The Pain Of Contentment

Image

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. – Philippians 4:11-12

In the midst of some household chores, I chanced upon this quote in the Chinese newspaper that read,  “不知足的人,永远不会福。” (which literally translated as, “Those who do not know how to be contented, will never be blessed.”) resonated deeply to me.

During times of lack in my journey of entrepreneurship, I struggled the most with being contented. I seem to be consumed by thought of “Will I have the money this month?” day in and day out. I do not trust my Heavenly Father to provide? Perhaps. I lack faith? Perhaps. I worship money more than God? Perhaps. I am getting worldly? Perhaps. I am relying on my own strength instead of God? Perhaps. It is just part and parcel of being an entrepreneur? Perhaps. Thousand of possibilities.

And there is always this great void in me that can’t seem to find peace. Perhaps, it is a sense of insecurity. At such, the word, “contentment”, was never found in my dictionary. After prolonged seasons of seeking after “more securities or assurance”, I seemed to distrust God more and more. Perhaps my value system in believing that if I work hard, I will get what I have worked hard for. But nothing is further than the truth- no matter how hard I tried, the return of “investment” (time and effort) did not commensurate with what I had consecrated to. Didn’t the bible say, “one reaps what one have sown”? (2 Corinthians 9:6)

That was how I discovered something is not quite right with my mentality. Little wonder, blessings elude me because I never learnt to appreciate the little and be contented.

The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways. (Proverbs 14:14) Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice. (Proverbs 16:8)

It was high time to let go and let God. But it took me years to really learn from Exodus 16 to live day to day and taking one step at a time, where God provides just enough for the day. I have to daily exercise my faith muscles and work on my trust issue- imagine I receive a mandate from Jesus, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (Matthew 6:25) Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. (Luke 12:15) Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for you brought nothing into the world, and you cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these you shall be content.” (1 Timothy 6:6-8)

In whatever situation, good or bad, we are to count our blessings even in the little things, and learn to be contented. Only then will we realise how blessed we are for God’s mercies and love are often disguised in what we deemed insignificant. We are forgetful beings and need constant reminders that God will supply every need of ours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

God doesn’t just bless us with bigger things all the time, but often the little things that made us learn to depend on Him more, and more.

Courtesy photo from a friend who visited Canggu, Bali, on 1 October 2017.
Advertisements

Can I Pray For You?

Image

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. – Matthew 5:4

When I read the above verse, I was initially thinking, “Siao uh, how can one in mourning be called blessed? I think no amount of words would soothe a grieving spirit…” I recalled the few times when I struggled to pray as a result of a great disappointment with God. That was the darkest time of my life that I needed to go through somehow. Although I appreciated the comfort of friends who meant well when they offered encouragement, but the greatest comfort was the one who just be around me in silence (for there is a time to be silent and a time to speak. – Ecclesiastes 3:7B) and offered “Can I pray for you?” instead.

That was when I received the healing touch of the spirit ministering to my broken soul. Prayers are much more powerful in comforting and strengthening one’s inner self than mere words of encouragement. But of course I am not belittling those kind intentions, It is just that I experienced the stark difference when someone offered to pray for me instead.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. – James 5:16

Notwithstanding the form or level of comfort, we have a duty too to be a comforter to others.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

We are blessed when we receive comfort from those whom God of all comfort has ministered to.

Period.

Image

“Be still, and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10

A punctuation mark has just inspired me- a full-stop, in other word, “Period”.

We have all from time to time entertain the dot, dot, dot, dot, dot, dot. But often God puts a period to where it should be. Although our life is a journey, our ups-and-downs are never a destination: Each hard knock is a school; each trial is a teacher, each experience is an education; each test is a testimony; and each challenge is your character development. And that is where we all need to learn where to put the “period”.

RECALL (Upward focus):

  1. God is All-powerful (Matthew 19:26). Period.
  2. God is Sovereign (Psalm 103:19). Period.
  3. God is our Refuge and Strength (Psalm 46:1). Period.
  4. God is unchanging, He is the same, yesterday and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8). Period.
  5. God is in control (Psalms 22:28). Period.
  6. God is our double-portion (Isaiah 61:7). Period.

