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.
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 22:1, 3-6, 14).
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.
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.
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.
I am an actor, scriptwriter, director, arts educator, dancer and a musician — all in one. I do many things, with many hyphens.
God has gifted me with the talent to tell stories. To the world, writing is my career choice. But to God, being a writer is following the plans He has for me. That’s my destiny in Him. I do what I do because I want to be called faithful at the end of the day.
I’ve always known, first and foremost, that I am a child of God. That’s my identity, and my work, my position, gives me purpose.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)
But I didn’t always know my position and purpose. I was born into a traditional Chinese family and acquainted with the Arts at a young age. I remember walking past a dance studio at the age of four and telling my parents I wanted to learn ballet. That was how I began my journey with the performing arts, where my talents began to surface and take shape.
Then when I was 12, my ballet lessons were put on hold in the face of my Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE). I was suddenly being taken to pray to all manner of deities for favour in the examination.
But I had no peace in my heart. So the night before the first paper, I knelt beside my bed and prayed to the unknown God that I had seen Christians do on TV. I’d been watching 7th Heaven at the time.
I didn’t know it then, but I would need Him more and more in the years to come.
Right after PSLE, my life was shaken up as my dad was declared bankrupt.Our new financial status brought an end to all my dance classes, so even though I had finished my exams, I could not return to training anymore.
But I believe that my first prayer to the unknown God had set something into motion. I found myself posted to a mission school – the place where I would come to faith.
It was also where I was introduced to English literature and drama. I fell in love with these subjects and pursued them. And as I went on to Junior College, I delved even deeper.
My deep sense of satisfaction and pleasure in the Arts made me feel as if I had it all figured out: I was going to study English literature and theatre studies in NUS, and support my cell leader in the university ministry she was running.
I believe that my first prayer to the unknown God had set something into motion.
But God had another plan.
My ‘A’ level results proved to be a mixed bag. They weren’t good enough for entrance into the local universities, but they also weren’t bad enough for me to repeat my second year in Junior College. Ironically, this control freak had attained results which spelt “OCD”. And indeed, everything spiralled out of my control.
Looking back, I see that my identity then was based on grades and achievements. I was desperate, crying out to God and asking Him, “God, what now?”
I was confused, angry and so very lost.
As I wallowed in the aftermath of my ‘A’ level results, my Church entered a season where we began to focus on our performing arts ministry.
Sensing the shift and knowing the passion and talents I had, I told God: “If this is Your will, open the door and I will go through it no matter what.” After that prayer, I submitted only one application to LASALLE’s Theatre Arts programme.
I prepared for the admission audition, but it turned out to be a nightmare. The person auditioning actually asked me if I would go on stage naked, in my underwear or simply wrapped in a towel. I was taken aback and simply said, “No, because it goes against my faith.”
Then I went home and prayed again: “If this is Your will, open the door and I will go through it no matter what.”
Soon enough, I received a letter of acceptance from LASALLE, and heard that the man who had auditioned me got fired from his job.
Now the next hurdle would be how I was going to pay for my studies. My parents had refused to provide for me if I chose to enter the Arts. So I prayed again: “If this is Your will, God you provide.” I shared about my financial problems with my cell leader, and in time, it was her mother who gave me a loan to pay for my first semester in LASALLE.
Thereafter, the Lord provided. Because of my good grades, the rest of my fees were settled by bursaries and scholarships in LASALLE. Concurrently, I worked in Church part-time to pay my cell leader’s mum back. God constantly showed me He is Jehovah Jireh — the God who provides.
I graduated from LASALLE in 2006, only to meet rejection at every audition I went for. I began to question God: “I thought that You called me to do this? Why am I not getting any jobs?”
As I faced increasing disappointments and setbacks on both the career and ministry fronts — I felt absolutely knocked down. And in spite of all the providence shown to me every step of the way in school, I began to doubt and waver in my faith.
Soon, I fell.
I hit rock bottom in 2007. I was living a double life: In Church I played the good Christian leader, but outside of Church I was partying, smoking and getting drunk every other night.
One night, I was out painting the town red with some of my friends from the industry. I’d had too much to drink and was dancing my heart out when I was suddenly conscious of this stranger touching me inappropriately.
I was living a double life: In Church I played the good Christian leader, but outside of Church I was partying, smoking and getting drunk every other night.
I was being violated on the dance floor, but I was too drunk to do anything about it.
That night was the wake-up call my hellish life of hangovers needed.
