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Studies

Is cheating in a quiz an insignificant sin?

by Sim Pei Yi | 27 November 2017, 6:40 PM

I recently cheated in a quiz.

There are many who would say that’s “trivial”, especially given that the quiz only accounted for 5% of my grade – but I still felt horrible inside.

This was what happened: I unintentionally saw my friend’s answer, which made me realise that my units were wrong. Just then, the professor announced the end of the quiz, and I found myself hastily correcting my error before I put my pen down.

Honestly, you’d be hard-pressed to find a student who’s not done something like this before. I mean, I’ve done this before and never felt guilty. But this time was different.

Somehow, I felt so convicted about this “insignificant” sin. I knew I had to confess it to God and own up to my professor.

The opportunity to own up came and went, but I didn’t do anything because I was afraid. Well-meaning friends tried to comfort me saying, “It’s alright, it’s a small thing … Just don’t do it again next time.”

On previous occasions, these words would have been a salve for my guilt, but this time the Holy Spirit never stopped nudging me about it. I couldn’t feel joy or peace with God – only a barrier.

I tried to pray. I tried to bargain. I tried to reason …

Saturday came and I went to Church.

I tried to pray and worship but I felt so restless and far from God. Just 30 seconds into worship, I found myself telling God: “Please don’t be unhappy with me.”

And God brought to my mind Matthew 5:23-24: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

I knew I needed reconciliation. I also knew that “reconcile” is an action verb, which meant there was a need to make restitution (Exodus 22:13-614).

So I knew that my confession to God wouldn’t cut it by itself. I prayed so hard for the Holy Spirit to give me supernatural courage to email my professor.

Holiness requires the complete weeding out of sin in partnership with the Holy Spirit.

Immediately, I took out my phone and emailed my professor before going back to worship. Peace returned to my heart immediately, and joy too, but my insecurities and fears began to question: What if I get removed from the course? That was such a lame thing to do.

All I could do was to stand firm in the peace of God, knowing I was doing what was right.

My professor finally replied after the service. I opened it nervously and cried as I read his gracious reply.

I was so thankful for God’s grace and mercy. Beyond that, He showed me what His standards of holiness were and how much He hated sin. And how we have fallen short.

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
“You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16)

God’s call to that same standard of holiness and perfection is high – but it’s not a hopeless call for us if we are obedient.

His holiness requires that I confess my sins even if they seem small and lame. Holiness requires the complete weeding out of sin in partnership with the Holy Spirit.

With “the God who girds me with strength and makes my way blameless” (Psalm 18:2), I can keep myself blameless and without guilt before Him (Psalm 18).

I live diligently so as to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace (2 Peter 3:14). But when I fail, I know I have a greater hope to be made holy and perfect when Christ returns again, because of His crucifixion and death.

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When you don’t get what you want

by Khoe Weijun | 31 January 2018, 2:31 PM

As a Singaporean, I think many of us struggle with self-worth.

In our society, it’s often easy to tie our worth or value to the grades we get in school or the income we earn at work. And it doesn’t help that meritocracy tells us we deserve what we get.

So I’ve always struggled to establish my individual value through many activities: Sports, performing on stage, trying to look better, doing well in school … It’s an endless list.

Still, I clung on to Bible verses like “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Those words seemed to give me the hope that anything I wanted could be done. But put bluntly, I was trying to fulfill my selfish ambition with God’s help.

Is your soul satisfied? What do you really desire?

Contrary to the do-it-all reality of the verses I recited, my studies tanked throughout primary and secondary school. That produced an inferiority complex within me from a young age.

My academic failings lasted until the first year of university, where my hard work finally paid off for once. When I made it to the Dean List’s twice, I finally felt like somebody for once!

But because my inferiority complex was left unresolved, I would plunge back into the same pit of inadequacy by my third year. My results that semester were the worst I got throughout university.

Nonetheless, I learnt one important lesson in that third year: I professed to love God … But I loved the gifts more than the Giver.

GIFT OR GIVER

What kind of gospel – if any – do we hold to in our hearts? On the danger of happiness, Greg Morse writes: “more presents meant more presence … we have more prosperity gospel in us than we think.”

Are we so caught up with temporal gifts we’ve forgotten the greatest gift Himself? That’s Jesus and the salvation He’s bought us! We are so easily pleased with cheap worldly pleasures – envious of others who have them – that we’ve lost sight of the deeper joy in knowing Christ.

“Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (Psalm 73:1-3)

The psalmist writes about a world where the wicked prospers while the righteous suffer. He agonises over the injustice, but also later recognises he was ignorant (22) to have bitterly doubted God’s goodness.

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:25-26)

The psalmist remembers that he has God. He has God! His desire is for God who far surpasses anything of this world, who satisfies him.

Is your soul satisfied? What do you really desire?

