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Studies

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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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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What’s after graduation?

by Amanda Teo | 9 May 2018, 11:45 AM

The month of April is an important time for every Polytechnic graduate.

It marks the end of three years of endless deadlines and project meetings. Standing at the finish line, one question weighs upon everyone’s heart: “Should I continue studying or start working?”

I found myself in this exact situation six years ago. In the last two months of Year 3, everyone was busy planning out the next step ahead. The question being asked continuously was: “What’s next? Are you going to university?”

Most of my classmates decided to continue their studies (some had even received scholarships), while a handful of them were getting jobs.

But I found myself in limbo. I didn’t want to jump into another few years of poring over books, and I also couldn’t see myself taking up a full-time job — I felt that the Lord was leading me to take a gap year.

“Why take a break? Why waste time?” It was unanimous among the adults in my life that this was a bad decision. Moreover, when I shared my thoughts with my peers about taking a gap year, many stared at me in amazement while some were critical of my seeming aimlessness.

Honestly, I wasn’t even personally convinced that taking a gap year would be the wisest decision. I didn’t know anyone else around me who had done the same, and it seemed rash.

What am I to do in this one year? Would I fall behind my peers? Is this really from God? My heart was filled with more questions than answers.

On 21 February 2012, I made my usual way to Singapore Polytechnic.

During my daily commute from Pasir Ris to Dover, it was a habit for me to tune into God’s voice. As I closed my eyes and started speaking to God, I felt Him speaking straight to my heart: “Amanda, you are on a faith-filled adventure, for to live is Christ and to die is gain. Would you choose to live for Me?”

As a series of visions and verses flashed across my mind, I found my heart burning with fresh devotion to God. The conviction was so strong that I bought a ring and had it engraved with an inscription: “To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain. 210212.”

I’ve been wearing that ring as a daily reminder ever since. It sealed my decision to take a year’s break from the pursuit of earthly things and to seek first the Kingdom of God. I wanted to learn and understand what it meant to live in close partnership with the Holy Spirit.

I let go of my personal dreams and ambitions, and abided in God.

I didn’t just want my parents to approve this radical decision to “pause life” — I also wanted their support and encouragement.

To my surprise, my prayers were answered. Despite the huge question mark that hung over my future, my parents blessed me and journeyed with me through the most transformative season of my life.

So having begun my gap year, a door opened for me to work as a Teacher’s Aide in a Normal Technical Secondary 2 class. Through this experience, the students began to confide in me as their mentor and friend.

I recently met one of my students at Changi Village. I was getting a drink when a young man called me from behind, “Miss Teo! You remember me? It took me by surprise because I did not immediately recognise who he was, but learning of his progress in life and latest academic pursuits brought great joy to my heart. It reminded me of how precious every child is to God.

I had become filled with compassion for the broken and ostracised, having tasted the tenderness of God’s heart for His Children.

After mentoring these students for a few months, the Lord led me to join an overseas missions school with Youth With A Mission (YWAM), where I spent two months in Cusco, Peru.

In the seven months I spent away from home, everything in my life was emptied and laid before the Lord. From my deepest and darkest parts, to my questioning of the faith, God began to surface and deal with every sin and brokenness within me.

Even though I had been a Christian and leader in Church since I was 12 years old, it was in YWAM when I first encountered the reality and power of Jesus’ love and sacrifice on the cross. It was where I fell into first love with Him and had my entire life changed. Attending missions school was the most pivotal season in my gap year — perhaps my entire life!

I came back to Singapore with a renewed vision of Christianity, and decided to work in Church for six months. Then I began an internship at a luxury hotel for three months, before landing a full-time job as a Marketing Executive while studying for a part-time degree course.

I felt Him speaking straight to my heart: “Amanda, you are on a faith-filled adventure, for to live is Christ and to die is gain. Would you choose to live for Me?”

The most important thing I learnt in the gap year is this: God knows best and this life is not my own. I didn’t understand why He would lead me on this detour, and I had no intentions on going to missions school, but what seemed to be simple steps of obedience turned out to be such a transformative experience.

In this time I spent away from school and full-time work, I learnt I don’t own my life. Whether it’s career or marriage — I no longer live for myself. I understand better the importance of obeying God and seeking His heart. I am finally on a faith-filled adventure with God — trusting that He knows best.

If you’re at a similar life transition today, I urge you to avoid going through the motions, and be intentional with your decisions. Take time to pause and pray. Inquire of the Lord just as David did, allow His peace, wisdom, and Word to guide your every step.

Be willing to consider that a detour might be in God’s plan for you. Wherever He’s leading you, follow bravely — whether it’s a gap year, a course that is outside of your comfort zone, or a step of faith into the working world.

God knows best — He’ll never leave nor forsake you.


This article was first published on Selah.sg, and is republished with permission.

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What if I’m not interested in anything?

by | 30 April 2018, 12:17 PM

For the first 16 years of my life, I lived with little fulfilment and purpose.

Life was simply a long list of to-do’s. Friends were simply there to fill up free time. Extra-curricular activities were for the accomplishments. My parents were strict educators, so excelling academically was something that was expected of my life. I had been raised to do everything to ensure I got my A’s.

