Top Stories

Sign Up for our newsletter now.

Faith

The trials that transformed me

by Lee Wen Por | 10 October 2017, 6:06 PM

I want to share why I decided to get baptised.

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.


This article was first published on World Revival Prayer Fellowship website and was republished with permission.

Conversations

We Recommend

Culture

“Our fight is simply to make it to tomorrow”: This is what depression looks like

by Mak Kean Loong

Culture

One man’s thoughts on Harvey Weinstein and sexual predators

by Gabriel Ong

Faith

Are you favourite child material?

by Fiona Teh

Culture

Thoughts on THAT St Hilda’s video: In an online brawl, are you bully, bystander, or peacemaker?

by | 15 September 2017, 6:49 PM

$%#&@!!!

You’ve by now surely seen the video of the fight that broke out in a classroom at St Hilda’s Secondary School. It involved three boys, many punches, countless expletives and one by-standing adult.

(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?

It’s time to stop spreading the $%#&@!!!

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

Conversations

We Recommend

Culture

Who will save me from myself?

by Naomi Yeo

Do Good

Whose strength are you serving in?

by Noah Ho

Culture

Why I’ve never stepped into a club in my life

by Sara Koh

Culture

A divine exchange: Lessons from my semester abroad

by | 11 September 2017, 9:45 AM

Student exchanges are school programs which allow for undergraduates to spend a semester overseas in a partner university.

Exchange is something most university students look forward to. After all, it’s a chance to finally discover the vast world beyond the confines of our tiny island.

You get to make foreign friends, travel overseas and live independently – what’s not to like?

Those were some reasons I had for going on exchange to Berlin, Germany last year. That idealism rapidly dissipated when I realised – in the middle of the night – that I was sitting in a plane hurtling over the Middle East, all the while moving further and further away from home.

It ultimately turned out that my exchange wasn’t nearly as dreamy as I had imagined, yet it was still a beneficial time where I learnt many life lessons.

A SEASON OF DEPENDENCE

Going on exchange made me utterly dependent on God.

Owing to my laziness in the months prior to departure, I applied for my German visa late, which meant my entire trip was at the mercy of the embassy officials. I didn’t get my visa approved until the very day of my flight to Berlin.

The night before my departure, I was reading the Bible and feeling a little desperate, wondering if making a fuss at the embassy would move things along quicker. God convicted me that this predicament was a result of my procrastination, but He also spoke to me as I read on:

“Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.” (Proverbs 25:15)

So with patience I headed to the embassy the next day. And though they normally take months to process such documents, the officers listened to my gentle plea for urgency and kindly prepared my visa for me on the spot.

But my problems were far from over.

I touched down in Berlin a lot later than the time I had told my landlord, Niko, that I would arrive at the apartment. Without thinking my next step through, I took a cab to my new home before I realised what I had done.

There I was, with my massive luggage and backpack, without any data or minutes to give Niko a call or write him an email. And then there was the weather! I could have waited for hours in the cold. As I sat on my luggage at the gates of the apartment complex, I realised how alone I was.

Coming from a tiny island where I had everything I wanted and needed at my fingertips, I had never been desperate. What else could I do but pray? God, please help me. I need Your help.

I was reduced to utter dependence on God in a way that was impossible back home.

Right after I finished that prayer, a massive man emerged from the woods beside the apartment. In thick German, he called out to me, “Hello! Can I help you?”. I told him I was waiting for Niko, to which he said, “Niko isn’t coming, but I will help you.”

He then sat me down in an office and we worked through forms, payments, the building layout, the room’s rules — pretty much everything together.

Beyond instances like this, I was reduced to utter dependence on God in a way that was impossible back home: Finding friends. Finding a church. Getting a working prepaid phone card. Having working internet. Having a working heater in winter. Safety on the streets at night.

Exchange was a season where I had to rely on Him for every single thing I had ever taken for granted.

A SEASON OF INDEPENDENCE

As a deeply introverted person, I think a big part of me wondered if by going on an adventure all by myself, something about my introversion would change.

Looking back, I can tell you that was a dumb reason to go. But something did grow: I had to become more independent. I had to do banking, laundry, immigration stuff, groceries, cooking — every conceivable adulting thing that wouldn’t typically have been my portion in Singapore — I did them all.