I CAN DO ALL THINGS

God is still good when we experience suffering. He is always good. We too, always have the choice if we’ll trust and obey what His will for our lives is.

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your Word. It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” (Psalm 119:67, 71)

I’m sure you’ve read this famous quote by CS Lewis before: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

What is God saying in your suffering? I learnt from the Bible that suffering produces character and hope for a future in heaven (Romans 5:3-5).

Suffering pushes us to dependence upon God. Consider Paul, who asked God to remove the thorn in his flesh – but the thorn remained (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

Suffering and hardship also teach us contentment. Are we content in every area of our lives? Paul was in prison when he reflected on being content.

In prison! Here in Singapore, we have so much to be thankful for – we have so much to learn.

Ask God today: How and where in my life can I learn to be content? As you consider this, I’ll leave you with a poem of mine entitled “He knows better.”

If suffering causes us to ponder,
If suffering builds character,
If suffering helps us grow better,
If suffering builds empathy for the other,
If suffering makes us humble,
If suffering causes us to hope for a better future,
A good God would allow it, for He knows better.

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I was smart and talented, but why wasn’t that enough?

by Kelly Oh | 19 January 2018, 3:37 PM

As my third year in Secondary School came to a close, I found myself staring at the blue pages of my report book and realising I had gotten an L1R5 score better than anyone else in the class, and nothing worse than a B3 for each subject.

Compared to most students in my level, I had done very well for the final year exams. I even obtained many bursary awards. One part of me felt immensely satisfied, but at the back of my mind, I knew that I had paid an outrageous price for this.

It’d all started at the beginning of 2017. I always had that desire in me to be better than anyone else, to be the brilliant one – the cream of the crop. God gave me academic and artistic strengths, so why not milk them? 

Losing sight of my faith, I’d let these ambitions overtake me as the days passed.

THE FAILURE OF ACADEMIC SUCCESS

I pushed myself to work hard for my studies, with razor sharp focus on my goal of excellence. Long nights were spent at my study desk poring over my notes from school, assessment books and any other study-related material. I was also quite deprived of sleep.

Progress started to show in the second half of the year, when my grades shot up. I was reluctant to continue with this lifestyle, but I pressed on. And while the grades went up, other things were taking a downturn.

I stopped hanging out with my friends after school because I wanted to go home and study. I started skipping meals. My walk with God faltered, and going to church weekly as usual did not help. I was not willing to surrender myself to God, let alone be at church.

Then the worst happened. I relapsed and found myself in the familiar throes of depression and anxiety which I thought I’d left behind.

While my grades went up, other things were taking a downturn.

This greatly affected me. I found it hard to function normally or study. This mental virus drained my energy away rapidly. Miraculously, I pulled through, but I was constantly in a foul mood and interaction with others was a burden.

Naturally, I shut myself off from everyone as I did not want to be seen as weak, even from my cell group. These were the people I held closest to my heart, who always prayed for and believed in me. By the end of year, I had damaged many of my close relationships, the most prominent being my best friend in school. I hurt her deeply with my acrimonious words and uncaring actions.

All this, just for my own desires? I was too blinded to see anything. Depression, the unrelenting demon, stole away a big part of me. I was so empty it felt indescribable.

EVERY STUDENT’S REAL REWARD

Despite all this, one small, human part of me clung to what possibly was the only bit of sanity left in me.

It was hope.

Hope is being able to see the tiny light within the overwhelming darkness. And even in my loneliest moments, I could feel Christ my Saviour right there with His arms open. By the grace of God, hope found me.

During a cell retreat at the end of the year, I came clean with my cell group about my struggles. It had to be the best decision I made. I saw the love in my friends’ eyes and I knew that they were the ones who truly cared for me. I felt simply free.

2 Corinthians 5:17 edifies me greatly. It says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; the old has gone, the new is here!” I can be sure that my life, previously riddled with sin, self-harm and suffering, will be renewed with His healing and hope.

In Jesus Christ, I am loved. There is peace; He will calm the storms within. I know that I do not need to prove to God or anybody else that I am better, brilliant, or worthy – because He loves me no matter what and that is really all that matters.

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There must be more: What do you live for?

by Keith Wong | 12 January 2018, 11:52 AM

Shuffling up the grotty stairwell of People’s Park Complex, I had no precedent of what to expect. I only carried an open mind and a seeking heart. Gently opening the last door to my destination, the prayer meeting had already started.

I crept quietly to the back of the group so as to not interrupt the person speaking. There was nary a familiar face, as I smiled and acknowledged the person who’d invited me here.

Thinking back, that meeting carried such a scent of the divine.

A mentor once shared that in many a youth’s chase to find their life’s mission, they must first know their Maker. This sagely advice deeply impacted my then 17-year-old heart, but also fell upon deaf ears, as purpose was blindly pursued without the wisdom of experience.

