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Work

I just want to be a useful person

by | 12 April 2018, 11:23 AM

I had about 15 seconds to spare as I stood by my kitchen sink, waiting for my water bottle to fill up. It doesn’t take long for my mind to switch to its usual preoccupations. I was thinking of work.

Not the work I immediately had to do – 15 seconds wouldn’t be enough to sort that out! – but work in general. My job. My career.

In my wandering mind, I likened my life to a garden. There I saw an area overgrown with weeds – the corner of the garden marked out as “work”. The more I compared my career with others, the more the weeds of worry seemed to grow.

Their gardens seemed to be flourishing with fulsome, blooming varieties of financial security and career progression, while mine felt sad in comparison. I don’t even know how long my current job arrangement will last, and if I am cut out for the job.

When I looked at other gardens, I only saw how bad mine looked in comparison.

I came to realise that should I spend time comparing myself to others, I would neglect tending to what I had in my garden. Instead of thinking of ways to grow my skill sets, I would cease to take pride in my work. I lamented yet remained passive, and that nurtured a worrisome heart.

I thought that I might appear more successful if I had a full-time job instead of holding on to contract jobs. I thought that if I would be more fulfilled if I could have something more substantial on my resume – a “conventional” job arrangement so I don’t seem like a failure.

A worried heart is fertile soil for half-truths and flat-out lies. Whether waiting for my water bottle to fill up (or for the green man to appear on the traffic light), I found myself entertaining such thoughts over and over again.

“I don’t think God cares about what’s going on in my life. He’s too big for that.”

Even a quick examination of that accusation against God would have deflated the argument; but I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to do that. Somehow I found myself special enough that God would overlook me – just me.

“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26)

Am I not of value to my heavenly Father? In response to such a magnificent truth, my grumbling and self-doubt had to give way to a careful evaluation of the way I was living. And then I realised that my main gripe wasn’t really about my job or what I was doing – but whether it all mattered to God.

What I realised, then, was that I had a responsibility to my job, whatever the title was and however long it was I was doing it for. I have a purpose, and it is to honour God with the work of my hands. This matters to Him.

The more I sought clarity on my goal – that He be glorified through me – and remembered His love for me, the less I doubted His heart towards me.

“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15)

It may have been more practical to pray for a different job when I was feeling anxious about my future or career prospects. But I didn’t. Instead, I held on to a little prayer I had whispered under my breath more than one year ago.

Back then, I prayed that He would help me become a useful person – it was my moment with God most High and I knew that He heard me. I prayed that I’d be useful wherever I work. That prayer remains.

When I forget my value, He calls me to look at creation and rest in the knowledge that He is my Father and provider. And in that rest I find strength again to ask that He uses me – everything I offer – and makes me fit for every work that is set before me.

I just have to be faithful to tend to what is in my garden.

/ fiona@thir.st

Fiona is secretly hilarious, deeply devoted to her dogs, and loves a good chat with strangers. She believes everyone needs to know that they are worthy of love – you are!

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What I got out of four years in university

by Joel Teng | 6 August 2018, 12:25 PM

No amount of words can encapsulate the feeling I possess in this very moment.

I am joyful that I am at the end of my undergraduate life. But I also feel some degree of regret as there are things I haven’t achieved in university. And there is that amalgamation of anxiousness and excitement as I transit to the next phase of life.

It has been four years in university! This moment seemed so distant. Now a few exams, projects and holidays later, I am facing this reality – 19 years of my life in academia has arrived at a conclusion.

And as it starts to sink in, I wonder if I’m ready.

Somewhat, perhaps. I’ve never believed anyone can ever be 100% ready but I’m confident that university has prepared me to enter the workforce well.

A successful university education may mean stellar grades for some. To others, it might mean a greater sense of career direction or a passport to the next phase. But for me, university was a place where I learned grit, to make friends and network, and grew as a person.

Though I always gave each semester my best shot, I found that my results didn’t always match my effort. Yet I still wanted to glorify and lift God up in my life, even as my GPA was on its way down.

So I learnt grit – to keep on keeping on.

19 years of my life in academia has arrived at a conclusion … I wonder if I’m ready.

I have met so many people here. I’ve reconnected with old friends, I’ve made new ones. Some of them have become a lot closer to me, leaving their footprints on the sands of my heart.

Friendships taught me a lot and showed me new perspectives of companionship. I have learnt to not overshare, and to determine the depth of my friendships. Most aren’t as comfortable at sharing as I am, and that’s OK – I have learnt to respect that.

So God has grown me into a much more emotionally mature person. He has helped me to conquer the fears of my past, surrounded me with good friends and encouraging professors. Jesus really has been with me these last 4 years.

