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“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. 💯

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What does life want from me?

by | 25 September 2018, 3:06 PM

One of my favourite books is Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, a memoir he wrote about surviving the Holocaust in a concentration camp.

While Frankl goes into great detail of the abuse they received as Jews within the camp, he also expounds greatly on how he could keep his spirits up despite the depressing circumstances. It is absolutely inspirational.

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how,” is the standout quote from the book. For Frankl, having a why to live required a change of attitude towards life itself: “It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.”

I wonder how many of us have a why to live. And I wonder how many of us know why we live. 

Our generation is big on extremes, we either live life to its fullest or we live to survive. We contend as activists or remain apathetic. Some strive to give their lives and actions some focus and meaning, others are content to drift through life without much effort because nothing gained means nothing lost.

Bearing Frankl’s earlier question in mind: do you know what life expects of you? Frankl distils life as “taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfil the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.” Based on such a worldview, regardless of your attitude towards it, life still needs to be lived.

And as a Christian reading the book, I immediately see how Frankl’s definition for life can be taken as a metaphor for God’s will for our lives. This might not be Frankl’s original interpretation of life, but there must be Someone who has the sovereignty to allow the presence of “problems” and “tasks” in our lives.

So without delving into the arena of apologetics, let me push the thread of questioning even further: do you know what God expects of you?

Perhaps before we discover what God expects of us, let us delve into what we can expect of God.

Romans 12:2 puts it simply for us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The Word assures us that everything in our life is ordained by God (Proverbs 16:33). With renewed minds, we are to test and approve what God’s will is in all the events of our lives.

Now, the only way for us to know these things is to live closely with Him daily. In the shadow of His wings, we will always see that at the end of the day, He is always good.

But before we can say “it is well” to everything that happens in our lives, we must learn how to live with Him. This is where His expectations come in.

And again, we can get this direction from looking at Romans 12:2. First, we are not to yield to the pressures of the world and conform to its pattern. Second, the spirit of our minds (Ephesians 4:23) must be renewed – bent away from the world and back towards God. This only happens through disciplined devotion to God and genuine life change wrought by the Holy Spirit.

When we have these things in place, we will be able to exercise spiritual discernment. And in today’s combative and divisive society, we will be able to speak up and represent God in love.

Why does God have such expectations of us? Frankl also says that “the salvation of man is through love and in love.” Indeed, if not for the God who is love (1 John 4:16), we would have no chance at a life that is good, pleasing and acceptable in His eyes. We’d be dead without Him.

Because of love, God expects – commands – us to wholly love and fully obey Him. Because the Lord’s expectations of us are representative of a perfect (1 John 4:18) and unconditional love, we must live out the Romans 12:2.

There is a greater life just waiting to be lived.

/ samanthaloh@thir.st

Samantha is a creative who is inspired by the people and stories around her. She also loves striped tees and would love to pass her collection down to her future children. Currently level 1127 on Candy Crush.

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How important are Christian friends in university?

by Abigail Wee | 25 September 2018, 2:49 PM

A friend I met in university (who is now working overseas) shared that living the immigrant life means you’re forever questioning who you are and where you belong.

While spending four years in the UK as a university student might not necessarily be “living the immigrant life”, I could certainly relate to the struggles she mentioned. While studying overseas was very much my own choice, this did not mean that I was free from the worries and insecurities that came with leaving the comforts of Singapore and having to adjust to life overseas.

As with starting any new chapter in life – studying at a new school, working in a new place, living in a different city – the first few weeks were mostly spent making introductions to different people. Given my character, I naturally enjoy meeting new people and making new friends.

However, I felt like I was still searching for something. It was only after attending a Christian Fellowship (CF) with a Singaporean senior that I knew what I was looking for. So what made this group of people different from the other student communities I found in my university?

I believe the difference was the fact that we all shared a love for God and His Word, as well as a desire to serve and submit to Him.

In other words, this group of people – most of whom were also fellow international students – not only empathised with my emotional and mental needs, but understood my spiritual needs as well. While I have close university friends from various races, cultures, religions and backgrounds, studying abroad made me understand the importance of Christian friends in university.

