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Is there some higher purpose to a working life?

by Christine Ng | 12 May 2018, 2:28 PM

I’ve been struggling to figure out what my passion is.

I often think about where I should be heading next or what I should be spending my free time on. I try out different things but nothing seems to excite me.

I’ve always longed for a job where I would not dread going to work every day — something that would be new and exciting every day.

So last week I was contacted by a company I really wanted to join. It’s a small firm with a small team which doesn’t really recruit unless someone resigns, I suppose.

I had emailed them 2 months ago, so when they finally contacted me I couldn’t believe it. I went down for an interview and when I stepped into the office I felt like it would be the dream job for me.

I found it exciting, but the job would require me to work long hours and my holidays might be burnt in busy periods. So I was concerned about being unable to attend cell group and Sunday service regularly, as well as being unable to commit to regular Bible study this year.

I wanted to spend more time with my family and friends, and be available to take part in my first-ever mission trip this year. There are so many things I want to do.

Our lives should reflect Christ and His thoughts should increasingly be ours.

Coincidentally, my friend said this to me recently: “Sometimes if we want to spend more time on other things and spend time with our loved ones, we can’t chase our dreams and passions. And sometimes people chase their work or passions and end up losing their souls. We can’t have the best of both worlds.”

Well, I think it’s possible to have the best of both worlds at times — but not everyone is careful enough to strike that balance. And many times it is easier to lose our souls to our job or passions instead of focusing on other important things God has given to us, like the relationships we have with people around us.

So I decided to leave the results of that interview into God’s hands, while looking for other jobs or other meaningful things to do in my free time.

These past few days I’ve been reading Colossians, where I highlighted the verses which stuck out to me.

But the thought that came to my mind as I looked through my highlighted verses was, “What are we actually saved for?” In Colossians, Paul is writing to the Christians in Colossae. I am reminded that we are saved for His purpose — not just so we can escape hell.

“He has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.”  (Colossians 1:22)

God saved us so we could become holy and blameless. So our lives should reflect Christ (Colossians 2:6-7) and His thoughts should increasingly be ours (Colossians 1:9). There is great purpose in exemplifying and proclaiming Christ (Colossians 1:28-29) in all areas of our lives, including work.

What I’ve learnt is that work is a platform to show Christ in our lives. So even the words we say in it must reflect Him (Colossians 4:3-5).

We are chosen for a purpose, and we will know what His calling for us is when we fix our eyes upon Him and His commission for us.

Wherever we are — we can do God’s work.

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The double life of a mission tripper

by | 23 May 2018, 8:05 PM

One thing about missions trips that I find beautiful is the simplicity of being.

What I mean is, life becomes simple in a holy way: All that matters each day is that we accomplish a work for God — something of eternal kingdom value. Working intentionally for God’s glory in any mission context is incredibly satisfying.

For example, on my mission trip to Thailand, even in the local culture of sabai-sabai (everything is “chill”), I still felt incredibly purposed driven. And with that God-given purpose came joy, not grumbling or questioning.

But life back home doesn’t always feel that way. I’m fortunate enough that I have a job I know I’m called to, so I don’t drag my feet to work. But there are still days where it’s a grind, and I’m tempted to lose sight of that original purpose and passion. I lose the joy and clarity that comes from a life of God-centred single-mindedness.

And in this stale context, the clock resets. You start counting down the days to the next mission trip, or the next holiday or whatever it is that will numb this second, “lesser” state of being.

Why is that?

Why the pendulum between the mission and the mundane? My conclusion is some of us might be leading two lives: The “mission” and the “grind”. Let me break it down further:

  • In my mission field, I live an intentional life centred on doing God’s “one thing”.
  • In Singapore I do a hundred things in one day, and only a few of those things are for God.

See, in the mission context, even the mundane things magically fall under the hierarchy of being done for God. For example, in the simple act of taking out the trash, it’s done intentionally so that God’s workers can keep going in a clean environment.

But in Singapore our eyes aren’t quite opened that way. If I have to take out the trash it’s a lot easier to ask, “Why do I have to do this? Why can’t someone else do it?”