I had to step out of my comfort zone to meet new people (in German!). I experienced a deep longing for spiritual community that seekers must feel in a new church — an experience that has since made me more empathetic and inviting to newcomers.

God used that time to show me who really was in control of life.

There were many triumphs, but there were also many days I lay in bed watching YouTube wondering why I ever came.

I know now that through exchange, God refined and moulded me to be a better person. God used that time to show me who really was in control of life. In a time of great loneliness, I drew near to God, and He drew near to me.

He became my closest friend, through a season that brought me into a lifestyle of dependence on Him.

KNOW WHY YOU GO

But that’s my story. Your exchange — if you do go on one — will be your own. Ask God what exchange can do for you that being home in Singapore won’t. It’ll be fun, but don’t let the time be fruitless or frivolous. In all your travels, ask that He would use them to mould you.

You’re sure to fall in love with certain places, but never stop being a child of God – in wide-eyed wonder at your Father who wrought this wonderful world. Go for a better reason than “I want a different life”.

Go, so that God may draw you close, far away from home.

/ gabriel@thir.st

Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.

Conversations

We Recommend

Do Good

Do good, for God’s sake

by Edric Sng

Culture

“I thought it was my inevitable reality as a woman”: Sexual harassment in the workplace

by Ashley Chan

video

I was planning to get married, then I got cancer

by Yeo Huang Hao

Do Good

The girl who would not walk in the dark

by Ashley Chan | 8 September 2017, 4:39 PM

In my teens, I often volunteered as a facilitator in student camps. By the time I was 19, I was helping out at my sixth camp, where we brought a bunch of students to Malaysia for a week’s retreat.

Our job was to help them bond through interactive activities, and ultimately to get them excited about school. Frankly, I didn’t know how that would be possible.

During this camp, I became close to one of the students who was initially extremely reserved and quiet. She wasn’t stuck-up. She was simply … silent. She wasn’t interested in the activities and usually sat in a corner alone. She never spoke to any of her classmates.

As a facilitator, I felt the pressure to help her gel better with her classmates. I took extra care to include her in all our conversations. I really looked out for her.

Before the planned “night walk” – a camp activity where students develop courage by walking through a set route, in the dark of night – she disappeared.

I was worried she’d run out of the camp; this was Malaysia. The roads were uneven and there were no street lamps.

I saw myself in this girl. I had been suicidal too, a few years before.

Using my iPhone flashlight, I went around the whole site looking for her. I finally found her hiding in the toilet. When I assured her that I was the only one there, she unlocked the door, and came clean about her fear of the dark.

“I can’t go into the dark … It’s too dark. I don’t want to go there,” she sobbed.

We managed to persuade her to come out and go for the walk, her classmates and facilitators holding her hands, encouraging her with every step. We had our phone flashlights and torchlights on throughout, so she was able to overcome her fear of the dark.

After the night walk, I asked to speak to her privately. She opened up, telling me she was depressed and overwhelmed with her personal life and school.

Slowly rolling up her sleeves, she showed me all her scars from self-mutilation.

She was trembling, and tears welled up in her eyes. That’s when I realised what she had been doing in the toilet: She had intended to harm herself again.

“Nobody understands. It’s better that I die. My teacher even said to the class that I’m being attention-seeking … How could she say that?”

I saw myself in this girl. I had been suicidal too, a few years before.

That’s when I realised what she had been doing in the toilet: She had intended to harm herself again.

I prayed desperately for God to guide me: “How can I show her Jesus in this situation? Jesus, where are you now?”

And He spoke, reminding me of how Thomas had to touch the scars on Jesus’ hands before he truly believed. She will not know of the resurrection until she sees it.

I revealed to her that I, too, had struggled with similar issues. I shared how I eventually overcame self-harm by holding on to the love of God.

I even took pills. I’m glad I’m alive, and I hope you’ll find the strength to live on, to live through your circumstances, because they are temporary, I told her.

She was shocked initially – but she broke into a shy smile and hugged me.

I knew what it was like to be young and broken. I’d grown up ridden with scars both emotional and physical.

Sin had ravaged and destroyed my self-esteem. My self-worth had been crushed through years of self-harm. I didn’t think anyone would have understood me. I attempted suicide so, so many times.

How is it possible that my pain can be used to comfort another? How can it be that my scars can lend strength to another? How could my brokenness reveal His glory? That night with the girl was a lesson for me.