In my prayers for finding a Christian community, God impressed upon my heart that I should not just find one – but root myself in one. I soon came to understand that this process of rooting myself was something that did not happen overnight but required much initiative on my part.

… these friends reminded and encouraged me that what I needed most was actually a who – God Himself.

Rooting myself in my Christian fellowship meant regular attendance and availing myself to serve.

In the midst of assignment deadlines and exams, it was tempting to just give up everything and go and study, but seeing my friends serving together and encouraging each other even while handling their own workloads inspired and pushed me on to do the same.

Their fellowship reminded again and again that God is my anchor. The familiar comforts of home that being overseas could not afford – I learned to find in Him. And when it was difficult to do so, these friends reminded and encouraged me that what I needed most was actually a who – God Himself.

Being plugged into a CF also gave me friends whom I could be kept accountable to. Living in a country very far away from home, I had the freedom to represent myself and live my life any way I wanted to. I could have made choices that everyone back home would not know of.

My friends pointed me heavenward time and time again.

So while it was important to be accountable to people about my life in the UK, it was more important that I found people to keep me accountable for my walk with God.

  • Am I glorifying Him with the opportunities I have been given to study and live in UK?
  • Would He be pleased with how I have spent my four years here?

Learning to constantly ask myself questions like these was a result of walking with like-minded friends who kept pushing me on to grow in my intimacy with the Father. Their physical presence in my life overseas also made it harder to hide or run away from being real. So, over time, it became easier to be open and vulnerable with them.

If you ask me, the main reason why Christian friends are important in our lives is because they are a means through which God draws us closer to Himself. Through the challenges of university life overseas, the godly friendships I have forged have been clear reflections of His generous love, His mercy and His far-reaching grace.

While plugging oneself into a Christian fellowship or community can be intimidating, do not let the fear of putting yourself out there prevent you from establishing godly friendships. Indeed, “Christian friendship is a treasure because it helps us cling to our greatest Treasure.”

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What should you do when facing uncertainties in life?

by Darius Leow | 24 September 2018, 2:31 PM

God, why?

Have you ever asked that question before? I certainly have. I ask it all the time: when outcomes fail to match my expectations, or when something that I want eludes me.

Sometimes when our prayers appear to go unanswered, we get tempted to think God has forgotten about us. We are quick label the Israelites as a bunch of stiff-necked and faithless grumblers, but we actually have more in common with them than we realise.

Because whenever something unexpected happens, we are quick to grumble. “Bring us back to Egypt”, we grumble in frustration towards the God we cannot see. Our understanding of who God is and our past experiences with Him become like distant dusty memories.

In troubles, even the clearest sign and promise from God can be easily clouded by our fears, frustrations and forgetfulness.

Consider King Jehoshaphat: 2 Chronicles 20 details King Jehoshaphat’s journey through a period of national crisis and how he responded when hemmed in by uncertainties.

“After this the Moabites and Ammonites, and with them some of the Meunites, came against Jehoshaphat for battle. Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A great multitude is coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea; and, behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar” (that is, Engedi).” (2 Chronicles 20:1-2)

This chapter begins with the nation of Judah and King Jehoshaphat in a vulnerable position, outnumbered by surrounding enemies. Three-versus-one is a terrible situation to be in — even for the best military.

It’s not a stretch to say that we actually have so much in common with Israel. This life is a battle against sin and evil (Ephesians 6:12). We all have our own “great multitude” or “vast army” coming against us like having to grapple with the effects of sin, broken relationships or poor health.

But while we will face uncertainties and dangers like King Jehoshaphat, what is more important is knowing how to respond to life’s uncertainties.

In troubles, even the clearest sign and promise from God can be easily clouded by our fears, frustrations and forgetfulness.

Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord ... O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20:3-4, 12)

Judah’s national security was at stake, yet the first thing King Jehoshaphat did was to set his face to seek the Lord. Instead of mobilising the army, he mobilised himself and his people to seek God for help.