REALIGNMENT (Inward transformation):

  1. Fix our eyes on things unseen (2 Corinthians 4:18). Period.
  2. Set our mind on things above (Colossians 3:2). Period.
  3. Guard your heart with all vigilance (Proverbs 4:23). Period.

RESPONSE (Outward action):

  1. Wear your full armor of God daily so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:11). Period.
  2. Think of thoughts that are true, good and sound (Philippians 4:8). Period.
  3. Hold your mind steadfast on God and trust in Him so that you can have perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3). Period.
  4. Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you (Psalm 55:22). Period.
  5. Do not rely on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5B). Period.
  6. Be anxious for nothing but pray for everything (Philippians 4:6A). Period.
  7. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done (Philippians 4:6B). Period.
  8. Submit to God and resist the devil (James 4:7). Period.
  9. Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will direct your paths (Proverbs 16:3) Period.

RETRAIN (Forward resolution):

  1. Always be on the alert and stand firm (1 Corinthians 16:13). Period.
  2. Be an overcomer (1 John 4:4). Period.
  3. Fight the good fight of the faith (1 Timothy 6:12). Period.

And God will work things out in the end (Romans 8:28). Period.

How Big Is God Or How Big Is Fear?

Image

“I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” – Psalm 34:4

Someone once asked, “How big God really is?” I must admit it is hard to describe how big, how great and how infinite God is in literal terms. Not long ago, I managed to grasp a better concept- I love to spy at my mini pet shrimps and water snails with a magnifying glass from time to time, so that I can observe how well they are doing in the tank. And the more I zoom in, the larger the size of the object. Distance also plays a part because the nearer I am to the tank with the magnifying glass, the clearer the details captured. And when I take a step back, the object doesn’t look so intimidating after all.

This macro-view and micro-view analogy made me realised how big the size of God depends on how near I am to Him. And the more I focus on the object at close-up, the more I am able to see every thing with much clarity.

But in reality, the size of God is often downplayed by our fallibleness- things of this world and of darkness are more magnified than they really are, especially fears. No one is immune to fears and often legitimate enough to rob us of peace, joy and even faith in God. Search has also revealed that the word “Fear not” or in its equivalence, “Do not be afraid”, appear 365 times in the bible! Isn’t it intriguing to know that God in His infinite wisdom know we need help in dealing with this subject while living on earth? God has already prepared the bible for us to have one ammunition against any fear per day!

First and foremost, we need to recognise the fear that we have, and face it point-blank- confess it, confront it and conquer it. Fear is simply an acronym of False Expectation Appearing Real. And the opposite of fear is faith, in other word, you will need supernatural faith together with God’s living Truths, to counter fear.

You may realise that Satan’s most effective strategy in instilling fears to strike you down is nothing new nor creative:

TRICK 1: Fear of poverty or not having enough.

Who doesn’t fear lack? Though money is important for survival but it isn’t omnipotent. When money becomes an obsession, that is where evils (i.e. worries, anxieties, fears, idolatry……) reside. And the more you chase after something, the more it will elude you. Would it not be better to go after God, who is the God of Multiplication of 5 barley loaves of bread and 2 small fishes (Luke 9:15-17), who says He will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), and knows exactly what you need even before you ask of Him (Matthew 6:8)? So seek God first, and He will provide all that you need.

My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19) The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry.” (Proverbs 10:3)

TRICK 2: Fear of failures.

All man are imperfect and fallible with our fallen nature, and it is inevitable for us to make mistakes periodically. Therefore, it is ok to fail but we should stand up where we fell and not be too harsh on ourselves. Instead, we should embrace failures as rare opportunities to learn or do better, after all, life lessons are always learnt best through hard knocks. Remember, we have the wisest Counsellor and Teacher living in us whom we can consult with.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)  We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37)

TRICK 3: Fear of men 

If we are honest enough, all of us feel good when we are paid compliments, and we thrive in relationships where we feel appreciated. However, that can be a very thin line we are threading on as we can easily fall into the trap of pleasing men in order to win their approval, for the fear of men prove to be a snare (Proverbs 29:25). So put our confidence in God, who is not fickle-minded, that we can be secured against rejections from capricious men.