It showed me that even a broken vessel like me – seemingly useless and worthless – may have the privilege of pouring out His overflowing glory in the most unexpected ways.

We need only to be willing.

Recently, I got a private message on Instagram. It was her again. I’d almost forgotten about the camp by now.

“I’ve been clean for a year, thank you so much,” she wrote. “You reminded me that the only way for light to shine through was through a crack. God bless you.”


September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. If you’re struggling and unhappy with life – please don’t give up. Call the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) hotline at 1800 221 4444.

Conversations

We Recommend

Do Good

I had an abortion, and the guilt and shame almost killed me

by June Bai

Faith

How do I know if my faith will stand?

by Sim Pei Yi

Do Good

Do good, for God’s sake

by Edric Sng

Culture

University students, come and Carry The Love

by Thir.st | 8 September 2017, 2:01 PM

Carry the Love 2017 (CTL) is a prayer worship tour set to be held across five universities in Singapore, organised by students from various universities, churches and fellowship groups with the same heart to see God move in the nation’s college campuses.

NTU: September 11, 7pm
SMU: September 12, 7pm
SIT: September 13, 7pm
SUTD: September 14, 7pm
NUS: September 15, 7pm

Inspired by their experience at Permission to Dream (PTD) – another cross-church, non-denominational event which took place over 3 campuses earlier this year, CTL is a worship tour organised by students from various universities, churches and fellowship groups with the same heart to see God move in our schools. This time, they are moving across 5 different campuses.

“God is doing a work”, says Xin Hui, one of CTL’s organisers. The group collectively senses a “momentum” in the spiritual atmosphere of Singapore.

The vision: To see universities transformed by God’s love. “God’s love has the power to transform. We’re claiming it for our generation,” said Xin Hui.

So, whichever university you belong to: Stand up and be counted. Come claim your school for Jesus and lift the plea to God in worship.

If you’re already a working adult, you can still come. Come and pray revival with the young. Come and be part of a generational movement.

Conversations

We Recommend

Culture

Why I’ve never stepped into a club in my life

by Sara Koh

Culture

Reflections on Skyrim: I didn’t make my lives count

by Gabriel Ong

Culture

I was fit, strong – but I hated my body

by Hannah Lee

Faith

“I felt like the dumbest student in school”

by Denise Soon | 17 August 2017, 2:34 PM

I grew up in a family where I was always taught that “character is more important than how well you do in school”. My parents never pressured me to get straight As. They were okay with failure as long as I’d tried my best.

But I began to heap the expectations on myself when I was in Primary 6. I didn’t do very well for my PSLE and was placed in the Normal Academic stream.

I remember crying when I received my results. My parents couldn’t understand why I was so upset with myself when they were not.

I harboured high hopes for my future, but wouldn’t do anything to achieve any of it.

When I was 13, I realised that I wanted to pursue Psychology. I had it all planned out in my head – I’d go to Ngee Ann Polytechnic, then NUS. But despite these goals, I allowed myself to be distracted from my studies in secondary school.

I harboured high hopes for my future, but wouldn’t do anything to achieve any of it.

I was busy chasing relationships, and often got into disciplinary cases for bullying, truancy and disrespecting my teachers. I became this vulgar, hot-tempered, rebellious kid. I struggled academically.

There were times when I really wanted to change and get serious about my studies, but some of my teachers, peers and even my own family would say things like “You’re from Normal Academic, you’ll never get that far,” or “You’re not the studious type, don’t expect too much.”

I remember the worst insult I received from a teacher: “You’re Denise Soon, how can someone like you ever do well in school?”

Was being Denise Soon a bad thing? Was I hopeless?

I came to know God when I was 16 and I became determined to become a better student. But it was hard: I’d never learnt how to study. Only how to play.

So I didn’t do too well for my N-levels and O-levels, and I didn’t manage to get accepted to study Psychology at Ngee Ann Polytechnic. But I was thankful that my O-level results enabled me pursue Psychology at the University at Buffalo under SIM Global.

That meant I would start university at 17. I felt inferior: Most of the students there either had an A-level certificate or a poly diploma, whereas the different path I’d taken meant I was in university straight after my O’s.

I didn’t know anyone else who was under probation. I felt like the dumbest student in school. Part of me blamed God.

Someone told me, “Even if the rest don’t do well, they have something to fall back on, but you only have your O-level cert. If you fail, what can you do? Who would want to hire you? Which other school will accept you?”

