

For instance, here’s some simple advice: if you’re thinking about marrying someone, observe him when he’s stuck in traffic. Or when she has to deal with bad Internet.

In these sort of scenarios, you’ll be able to learn if this person is kind and patient — or the sort to put down service staff at Singtel just to get a compensation voucher.

The point is, in situations such as when we’re driving, we get to choose if we react or respond to our circumstances. Each of these decisions goes some way into shaping who we become (Proverbs 1.31).

Personally, I’m still not the best Christian on the road. On my worst days, I’m entitled, I’m impatient — I’m angry. But on the better days where I responded — instead of reacting — God has done incredible things in my life.

In situations such as when we’re driving, we get to choose if we react or respond to our circumstances.

Here’s an example that stands out in my memory: in 2014, I would drive to school everyday, and there would always be an accident along some stretch of the highway. This was usually before 10am so that meant there’d be congestion — and a lot of inconvenience.

And as I drove, I’d always see an ambulance creeping up on the right at some point or another. I never thought much of it — I mean, accidents happen — normally I’d just get through the jam it caused and complain about it later to my classmates.

But one day, in the middle of another jam, it dawned on me that I could pray for the person inside who was hurting, maybe even fighting for his life. Or for that person who was desperately waiting for the ambulance to get to him.

So on that particular day, I chose to look past the inconvenience, respond well and pray.

I prayed for the wounded person’s healing and that he would come to know God in some miraculous way. I prayed again the next day, when another ambulance invariably passed me. And the next as I sped by the scene of an accident. And so on.

It wasn’t something I used to do, but I suddenly found myself praying every day.

My prayers soon began to stretch beyond the confines on my car. Eventually, I was praying for people I walked by on the streets — children, young people, old people, handicapped people. It didn’t matter.

Months passed as I prayed and prayed and prayed. A singular question began to grow in my heart: Where do all these prayers go?

I developed a faith conviction that every single word uttered in prayer to God is heard by Him.

I began to ask God if they mattered at all. Were my prayers making a difference? I didn’t want to be merely performing a ritual or going through the motion as I drove. (Short answer: they really do — see Revelations 8.3-4.)

By this point, I had been praying fervently for close to a year now. And on one of the days I was on worship team duty, an acquaintance approached me during the altar call. She said she had a word from God for me:

“God hears. He hears your cries.”

I can be pretty cynical as a person, but that was a game changer. From that moment on, there was a spark lit within me. I developed a faith conviction that every single word uttered in prayer to God is heard by Him.

My daily prayers became a lifestyle — a lifestyle developed from a single decision, made one morning in heavy traffic.

I think it’s really cool how God began to turn my life around from that one moment in the car. Things started to change. I began to care for others, and I would pray for them — try and meet their felt needs.

I began to do things I would never have done in the past — things on God’s heart that had been so unattractive to me.

I often wonder what kind of person I’d be now if I had simply chosen to complain about traffic in my head — just like all the other days before that first prayer. I’d rather not know how many ambulances God would’ve mercifully sent my way before I finally did things His way.

What I have learnt while driving is that simple decisions can have profound impacts and consequences.

*     *     *

A year after that change in me, I was driving near my place when a truck driver suddenly swerved into my lane. In all honesty, he could have so easily pinned me against the road barrier.  I was so angry for my life — he almost killed me! I was still shaken as I pulled up at the next red light.

As the car came to a stop — even in the fury of my heart — I felt a small, calm voice in my heart say:

Pray for him. He needs to be safe too. Pray for him.

I was so angry at this person. I wanted to be carnal about the whole thing. I wanted to react in the flesh: sound the horn for a good thirty seconds, get out of the car and find a way to end up on Stomp — but somehow I obeyed, and I prayed.

Father, please have mercy on him. Help him to be safe too. Let us both return safely to our families. Lord preserve his life. Thank you Father. Lord, grant us journey mercies. Lord have mercy …

As I finished the prayer, I noticed the song on the radio had changed since the near-accident. Hoobastank’s The Reason was playing, and I listened to the chorus in tears:

I’ve found a Reason for me
To change who I used to be
A reason to start over new
And the Reason is You.

/ gabriel@thir.st

Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.