“I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies (Isaiah 51:12A) Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?  (Isaiah 2:22)

TRICK 4: Fear of the unknown.

Venturing into the unfamiliar or considering the unknown future can be unnerving to all of us. With each passage of time, things around us never stay constant, and uncertainty often precipitates unsettling changes. The bible counsels us not to worry about tomorrow since we do not know what it may bring (Matthew 6:34). That is why we are to live by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) for faith operates in the supernatural and has the power to overcome this natural fear.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11) Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

TRICK 5: Fear of losses.

There is no gain without pain, and changes are often necessary for growth; and when there are changes, there are inevitable losses or pain in some ways. Sometimes, through losses, we draw nearer to God and gain new insights about our lives. Losses may not be that fearful if we look in light of God who owes everything in our life and we are merely entrusted with stewardship to take care for Him on earth. After all, we come to earth with nothing and we shall depart with nothing too.

I will give up whole nations to save your life, because you are precious to me and because I love you and give you honor. (Isaiah 43:4 (GNTD)) I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. (Jeremiah 31:3)

TRICK 6: Fear of sicknesses.

Our bodies are subject to degeneration when we age, and susceptible to any diseases while living on earth. Although sicknesses and infirmities can be threatening, the bible warns that it is scarier to lose our soul (Matthew 10:28), for nothing will profit a man who lost his soul. And when we look in light of a better home in Heaven, whatever we are going through on earth pales in comparison to the crown of life and an unperishable body we will receive when God calls us home.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9) The Lord protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; you do not give him up to the will of his enemies. The Lord sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health. (Psalm 41:23)

TRICK 7: Fear of inadequacies.

Both Moses and Paul wrestled with feelings of inadequacies and inferiority, when they were assigned with tasks that seemed too big a hat for them. But God who created us, know exactly what we are made of, He will not put us in places where we cannot perform nor glorify Him. Sometimes, God uses our weaknesses to display His Strength so that others can praise Him for what He can do. We can take heart that when God commissions us for a task, He will provide the means to accomplish what He has set us to do, He will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). So trust Him, and do whatever He calls you to.

Paul conceded, ‘Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5, NASB) ‘I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NASB).

TRICK 8: Fear of being alone.

God made us to have a relationship with Him and others, He never intended for us to be alone. That is why church and cell fellowship helps to meet this need of companionship, where we need each other to be encouraged, edified and supported through this journey on earth. And with Holy Spirit living in us and God who is omnipresent, we are never alone. So look deep inside and look up, and you will find  that God is always near.

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

TRICK 9: Fear of losing control.

Control-freaks fear losing control because they are afraid their lives will be out of tune, they do not even leave to chances for any unexpected situation. Such control freaks have to constantly stay on their toes in order to hold their ground. But no matter how meticulous we plan nor how strong we are, life will always caught us by surprises. Only the Sovereign God, who is all-mighty hold the reins and remains in control over everything. It is wiser for us to relinquish this right and let Him have the driver-seat of our lives; with God, nothing is too hard for Him (Jeremiah 32:27).

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10) “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. (Job 42:2)

TRICK 10: Fear of stepping out of comfort zone.

Almost all of us love status quo and remain where we are because it is undeniably comfortable. We are averse to stepping out of our comfort zone because what challenge us can cause us to become a bundle of nerves. Imagine if Abraham did not obey God’s call to go to a faraway place (Genesis 12:1) and chose to remain in his comfortable zone, Abraham would not have fulfilled his destiny that God had for him. It certainly took Abraham a lot of faith and courage to overcome his human tendencies, but it was wise of him to trust God for the result. Only by stepping out of our comfort zone, can we see a new beginning. Therefore,  when God calls, do not fear, for He promises to be with you on the way and all the way.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

Courtesy photo (P1040139) taken by Rachel Hong @ Bandung, Indonesia, August 2017.

