Culture

Young people, greatness is not in power or money, but love

Isaac Ong // November 6, 2018, 5:56 pm

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As Singaporeans, we know how to plan very well. Everything has to have an insurance plan.

Everything is about figures – how much you have in your bank, how long have you been doing this, how many people are in your church, how many cell group members you have …

And I think as a young person growing up, I tried to find my security in some sort of amount of money, some sort of job, some sort of reputation, having some sort of partner and all these different things. But it came to this point where everything I found security in, everything I thought I’d built myself upon and tried to brand myself as had to go through the fire, through the testing, the wrestling, the tearing apart.

It was the collective years of rejection from the media industry, not going or getting anywhere; years of youth ministry, loving with all my heart and getting hurt while doing so; it was saying “no” to great opportunities like certain roles and overseas gigs because I felt God wanted me to stay and serve people.

What I knew as building one’s own name and kingdom in this world was confronted by the call to build His name and Kingdom again and again – and it left me feeling very stripped down and naked. It left me feeling like I was nobody because I’d been so trained to make something of myself.

But that also meant that there was no longer anything to my name – all that was left was fully His. And there finally came a day when every song I sang, every prayer that left my lips was life and truth as God intended me to have it. All I need is You. Having Him and nothing else was truly more than enough for me.

We keep feeling the pressure to chase these digits of success, but I really just want to live for the One and stop for the one.

Because if you look at the way Jesus walked on the earth, only one figure was really important, and that was the number “1”. He lived for an audience of One – His father God. He would stop for the one – whoever was in front of Him and needed help.

We keep feeling the pressure to chase these digits of success, but I really just want to live for the One and stop for the one.

Sometimes we look at the people doing God’s work and think: “Aiyah, they must be pastors lah” or “Aiyah, they must be holy; they must be anointed” – but when we do that kind of division, we’re just giving ourselves an excuse not to live like that.

What God is searching for is simply laid down lovers of Jesus Christ. He’s not looking for people with abilities, He’s looking for people who are truly available. And when we read Scripture, it has always been the case. God used people who lived with this posture of heart: “Here I am, use me and send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)

God wants to use us. God wants to walk with us. And more than the work we do, the greatest thing is to be able to partner with the God who created the entire universe. The One who made the stars and built the Sun says, “I want you. Out of all that is going on, I want you and I love you.”

And I think this has really shaped me in terms of figuring out what is the truly important number in my life. Is it how much I have in my bank? Is it how many friends I have? Is it how many followers I have? Is it how many likes that I have?

Of course, living for the One is still a decision I have to make every day when I wake up. Some days I even cry, telling God that I feel like I’m crazy for putting aside every other figure that I could be pursuing.

There are days where I literally have no money in my bank account. I remember there was one time I only had a couple of dollars left, and I had no idea what to do next. It was in a season where God had been speaking to me about trusting Him, even asking me to empty my pockets for the offering in church.

A couple of weeks before this, a pastor had come up to me and said, “The Lord is going to put money in your bag!” And of course I didn’t believe him. So fast forward to that day when I close to penniless and telling God I didn’t know what was going to happen to me, I felt Him say: “Isaac, I want you to open your bag.”

I was standing at a bus stop when this happened, and I hesitated slightly – why would I open my bag? I already knew what I’d put in it. But when I obeyed and opened, I found $500 worth of cash in loose 50-dollar notes, just lying inside. And I never forgot this lesson that I am always provided for – not just in finances but in the favour God brings to my life as I walk with Him.

So to every young person who wants to pursue God and be used by Him, Ephesians says it perfectly, “For we are God’s masterpiece, He has called us for a good work.” (Ephesians 2:10) That is the truth. Not the excuses we make for ourselves that we aren’t holy or worthy enough.

God doesn’t need us to make excuses. He doesn’t need us to highlight what we think is wrong with us. And we do that far too often. If I were to ask you today, “Hey, what’s wrong in your life?” You could list me a thousand things. But if I begin to ask you who you are and what you already have, it gets very hard.

I mean, a man-made phone already has so many applications, so many uses. What more a person that is created in the hands of the ultimate Maker? The last thing anyone should do is compare. God did not ask you to be second to any other person; He never compares between His children. Every one is unique.

I find that one of the greatest things that I get to do is not so much found on the stage or any social media platform, those are just vehicles in themselves – it’s getting to talk to that one person who is listening, ministering to the one person who needs it.

Truly, the greatest value – what we have that is the greatest – is found in the Word of God that says, “the greatest of these is love”. (1 Corinthians 13:13) The best thing that anyone can offer is love.

There was once I was in India for a mission trip, and we were visiting Mother Teresa’s orphanage. There were children who were physically disabled and others who were mentally challenged, and I remember getting angry with God and asking, “God, how can You be good if there are children like that? What kind of God does that?”

Immediately, God corrected me, saying “Isaac, you are looking at them with your earthly value system. Because you define success as being smart, being talented, you have now deemed this person to be of no value to you.

“But if you read the Scripture, I have said that the greatest of these is love. And if somebody can love and receive love, that person is the greatest. He is not defined by his intellect or talent or skill – but simply by the fact that he has love, and can give and receive love.”

Every human being can give and receive love.

The minute I find being on stage the “more important” thing, I have missed the point – I would have defined the greatness of my work by the size of my audience or the talent that I have.

That’s why the devil is so adamant about destroying the image of what love truly is. We take sex, which is absolutely beautiful, and we turn it into lust. We take love, which is absolutely beautiful, and it becomes controlling and abusive. We can be depressed by love. How crazy is that? The devil is working overtime to make sure we don’t understand what true love is.

Because love is where the power lies. Today, my vehicle, my medium to carry this love is simply singing. Tomorrow, it can be speaking. Tonight, it might be saying “hi” to somebody. The other day, while I was cycling, a drunk man fell into the drain and was yelling for help, so I helped him out.

That moment of love in action is just as important as being on stage. The minute I find being on stage the “more important” thing, I have missed the point. I would have defined the greatness of my work, or the power of my work, by the size of my audience or the talent that I have – not the love that I am tasked to carry.

The ability to love and receive love every day is the most exciting thing ever. It is the most powerful thing that all of us can do it right now. We can show love any time we choose to, and that makes us incredibly powerful. The devil doesn’t want us to realise that, or walk in that power.

I feel that if we understand this truth, we will no longer give excuses. So where does one start? It says in Scripture that God is not like love, God is love (1 John 4:8). And therefore, we look to Him, the God who is Love, and ask Him to help us to love.

And finally, the Bible shows us that “people know we are His disciples by the way we love one another” (John 13:35). Not by the way we sing, not by the way we preach, not by the way we act, not by how much money we have, not by our job credentials.

People will know that you are My disciples by the way you love one another.

And that is absolutely what we are called to do. That is absolutely our power and our strength. Having love who is God.

He is all we need.


Isaac serves the community with his social company Colours Global, is the youth director of Emmanuel AOGand was a finalist on both Channel 5‘s The Final 1 and The Voice (SG/MY). He often speaks in various church circles and leads the FOPx worship team. The annual FOPx Youth Conference will take place on November 29-December 1, 2018. Register here.