I have learnt to love myself more. I’ve learnt to speak firmly but gently when I feel that people are out of line. More importantly, I have learnt to forgive and to choose each battle carefully.

God has grown me in empathy, to love those who I once thought were unlovable. In humility, I’ve begun to see them in a new light. It means so much to be someone’s confidant and to be able to share heart-to-heart.

All these things would have been out of reach had God not dealt with my insecurities and my past.

I started my university life being so jealous of other people who I thought were smart and good-looking.

I refused to befriend them because I thought poorly of myself. I thought that they had no need for me – people who were in a league of their own. But I forgot that they were also people with real problems too. So God taught me how to care for them and love them too.

God used my story, painful as it was, to give hope to the friends I shared it with. It was worthwhile because He made me a more effective listener and a friend. And God has made me a lot bolder. Now I dare to actually try new things rather than just sit on ideas.

Finding my passion in Him, I’ve become passionate for other things in life like working in sales, volunteering at events, attending camps, and serving in various roles. Through these activities, I learnt what I like and dislike and what I’m good or bad at. Now I have a clearer picture of what I can and want to do in the future as I step into the great unknown.

Jesus really has been with me these last 4 years.

Tomorrow is a winding, narrow road with tall hills and valleys. But I have accepted that challenges are a part of life. Growth is continual and my Lord is eternal.

If He is for me, who shall be against me?

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Here’s what bad attitude at work will cost you

by Agnes Lee | 27 July 2018, 4:38 PM

Recently, I overheard a colleague asking her manager about another staff member.

This staff member had joined six months ago, but my colleague had not seen him around for a while. The manager replied, “He resigned. He was always upset when I tried to correct his mistakes.” I was surprised to hear this because this manager is one of the nicest I have ever met.

The manager’s remarks reminded me of my old attitude toward work. When I first entered the workforce, I was not humble enough to accept corrections. Whenever my manager corrected my mistakes, whether they were big or small, I became defensive and made all kinds of excuses to justify myself. I was afraid of being viewed as careless and incompetent. Instead of learning from my mistakes, I simply stewed over them.

Unsurprisingly, I never received good reviews and often changed jobs as a result. I was always hoping that a new job would treat me better, but I never changed my own stubborn attitude.

Things finally changed when I came to know God personally through a period of trials in my own life. By reading the Bible, I learned how I should behave as a Christian in the workplace.

I was especially impacted by Philippians 2:14-15, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.”

… having a humble and teachable spirit is what pleases God.

As I read the verses, I realised that I was always defensive and argumentative whenever my manager brought up my mistakes. How then could I be blameless and pure? How could I be a child of God without fault when my behaviour did not glorify God at all? I became deeply ashamed of my attitude.

On another occasion, I came across Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:12, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” I was reminded again that God values humility. Being defensive when I make mistakes is not an act of humility, and it does not please God. Rather, having a humble and teachable spirit is what pleases God.

Because I am a child of God, I should be displaying these God-pleasing character traits at work.

FORGETTING THE PAST, LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

So I set out to change my work attitude. At first, I was easily discouraged and often felt inferior to others. My bad attitude had cost me 10 years of work. How many promotions or salary increments had I missed because of it?

But soon I realised that dwelling on my past mistakes did me no good. In order to perform better, I had to move on from the past. I cannot undo any of my mistakes, but I can choose to act positively, learn from them and work better.

I also found strength in the biblical accounts of God’s faithfulness to Israel. Though the Israelites had turned away from God again and again, God never gave up on them. Instead, God told them to forget the past and look to the future (Isaiah 43:18Joel 2:25). Though I have misspent the past 10 years, I can commit my shameful attitude to God, knowing that God will receive me with mercy and grace (Hebrews 4:15-16).

I cannot undo any of my mistakes, but I can choose to act positively, learn from them and work better.

As I dwelt on God’s goodness, I was reminded to serve in my role with all the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God can be praised through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 4:11). I started doing this daily – asking God for strength to make use of every opportunity to honour and serve Him in my job.

After some time, my manager noticed the change in my attitude. She saw that I was keen to learn and be helpful, so she began to entrust me with new projects and more responsibilities. These became opportunities for me to prove myself. With each opportunity, my responsibilities became more challenging, but I committed my work to God each time.

Some days I felt worried about whether I could cope with the additional workload. I would ask God for help, and He became my source of strength and the reason that I could still smile even under immerse pressure.

At the end of the year, it was time for my appraisal. My manager gave me positive feedback about my work performance and mentioned that she was surprised at my change of attitude. It was the first time after working for almost 10 years that I had a good performance review and a reasonable salary increment.

I have learned to put on a kingdom mindset at work. 

As children of God, we are more than able to overcome our mistakes. Whenever our bosses point out our mistakes at work, let’s allow their feedback to help us grow so that we can become more competent in our roles, and glorify God through our work.


