Trials into Triumph: 7 Truths to Anchor Deep When Life Gets Tough

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Christ is all, and is in all. – Colossians 3:11B

We all know that life is never perfect, and can never be perfect in this fallen world, with the vicissitudes of life in the volatile times. Sometimes, life does not go the way we want to, and we get caught up in our daily lives, and forget that this world does not define us. Whenever things are not going well, there is an inherent tendency to believe that God is not working in the situation. We are also tempted to think the worst, where everything from our vantage point seems bleak- We see no way out and perceive gloom and doom over the future. But little do we know that in such times, God is actually working behind the scenes orchestrating His plans to accomplish His purposes for our good and for His Glory. 

We may hate to admit that tough times draw us nearer to God with greater dependence and reliance on Him that result in a greater level or new level of faith. And those lessons are precious which can never be learnt in the good times. God knows what we need in life, but we need a fresh perspective on our situation- what we perceive will be different from what God can see. Remember, tough seasons do not last but tough people do, so in order to hang on well, we will need to anchor ourselves on these living truths:

#1. Fight the good fight and keep the faith

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome!” – John 16:33

Life will always be a series of tests and our faith will come under fire. And during those times of challenges, do we cringe in fear or cling to faith? Stand firm, let nothing move you, and always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord will not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). 

We will be trained to persevere and fight in faith, for faith is the confidence what we hope for will actually happen, it gives us assurance about the things we yet to see (Hebrews 11:1).

#2. Don’t lose hope for the day and keep disappointments at bay 

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. – Romans 12:12

Each day is a day of renewed hope since God has made each day a new page, a new chapter and a new beginning. We should be heartened to know that the faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease; Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning (Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT).

Therefore we have hope each day and rejoice, no matter what is happening around us, let us not lean on our own understanding, but in all our ways, acknowledge God and He will make straight our path (Proverbs 3:5-6). And always be joyful, keeping up a prayerful spirit at all times (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

#3. Refuse to have conversation with the Devil and stand firm 

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

It is ok to be in the wilderness but it is not ok to sojourn in it, any longer we will get lost wandering and likely to end up as bitter souls like the Israelites. When we are emotionally and spiritually down, we are susceptible to attacks. The devil loves to take advantage of our vulnerabilities to play his favourite tool- deception. As a father of all lies, he will never stop insinuating doubts into our subconscious mind. Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life (Proverbs 4:23 NCV)– an idle mind is the devil’s playground, and every temptation always start in the mind, therefore we must always guard our thoughts and renew our mind with the Word of God constantly.

The devil is also good as masquerading as angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), so not everything good is from the Lord, whether through opened doors or providing options, hence make no assumption and be spiritually discerning if it is really from God.

One of the key values we ought to learn is to be content whatever our circumstances, and always be thankful, this way the power of the enemy will not have a hold over us since his ability in frustrating us will be rendered impotent.

Each time we are tempted, we should consciously choose God’s Truths over the devil’s lies; choose to gravitate our mind Godward; choose to believe that God will work things out in the end; choose to trust God and be patient for His divine provision or intervention; choose to live in peace and joy in the moment, and find rest knowing that He has good things in store for your future.

#4. Be still and know that God is still in control and keep on trusting 

“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” – Jeremiah 32:27

Although God can do anything and nothing is impossible with the Almighty, but sometimes it is not necessary that God will provide a way out in our situation, He will provide a way through it. We just have to keep trusting that God knows best because His ways and thoughts are far higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). And blessed is the one who trust in the Lord and make Him his hope and confidence (Jeremiah 17:7). 

Be still, let go of your concerns, and let God be God. (Psalm 46:10). After all, God is not deaf nor his arms too short to move (Isaiah 59:1).

#5. Cast your eyes on God alone

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. – Psalm 121:1-2

Whenever we look down, we can only see things with shadows, but if we look up, we will have a wider perspective and see light. In other words, we either magnify our problems or we magnify God in the situation- which is a better choice? It is also good to look around us and admire God’s creations- there are wonders beyond our apprehension what God can do, that you be surprised there is actually miracles everywhere. 