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Everyone deserves a moment with God: Special needs and the Church

by | 27 July 2017, 12:07 PM

Several years ago, a life group in Hope Church Singapore found itself with four unique cell members – each of whom had special needs. With no experience in caring for people with special needs, a few leaders in Hope Church decided to meet and pray over this life group’s new situation.

They then set out to serve and disciple their Friends – this is how members with special needs are addressed – through informal meetings. 

Thus was birthed SHINE, a ministry that now conducts a church service for almost 20 people, which includes both Friends and their family members.

“God goes before us – we just follow,” says Edison, one of SHINE’s founders. It’s a bold and radically different sentiment from what he once thought in private: “Can’t ‘they’ just go somewhere else?”

Edison setting up tables and chairs for the service.

Edison is the first person I meet early the morning I visit the church. He’s a large, cheerful man in his 30s, preoccupied with moving dozens of chairs and tables around the auditorium we were in.

As he offers me a firm and sweaty handshake, I notice Yingqi and Tivona – SHINE’s co-leaders – also working hard alongside him.

I realise they aren’t even setting up for their Friends yet — service would not begin until much later. SHINE’s volunteers are setting up for a session they call Heart Prep — a short thematic study of the Bible and a time of prayer for the service ahead.

There’s an air of excitement and anticipation in the air.

After Heart Prep, we proceed to the ground floor, by the busy main road. Eventually an old battered bus pulls in, filled with Friends who disembark to ebullient high-fives by Aaron, an experienced volunteer who had been waiting with a well-worn wheelchair.

The wheelchair is for Ah Wen — one of the more challenging Friends who SHINE serves. Ah Wen is in his late 20s, severely autistic and non-verbal. Ah Wen isn’t physically disabled, but he needs to be strapped to his wheelchair because he hits people when he’s moody.

Ah Wen has to be strapped to his wheelchair to prevent himself from hitting others or himself.

He also has to wear a helmet because when he can’t reach other people, he hits himself on the head, either with his hands or whatever he’s holding. Ah Wen is a very large man – he’s taller than everybody in SHINE – and he’s very strong.

That morning, Ah Wen refuses to get out of the bus. His mother looks on for a minute, before trying to pull him onto the wheelchair. But when she attempts to do so, Ah Wen resists, tugging at her blouse with surprising force.

After they finally manage to move him off the bus, Ah Wen has to be held by male volunteers as they strap him into the wheelchair, tying his hands to its armrests as gently as they can. Such physical restraint is practised with love in SHINE, with the consent of Ah Wen’s mother. It’s for his safety — as well as the volunteers’.

Once he is fully secured, we head up to the service upstairs.

With Ah Wen safely taken care of by SHINE volunteers, his mother collapses into a chair, relieved to finally have some time to herself.

As we wheel Ah Wen to the lift, we pass by a group of youths who glance over furtively. They can tell that Ah Wen has special needs, and are visibly uncomfortable with his grunting and involuntary shaking. None of them will look him in the eye.

Ah Wen is the biggest and loudest person in the church’s hallway – yet he is invisible. That breaks my heart.

As we enter the doors, Ah Wen’s mother sighs, “这两天我真的受不了了.” The last two days have been unbearable.

I can’t even begin to imagine her daily routine with Ah Wen — even just getting from the bus to the lift was an ordeal. For such caregivers, coming to Hope’s SHINE ministry must be an indescribable relief, like stepping indoors during a storm.

With Ah Wen safely taken care of by SHINE volunteers, his mother collapses into a chair, relieved to finally have some time to herself. Every morning the struggle begins anew, but for these 3 hours in SHINE — it’s like there’s a divine ceasefire. 

I’d never seen it this way till now. A mere 3-hour “sacrifice” for some of us might well be the most treasured and anticipated block of time in the lives of these Friends and their loved ones.

Edison and Yingqi with Ah Wen.

Worship begins, and strangely enough I can no longer hear Ah Wen acting up. He isn’t grunting anymore, the way he had been on the ground floor. I glance over to see Yingqi and Edison kneeling by his wheelchair.

They stay with him the whole service, praying over him, just being with him. Not once do they leave his side.

Whenever Ah Wen grows restless and starts to shake, Yingqi holds his hand and reassures him gently. She is a petite young woman, and it’s a beautiful display of kindness and boldness.