God heard the cry of His people and granted Judah and King Jehoshaphat victory over their enemies as they obediently went in faith (2 Chronicles 20:20) and gave God worship and praise (2 Chronicles 20:18-19, 21-22).

Though things looked hopeless, they sought God, took up their positions, stood firm and fixed their eyes on Him. And they were victorious.

This passage offered me much comfort and encouragement during a difficult season in my life. For like King Jehoshaphat, I found myself in situations where I was forced to confront uncertainties.

Academically, I didn’t do too well for some of my papers and had to wrestle with the disappointment that my hard work wasn’t matched by good grades. Relationally, being someone who has not been in a relationship before, I struggled to navigate through uncharted waters with clarity. And physically, I’ve been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition affecting my joints and spine that will likely stay with me for life.

Yet as I took stock of all that was happening around me and gave myself time and space to wrestle with God, He taught me to confront my inadequacies through my trials. I was humbled as I began to understand that even in the brevity and uncertainty of life — there was a solid rock I could depend on.

God’s thought and ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Of course, given a choice, I would have wished for the disappointments and pain to go away. I would have hoped for different outcomes that matched my expectations and desires. But I saw how uncertainties are God’s ways to humble me and grow my dependence on Him.

I sensed God reminding me not to place my confidence and expectations in mere outcomes. Living life that way is unstable. Instead, I should hold on to God, my only anchor and certainty in life, surrendering the results to Him.

After all, in all things He works “for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

We can be certain that there will be uncertainty, but we need to learn to be okay living with it.

For all our human wisdom, we will never have life all figured out. It is easy to blame God when uncertainty hits us because no one likes to be out of control. But God uses uncertainty to teach us precious lessons which reveal our fallenness and need for Him as saviour.

Here are some lessons I learnt from 2 Chronicles 20 and from my wrestle with uncertainty.

3 ANCHORS AGAINST UNCERTAINTY

1. In moments of uncertainty, look to Christ as our only certainty in life

Jehoshaphat looked to God during a crisis of uncertainty, and God did not disappoint him. We learn to hold on to Christ, and not outcomes, and trust in His promises and deliverance.

The one we learn to hold on to has graciously and lovingly given us all things through Jesus Christ (Romans 8:32). May this enduring truth help us find our security and anchor in Him and Him alone.

For all our human wisdom, we will never have life all figured out.

2. When uncertain, grow in faith and dependency on Christ 

We are made to confront our inadequacies in circumstances where control is pried out of our hands. But in such moments we can clearly see our deep need for God.

God’s power is made perfect in our weaknesses, and this truth gives us the confidence to boast in them and declare, “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

3. Uncertainties are opportunities for the unexpected (2 Chronicles 20:22-23)

Victory was secured with prayer and praise. Judah prepared for war but didn’t have to lift a finger — only to loot the spoils of victory (2 Chronicles 20:24-26).

God’s thought and ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9), and He can take and turn all our situations — even dangerous ones — “for good” (Genesis 50:20).

To close, I’m leaving you with one of my favourite poems — The Tapestry by Corrie Ten Boom.

My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.

Trust that God is weaving a beautiful story in and through your life. In times of uncertainty, may our eyes be fixed on the intended pattern and design God has for us. Even when life doesn’t make sense and we don’t have everything figured out, we can learn to trust His in character and promises.

The sovereign God is certain and eternal.

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How to really read your Bible

by Jonathan Pang, Tan Ai Luan and Goh Chong Tee | 21 September 2018, 2:03 PM

One of the challenges that new believers first encounter in reading the Bible is reading it in totality.

We tend to have the most trouble with the Old Testament (OT), where cultural and sociopolitical contexts differ greatly from the New Testament (NT) – let alone our postmodern society.

Nowadays, intellectual disparities form the primary barrier to spiritual insight. Yet as believers we are told to take God at His Word in Luke 21:33, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away”. We are told the same in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 as well: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

What then is the correct mindset and methodology for studying Scripture within BC times, in a way which is comprehensive yet authentic in relation to its historical and ecclesiastical roots? Here are 3 handles you may find beneficial to your reading.