#6. Remember God is faithful even when we are faith-less

If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is. – 2 Timothy 2:13 NLT

It is an immutable fact that God is 100% faithful, even if we are faithless or faith-LESS. He knows what we need, He understands how we feel, He anticipates what is to come, and He is familiar with all our ways. He promises His Presence whenever we call on Him (Psalm 145:18).

Count your blessings what you have, not what you do not have. Recall how God has provided and blessed us with in the past, insodoing that will assure us that God will work things out in the end.

#7. We are more than conquerors through Christ who strengthen us, and continue to declare the living promises of God

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. – Romans 8:37 NLT

The almost impenetrable wall of Jericho came tumbling down only after seven days of incessant prayers marching around it (Hebrews 11:30). It is a great reminder that no matter how impossible a situation is, we will have the ultimate victory in Christ Jesus. With the Bible at hand, where it contains His Word like fire and like a hammer that smashes a rock (Jeremiah 23:29), and the living promises that when God speaks, He acts upon it and will not be unaccomplished (Numbers 23:19), we are more than conquerors through Christ in us and for us.

Therefore, be anxious for nothing, submit our concerns and lay down our requests to God and the supernatural peace of God will transcend all understanding will guard our heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7). So be patient until God speaks and acts.

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Trials into Triumphs: Fear to Faith

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My life is in your hands. Save me from enemies who hunt me down. – Psalm 31:15 CEV

I ever wondered why some of us do struggle with trusting our Heavenly Father with our lives when we can entrust our own mortality to pilots who take us across bottomless oceans and precipitous mountains. Those who love to travel have this unspoken assurance and faith that the planes they are in will arrive at their destinations safely. Such is an absolute trust in finite pilots behind the wheels, but yet we fall short in trusting God altogether who is infinite and in control of the entire universe.

I am one such traveller who is apprehensive about taking flight. I really do not like the idea of floating in mid-air for hours, I felt as if my heart may pop out of my mouth any time, hence, I never get to enjoy the flight with ease. However, I do love the destination. Regrettably, in order to get to the destination, we need to embark on the journey whether we like it or not, and the road ahead is often paved with uncertainties of what is yet to come.

And truth be told, life is never perfect nor free from trials and testings. Many a times we made zig-zag turns or even u-turns in life that mess up our lives. As a result, we unwittingly enter into the wilderness or even the Valley of Baka (weeping). During those times of testings, it is human nature for believers to struggle even in our faith. Trials can incapacitate us with fears physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially, relationally and mentally.

Yet the place of our greatest triumph is usually birthed from our greatest pain- God will use our greatest failure or deepest sorrow as a catalyst for a glorifying end in our lives and the lives of others. Our valley or pit becomes revived springs for ourselves and others, where we will go from strength to strength (Psalm 84:6). Only through ‘death’ can new springs come forth and a new strength emerges.

Recall Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane, pleading at the feet of the only One who can sustain him. How deep was His anguish that He even shed tears in blood. Even to death, Jesus submitted to His Father’s Will obediently (Hebrews 5:8). Ultimately, He overcame His testing, triumphed over His enemies and emerged victoriously.

It takes fear to confront Faith;

It takes Faith to conquer Fear.

Faith and fear cannot co-exist in the same plane.

Only through partnering God, can we be overcomer like Jesus did. (John 16:33) Take heart that in all things God works for good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28)

Problems. You Have Not Reached Your Limit Yet!

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Sometimes it takes a painful situation to make us change our ways. – Proverbs 20:30 GN

A threesome conversation with friends on how our flesh becomes flabby as we age, that we burst into laughter when we were jesting about how soft our “chicken wings” (the area where biceps is located) are. It is a sad reality that women are more prone to donning “butterfly sleeves” if we do not exercise our arms.

I trained with weights almost every day in order to maintain the toned muscles I had painstakingly built since my younger athletic days. (P.S. Trust me, I am not motivated to exercise all the time when I had my times of lethargy, busyness and moodiness. I would try to find lame excuses to resist training….) It takes daily discipline (certainly a lot of dying to the self) and resolution to take the grind. Just as the adage that goes, “No pain, no gain.”

Weights build resistance. By adding more weights to our training, pressure are applied to our resistance which help to stretch our muscles further. Our muscles are stretched every time we add pressure and our resistance gets better with each intensity. As a result, our muscles are toned according to the weight we can handle.