This article was first published on YMI.today, and is republished with permission.

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Full-time under 30: I begged God not to call me to suffer

by Joey Lam | 27 July 2018, 3:15 PM

I may have worked in a missions agency for two years, but the truth is, I never considered missions before that. In fact, I actively avoided full-time ministry as well – because I’m a pastor’s kid.

Growing up in a Christian minister’s household, I’ve seen and experienced the effects of full-time ministry. It is very real – carrying the weight of all the moral expectations placed on you just because you are the pastor’s kid. By God’s grace, I turned out okay.

Many of the rebellious thoughts that I had as a child went like this: “I am a sinner, and I want to live like a sinner too. So stop expecting me to behave like Jesus 24/7, because even pastors are human in their own homes.”

Okay, I digress. But that’s where my full-time story starts.

It was about 4 or 5 years ago; I’d just come back from my overseas exchange. I was making a list of what I wanted to do in life, and the first thing that popped up was “refugee camp volunteer”. I’d always been intrigued by the concept of refugees, having studied migration movements as a political science major.

At that point, I was considering finishing up university before my grades dropped any further. I mentally prepared myself to write a hundred emails to a hundred organisations, hoping at least one would reply.

Two weeks later, volunteers from Open Doors, an organisation that works with the persecuted church, came and shared at my youth ministry. I asked if they had any positions for refugee camp volunteer. They said no, but they knew someone who did.

On the following Thursday, I received an email from the personnel director of Interserve Singapore.

It was too late for an internship elsewhere, and I didn’t want to waste my last summer. After some discussion with the director, I found myself serving in Indonesia for two months as a media relations person. Thankfully, I’d learnt how to film and edit videos just a few months before – God’s timing is surely perfect!

After two months, I came back and was asked by a staff volunteer to do some video recordings of various testimonies. I said okay, as long as he was willing to wait one year. I should have known one year wasn’t too long to wait for a 66-year-old man.

I pleaded with God: “God, You’ve called others to go full time. To suffer for You. We’ll bless them. Just don’t call me.”

After I completing my honours year in the end, I thought to myself – what is the rush to go work? I decided to take a 6-month break. In the meantime, I would honour that promise and volunteer with Interserve to make some videos before I entered the marketplace.

During my time at Interserve, the team would meet once a week for prayer to intercede for the field workers in our ministry. At some point, I thought to myself, “If I’m going to be spending three hours a week praying for these workers, I might as well get to really know them.”

That was when God opened up my heart – He even knows the little things we’re thinking!

A few months down the road, the personnel director spoke with me again. Having seen my enthusiasm for the work, she shared with me, “I have thoughts of making you a local staff.”

The immediate response in my head was “No! Don’t call me to suffer! There is no money working in a missions agency!”

I pleaded with God: “God, You’ve called others to go full time. To suffer for You. We’ll bless them. Just don’t call me.” You must remember that I’d spent my life hearing stories of suffering in full-time ministry from my own father.

In hindsight, this was the real conflict: I was passionate about the work, but I detested the pay. To be fair, ministry work oftentimes feels like free labour, to the point that I might as well get paid to do all that work. But at the same time, the pay was so measly in my eyes.

One night, I lay in bed praying. My heart was racing as I said to God, “Okay God … Your work is honourable work, so I believe You’ll give me honourable pay. How about the market rate?”

His response was simple and immediate: “So you want to surrender conditionally?

Then, “It’s okay, Joey. Whether you choose to surrender or not, I’ve surrendered My Son for you unconditionally.”

When He said that, it was like knife piercing through my heart; and I could do nothing but concede: “Okay lah, You win.”

I woke up in the morning, thinking I had to be crazy for committing myself to full-time ministry and a life of irregular income. Because there I was: Chinese, male, upper middle-class family, fresh graduate from a local university. Everyone else like me would have been looking for an office job with good pay and fixed working hours.

And this was also my worry – which girl would want to marry me at this rate? What if I never got married because of this? 

Then there was the biggest hurdle to cross: I couldn’t wrap my head around how I could one day buy a house with such a low and irregular income. At that point, I would be receiving a monthly pay of less than $1,000, something that eroded my sense of worth and stability.

But it also showed where I had always placed my trust.

He has given me His only Son – precious collateral for His promise to always provide for me.

So I said to God, “God, I know You are a loving and caring Father. But help me make the jump. I can’t add up the numbers … How will I ever earn enough to buy a house? Please send aid. Thanks.”

As I was walking home that day, He suddenly spoke. “Why must you buy a house?”

I was stunned. Before I could recover from the shock, He followed up with the next question: “Where did you get this idea?”

I sheepishly replied, “Social Studies textbook?”