I left that life behind, along with all of its people. And by God’s grace I was restored.
He led me along a path that eventually saw me teach Dramatic Arts in schools. With God’s help, I begin excelling as a drama educator. I became recognised and sought after as an educator, getting more offers than I could take on — I would even pass these jobs on to others. I was at the peak of my career. But God never lets me get comfortable.
Soon my life changed again.
Just as everything was finally going well, God said to me quietly: “Answer the call.”
It came in the form of an offer to join the Church full-time under the youth ministry.
Huh? God, I thought You called me into the Arts and Entertainment industry? I bargained and bartered with God, even telling Him I wanted to be back in the marketplace after two years, but I ultimately obeyed.
So in 2009, I answered the call and went into full-time ministry. And at the end of 2010, to my surprise, God faithfully used a former boss to bring me back to the marketplace.
In retrospect, I can see that at every step, God has been moulding me and preparing me for something greater.
We are each given different talents. But all these talents are ultimately of no use if we don’t use them for His purpose. Our job is to invest in our talents and multiply them (Matthew 25:13-30).
I was gifted with the talent to create and perform. I was gifted with the talent to teach. So with these talents multiplied, I became a good drama educator.
I was gifted with the ability to administer and arrange things. Because of my obedience to His call, my time in the Church office honed that talent.
Today I am getting more recognition as an educator, with more opportunities than I’ve ever had before to speak into the lives of the next generation in school. I am also getting more jobs as an actor on stage and on screen.
I know that these are all preparing me to move even closer towards my destiny in Him. I know that God isn’t done my telling story; He alone holds on to the pen that writes it. Because I am obediently following Him, every chapter I go through is preparation for the next.
“You have turned my mourning into dancing for me; You have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.” (Psalm 30:11-12)
For those who do not know what a baptism is, it’s a public demonstration of my faith in Jesus Christ who died for my sins. Baptism is being submerged into water, symbolising a death of my old sinful life and the beginning of a new life in Christ.
I was first spurred to get baptised during my final IB (International Baccalaureate) exams in Thailand, where my family has been living. Then, I was amazed at how God granted me calmness and peace before, during and after the exams. I was so confident I thought I could ace almost every exam, potentially getting more than 40 out of 45 points.
Before I got my results, I decided that no matter what happened, I would trust in God’s plan for me. I got 34 points. That was only just a bit above average. I was shocked, confused and disappointed in God, but I held on to his promise.
I applied to NUS and NTU’s Environmental Engineering courses, hoping for a miracle. Enrolling into a local Singaporean university had always been a dream, but it would be hard to get into. A few friends told me to retake my IB exams, but I really believed my results had a purpose, so I remained steadfast.
Soon, I returned to Singapore to serve my National Service. I had never left my family before for such a long time, and homesickness naturally took an emotional toll. However thanks to my World Revival Prayer Fellowship (WRPF) cell group, I was able to get my life back on track.
I had found another family. I was grateful to the WRPF church community and my cell group for welcoming me. I was always touched by the depth of their sharing and the dynamic worship. I even had a family to stay with and to encourage and help me in my spiritual walk.
One day, the church prayed for me with regards to how I felt about my army situation. I was frustrated because my training in camp consisted of watching movies every day. I thought it was a waste of time. I came all the way here to protect my country – not to be entertained. I was getting impatient.
During the prayer, one of my cell members had a vision for me. He said that a pearl came into his mind. A pearl is made over time when a grain of sand embeds itself into a mollusk. A truly mind-blowing transformation.
That was the first time someone had a prophetic vision for me, so I was doubtful. Could that just have been a product of his mind? I returned to camp a few days later, and there a motivational poster grabbed my attention. It was a picture of a pearl with a caption next to it:
“Most of us can afford to take a lesson from the oyster. The most extraordinary thing about the oyster is this: Irritations get into his shell; he does not like them and tries to get rid of them. But when he cannot get rid of them he settles down to make them one of the most beautiful things in the world. My friends, if there are irritations in our lives, today there is only one prescription: A pearl called patience.”
I knew God was speaking to me then, confirming the vision. I also knew I couldn’t escape National Service, so I decided to change my attitude and be patient. It taught me that these 2 years of service were a trial – a test of patience – so I needed to rethink how I looked at NS.
I knew God had a plan for me, so as I awaited my university results I reflected on this verse:
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3:23-24)
A few months after enlistment, I got a reply letter from NUS and NTU about my applications. I was rejected by both. I was crushed because I felt God had let me down. I was so fearful not knowing how the future would pan out after finishing my NS. I began to look up foreign universities, but I knew that would really burden my parents financially.
