I am going to write what comes to my mind so bear with my meandering.
We have just ushered in 2023 and today we celebrate the start of the Lunar New Year. What lies ahead and what is in store for us is anybody’s guess.
Inflation is not abating and we are likely going into a recession which means some of us may find ourselves being retrenched. With China forsaking her zero Covid policy and opening up her borders, another big wave of infections across the world is anticipated. The war in Ukraine is going to reach its first anniversary and our hearts go out to the many who have lost their loved ones, and many more who have been displaced and whose normal lives have been disrupted.
I can only take heart that we worship an everlasting God who rules the world with sovereign power and tender care even though it will take eyes of faith to behold that reality. I love the chorus of the song “From Everlasting” by Sovereign Grace Music:
“And all our days are held within Your hands
Your perfect love and favour have no end
We rest within the wisdom of Your plan
I hope that in the days ahead, whether rain or shine, whether we are high on mountain tops or deep in the darkest valley, we will remain steadfast in our relationship with the Triune God because he remains our refuge and strength and an ever present help in trouble.
Bad times can push us away from God or draw us closer to him because we are desperate; good times can pull us away from God or draw us closer to him in gratitude. Regardless the circumstances, I pray that we will be drawn ever nearer to the Lord by his Spirit.
Remaining steadfast in our relationship with God means that we continue to commune with him in Word and prayer; we continue to gather together with God’s people in worship, fellowship and service; and we continue to spur one another on to obedience.
One young adult asks my wife, Ai Tin, how she can remain faithful to God seeing that most of her peers have left church – some have gone to other churches while others have completely dropped out. Ai Tin encouraged her to keep coming back to the community of God’s people even though there are days when she may feel less inclined to do so.
Once we start to stay away, we are sliding down the slippery slope that can eventually send us into spiritual apathy. We are never meant to walk alone.
When we put our faith in Jesus, we become part of his body of which he is the head; we become living stones that are used to build his temple of which he is the cornerstone; we are adopted into his family of which he is our elder brother, being the first born among the brethren.
Please don’t stay away from church even though the people including the leaders may disappoint you, or even hurt you. In this regard, can we learn to be less sensitive? Don’t be triggered easily; don’t make people tiptoe around you because they are so scared you will be hurt should they say something wrongly; find your self-worth in the fact that you are God’s beloved – you have been bought with the precious blood of Christ.
We are all works in progress and so are you; we are all imperfect and so are you; we all need the grace of God and so do you.
I have just completed the preaching series on the church’s mission and vision. If you belong to a DG, you will be studying the common curriculum which I hope will reinforce some of the things that I have emphasised, and you will also have opportunities to dialogue with DG members on how you can do church in a way that is helpful for your spiritual growth and more importantly, glorifying to God.
Know that having a mission and vision is not a fanciful idea initiated by the leaders just to keep you even busier. In crafting these statements, we hope to lend greater clarity to what God has commanded us to do. In obeying, we will grow in our faith for obedience and faith go hand in hand; we will also grow in our intimacy with God for obedience and love also go hand in hand.
I have exhorted all of us to come to church, Sunday after Sunday, to build each other up. Some say that they only want to come and worship God, one on one; they are not interested in the horizontal dimension. If that’s the case, there is no difference between worshipping on-site or online but why is it that both in the OT and NT we are called to physically gather together as God’s people?
It is for worship and it is also for fellowship, so we cannot run away from the horizontal dimension. Some say, “I am already feeling so down, how can I still find the strength to build another person up?” Well, for this season, let another person build you up then, even as you share your burden with a brother or sister.
But some may say, “It’s ok, I am going through a difficult time but I still want to reach out and perhaps when I comfort someone in my sorrow, I will also be comforted by the Lord or by the person I am ministering to.”
I pray for you that 2023 will not come and go without you growing from one degree of glory to another in Christ-likeness. If you are not growing, you will not be stagnating but backsliding. Intentionality is important. Let’s be deliberate in our desire to grow. We must therefore take concrete steps.
Let me share with you my plan, my new year resolutions. I’d like to grow in ‘patience’ which is one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit. The concrete steps which I’d like to take are these – to show more patience on the road and it will help if I set off early so that I am not trying to reach my destination in the nick of time; to show more patience to those I am serving with by listening to their struggles and suggesting possible solutions rather than doing everything by myself because I am too impatient to delegate; to show more patience to Ai Tin and not roll my eyes when she irritates me (I assure you that I irritate her much more). These are some things I want to start with. If I can grow to be a more patient man, I’d have grown to be more like Jesus in his ‘being’.
As for growing to be like him in his ‘doing’, I want to engage and evangelise a few people on my list – there is Sahin, the Bangladeshi man who takes care of the housing estate that I live in; there is TJ, JC, MM who used to be Christians but no longer. The concrete steps to take will be for me to start praying for them and I shall do that on every Thursday. For Sahin, it will be arranging a meal with him and passing him the booklet that I have gotten from Bible Society. As for the other 3, I will text them and reconnect with them first, and hopefully I can eventually meet them face to face although for TJ it will not be possible as he is stationed overseas.
What about you? Would you like to join me in growing to become more like Jesus in this new year?
Rev Lee Kien Seng
January 22, 2022