 

Have Mercy On Me, O God

Image

Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. I cry out to God Most High, to God, who vindicates me. He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me—God sends forth his love and his faithfulness. – Psalm 57:1-3

While in my prayer closet sometime around January 2008, I heard my spirit singing “Have mercy on me, O God…” and following its tune, I was inspired to pen “Have Mercy On Me”. It was a very simple rendition from a heart that was crying out to God for comfort, strength and deliverance.

 

When the world is more than I can bear

All I need is your light

To shine through the darkness

When the pain is more than I can bear

All I need is your touch

And your love surround me

 

Have mercy on me, O God

Take away all that keep me apart from you

Have mercy on me, O Lord

Cleaners me of all my sins and my past

Anew

 

(Bridge)

Have mercy on me

Lord, forgive me

Your love endures

Your compassion never fail

Have mercy on me

Lord, you made me whole

 

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. – Psalm 136:1

 

Courtesy photo (P1040555) taken by Rachel Hong @ Bandung, Indonesia, August 2017.

Under Siege

Image

Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” – Matthew 16:23 NLT

I ever wondered, since God has given us His divine authority over everything with His keys of the kingdom of Heaven, that whatever we bind on earth will be bound in Heaven and whatever we loose on earth will be loose in Heaven, reinforced with all His promises of providence, deliverance and victory, why do we still struggle or wrestle with defeat from time to time, or we have yet to experience a breakthrough?

I observed that there are four areas which we may be under siege:

  1. We fell prey to the Devil’s schemes. 

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. – John 10:10A NLT

Satan is a master strategist, having live thousands of years, he has been honing his skills- he has the dexterity to steal our peace and joy; kills our hope and destroy our faith in God. Before we know it, we have been ensnared by his deceit. We can never outsmart him with our finite wisdom, we will need the living power of God’s Truths to combat his lies and send his demons helter-skelter. If we are not well-guarded in our heart and mind, we will fall prey easily to the devil’s schemes.

  1. We get entangled in our own sins that we are immobilised

When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. – Colossians 2:13A MSG

When we are caught up in our sins, our spiritual antenna is not sensitive, which result in a loss of spiritual discernment, where we can no longer discern the Voice of God. Our mind will also be darkened and our understanding about God will be dimmed, we will then be easily susceptible to distortion of truth and deception from the devil. And once we give the devil a foothold in any area of our lives, we will be incapacitated under his yoke of slavery.

  1. We have not been training for war.

May the Lord, my rock, be praised, who trains my hands for battle and my fingers for warfare. – Psalm 144:1

All athletes competing in any race have to undergo strict training almost daily. We will lag behind if we rest on our laurels any time. The devil is always hungry, ready to pounce on his victims and devour them (1 Peter 5:8) without mercy. So without training, we will be feeble;  and without regular training, we will not be as effective.

  1. We have not been putting on the full Armour of God properly for 24/7, 365 days.

Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:11-12

The Armour of God (read Ephesians 6:10-20 to understand what consists in the full suit) is actually indestructible, but we can be susceptible to attacks if we do not arm ourselves properly. As read in Ephesians 6:11, we are exhorted to put on the full suit of the Armour of God where each part protects us in different aspect. In other word, we cannot pick and choose which we would like to put on, since if any part of the Armour is missing, then we will be guaranteed to attacks easily. Consider that when an army goes to war, the soldiers cannot afford to be flippant about putting on the full set of proper gears, for we do not know how the enemy strategises to attack. The soldiers even sleep with their gears on 24/7. How much more the battle with Satan and his demons which require spiritual weapons to fight against them, any time any day.