Destiny was redefined as what I was comfortable doing, rather than what my heart burned for.

In the seven years that followed, obstacles were faced, criticism was received and discouragement abounded. Dream after dream was burnt up and buried. Destiny was redefined as what I was comfortable doing, rather than what my heart burned for, what I yearned to make a reality.

Things took a turn in 2015, when I attended Bible school, and a very motherly classmate prayed and prophesied over me.

“Keith … God wants you to dream again.”

That day at the meeting, I felt a fresh dream stirring in me again.

THE WORD BEHIND THE WORDS

Ephesians 4:1 has been on my heart for a majority of 2017, to “walk worthy of the calling” of which I’ve been called. What does it mean to walk worthy? I always felt this was one of those things you wouldn’t and couldn’t really know beforehand – you’d just have to walk it out with God to find out.

Another line that I’ve held onto for the longest time since my poly days is to “aim to make an impact that outlasts oneself.” These have been principles and beliefs that guide my life in my pursuit of purpose and destiny.

And as I’ve spent time observing the current perspectives and standards that our society holds, another resounding thought comes to mind: There must be more than this.

There must be more to this life than how it currently is right now; there must be more to life than just chasing after pieces of paper; there must be more to life than hustling to achieve the millennial version of the Five Cs – and what were they again?

There must be more to life than just striving for a comfortable one.

There must be more than this rat race of chasing after fame and fortune. For a life lived “better”, richer, louder than your peers, climbing mountain after mountain, only to realise the striving never ends.

There must be more than this paper chase, where numbers and letters weakly define your value and your worth, insinuating that you are only made of this and for that, based on what you’ve academically achieved in the first 12 to 20 years of your life.

There must be more than this “dog eat dog” world that is driven by what benefits “me” the most.

There must be more to this life than just #goals that provoke envy and pride, that insidious need to prove that I’m somehow better than everyone else because I have more Instagram followers and likes.

There must be more to this life because you are made for more than this life.

I BELIEVE, THEREFORE I SPEAK

Making an impact that outlasts yourself is not about KPIs, the digits in your bank account, the stamps on your passport, or things that glorify “me”. There must be more to this life than just placing temporal things on a pedestal instead of striving for the eternal.

True impact is about making life better in so many different ways for people of the present and children of the future. You are made of greater things and for greater works.

You aren’t here just to find your place, but to make your mark on this generation.

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Don’t be afraid to share the love

by Grace Chang | 4 December 2017, 2:31 PM

I was in school and scheduled to meet with my discipleship group leader. It was nearing finals and I was actually the only one in my group who turned up for that meeting.

As there were only two of us, my leader then suggested that we should go around campus to share the Gospel instead. At first, I was pretty hesitant as street evangelism was not something that I did often – I hardly, if ever, spoke to strangers about my faith.

Honestly, I was pretty afraid of how people in school would perceive me if I were to share the Gospel on campus. But I took up the challenge and after praying, we set off believing God would bring us to whoever He wanted us to speak to.

The first girl we came across was a Year 3 student from the School of Social Sciences. We asked if she had time to talk to us and to my surprise, she welcomed us with a friendly “Yes!”.

I found her willingness to converse with us strange, us Singaporeans would usually not be this open to talking to strangers without a negative impression from the get-go.

But before I knew it, we were sharing about our aspirations and struggles in life. In fact, she was pretty open talking about God and religion. My leader then asked how she felt about her Christian friends sharing the Gospel with her.

Her answer to this question shocked me: “Who would wanna stand around and approach different people just to share about their faith? Christians have such joy in their lives and they want others to have it too.

“It can’t be anything but pure love.”

Christians have such joy in their lives and they want others to have it too; it can’t be anything but pure love.

Wow. I had never thought non-believers ever saw us in a positive light for sharing the Gospel. I’d assumed we always came across as slightly bothersome, zealous people enforcing our ideology on others.

Although the girl was not ready to receive Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour, I was so encouraged by what she said, and this really changed my perception of street evangelism too.

It reminded me of how we are sharing the Gospel because we have received this love from God. We love because God first loved us and we have the responsibility to share this love with the people around us. They don’t always get saved immediately, that is their choice, but it is up to us to ensure they always get loved.

Also, I learnt that it is really a joy to share the good news of Jesus, especially in this Christmas season. Prior to this encounter, I was still wondering if I should go for discipleship group meetings as I had many things on hand and tests were all coming up.

But this really served as a reminder that even my time is not just my own, it is for others too. I’ve decided that one of the best gifts is to intentionally take time off and give my time to people who have yet to know about God and what was done for them on the Cross of Calvary.


This is a submission from a participant of our Christmas Gift Exchange. From now till the end of December 2017, we are giving away a limited edition Thir.st Tumbler in exchange for every story on the Christmas themes of love, joy, peace, hope and giving. Click here to find out more.