And the reason for that spirit is because many of us work with a wrong hierarchy when it comes to God. We like to rank priorities. We say that God is number one, and then we rank other things below Him like family, work and relationships. It sounds good – but it falls short.

The correct mindset to have is God as number one in all things: God enthroned in my family, God enthroned in work, God enthroned over my relationships.

That’s what Jesus at the centre of it all means —”mission life” is that glimpse of a life ordered by a holy hierarchy.

What would Jesus find us doing in Singapore?

Would we still be standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side for the Gospel? What is the spirit of our life? And what are we truly striving for?

What would life look like if enjoying God, desiring God, furthering the kingdom or doing God’s work was also the overarching priority of our lives – just as it so tangibly is in the mission field?

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the Gospel.” (Philippians 1:27)

This is Paul is writing to the church in Philippi with much thanksgiving and joy. In the same chapter this portion comes a little after the famous part of Philippians where Paul says “to live is Christ, and to die is gain”.

I know a life with Jesus at the centre will be a glorious one – and it’s there for the taking. If you’re a regular mission tripper, let’s pray that the Lord will help us to take that intentionality from missions back into “normal” daily life.

God, help us discover what a life for Christ looks like.


With an expected one billion people in Asia moving from rural to urban areas by the year 2030, the number of world city dwellers is expected to rise to 70% by 2050. There is an urgent call to the Church, especially as the majority of new urban dwellers will be young (under 25 years old) and live below the poverty line ($2 a day).

The GoForth National Missions Conference, happening June 21-23, 2018, will look at an array of diverse strategies to empower individuals and churches to reach and transform cities with the love of Christ. Visit their website to find out out more.

/ 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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Are your holidays restful or restless?

by | 22 May 2018, 5:28 PM

The school holidays are back!

Nothing like a good, long break. Growing up, semester breaks were the one and only thing I looked forward to. And the best part? No need for alarms! I always looked forward to the grand plans of the holidays. But the excitement would never last beyond the first few weeks of holidays.

And now that I’m working, vacation days are even more valuable: Endless days spent lazing around, playing games and catching up on shows.

But … Is it just me, or does too much rest lead to restlessness?

I think we can agree that most people don’t actually like to study or work. Some would go as far as to term it as a necessary evil – something you have to do even when you don’t like it. Since labour feels like a curse, we see rest as the solution.

But did you know that work is actually a blessing?

Work was God’s idea right from the beginning, even before sin came into the picture. Work was part of the paradise that Adam and Eve lived in. But the Fall changed everything.

“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17b-19)

Let’s be clear, what was cursed wasn’t work – but productivity. Work was meant for our fulfilment. Sin is what makes work awful to get through.

Passion without purpose is sprinting ahead without a destination in mind or worse – to the wrong destination.

Consider marriage: Adam and Eve’s relationship was also affected after the Fall, and we are still suffering the consequences even now – marriage is hard work. But does that mean marriage is no longer enjoyable and we should avoid it? By no means!

Marriage has its tough moments, but it is still a gift from God. When guided by His principles, it is fulfilling and fruitful.

The same goes for work and our studies. God loves to see diligence in his people (2 Timothy 2:6, Proverbs 12:24). So if work is a blessing, then perhaps an extended period of rest isn’t quite the answer to cure the drudgery we feel.

In fact, too much rest produces restlessness. Yes, rest is important. But we were never wired to do nothing (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12).

So how do we enjoy work? I think it starts by knowing our purpose in life. People often say we should find our passion, and then let that passion guide what we do in life.

But I believe passion without purpose is sprinting ahead without a destination in mind or worse – to the wrong destination.

Before his conversion, Paul spent a life trying to be the perfect Pharisee. He was zealous about persecuting and imprisoning Christians.

So while Paul was a passionate man, he was passionate about the wrong things. After his conversion at Damascus, he finally found his purpose. And it produced profound change: From a man who only knew how to take lives, he became a man who gave his life to the Church and Christ.

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (Philippians 3:7-9)

Being passionate is great, but it is your purpose that will determine your destination. So what is your purpose in life? You need to find it and pursue it passionately.