Ah Wen stomps his feet, and Edison intuitively knows that he wants a leg massage. He crouches in front of his wheelchair to ease his discomfort.

Witnessing such acts of love, I realise I’m seeing the people I first met earlier in the morning in a new light. To my mind, they’ve transformed into superheroes of the faith, all in the span of a few hours.

If God won’t turn His face from any of us, why should we look away from others in His church? How could we?

After worship, I ask Tivona if there are cases of Friends they are unable to take on. “There are no rules and no exclusions,” she says, although SHINE volunteers must exercise wisdom in the way they minister to various individuals.

Despite the caveat, I see unconditional love in her answer. 

My mind is filled with thoughts as the service ends and I head home on the train.

When we walk into a room before our Father God as His children, does He love one more than the other? Does He look at an athlete admiringly but pretend a person like Ah Wen isn’t there? 

If the answer is no – and surely it’s a resounding no – then we, too, must love all our brothers and sisters equally.

If God won’t turn His face from any of us, why should we look away from others in His church? How could we? 

Edison and the SHINE ministry volunteers.

I think back to something Edison shared during our conversation. It was about a dream he had about Ah Wen.

“It was me and Ah Wen in heaven. And Ah Wen looked at me and said, ‘Edison, thank you. Thank you for all your help to me when we were on Earth.’

“And I just cried and cried. I woke up crying.”

I see now that the need is so great. The harvest really is plentiful (Luke 10:2).

Some of us still perceive our Friends as people with broken minds, broken bodies. But we are all broken vessels – and in the spiritual realm I don’t believe they’re any more broken than we are.

So it makes perfect sense that we worship one God, under one roof, as one Church.


SHINE is a Special Needs Ministry from Hope Church Singapore. It aims to embrace people with special needs in God’s love, empowering every individual to be whom God has created them to be. It runs services every fortnight, on Saturday mornings. For more information, contact shinehopesg@gmail.com.

/ gabriel@thir.st

Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.

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When the well runs dry

by | 20 July 2017, 9:33 PM

A job hazard for a writer is the fact that I feel like I have to continually draw from the well of my soul. It makes sense as a writer – that’s where you’d think most of the great stories come from.

But if you follow that logic, a day will come when I’ll run out of stories – I could potentially exhaust my reserves of life experiences, highs and lows.

It’s not exclusive to writing as a ministry. For instance, I know cell leaders who come up with fantastic care plans for their sheep, and dream big ideas for growth and multiplication.

But when either these plans fail or they start to run out of capacity to do everything planned, they end up burning out – wringing their hands in frustration at lost sheep.

When we reach the end of ourselves, we need to honestly examine if we’ve been leaning on the vine – where God’s strength and wisdom flows – or if we’ve just been drawing from their own wells.

WE ARE NOT THE VINE WE NEED

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)

The vine doesn’t need the branches, but the branches need the vine. Just as we need God, we need to remain in Him if we are to bear fruit – or indeed if we are to live at all.

It’s tempting to believe we are capable of bearing fruit ourselves. It’s tempting to look at the number of salvations our events have gained, or the number of followers on our Instagrams, or the pageviews on our stories, and quietly believe we are the ones making all the difference.

It’s tempting to believe we are capable of bearing fruit ourselves.

Eventually, we get to a point where we believe the good work we’ve accomplished is all because of us.

But the truth from the Bible is that apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. We simply cannot bear fruit of eternal value by ourselves. My “well” doesn’t run dry when I run out of great stories – it runs dry when I am not abiding by the vine.

I’ll tell the best stories when I’m daily sitting by the feet of He who gives me the words to write.

WARNING: STAY WITH GOD

If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” (John 15:6)

The warning isn’t just that we won’t bear fruit. If we miss the point, and fail to abide in Jesus – if we no longer depend entirely on him for life – then we risk death eternally.

We remain in God by walking closely to Him, devoting unhurried time to His Word and communion with Him.

We remain in God by utterly depending on Him, acknowledging that we are nothing apart from Him.

In Him, our finite time on earth has infinite potential for the Kingdom.

If we do these things – walking closely with the Lord and bearing fruit for God’s glory – we can then expect to be pruned (John 15:2). The Greek verb for “prune” is kathairó, which also means “to cleanse” or “to purify”.

