Pastoral Perspectives

Service – An Undeserved Privilege

It was only a day after Christmas but when I stepped into the mall, I was surprised to find that jingle bells had already been replaced by dong dong qiang while horses stood where reindeers once were. And so I was reminded that Chinese New Year is here again. Surely I know what comes after Christmas but how on earth did they managed to get the makeover done so quickly? Anyhow, as I stood and stared at the horses, I was reminded how long I have been horsing around. Well, it had been four horses ago when I cried my way into this world. When the horse came again, I was a young boy preparing for PSLE. Back then it was my mom who brought me to temples to pray for good results. Thank goodness, my results had been good enough. And when the horse came again, I was a young man pursuing a career in engineering. By then I went to temple by myself to pray for everything to turn out good. So what happened when the horse came by again? I suppose I might have been a successful engineer and could have been earmarked for managerial position. But alas, I became a lecturer and was about to submit my resignation shortly after Chinese New Year that year. So what happened?

It first began when I stopped going to temple and began coming to church. I did not make the switch because my praying and giving to the temple were not helping me achieve good results. If that was the case, I wouldn’t have come to True Way. But then again, churches that preach prosperity were not quite established yet. So it was quite unlikely for someone to want to go to church in order to have better life. Like many Christians back then, I went to church because I met Jesus and became his disciple. And like many Christians back then, becoming his disciples meant not only going to church to worship, pray and give, but also to learn of his Word, obey his teachings and serve his kingdom faithfully and dutifully. These were all part and parcel of what we called discipleship. And it was during this journey of discipleship that I heard God’s call and had to bid farewell to a promising career. So my time as a lecturer was merely a transition before the time was ripe to enrol into bible school. And it happened that it was also time for the horse to drop by again. And lo and behold, time flies indeed and the horse is back again! And so I stood and stared at the horses and asked whether it has been worthwhile to give up engineering for theology and the workshop for the pulpit. So is it?

I have often heard of people saying how pastors have to give up much to answer God’s so-called higher call. I suppose this is true for those who were highly successful in the marketplace and had to make significant adjustment or sacrifices as people often like to put it. And then there were those who had not ventured into the marketplace at all and so there wasn’t much for them to give up. I do not claim to belong to the first and neither do I belong to the second. Therefore I usually smiled at those who said it and left it to them to interpret my response. But seriously, is it really that hard to give up a secular career to answer God’s call? Shouldn’t it be a privilege to be called by the Almighty? Perhaps the challenge for us is not about the giving up but in affirming the call. If only our Lord still calls people the way he called Moses and Paul. And so answering the call has become more like taking a calculated risk when it should be about taking the step of faith. Therefore I believe the right question to ask myself is not whether it is worthwhile to give up engineering and the workshop but whether I am worthy to take up theology and the pulpit. So am I? The horses kept silent and I guess I may have to wait until it comes by again before I can know the answer.

But the truth is that none of us are worthy to worship or serve him and all of us should have been cut off from his holy presence. But by God’s mercy, we have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus and by his grace, we are being sanctified and gifted by the Holy Spirit so that we may worship and serve him according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. It is about God’s mercy and grace, not about us and what we have to give up for his sake, for all things are from God and we have nothing to begin with in the first place. To put it simply, service to God is our undeserved privilege. And this applies not only to those who are called into full-time ministry but to all who are called disciples of Jesus, wherever they are and whatever they are doing. Let it not become our undesired burden.

And so I stopped staring at the horses. I guess they weren’t quite interested in me until I made some purchases. Nevertheless it was time well spent as I looked back at the horses gone by and marvelled at how God had intervened at various crossroads in life to put me on the path that he had planned for me before I even made my first cry. And because I know his plan is for my good and he will continue to work it out until I make my last breath, I can therefore trust in his sovereign will and rely upon his sufficient grace to serve him whole-heartedly. What about you?

I left the horses there to greet the next shopper as I went about to make my purchases, pondering still in my mind how they managed to get the makeover done so quickly. Well, I guess if all hands and hearts are willing to come together, even the mountains can be moved. So if we are all ready and willing to come together as one to serve the body of Christ in this church, who knows what 2014 may bring to True Way. God knows and he is giving us this undeserved privilege to make it happen. What about us?

Pastor Ronnie

January 12, 2014