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Do you live by a Christian GPA?

by | 21 November 2017, 6:26 PM

Anyone who’s ever gone to a polytechnic or university would be familiar with some tricks to get better grades:

  • Choosing a pass/fail module
  • Currying favour with tutors to get hints ahead of time
  • Hoping for a hard paper to work the bell curve in your favour
  • Invoking an “S/U” (Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory) on modules that will pull down your grades
  • Going on exchange to freeze that semester’s GPA

There are many other similar tricks. For those who are taking ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels, they have their own hacks too. I remember a friend who gave up on Physics, skipping the paper entirely to focus on the subjects he was more confident in.

“It’s a strategy,” he told me simply.

Getting a result by hook or by crook. To be honest, isn’t life also like an exam? We go through trials to mature in faith and at the very end – having stood the test – we receive our reward (James 1:2-4, 12).

The only difference is that there are no hacks, shortcuts or roundabouts in the Christian walk. And definitely no GPA. 

It’s easy to think our weaknesses of character can be made up for by our strengths. Or that the sinful areas of our lives can be levelled out by good behaviour in other “modules” of the faith.

God, I’m not really good at being patient but I’m a pretty honest person. My overall standing should still be pretty good, right?”

“God, I’ve surrendered the major parts of my life to you already. Can we just ignore the little things that don’t hurt anybody?”

But skills – things we’re good at – and character – our heart – are two very different entities.

A wise man once told me: “When it comes to your skills, play to your strengths; but when it comes to your character, work on your weaknesses.” Yes, we celebrate the strengths God has given us, but He is always most concerned about the heart of man – the strength of character revealed in its willingness to obey and have weaknesses refined.

We see a classic example of the GPA mentality in King Saul’s life (1 Samuel 15). God had tasked Saul to wage war against the Amalekites for the harm they did to Israel while they were in exodus. His specific instruction was to leave no one – not even an animal – alive.

Saul obeyed God’s commands to fight and eventually won the battle. However, instead of killing everyone, he somehow decided to spare the enemy’s king and the best of all the livestock – probably because he found it too much of a waste to simply destroy.

God was upset when he learnt of what Saul had done. When He sent Samuel, His prophet, to confront Saul, Saul was indignant.

Saul thought partial obedience was obedience enough. But God saw it as rebellion.

“But I did obey the Lord,” he insisted. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”

Doesn’t Saul’s reasoning sound compelling? In his words, he retained the best loot in order to present it as an offering – a sacrifice – to God! And he obeyed most of the instructions anyway! He should have gotten a high distinction. But at this, Samuel rebuked Saul.

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.” (1 Samuel 15:23)

Saul thought partial obedience was obedience enough. But God saw it as rebellion. As long as we are not wholly surrendered to Him, no matter how small the part we withhold from God is, we are still not in obedience.

“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” (James 4:17)

Consider David when he was first chosen by God to be the next king of Israel. He was merely a shepherd boy! God doesn’t look at what we are – based on some Christian “grade” we’ve achieved through accumulated good behaviours – He looks at who we are! God looked past David’s qualifications and saw his character.

“God testified concerning him: “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.” (Acts 13:22)

He will do everything I want him to do. The Bible is clear that our character is measured by our obedience to God. We can’t “S/U” stubborn sins or “freeze” areas we don’t want to grow in. How then can true sanctification take place otherwise?

We are either people with hardened hearts or obedient children of God – there’s no in-between.

The test of obedience isn’t easy, but it’s also not impossible. Abraham wasn’t able to offer Isaac to God overnight. He had to first develop his faith convictions as he experienced what it meant to trust in God’s unchanging goodness – even in a difficult instruction.

 “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” (Hebrews 11:17-19)

But the more we choose to obey, the more we learn to trust God. It is in the process of complete surrender that we experience His faithfulness despite our doubts. Consequently, our relationship with Him deepens.

At the end of the day, it is not about obeying for the sake of obeying. We obey because we’re learning to trust; and because we learn to trust, all the more we can obey.

I admit it isn’t easy, but Abraham’s story reminds us that we all start from somewhere. While we may not be able to submit to God everything in our lives from the get-go, He still honours the heart that’s in pursuit of Him and His commandments. So let’s start with small, baby steps of obedience. Trust, and obey. Over and over.

If you feel that prompting in your heart to bless the tissue auntie? Do it. Feel the deep-seated hesitancy in your heart at entering a particular relationship? Don’t do it.

In God’s kingdom there’s no GPA. But if we have to live by one, then let’s live with this GPA instead: a God-Pursuing Attitude.

/ 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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Is cheating in a quiz an insignificant sin?

When you don’t get what you want

I was smart and talented, but why wasn’t that enough?

There must be more: What do you live for?

Don’t be afraid to share the love

Do you live by a Christian GPA?