Don’t spend your holidays solely on a Netflix binge. The best thing you can do this June is to reflect on what your life counts for. What exactly are you living for? What do you hope to achieve at the end of your life?

If you seek God about it with all your heart, He will answer you.

/ siqi@thir.st

Siqi loves to eat. Except for peas, egg yolk, cucumbers, livers, intestines. Among others. She also happens to be a writer.

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Hold on to the rope

by | 22 May 2018, 4:18 PM

Just before I changed churches, I was serving to the point of burnout.

I had taken up all kinds of roles: PA Team, Backup Singing, Video and Post-Production, Social Media, Youth Leader …

I was exhausted. Where there once was joy in service, now I simply felt overworked and under-appreciated. And I had lost my purpose. Why was I running around doing all these things in the first place?

But I had a breakthrough during a missions rally at my new church a year later.

Pastor Manning was sharing from Acts 9:20-25, speaking about the events following Saul’s conversion. Shortly after his conversion on the road to the Damascus, Saul – once a great persecutor of Christians – began to preach the Gospel.

The Jews were stunned by Saul’s turnaround, and they plotted to kill him. So they watched the city gates and prevented his escape. But some of Saul’s followers brought him down the city walls by basket, helping him to escape.

Here Pastor Manning paused and threw a question that caught me off guard: Who were the ones who held the rope for Saul to escape? The Bible doesn’t tell us their names, but what did they is of eternal significance.

Their service holds valuable lessons for us today.

LOOK PAST TODAY’S APPLAUSE, LOOK TO ETERNAL GLORY

There are millions serving in the Kingdom of God, doing what God has called them to do. But the greatest of these are the ones who don’t worry about who gets the glory at the end of the day – it’s all for Jesus.

That struck me. I realised that I was craving the thanks and applause at the end of my deeds. I wasn’t a “rope-holder”, I simply wanted the glory for myself. I lost sight of eternity and the riches of the Father – holding on instead to the temporal scraps of human applause..

LOOK PAST TODAY’S SACRIFICE, LOOK TO ETERNAL PURPOSE

They did it even though no one could see them because they knew their purpose. They did it so that Saul could escape – so that the message could go forth to the glory of God. To the rope-holder, encouragement and credit become secondary beside God’s purposes.

When God’s purposes demand sacrifice, the rope-holder gives and obeys the call without delay. In ministry, we often forget the reason why we serve. This might be because of discouragement or burnout. But when we look to God, we look past what little we gave to what we are gaining from obedience.

LOOK PAST TODAY’S SUFFERING, LOOK TO ETERNAL IMPACT

Think of the people who held onto the rope until Saul’s basket reached the ground – through sore hands and the danger of the moment. No matter how tough the situation was, they held on until the task was finished. And their efforts had eternal impact – the very next verse begins with “When he came to Jerusalem,” (Acts 9:26).

I was very moved by that. In my season of burnout, I had let go of a number of ministry commitments. But Pastor Manning spoke a game-changer into my life: “When you feel you can’t hold on to the rope any longer, that’s when God comes and wraps his hands around yours and helps you to hold onto that rope.”

I had felt lonely in ministry for so long. But there and then I knew that God who called me to hold the rope was not abandoning me to it – He’s holding my hand even as I hang on.

The truth is we often have no idea when our basket will reach the ground, but we can expect to please God when it does.

I am reminded of Paul’s encouragement to Timothy as he approached his death.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

When I look to God – to the reward set before the race’s finishers – I look past giving up.

When the basket hit the bottom, the rope-holders probably didn’t realise they had changed the world. They did not know Saul would eventually become Paul, founder of more than 14 churches in the Asia Minor and European regions – writer of one-third of the New Testament!

They were simply holding the rope as God had called them to. Without expectations or grievances, they simply obeyed.

So hold on.

/ junheng@thir.st

JunHeng is a 100% extrovert who loves caffeine – lots of caffeine. He also likes HTHTs, jamming and eating good food. Did he mention he loves caffeine?

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Your identity isn’t tied to what you do

by Woo Jia Qian | 17 May 2018, 4:42 PM

When I was in school, I consistently topped the class in maths and sciences.