If anyone were to ask me what I was passionate about, I’d struggle to answer. Life was about duty – not enjoyment. My free time was spent on doing things that were important, not wasted on trivial things like entertainment.

So I didn’t actually know what I liked. Yet like most young Singaporeans, I was expected to know what I wanted to do with my life. I was enrolled in career guidance classes which emphasised the importance of figuring out your passions to start planning your education route.

They only reminded me of how uncertain and lost I felt: If I didn’t have any particular interest in anything, what was the point of the future anyway?

To cut a long story short, I lived in this haze of boredom until I accepted Christ in my life. For the first time, I found genuine fulfilment in the things I was doing – activities actually had a semblance of purpose now.

Forging friendships became more meaningful in the context of living to love God and those around us. Doing well in school wasn’t just a chore – but a way to honour my parents and develop a spirit of excellence for God’s glory.

Good things. But the passion question still remained.

I eventually reached a point in my life where I needed to make a concrete decision about the future. Upon graduation, I’d hang out with my friends, hearing about their grand plans like which university and job they were applying for.

I didn’t begrudge the excitement for their passions and plans. I just wanted the same for myself: To be passionate about the future.

Passion is more than just enjoying your work or simply having the perfect job. It’s about finding fulfilment and purpose even when hardships come – and troubles will certainly come (John 16:33).

But here’s the thing, while I was anxiously trying to figure out my passions, I failed to realise that God already has a call for us.

Most of us have heard of Jeremiah 29:11 – but I hadn’t yet trusted that He had a plan for me. I knew in my heart everyone is called to do something, but I hadn’t internalised the truth that God’s plans leave no one out – even those without passion just like me.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

That’s one of my favourite verses. But it doesn’t end at the first part – which is the bit people usually quote only. In all things God works for our good – we who have been called according to his purpose.

We have been called according to His purpose. The calling is already there! So really, I was missing out on asking a more important question: “God, what is Your purpose for me?”

I realised I had a warped understanding of what passion was. Common knowledges dictates that life is about landing that dream job: Good pay, friendly colleagues … Great workplace culture. And if my job doesn’t meet those criteria, it’s a push factor to move on.

Perhaps this mindset is a reason is why Singaporeans are more prone to job-hopping. Survey reports show that 34% of Singapore professionals do not intend on staying in their current job for more than a year – the global average is 26%.

But passion is more than just enjoying your work or simply having the perfect job. It’s about finding fulfilment and purpose even when hardships come – and troubles will certainly come (John 16:33).

God, what is Your purpose for me?

It’s not a popular choice, but the most purposeful life you can ever lead is one that’s totally sold out for God’s plans. It’s about finding joy in the work you do for Him – passionately serving Him regardless of what and where.

God intends for His people to have joy and purpose as they serve. If you do not yet see where your passions lie, rest in the fact that you have been called according to His purpose.

Only don’t waste your life: If you spend it as God’s friend, you will become passionate for His purposes.

/ helene@thir.st

After surviving the chaos of Poly life fighting the evils of sleep deprivation and academic stress, Helene now spends most of her free time repaying her three years accumulated debt of not doing household chores.

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Am I really honouring God in my studies?

by | 18 April 2018, 1:49 PM

You’re in the middle of a sermon but your mind is somewhere else.

You’re thinking about the truckload of assignments waiting for you, or that exam tomorrow you haven’t studied for. You stand for the closing worship song, but instead of meditating on the lyrics – you’re waiting to rush home to hit the books.


I’m sure we’ve all been there. In this grades-driven nation, we’re used to the pressure of living up to the expectations of both our parents and ourselves. In fact, Singaporean youths today are more motivated in their studies than the global average.

That’s a good thing, but there’s a danger to it: Our academic pursuits so easily overshadow eternal things without us even realising it.

As someone whose identity has been tied to her grades for the longest time, I relate well to this struggle. Back in secondary school, I used to dread going to church whenever my exams were coming up. I studied my revision notes right under the nose of the preacher and would rush home as soon as service ended each week.

There are so many more urgent and important things to do.

That was one of the recurring thoughts in my head whenever I headed to church, did my devotionals or read the Bible. Though I knew they were wrong, why did they ring so true in my head?

How could anything be as important as devoting time spent to God and learning more about Him and His Word? How could I let the chase for grades overtake God’s place? My thought-life betrayed the condition of my heart.

Ever heard the hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing?

Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

I realise how easily our hearts wander from him, how easily the things of this world can overtake God’s place in our hearts.

Desiring to excel in our studies is certainly something to be commended. We are all called to be good stewards of the resources God gives us. But in the case of time, is it all going into our studies? Are we neglecting to spend real quality time in Church or at home with our family?

““Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12)

Being a student doesn’t exempt you from being salt and light in this world (Matthew 5:13-16). When we study for God’s glory – working in a spirit of excellence and exemplifying Christlike character – it is a testimony to our schoolmates and friends.

We must know our priorities. While it’s important to be good students, our personal walk with Him is infinitely more important. We have little issue setting aside time for the things we enjoy doing, or the people we hold dear … But is it the same for God?

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)

Make time for what’s important.