Pruning – painful as it can be – occurs because the Gardener loves His good branches, and desires to be glorified (John 15:8) by the fruit we bear, by our growth.

In Him, our finite time on earth has infinite potential for the Kingdom.

God may weed out certain mindsets, activities or even people in our lives – so that He can give us more of Him.

We should earnestly desire this pruning, that we might better abide in Him.

To truly abide (ménō) is to never depart. Can you imagine a life where we are ever leaning upon the Vine, pleasing the Master of the vineyard with the sweet fruits of lives – wholly and inextricably devoted to Him?

I can tell you what that would feel like, according to John 15:11 – your joy will be complete.

/ gabriel@thir.st

Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.

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I’m right where I should be

by | 19 July 2017, 5:36 PM

His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” (Matthew 25:23)

This verse has stuck with me through the years. Whenever I read it, I imagine God in heaven evaluating what my life has amounted to. With this picture in mind, I constantly weigh my ministries, relationships and career prospects by their eternal value – fruit that will last (John 15:16).

I can’t waste my life.

So I keep asking: “What will this add to the Kingdom?”

Because I’m terrified I’ll wake up one day at 50, and realise I’ve wasted decades. I don’t want to be stuck in any job just going through the motions, making little to no difference for God’s Kingdom. That’s heartbreaking to me.

For those of us in the marketplace, I am by no means comparing how Job X is more “Christian” than Job Y. I know there are differences to be made for the Kingdom wherever and whoever we are.

I just know that my heart is prone to wander towards that which is profitable in the world, and a routine which is comfortable. I’m tempted by many such jobs in the marketplace.

*     *     *

Very rarely, I get a particular, special feeling in my heart. It’s a feeling which surfaces at moments I know I’m exactly right where I should be.

The first time I felt this way was when I went on a mission trip to the Philippines in 2014. It was a humid night after numerous rehearsals, and a group of us were walking back to our home for the night.

We shuffled in single file down a narrow inner street, bathed in orange light.

The whole time, we were carrying heavy things like ladders and props, getting ready for the performance the next day. In truth, none of it was really fun – it was hard work. Yet in that moment, I experienced a tangible peace in my being which said:

You are right where you should be.

These words settled in my heart, stilling it with a peace I had never experienced before; it was strange and beautiful all at once.

I knew that I could have been in Singapore – or anywhere – doing anything else. Yet here I was in this strange and foreign place, far from Singapore, carrying ladders – and I was Home.

*     *     *

Another time I felt this peace was earlier this year, while serving in my church’s performance arts ministry. I was in charge of the props team for the Good Friday production. The work was tedious and certainly not glamorous.

On the day of the performance, I was moving the props around as a stagehand. Then it was time for the altar call at the end of the show. I wanted to pray for those who responded.

I sat in the darkness offstage, hunched over by the curtains as the stage lights peeked through. I could see the faces of the many young people who had come to the altar. As I reached out my hands to pray for them, I was just hit by this wave.

I can’t put my finger on it. It was just a mixture of emotion, and raw power. In that moment, I knew in my spirit that something good was happening to all the lost and hungry souls standing an arm’s length from the curtain.

The many nights and months of preparation and sacrifice revealed their worth in that moment – as if a curtain had fallen before my eyes. I saw the eternal value. And again the peace spoke:

You are right where you should be.

*     *     *

I’ve encountered this peace whenever I was making a real difference to the Kingdom of God. I experienced this joy when every day, every hour I spent, counted for the Kingdom.

It’s certainly easy to feel that way when you’re in a place and period as intentional as a mission trip. But what if I told you it’s possible to feel this deep sense of purpose every day?

In truth, we should be feeling it every day! It’s not about the exotic locale or starting a holy-moly job.

You’re right where you should be” is a place of heart.

When we have a heart that says in complete obedience, “Lord, I’m all in”, I think something profound happens in us. There comes such deep peace, joy and excitement when we chase God. 

When we truly, truly trust Him.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26.3)

Do we trust God? Do we trust in His plan for us against the worries of this world? Imagine a life where every moment is lived in light of eternity. Imagine if our every step followed in His destiny for us. What profound bliss awaits the faithful heart which trusts and obeys.

/ gabriel@thir.st

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You have nothing to be ashamed of

by | 19 July 2017, 12:04 PM

I’m so afraid to write for your people, God. Me? I’m not qualified!