I was so impatient with God, desperately wanting an explanation. Yet by His grace, I was accepted to NTU when I applied a second time the following year. I’m still amazed how they accepted me with only 34 points. This is when I decided I really wanted to be baptised and publicly declare my faith in Jesus Christ.
In retrospect, the year of trial tested my patience, faith, and helped me grow in my spiritual walk because I became desperate to know His will for my life. Thank God I was not accepted by the universities at the first application. God wanted me to be more desperate for Him.
In every phase of life, there are problems of its own, yet I am actually excited for each trial to come. Because as long as I have faith in Jesus Christ, there will always be more to gain than to lose.
(If you haven’t seen it, there’s no way we could possibly embed it for your viewing pleasure. We’re sure you’ll understand.)
Thanks to Facebook, suddenly the rest of Singapore has also gotten involved as digital by-standers and virtual rubberneckers. And everyone has something to say about it – emboldened by the anonymity that social media allows.
So as everyone gets sucked into the mess, we start to see social media caricatures of ourselves being played out by the people in the video.
When online, how many of us are like the first and smaller-sized bully, going around throwing taunts and expletives, knowing you won’t get struck yourself?
Are you more akin to the bigger bully, cockily throwing punches at someone who is at an obvious disadvantage?
Or do you identify as the adult who stood unhelpfully at the side the classroom doors, mere inches away from the brawl? Although he was reportedly an intern from an external agency who has “not been trained” to deal with these type of situations, many have suggested he could/should have intervened.
Why do so many of us believe it’s justifiable to hold others to a higher moral standing than we hold ourselves to?
Maybe you’re like the last boy who appeared in the video — #adulting right by placing himself firmly in harm’s way to stop the bullies, and ushering them out of the scene before things got worse.
There’s still another group of people in the video: Those on the sidelines lending their voice to the ruckus, if not their fists. Like the baying crowd at gladiatorial brawls of old, they call for blood by chiming in with abusive, goading comments. This is just as bad as those who actually throw a punch, ganging up against somebody who isn’t at liberty to speak up for themselves, hiding behind the safety of the sea of noise.
There’s something about digital anonymity that emboldens people to act as online vigilantes. They want in on the action, and dish out our their version of justice while sitting in the comfort of their cushioned chairs and behind monitor screens — far removed and detached from the actual horror.
Take the case of the couple who verbally and physically assaulted an old man at a hawker centre, for example. It’s true that watching it makes your blood boil at the outrageousness of the couple’s actions. But then some netizens went on to make barefaced physical threats against the couple.
What irony: Getting so angry at someone’s bullying that you resort to bullying yourself – fighting a moral battle without any moral high ground to stand on. Why do so many of us believe it’s justifiable to hold others to a higher moral standing than we hold ourselves to? It’s a high horse that’s surprisingly easy to leap onto.
Don’t join in the mob calling for a crucifixion. Don’t condemn kids. I doubt they’ll learn anything about love if all they now face is hate.
Particularly uncomfortable for me is clicking through into a vitriolic commenter’s Facebook profile, only to find them posting Verse of the Day links, photos of their Sunday ministry, or cell group outings. 😔
We shouldn’t be quick to pick out someone else’s faults when we ourselves are not immune to having our own (Matthew 7:2-5) — because by the same measure that we judge, we will be judged accordingly (Romans 2:1). We should hold ourselves to the standard that Jesus set when He said “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7).
While we stand for Truth, we were never told to mete out justice in 140 characters or less. Leave the dispensation of justice to the Courts, rather than interfering with our indignation.
This doesn’t mean we overlook injustice. We are never called to indifference. We need to rebuke and rebuild in love.
It might seem that we have forgotten that these boys are minors. Boys! Still wearing shorts! They’re at that stage in life when all of us will make mistakes and overstep boundaries.
Again, leave justice to those meant to dispense it. Don’t join in the mob calling for a crucifixion. Don’t condemn them at this young an age.
I doubt they’ll learn anything about love if all they now face is hate. If they’re ever to grow into mature adults who learn to be better from their mistakes, then we — as the village — need to bring our kids up by instilling in them values built on love and forgiveness. Which are best demonstrated, not merely taught.
So here’s a thought: Instead of channelling so much passion and keystrokes into playing judge and jury and throwing stones from afar, why not do something good with it?