I’ve made it a point to do my devotionals as soon as I’m up from bed. Whenever I feel lethargic, I do my devotion at another time in the day when I’m fresher to concentrate better.

I’ve also developed the habit of using my trusty planner to note down important deadlines. I plan my time properly to spare myself the temptation of skipping Church.

It’s never easy to put God above our worldly priorities. Sometimes, even if we truly desire to pursue Him, our fallen human nature causes us to stray from Him. How we need the Holy Spirit to help us desire Him.

/ helene@thir.st

After surviving the chaos of Poly life fighting the evils of sleep deprivation and academic stress, Helene now spends most of her free time repaying her three years accumulated debt of not doing household chores.

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I thought I was good for nothing

by Cindy Leow | 17 April 2018, 5:11 PM

As a child, I always wondered what I was good at. I wasn’t a good student and never knew the purpose of studying other than appeasing my parents – something I wasn’t good at doing either.

Over the years, this feeling of being “lost” and having nowhere to go got even more desperate. Soon, I turned to computer games and was quickly hooked. I invested all my time into these games, thinking that by doing so, I could be good at something for once.

However, the consequences of squandering hours on these games kicked in quickly. My grades suffered even more and at times, it started to seem like my parents clearly favoured my studious sister.

Due to the lack of attention, I turned to my school friends. But my friendships were stormy and filled with arguments when things didn’t go my way, and soon I turned away from them too.

Everything was a wreck. There was no one I could turn to and it seemed like I was in this world all alone. There was no purpose in living, not even living to see the next day.

Like any other Singaporean child, tuition was unavoidable with the grades I was attaining in school. Despite the many tuition classes I attended, the best grades I could muster were a mere pass. One day, my mother heard of a tutor who had helped to drastically improve my cousin’s school results and hired him in hopes that he would do the same with mine.

This tutor, G, taught me for a year, and my grades started to improve, though I wouldn’t say I excelled. Soon, G needed to drop some of his students as he needed to focus on his new-found job. So I ended up being passed to another tutor, S.

S was stricter with me and my work as compared to G. Sometimes I would even end up crying in class because of uncompleted homework. But despite her intense tutoring, my grades remained borderline.

One day, a week before Easter, S asked if I’d like to go to church. I declined her politely at first, but upon hearing there would be a drama production, I agreed to go.

On Resurrection Sunday itself, I remember stepping into the hall and being warmly greeted by many people. They spoke to me as though they’d known me for a long time, and I felt very welcomed.

Though I did not know the meaning of the songs we sang during worship, nor the “Jesus” everyone was worshipping, I was moved by a deep sense of peace within that I haven’t felt before. It was also strange, standing in this place I’d never been, to feel like I was home.

When the preacher asked if anyone would like to receive Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour,  I put up my hand. Though I don’t fully know why I did, I followed S as she brought me forward to receive salvation.

During the Sinner’s Prayer, I was overwhelmed with emotion. It felt like someone had unlocked the deepest places of my heart, and now all the bottled up feelings were tumbling out.

The loneliness, the failure, the condemnation, the feeling of unworthiness; they seemed to dissolve in an instant. And all that was left was this feeling of lightness … Of joy.

I went home that day with a changed heart.

When my parents heard that I had embraced Christianity, they objected slightly, but did not stop me from going to church. Soon enough, I had quickly integrated into my new cell group and continued to observe changes in my character and disposition. I knew that the Jesus who had met me on the first day was with me every step of the way.

However, my grades remained the same. I was still failing in most subjects and did not have any interest in anything else besides English lessons.

In the year I had to take my ‘N’ Levels, I was afraid, for I didn’t know what I wanted in life, nor was I good at anything. It was a constant thought and worry in my mind.

One day, the head of the radio ministry in church approached me. He told me I had a nice voice and asked me if I was interested in joining their ministry. Thinking that I had nothing to lose, I agreed. After learning that I was completing secondary school soon, he encouraged me to consider pursuing media studies in a polytechnic.

After our conversation that day, I looked up the course he’d mentioned online and discovered that it really was something I found exciting. This compelled me to study hard for my exams and by the grace of God, I was able to apply for media studies.

I finally found myself enjoying what I was studying, and even excelled in school. Things were finally taking a turn for the better.

Through the radio ministry in church, I was also trained in public speaking, and even took the stage for various church events. It was in this place I found God’s calling for me as His mouthpiece.

One day, my previous tutor S revealed to me that my first tutor, G, had transferred me to her with only one condition: To bring me to church. My life had always been part of a divine plan.

Looking back, I realised that through knowing Jesus, I’d found my calling, confidence and most importantly, my first love. My thoughts and worries about my life were never unheard. Jesus … the name I was once unfamiliar with, now a name I call upon every day.

Of course, my journey is far from over. There are still many areas that I struggle in. However, I now live victoriously knowing that He has died and overcome the world (Matthew 16:33).


This is a submission from a participant of our Greater Love Giveaway.

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Article list

Your identity isn’t tied to what you do

Are your holidays restful or restless?

What’s after graduation?

What if I’m not interested in anything?

Am I really honouring God in my studies?

I thought I was good for nothing