I was a straight-A student except for the consistent B’s I got for languages and humanities. I went to top schools and I was always referred to as “the smart one” among friends – the go-to person when my friends needed help with their homework.

I represented my school at Science Olympiads and even got a “Merit” award for the Chemistry Olympiad. I took H3 subjects in the sciences at A-Level, so my friends and family were certain that A-Level H2 subjects were going to be sure A’s for me.

But when I took the A-Level Chemistry examination, there was one paper that I felt was difficult. Deep inside, I kept my fingers crossed I would still get an A.

I got an A for the Chemistry Preliminary Examination, and I thought: “No one actually goes on to do worse in the A-Levels right?” I always believed that the A-Levels was the part where people suddenly got their As despite having never got one before. 

On the day they released the A-Level results, I had lunch with my friends. All of us knew that the top students would get called up and congratulated by the school early in the morning. So my friends asked me: “Jia Qian, did you get the phone call this morning?”

I didn’t. Now imagine my shock and sadness when I finally saw my result slip – B for H2 Chemistry.

My parents were just as shocked and I’ll always remember their response: “What? I’ve always expected you to get an A since day one. You’ve always aced chemistry and topped your class – your school even chose you to go for the Chemistry Olympiad!”

Our job and profession are temporal, but our relationship with God is eternal. 

I encountered more setbacks in the months following the released results. I faced countless rejections from all the scholarships and top overseas universities I had applied for.

Eventually I accepted an offer to study physics at NUS, though it was definitely not my first choice. My dream was to study physics at Imperial College London with an A*STAR scholarship. 

So throughout university, I would always feel a tinge of sadness when friends asked about what scholarship I was on. “Parents’ Scholarship” was the answer I usually gave, but deep down, I had become uncertain about the future. I envied my friends who were scholarship holders – assured of jobs after graduation.

That was 7 years ago, and since then, I have been on an adventure. I experienced different industrial attachments during school, entered the semiconductor industry, went back to school, and now I’m in my second career learning the ropes as a software engineer in a local bank.

It’s been a long journey, and I’ve learnt some very important lessons along the way.

Our identity and security doesn’t come from grades or jobs. They come knowing that we are children loved by our Father. 

“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:15-17)

As a professional in the finance industry, there are days I’m tempted to think that I’ve made it. It’s much wiser to pray against idolising my job and attaching my identity to my profession. After all, our job and profession are temporal, but our relationship with God is eternal. 

There is no need to compare salaries across different professions or feel envious if someone earns more than you. While we should all be good stewards of money and save regularly, there is no need to be doubtful about provision.

God is our Provider. This facet of His character is seen countless times in both the Old and New Testaments. You need only to read classic verses like, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want”(Psalm 23:1) to know this. Other good ones include Genesis 22, where Abraham places his faith in God as provider and Matthew 6:25 -33. 

If we identify ourselves first as God’s children – how then should we respond? 

One practical way is to skip the “What do you do for a living?” question when meeting newcomers in a Church setting. Because our professions really don’t define us. God places us in different fields according to His will, and we are all His beloved children.

A Biblical example of how profession does not matter can be seen in how Jesus called his twelve disciples (John 1:35-51). His disciples had different jobs: Some were tax collectors, others were fishermen or even zealots. Commentaries describe that while fishing was highly regarded at that time, tax collectors and zealots were not as well regarded – even despised. Tax collectors were deemed as extorters of money, while zealots were people who wanted political revolution. 

Jesus called them all. 

The next time you miss out on your dream job or scholarship, remember that your identity in Christ is constant – God is still your Provider. The hierarchy is this: You are a Christian who happens to be a policeman. Or you’re a Christian who happens to sell street food.

You are first and foremost a child of God – ready to do His will.

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Finding good company in the lonely job search

by Ynex Lee | 11 May 2018, 5:56 PM

Dear God,

It has been just over a year since I began my search for a full-time job.

The process did not go as smoothly as I had hoped – the number of interviews that I have gone for can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

Yet God, You are faithful even when I am faithless.