I’ve been writing in my diary, journal and Tumblr for years. It’s always been just for me. For instance, one of my earliest pieces was a spinoff on a Captain Underpants book, because I wasn’t satisfied with the original ending. I did that for me.

The Christian rumination that goes on in my Tumblr? Preaching to myself – writing for my own soul.

Me, me, me.

But suddenly, I’m called to this place where I write for others. And so much of that writing comes from a necessary pouring out of my life – honest conversations, after all.

That has seriously made writing very scary – everything is out there! I feel like my life is laid bare – that all my flaws are being magnified. Every blemish, every pockmark – there to be seen by the world.

Have you ever had the misfortune of watching a Channel 8 drama in high definition? It’s just like that.

My carnal inclination as an introvert is typically to flee immediately. You’re putting yourself out there. Run!

EMBRACING THE PRIVILEGE

Yet after some time, I came to have this quiet gladness in my soul. I had peace about the work I was doing as a writer for Thir.st.

I realised God has led me to a place where I am able to bring my passion and calling together – writing as a ministry. For good. This is a privilege: so many spend their whole lives searching for what they can-want-should do – and never actually find it.

But I’m able to thank God that I’m right where I should be.

Secretly, all my life I’ve quietly believed in this inconvenient truth: Faith can’t stay a private thing (Luke 11:33). We’re called to share the Gospel in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20), and that involves putting our lives out there as testimonies.

Now I believe that my life is laid bare – laid down – so that God is exalted and magnified.

LEAVE YOUR NETS BEHIND

I’ve been asking friends who I know can write to contribute to Thir.st. The typical response is a non-committal shrug. “I’m shy”.

As a reserved person myself, I understand the hesitation – but there’s a distinction to be made between shyness and shame.

For instance, as I write, occasionally a little voice will tell me that I am the worst sinner in the office – a hypocrite. What a responsibility you’re taking on! YOU? Of all people?!

But greater than my temptation to believe this lie is my refusal to let shyness or shame hinder His work through me. Let me first be faithful – who knows who God will touch through my words, through the story He’s brought me through?

If I feel unworthy – fine. I should never forget that that is the glory of grace: That I truly am totally unworthy. And yet by grace, here I am writing these sentences.

The 12 Disciples’ world-transforming adventure began because they left their nets and followed Jesus. These fishermen left their shyness and their shame on the shores of the Galilee.

So, I tell that voice to go away because I know who I am in God. And I know He loves to use the lowly nobody to do His amazing work (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).

Jesus’ disciples weren’t amazing public speakers or accomplished writers – they were fishermen! They weren’t great, but they did great things for God.

And it never happened by their power or wisdom – lest they boast (1 Corinthians 1:29). Their world-transforming adventure began because “immediately they left their nets and followed Jesus” (Matthew 4:20).

They left their notions of success – and all their fears – behind. These fishermen left their shyness and their shame on the shores of the Galilee. And in simple obedience, they followed Him as disciples.

JARS OF CLAY

If you have a story that will take someone closer to Jesus, then that testimony matters. Your willingness matters – far more than your ability to write. The former gives the glory to God, for what He has done; the latter to yourself.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

We don’t begin as golden, gilded treasures pouring out the finest wine. We’re just … ordinary. And God wants us ordinary people.

We’re not meant to be flawless porcelain teacups, sitting unused in a display set. We’re supposed to be that scratched melamine mug that’s used the most. And it’s empty:

  • Empty of shyness and shame – to be filled with divine boldness.
  • Empty of pretension and agendas – to be filled with a higher purpose.
  • Empty to be ever topped up with living water – poured out for those who thirst.

What makes us precious is what we hold within. And what makes us useful to the Kingdom, is what we pour out to people in a parched land.

Time to let down my net.


The thing about stories is that everyone has at least one good one to tell. If you’ve been wanting to put one of yours out there and you think it would help someone — starting with yourself — don’t be shy to introduce yourself in an email to hello@thir.st!

/ gabriel@thir.st

Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.

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by | 11 July 2017, 4:45 PM

I just graduated. My commencement ceremony was just this week. Mortar board, gown and everything. Life awaits!

I’ve been shortlisted for a job at a government ministry. This career path offers a good starting salary, with guaranteed progression. An iron rice bowl.