3 WAYS TO READ THE WORD WELL 

1. Read between the lines

“Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.  Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:5-7)

Reading between the lines is especially essential for seemingly awkward or outdated customs among God’s chosen race. Some examples include piercing servants’ ears as a sign of lifelong dedication to their masters (Deuteronomy 15:17) and the forbidden practice of seething (boiling) a young goat in its mother’s milk (Exodus 23:19).

It’s about pressing in for the meaning behind the verse. And admittedly, since we may not be theologians, it’s also useful to lean on doctrinally sound sources of secondary literature which give insight and clarity into the practices of the early Jews.

Analysing things like genre and writing style helps us read through the OT with clarity.

There are also multiple references within other OT sections involving history and prophecies which may mystify readers unless they look for key phrases or words within the original Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic translations.

These translations themselves borrow metaphors from nature or mythology to explain or corroborate principles, often making for awkward translations today. After all, reading the Bible in English, we are distanced from the original writers and their target audiences by language, time and context.

It helps to look up the nature of a biblical book before reading it. Analysing things like genre and writing style helps us read through the OT with clarity. It’s our responsibility to truly understand what we read (Romans 10:2-4).

2. Connect the dots

“For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18)

God’s Word doesn’t contradict itself or His character manifested on Earth through the life of Jesus Christ. Similarly, the NT does not make the OT irrelevant to Christians today.

The moral and ethical codes first commanded by God through the Torah have been perfected through the death and resurrection of His Son. Such was the theological foundation of the early Church in the days of the apostles. In relating OT laws, prophecies and history to the observances and character of early Christians, their significance and applications to our own spiritual walk can be made clearer.

The Word is timeless and transcends even history.

Consider especially the Book of Revelation. It possesses close parallels to the books of Daniel and Ezekiel in the imagery of the visions they received about God’s judgment of the Earth, calamities befalling man owing to sin, the Resurrection and New Jerusalem.

The central themes and messages conveyed through similarities in both OT and NT texts are consistent with each other, and should therefore be identified and analysed to determine its purpose and message for Christians – dispelling misconceptions or preconceived ideas of irrelevance between the two.

The Word is timeless and transcends history.

3. Watch and pray

“Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.” (Acts 9:18)

All Scripture, however translated across tribes and tongues, is God-breathed. Our human capacity is insufficient to access and live by it.

Intellectual humility – sadly lacking in a generation that has had greater access to education than previous ones – is something Christians must possess to internalise and act upon the Word of God. The Bible is more than a religious text that Christians blindly follow, it is the critical foundation for the heart and mind to be filled with the Spirit – producing love for the Lord with all we are.

We can and should ask for wisdom in the process of nourishing ourselves with the Word.

While any doubts that we have concerning our study of the Word should be brought to our clergy or peers within the Church community, they should first and foremost be addressed through prayer.

Sin has marred the vision of many and blinded them to the Truth. What better way then, than to request for wisdom from whom Scripture is breathed? For we have the Holy Spirit to guide and counsel us.

The tearing of the temple veil upon Christ’s crucifixion was a sign which indicated the beginning of this new and living way to God. Jesus’ sacrifice allowed for the remission of our sins, so we could renew our relationship and have communion with Him as children of God.

So our understanding of the Bible is highly intertwined with our spiritual walk with the Creator. We can and should ask for wisdom in the process of nourishing ourselves with the Word.

As you continue to study the Bible, you will undoubtedly face difficulties in both the intellectual and spiritual aspect of doing so. It is both a science (in terms of critical reading) and an art (putting it into practice).

But remember: your Christian walk should never be undertaken alone. You will undoubtedly need the support of your spiritual community in translating your faith into tangible action. Regardless of the obstacles encountered, always persevere in plunging deeper into the knowledge and love of God through understanding His Word.