In that season of searching, You did not leave me without provision. You opened doors to a whole range of freelance opportunities. All my major jobs came by word-of-mouth from friends. None of them could have known that these offers would eventually evolve into long-term assignments that would sustain me in the months to come.

Once, I was nearing the end of a month-long contract and dreading my imminent return to potential dry spells in my income. Just before I was due to leave, a contact from a previous engagement got in touch with me, asking if I was able to come back to work.

I was so thankful and relieved. I would not have been able to handle both jobs at the same time. This perfect timing pointed me to You – You knew just when to give me exactly what I needed.

I often hoped that some of these companies would be able to offer me full-time employment. Unfortunately, it never worked out. Despite my best “Please hire me!” behavior, administrative or logistic issues always cropped up. The department I was hoping to join didn’t have a large enough headcount. Or there wasn’t enough work to justify conversion into a full-time role.

I was disappointed. Was it wrong to strive towards a stable, full-time job?

But these months of freelancing taught me so much about You. More importantly, I learnt how to depend on and find my worth in You.

One time, I went on a silent walk in a park, and I asked You: Should I embrace freelancing as a full-time career?

While walking, I was thinking about the word “desolate”, as mentioned in the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 (Mark 6:30-44). His disciples did not think that it was possible to find food in that desolate place, suggesting that the people be sent to villages where they could procure food.

As I walked I looked off the path and saw a tangle of trees, branches, roots. Greenery growing together in some sort of chaotic harmony. I thought to myself: No human gardener could possibly contort their bodies to get in there just to keep the garden well-groomed. It was not beautiful by human standards. But it was flourishing.

It was You, the Good Gardener, lovingly keeping Your creation alive. Just like Jesus surpassing human expectations and providing for thousands of hungry people even in a place that seemed remote.

Freelancing felt like that – a landscape that was both desolate and alive. With Your reassurance, I stopped looking for a full-time job and began introducing myself as a full-time freelance writer.

I thought this would be it – choosing to freelance would become a stepping stone for me to talk about Your provision and faithfulness amidst a status and money-driven world. But there was more to come; this was not the end of Your hand in my working life.

It had slipped my mind by then, but back in April 2017 during my search for full-time employment, I had written to Alpha Singapore. I’d attended Alpha as a new believer and upon discovering that there was a local office, I sent an email enquiring if there were any positions open. I thought it would’ve been perfect to have a job that allowed me to write about God.

They never got back to me, so I figured it just meant they didn’t have anything available at the moment, which was the norm for most companies.

But in November that year, while I was officially freelancing, I suddenly received a reply from them. They hadn’t dismissed my application seven months ago – my email had simply slipped through the cracks by accident! They didn’t have any full-time positions, but they offered me an internship. I accepted.

God, You knew just when they needed to find my email and when to send them my way. It all happened during one of the lowest points of my walk with You, when I questioned Your goodness in the midst of heartbreak and personal trial.

Serving in Alpha brought so much joy into my work life – I truly enjoyed the work I was tasked to do, the warm environment and the fellowship with my wonderful colleagues.

This new beginning was the turning point of what had been a tumultuous year.

My internship was scheduled to end in March 2018. Though I had already known from the start that they didn’t have room for another full-time staff, I really didn’t want it to end – working in Alpha just felt right.

By Your grace, You didn’t let my time here end so quickly.

In February, the doors opened for me to join the team as a full-time staff. By March, I’d signed my Letter of Appointment.

God, when I look back from November last year, I realise that everything fell right into place. Alpha almost didn’t find me, but You made sure they did.

Thank You. Thank You for this opportunity to serve You and be excited about my work at the same time – it feels like a dream come true.

I am writing this because I want to remember and praise You always for Your goodness. In times of doubt, I will look back on this and know that You are in control. I may be a ship in the midst of a storm but I can look to You always, the Anchor of my faith.

With all my love,
Ynex

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Article list

Is there some higher purpose to a working life?

The double life of a mission tripper

Are your holidays restful or restless?

Hold on to the rope

Your identity isn’t tied to what you do

Finding good company in the lonely job search