But, but, but …

Somehow I find myself considering the prospect of going into full-time ministry in Thir.st. In my heart of hearts, I feel a great peace when I show up for the day’s Kingdom work. I believe that this is a job I can do. I should do this work. I want to do this.

But, by the world’s standards, I’d be a fool to take this up: A salary that just can’t compare? How will I pay off my student loans? How will I provide for my wife in the future? How will I start a family? Buy a house?

These questions came up vehemently, building around me a furnace of fear, kindled by anxiety.

I had to examine my heart to see if money had become more important than God in my life. Searching for handles, I went to the Word:

“Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Matthew 19:20-22)

This was Jesus’ response to the rich young man who believed he had it all together. I don’t believe that Jesus was saying that to truly follow God, you have to sell off all your possessions, and move to some backwater slum in some foreign land to begin your ministry.

But what if that’s exactly what God wants? Could you take the plunge?

This is the heart of the matter: Money had become the young man’s god. I’m no rich man – I don’t have “great possessions” – yet the issue of money still loomed over my desire to serve the Kingdom.

Jesus knew what needed to be done on the cross; He counted the cost. Then, knowing what it would cost Him, He gave everything.

In the young man’s hesitance, Jesus didn’t cave and give him room to compromise: “You know what, okay lah, just sell your house.” “Fine, fine, you can keep all your stuff, just give me one year.”

Jesus doesn’t compromise. He didn’t just suffer for a little while, then chicken out before his crucifixion. He didn’t just heal a bunch of people over a Sabbatical year, only to go back to do his own carpentry thing after that. He knew what needed to be done; He counted the cost. Then, knowing what it would cost Him, He gave everything.

God’s all in. The same has to go for us.

We grew up climbing this mountain. From when we were young, we’ve always been chasing the next peak: PSLE, O-levels, A-levels, honours degree, a good girlfriend – the list goes on. We’ve been climbing all our lives. But what’s really at our summit? A well-paying job? Recognition in the marketplace? Financial wealth? The glory of God?

For many of us, the hope of finally landing this reward – that’s why we’ve been climbing the whole time. Coming down the mountain feels like failure, the death of a dream. It feels like I’d be abandoning everything I’ve ever trained for.

Now I am at a fork in the road. And both paths look like the Promised Land. One is the path I’ve always been on, the path the world commends, the path to that summit. But after climbing this high, it almost feels like I’m being pointed down the other path – for a life of war.

I don’t know if I’m ready.

But I know I can’t stay here. Soon, I’ll have to make a choice: Push for the summit, or go down His way.

Have you ever climbed a mountain? On volcanic mountains, the gravel gets more loose the higher you climb. So if you stand still in one spot long enough, you begin to sink downwards. In my heart, I know that if my life is not completely aligned to God’s will, then I’m standing in sinking sand.

I wrestle. It’s all about me; in truth, it’s been this way for far too long.

I argue and I reason. It’s not all about me. What about my future wife? What about my mum? Someone’s got to take care of them.

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” (John 19:26-27)

Even as Jesus hung on the cross, He thought of his earthly mother, and made sure her future was sorted out in a very practical way. But John? He never even questioned it. He didn’t offer any ifs, buts, hesitation, conditions:

But Lord, she’s not my real mother.
Lord, give me two more years to earn more money and then I will do this.
Lord this. Lord that.

John simply obeyed. And he obeyed immediately. I believe John could do so because he’d come to know in his heart that whatever command Jesus gave him was for his own good as well as Mary’s.

Our Father God desires good for us (Romans 8:28) when He tells us to do something. This is true even when the command given seems like it doesn’t make any sense.

If we truly believe that God knows best, then all that’s left to be done is to simply … obey.

/ gabriel@thir.st

Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.

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by | 6 July 2017, 5:26 PM

What happens when we lose our faith in God? What happens when something happens that shakes our understanding of Him as sovereign and good?

I remember climbing the Great Wall of China with my father in 2009. My sisters and mother were predictably not game enough to ascend the cobbled steps, but we men were always so brave.

I led the way up steep stones and cold rock, and reached a silent, open space upon the wall that sheered off into the northern mountains. I was alone, still some distance ahead of Dad.