I was scared.

According to the requirements of my major, if I were to get anything below a GPA of 2.5 for my first year, I could very possibly be expelled.

I also started to get heavily involved in church at that time. I started to serve as a life group leader, an actor and creative scriptwriter in the kids’ ministry, and as a musician. I was busy juggling church commitments and school for the next 2 years. But my grades were getting worse with each passing semester.

Before my 3rd year of university, I received an email from the school telling me that I was being placed on Academic Probation.

I was scared because I was left with just one more year. I didn’t want to get expelled. I was averaging a D-grade, and my average GPA every semester had been dropping – my GPA at the end of Year 2 was 2.4.

I didn’t know anyone else who was under probation. I felt like the dumbest student in school. A part of me felt disappointed with myself for not managing my time better. Another part of me blamed God.

Where was Your grace when I needed it the most? I served You so hard – sometimes to a point where I didn’t have enough time for my studies – so how could You let this happen?

 

I had to take a long, hard look at the student that I had become. 

I realised that I put in less effort in modules I wasn’t interested in. In some semesters, it was easier to count the number of times I was present in class, instead of the number of times I was absent. I chose to scroll through Facebook, rather than my lecture slides. I’d fall asleep in class even if I wasn’t tired.

All this meant I wasn’t very good salt and light in school. How could I claim to live for Jesus if I couldn’t even show basic respect to my lecturer? How could I say that I’ve been transformed by Jesus, if the way I behave shows otherwise?

I struggled to serve in the kids ministry – I felt like a hypocrite teaching the children about Godly values if I wasn’t living them out at home or in school. I thought about stepping down.

Denise also serves as a cell group leader in the kids ministry.

I had to take a summer semester, but it came between my annual church conference and church camp. 

I had a to-do list that seemed endless. Mid-terms, final exams, term papers, a million readings – while preparing to serve on the worship team for church service and camp, and write sermons for the kids ministry.

There was one week when I had to practice 11 songs; some days I had church-related activities the day before an exam. Every week I’d question whether it was worth committing myself so much to church, at the cost of my grades.

I was afraid of prioritising God because I found it hard to trust that He would provide. I looked at my friends who weren’t in church, with more time to study, getting better grades.

I was angry and bitter. I was desperate. But I also knew that I could let the situation come between me and God – or I could let it draw me closer to Him.

So I bargained with God: If I give up my time to serve you, I expect you to help me with my grades.

I recently got back my results for my first summer semester and to my surprise, not only did I manage to pull up my GPA but I also aced my term paper and my exams with a score of 99.9%.

Looking at the results, I can confidently say that #onlyJesus could help me pull through my academic struggle. I was never one who did extremely well in my subjects; to even ace a higher level module, I knew it had to be God.

Even when I failed to trust him, He never failed me.

At this year’s church camp, what my pastor said hit me hard.

“Have we become such busy people, with so much to accomplish every day, that we’ve forgotten about the brokenness in our lives and our desperate need for a Saviour?” he challenged us.

“When something you desire directly competes against God’s desires, you deny yourself of your desire to pursue God’s desire.”

Denise at church camp this year with her SIM campus group (top) and her cell group (bottom).

I’ve learnt to trust that God will provide everything I need – so that I’m not distracted to do the real work.

I’ve learnt that I should never feel guilty for serving too hard, while worrying that God will shortchange me.

I’ve learnt that God wants to see how I make my choices. Will I choose to pursue Him or pursue my grades?

There’s a cost to going all-out for Him, but there’s also a cost to not going all-out. When I stopped to count the cost, I realised that if my studies don’t revolve around God, then what’s the point?

Jesus went all out for me. Now I must learn to do the same – not just in church, but at home and at school as well. He deserves my all. 💯

Conversations

We Recommend

Do Good

Diagnosed at 14: Life with Pompe Disease

by Wong Siqi

Culture

The uncommon mission field: Reaching those with special needs

by Sheryl Tay

Culture

A letter to you, the one desperately trying to hide your depression

by Naomi Yeo

Article list

The trials that transformed me

Thoughts on THAT St Hilda’s video: In an online brawl, are you bully, bystander, or peacemaker?

A divine exchange: Lessons from my semester abroad

The girl who would not walk in the dark

University students, come and Carry The Love

“I felt like the dumbest student in school”