We can be sure that Satan knows our weaknesses, and what cause us to crumble easily, in the area which we have exposed to him. Therefore, we need to take a proactive stand, having done our part, and standing firm on our faith, we can then command Satan to get lost, and the God of Peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. (Romans 16:20A)

Courtesy photo (P1040340: Stone Garden) taken by Rachel Hong @ Bandung, Indonesia, August 2017.

When All You See Is Your Pain, Perhaps Then You Lose Sight Of God?

Image

I was watching “The Shack” film at https://solarmoviez.to/movie/the-shack-19835.html (Thank God for the subtitles!)- I can relate to how the main character of the movie, Mack, struggled with God when he was plunged to the abyss of pain. In the process, He had an encounter with God, where Mack confronted Him why He allowed bad things to happen and why He didn’t stop the tragedies. God knew exactly how Mack was feeling, thus He had planned for Mack to meet Him at the Shack- the place where his pain began when he lost his youngest daughter. God was showing Mack that healing can only began at the place of pain when he let go and let God- Mack was stunned when God responded to his barrage of questions, “When all you can see is your pain, perhaps you have lose sight of Me.” God had walked through with Mack his journey of inner healing thereafter.

I love this movie (except some parts are a little controversial, but as a whole, the key messages are sound and edifying). I was actually stumped at the point where God told Mack, “When all you can see is your pain, perhaps you have lose sight of Me.”

Indeed, I lost sight of God two years ago when I went for a physical review. And the double whammy was when I was told I had a higher chance of getting dementia as a result of this deterioration. At that point, my world seemed to crash down and it was a very dark night. I could not help but sobbed convulsively almost involuntarily as fears seized me. I was an emotional wreck. In the deepest recesses of my heart, I bombarded God, “God, why is this happening? I thought You can heal?”, “God, are you there?”, “Is it not in your will to heal me?” and all the “Whys?”. I remember vividly, the first few weeks after my physical review, I could not worship at church service, and I could not even sing or utter prayers. I recall trying very hard to contain my pain, as if my heart was oozing blood profusely. Even well-meaning friends wasn’t able to offer the slightest comfort, and I found myself withdrawing from them instead. Over time, my heart gradually calloused, and I was in a spiritual spiral of decline when I wallowed in my own pit. That was not all, I was rendered dysfunctional and could not operate my business, I was incapacitated for almost six months.

I received no answers to all my whys, it was a vain tussle. This emotional and spiritual battle only I could fight, no one else can fight for me. I was well aware that the only way out of the pit was to climb out of it. I recalled how God had delivered from my financial crisis eons ago, He would not stop lifting me out of any deep waters (Psalm 18:16). And reality sank in when the last statement of accounts had jolted me that my savings had been dwindling, I realised then that I had been subsisting living without any income. The detachment from God had left a deep void in my heart and the spiritual deafness had made me yearned to hear from my Heavenly Father even more. I started to draw near to God, surrendering my pain and fears, and by His Grace, I received healing emotionally and spiritually. I will re-learn to trust Him for my physical healing.

Through this journey, I recognise that sometimes God allows “the pit experience” (pain) to happen in order for us to draw closer to Him, because it is human tendency that when life is going well, we may forget about Him. Isn’t it true that we pray the hardest in our most challenging moments? And we pray the least when we get too busy? (And yes, be warned that God does discipline us lovingly when we wander off..)

As the common adage that goes, “No pain, no gain.”- Pain is often a catalyst for necessary growth:

(1) that we emerge stronger with new level of faith, trust and refined character.

(2) as it changes us for good, if we allow God to deal with the issues in our lives.

(3) so that God’s strength be displayed in our weaknesses.

(4) to humble us to rely and depend on God instead of our own strength.

(5) in teaching us the value of being Christ-like in His suffering.

God always have a purpose in your pain, let Him walk you through your pain, only He can handle it far better than you do yourself. And your healing process will be shorter too.

“Consider it all joy, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4) We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (Romans 5:3-5 NLT) His grace is all you need, for His power is greatest when you are weak.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a TEV) 

Courtesy photo (P1040440) taken by Rachel Hong @ Bandung, Indonesia, August 2017.