It was cold and beautiful, and I thought of God. I hummed a simple worship tune I had made up on the spot in response to the masterpiece which lay before me. Then I cut off the quiet song in my throat as Dad made it to where I was, flashing that familiar smile which hid his pride at making it to the top.

I took my gloves off for a picture, and put them on a parapet. The wind knocked them off the wall; Dad laughed, all at the expense of my near-frostbite. We shared some hot tea in the blustery wind, and then we came back down.

I was studying in church later that year when Mum called me on my handphone, and passed the phone to Dad. He told me the doctors said the cancer had gotten worse. We’d “fight it” together, I told him. We men were always so brave, but those words would ring hollow.

When I got home I remember giving Dad my bank book — with all of $400 in it — to help with the chemotherapy costs. I remember how he smiled with pride, and sadness.

I remember carrying Dad around the house over the next few years, by then all skin and bones. I watched him let go of his dignity and lose his grip on life, while I began to bear a growing anger with God.

I remember praying and crying at night, no longer begging God for healing. I was begging God to let me take my father’s place and pain.

I remember my rage when others told me of miracles of gold dust sprinkled on their hands after prayer – while my faithful father lay ravaged by disease, no miracle imminent. Consumed with anger, I berated God for not choosing to do anything.

I remember Dad’s last words to me — “See you, son” — as I closed the door to his hospital ward.

I remember the way Dad’s breathing began to sound like a shaking rattle later that night. And I remember the nurses and doctor who rushed over when the laboured breaths stopped coming. It was surreal how the doctor shook his head and said “I’m sorry”.

Suddenly, I was both spectator and participant to some tragic drama—caught up in a new horrific reality that could not have been happening. In my bitter heart, I saw God only as a spectator in the scene.

I remember that I had to look away. I turned to the night sky, which stretched black beyond the cold hospital window grilles, whispering “no, no, no”.

I remember crying, and wishing my tears were a warm rain that would wash this scene and bad dream away. My sisters hugged my mother, as an uncle held me by my shoulder.

I remember how on some nights after that wretched one, I’d think about joining Dad in the afterlife. See you.

But every parapet I inched towards seemed a pale reflection of that beautiful day upon the Great Wall. I knew I’d never make it to Dad if I chose to reach him that way. I had my promises to keep, family to love and take care of, and friends not to disappoint.

And somewhere, deep down, I knew God still existed even if I had denied and cursed Him.

That’s the thing: I remember all these events in my life, and I remember the way they made me feel. But faith isn’t a feeling. Even though I denied it at the time — faithless — God was faithful and with me every step of the way.

If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.”
(2 Timothy 2.13)

God is sovereign over our lives, which means He is present at all times – even present in our pain. I came to understand how He extended grace to me, even in my rebellion. In all the time I hated Him, God still graciously worked his kindness to me.

For instance, after my Dad passed on, my superiors in the army arranged for me to be sent to the Air Force instead. Their decision meant I could work 9-to-5, which meant I could be at home most days, as my family worked through the aftermath.

This was undeserved grace, despite my open hostility towards God.

In rebellion, as I turned to the wrong girls, the wrong places, the cigarettes and drinks, He brought me home each time. He brought my family through tragedy. He lavished abundance and grace upon us all. We never had to worry about money, and grandchildren soon came to replace grief with joy.

I am comforted by 2 Timothy 2:11-13, because God promises life after death — it is from a hope such as this that we may better endure our trials.

God could well have chosen to deny me when I denied Him. Yet each time I swore Him off, He came back for me. Grace.

As the years passed and I reflected, my heart was softened towards repentance. I see now that even though Dad had gone, I always had a Father.

When I contemplated His ongoing care and goodness in the years of my rebellion, I developed a faith conviction of God as constant and constantly good.

We worship a God who is unchanging in storms. His sovereignty — if at times devastating to experience or difficult to submit to — is simply what it is.

God is God. He was real in the worst of times, and He is real in the best of times. He just is.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)

I’ve felt in recent years that God was turning a page with my story. Indeed, after hard times in life, it’s tempting to believe that good things would begin happening to me. I felt like I was due some good.

Yet all I truly deserve is death.

And somehow, still, despite this, even while I was a sinner, God chose to give me good things in gracious abundance. But this is nothing compared to what God has done for all humanity in Romans 5.8.