His firm but loving reply came again, this time from Luke 9:58: “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

I wanted to stop being Christian for all of five seconds then, just so I wouldn’t have to acknowledge that verse.

But deep inside, I knew. I knew that He is indeed a loving and caring Father who will provide for all my needs – whether I could see it now or not. He has given me His only Son – precious collateral for His promise to me. To us. There is no reason not to trust Him.

In writing this, I have experienced His grace and provision so many times over the past few years. But that’s a whole other story.

But here’s a few spoilers: My girlfriend – yes, I’m now attached! – told me it was exactly because I was working in a missions agency that she agreed to go out with me. I also recently got ballot number 44 for my BTO on first try.

God provides differently for each of His children, but He is a caring Father who is sure to provide. He has already provided His only Son; there is nothing else He can give that will surpass that.

Jesus is indeed our greatest inheritance, as we are His. (Ephesians 1:18)

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How do I discern God’s will for my life?

by Senior Pastor Benny Ho, Faith Community Church | 25 July 2018, 12:00 PM

Have you ever tried to discern God’s will for your life?

One of the biggest struggles that the average God-fearing Christian faces is trying to discern the will of God in a certain situation. Everywhere I go, I find Christians crying out, “If only I can find God’s will for my life. Then I will not feel so lost. But how can I find God’s will for my life?

However, the Bible tells us that God is a loving Heavenly Father who desires the best for us and does not delight in playing hide-and-seek with us.

Robert Hudnut once said, “All we have to do to hear God’s call is to do what we are already doing … All the Bible people did to hear God speak was to do what they were already doing. Then the call came.”

We need to recognise that there are two aspects to God’s call: There is a primary calling, and there are secondary callings.

Our primary calling is a call to beIt is a call to be someone – not something or somewhere.

“And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:6)

Our primary calling is a call to a Person – not a purpose. It is a call to fellowship with Christ. It is a call to be followers of Christ.

Jesus’s disciples were just going about their daily chores when the call came to them. Peter and John were merely fishing in the Lake of Gennesaret when they were called by Jesus to be His followers. Matthew, a tax collector, was simply sitting at a tax collection post when he was called to follow the Lord.

The first time we answer a call from God is at conversion, when we are called out of the kingdom of darkness into His marvellous light.

Our primary calling is a call to a Person – not a purpose.

What is God calling me to do?

Our secondary callings can take many forms, whether it is to be a teacher, lawyer, doctor or homemaker. They are callings rather than a calling. And our secondary callings matter only because the primary calling – to follow Jesus – matters most.

So how does God call us? How do we know if God is calling us into something?

It starts with living life.

As we live life, stuff happens. We experience go through more and more events where all sorts of things happen – good, bad, ordinary. When enough of these events have accumulated, we reach a point where we cannot remain as we are.

Changes need to take place; decisions have to be made.

Then we reach a listening point. We come to a point where we have to listen for what God is saying, because so many things have happened.

If we make a correct response at the listening point, it becomes a call for us and we move onto the next thing that God is calling us into. But if we do not respond correctly at this point, we can go on a detour – what we sometimes term as a “wilderness experience.”

However, God is good. When we are in this detour, God will, in His grace and mercy, bring us back to another listening point. More events will happen to bring us back there to make a fresh response. If we respond correctly, it becomes a call. And if we don’t, we experience another round of detour.

We know that it is a call when our soul comes alive – when it is awakened. Suddenly we realise that this is what we are supposed to do.

So how do we know that it is a call?

We know that it is a call when our soul comes alive – when it is awakened. Suddenly we realise that this is what we are supposed to do.

When your soul is awakened, you begin to experience God’s pleasure in your life. But this does not mean that our circumstances become better. There may have been times when our circumstances actually got worse, yet we stayed in these situations because we knew it was the right thing to do.

After answering a call and experiencing God’s pleasure, we go back to living life. As we live our lives, some more events will accumulate and the cycle goes on. And so, secondary callings are happening all the time, moving us from one thing to another until we fulfil our destiny in God.

In this regard, everyone is called! The call is not a destination but a journey. While there are many listening points in critical junctures in our lives and many callings into the next phase, there is only one ultimate destiny – to follow Jesus whole-heartedly.

A call is a call obeyed. So if you did not obey, you did not hear. A call has an ability to awaken the soul. So don’t miss the listening points in daily life because we are too preoccupied with our own circumstances or value action above reflection.


To find out more about “Discerning the Will of God”, Pastor Benny Ho’s book on the topic, visit his resource page to find out more.

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Article list

I just want to be a useful person

What I got out of four years in university

GET IN WITH THIR.ST

Here’s what bad attitude at work will cost you

Full-time under 30: I begged God not to call me to suffer

How do I discern God’s will for my life?