Ask for wisdom, and it shall be given. Seek Him, and draw near to Him by faith, and let Him strengthen you and your walk with Him.

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Tongues-tied: The gift I never knew how to ask for

by | 19 September 2018, 3:50 PM

Have you ever heard someone speak in tongues? What are tongues anyway?

Before we get any further along in my story with tongues, I’m going to run through a quick crash course so we’re all on the same page as best as we can be.

It’s in the Bible. Acts 2 is the first time tongues were spoken, on the day of the Pentecost, when the apostles “were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4).

Now most people, I feel, have the conception in mind that tongues are some entirely unintelligible thing — they might even think it’s a secret language. But the gift of tongues can also be the Spirit-given ability to speak a human language the speaker doesn’t know, to spread the gospel to someone else in his own language as in the example in Acts (Acts 2:11).

Finally, tongues should be translated for the edification of the whole church (1 Corinthians 14:27), must be orderly in worship (1 Corinthians 14:27-28), peace-bringing (1 Corinthians 14:33) and glorifying to God.

Full disclosure: I grew up in a Pentecostal church. But that meant I had weekly court-side seats to good examples of tongues being spoken and tongues being interpreted.

In weekly worship as a child, upon the end of the last song, a person with the gift would usually begin speaking in tongues to the congregation. He or she would be proclaiming unintelligible words for about thirty seconds. Then my Pastor would stand up to interpret whatever it was that person said — and I would be in awe because I didn’t understood a word until the translation.

How did she understand what the person was saying? How did she remember all that was said? I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.

But I was deeply impacted by tongues — I wanted it. Most of my family could speak in tongues. But for some reason it just never came to me or one of my sisters. Frankly speaking, I wanted the gift solely for the childish reason that it would be cool to have.

By the time I was in my preteens, I had already been trying to “receive” it for a few years — almost as if it was a problem of not praying or trusting God enough. I had gone up for altar calls, I had been anointed multiple times, had hands laid on me by many a visiting preacher … But it just wasn’t happening.

Looking back, I realise I was stumbled as a child, while no one explained to me what was going on. Tongues just became, to me, a Christian thing that (for some inexplicable reason) wasn’t part of my experience of faith.

So as I wasn’t getting what I wanted and tried for, I settled for an uneasy acceptance of God’s sovereignty in this area.

Fast forward to my young adult years: I’m somewhere between earnest desire and wistful jesting on the whole “tongues thing”.

I admit that’s just my tendency – when something makes me feel bad, my personal coping mechanism is to find a way to laugh about it.

But the one thing that constantly bothered me were fellow believers who would start speaking in tongues disruptively, at times that would be distracting. I still struggle to find peace with this.

The truth is, I still believe that tongues are a beautiful gift. But as humans do with most things, some of us might be guilty of making it our own thing.

Far be it from me to overlook all the other gifts He’s given me just to covet one.

It broke my heart when I learnt that a friend left her church because she just couldn’t speak in tongues after years of trying. I’ve been there and it sucks. No believer should have to feel like a second-class Christian just for their inability to speak in tongues, or made to wonder if there’s something wrong with them.

What I am realising is that we cannot miss the point about tongues or any other spiritual gift for that matter. It’s not about you. It’s for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7) of believers and to build up the church (1 Corinthians 14:12). It must be orderly (1 Corinthians 14:40) and it must glorify God.

I still don’t speak in tongues. But now I’m neither proud nor ashamed of that. It’s just the way it is, and that’s okay.

I’ve repented of occasionally making fun of the gift of tongues. It’s just as uncool as making fun of prophecies or healing, and I don’t want to be that guy.

Ultimately, the sovereign God apportions spiritual gifts to each believer as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11). So no longer will I sit in the seat of mockers, and far be it from me to overlook all the other gifts He’s given me just to covet one.

Whatever our gifts may be, we must display unity in the Body of Christ. May our gifts build us up as a church, glorifying God to the utmost as we lift Him up to the nations.


Have an insight into the gift of tongues? We’d love to hear them – just drop us an email with your thoughts.

/ 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.

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