Through Jesus Christ, God has given me the gift of eternal life: a promise that I will walk on Greater Walls with Dad again, someday in paradise.

/ gabriel@thir.st

Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.

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by | 3 July 2017, 10:54 AM

I recently graduated, aged 25. My bros and I are at the life stage where things like gainful employment, having found a girlfriend, and engagement are supposed to be on the cards.

Speaking as a man, there’s an undeniable pressure to have it all together.

Everything’s smooth sailing … until you hit the storm. What happens then – when suddenly we don’t get what we want? Or what we think we deserve?

Over the past few months, I journeyed with a brother who wrestled with disappointment in finding employment. After multiple rejections by various companies, he’d spent months in a promising internship; he’d pinned all his hopes onto this career prospect.

Only to be told at the end of the stint that the company didn’t have headcount for him. It left him reeling.

“I just feel like I’m at my breaking point”, he said in tears.

THIS IS SINGAPORE

The floor was pulled from under his feet. It wasn’t just about the pay; he would survive. But it was such a crushing blow because his identity and value were found in what he did – how society regarded him. His self-worth had become tied to his achievements and positions in school and the working world.

You know how it feels. This is Singapore.

This is Singapore! We’re conditioned to feel validation when we attain a scholarship, or clinch that lucrative job. Yes, I’m such a good student. Yes, I’m the man with the skills – I deserve this.

All through life, my friend had been living as a good student, a good soldier, a good undergraduate. Then the world began telling him he was no longer good enough, and he took this personal failure to heart.

He became the failure.

He was broken.

The world began telling my friend was no longer good enough, and he took this personal failure to heart. He became the failure.

But we are not our failures. And we are more than mere workers. We are infinitely more than the sum of our roles and functions. More than workers, soldiers, fathers.

We are His dearly beloved children.

This is our starting point: We are accepted and loved by God. And when we live from acceptance, we no longer have to live for it.

SILVERSMITH AT WORK

I shared words – words I believe God laid on my heart – with my brother gently: Yes, in life there will be valleys so low, and times so rough, we’ll feel like we’re at the breaking point.

But instead of viewing yourself at breaking point, try to see it as you reaching your boiling point.

Consider the case of the silversmith. Silver, in its raw form, is impure and of poor value, until it is subjected to extreme heat. At its boiling point, the silver’s impurities rise to the top. Then the material which survives at the bottom takes on a new and higher value.

Having been purified, it may now be moulded by the master into something beautiful and greatly valuable.

Life’s trials are the crucibles for our purification.

“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” (Malachi 3:3)

As we face the heat of fiery flames, the Refiner is with us in the process. In due time, we are purified – ready – when the Refiner sees His own gleaming reflection in us. That’s us but in His image.

That’s Christlikeness.

He disciplines those He loves (Proverbs 3.12). He sanctifies those He loves. I believe God looks at us as we are – and meets us where we are in life. But I also believe that He has an eye on raising us to holiness, desiring to be glorified in us.

THE JOURNEY IS IMPORTANT

I believe God does not merely care about our outcomes. I believe He is more interested in the processes – in the many journeys of growth we undertake in our time on Earth, traumatic or triumphant. Sanctification.

Yes, God waits to embrace us, and celebrate with us, when we triumphantly make it to the mountain’s summit. But He is also with us in the painful trudge up the mountain.

He holds our hand, and is beside us, while we suffer in life’s deep valleys. He is right there with us, in the fiercest furnace (Daniel 3:25).

Yes, God waits to embrace us, and celebrate with us, when we triumphantly make it to the mountain’s summit. But He is also with us in the painful trudge up the mountain.

Because He loves us, God cares about the kind of people we become through them. So, as we endure trials, we persevere in the knowledge that the end-goal is not merely clinching that job, or finally getting a girlfriend.

The end-goal is holiness. For the glory of God.

Back to my friend. Months after that conversation, he returned to me with the good news that he had been offered a job with a well-known company. He’d forgotten that he’d even applied for the position, but got a call-up unexpectedly.

There are no coincidences in this life. The offer came after he was finally able to surrender his will and desires to God.

Life’s trials may bring us to our knees. But take heart: God brings us low for our good. For our refinement. Boiled to perfection.

/ gabriel@thir.st

Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.

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