In the same context, pressures of life, problems, challenges, stresses, troubles and trials help to train us towards building stronger faith-muscles, higher resilience and better character. The more intensified our training, the greater the reward to God’s Glory.

Here are some of God’s purposes in our problems to train us:

We can rejoice when we run into problems they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady (Romans 5:3-4, LB). training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. (Titus 2:12)

  1. They are opportunities to stretch our limits and to rely on Him to help;
  2. They add spiritual dimension to our faith;
  3. They are test to reveal our heart and purify our motives;
  4. They offer difference experiences in order to break down our wrong values and belief system in order to change our perspectives and our heartitude (heart and attitude) for renewal;
  5. They help to direct us when we derail from His plans for us or we are threading on dangerous grounds;
  6. They are showcases for God’s testimonies when we overcome them.
  7. They are temporary and can’t be compared to the eternal glory that outweigh them all.

Remember that God is much more interested in our character than our comfort; He is more concerned how we journey in our race than how well we started or how far we go. He will use trials to refine our character, and until we have learnt what we need to learn, God will always bring back the same issue again (and again…). What is God speaking to you through your problem or situation today?

“Problems are inevitable, but suffering is optional.”, for we have the Holy Spirit living inside us to help us.

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4)

The Dangers Of Feelings

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The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? (Jeremiah 17:9 NLT) He who trusts in his own heart is a fool. (Proverbs 28:26a)

Here’s a point-blank question: “Are you a person who do things based on feelings?”

If you have been living life based on feelings, that means you let your heart (emotions) rule more than your head (provided it is of sound and godly wisdom). But God has a different take about trusting our feelings because our heart is most deceitful.

Living in an era that is about “feel good in order to live good” or “live good in order to feel good.”, the society of today has conditioned us a “Follow your heart!” culture where it places a very high value on our own desires and emotions.

When we live our lives based on whimsical emotions, we become subservient to our feelings instead of God’s Spirit and His Word. Following our heart cultivates an attitude of self-centredness rather than yield to surrender. And the flip side is, we cannot become true servants of Christ if we are controlled by our feelings. For a life lived in God is not lived on the plane of our feelings, but of the Will of God.

When we allow our feelings to take the lead, we will end up making a lot of foolish and self-focused decisions, and ended up making a mess of our lives. We will also develop the tendency to pick and choose the ‘truth’ that appeal to us personally, and reject those that contradict what we want to hear or receive. Whenever we try to edit the ‘truth’ to be in line with our emotions or preferences, we are actually placing our own opinions and thoughts higher than God’s.

I confessed that I can’t recount the number of times I didn’t feel like going to church, leading cell group, going to cell meetings, going for ministry, going to meet someone in need out of inconvenience, and God knows what else. And I often brushed them off as it is human to feel like that. It is not uncommon for most of us.

Understanding how our feelings come in play and how we can overcome them is all based on this golden rule- “First decide (wisely based on God’s Word) then feelings will follow.”

  1. Feeling opposes faith

A feeling that is based on the ‘right moment’, “I don’t feel that my faith is strong enough.” versus a decisive choice to just believe, “I chose to have faith no matter what!!”

  1. Feeling is contingent

A feeling that depends on whether you feel like it, “I really don’t feel like forgiving this person.” versus a decisive choice to just forgive as an act of obedience, “I chose to forgive this person because I myself have been forgiven by God.”

  1. Feeling is double-minded

A feeling that can’t decide between ‘yes’ or ‘no’, “I am not sure if I feel like going to church.” versus a decisive choice to say ‘yes!’, “I chose to die to myself (whatever you are feeling at the moment) and just go to church.”

  1. Feeling is fleeting

A feeling has ‘moods’ which can swing anytime and commitments tend to be very short-lived, “I feel like doing this. And the next moment, I don’t feel like doing this anymore.” versus a decisive choice to persevere, “I shall keep to what has been set initially despite how I feel.”

  1. Feeling is natural

A feeling naturally derive from how we feel at the moment, “I feel like…. / I don’t feel like…” versus a decisive choice to yield to the supernatural, “Although I don’t feel up to it, but I can do it through Christ who strengthen me.”

  1. Feeling can cook excuses

It is human nature to base decision or act on our emotions, and we often blame our fallen nature for our sins. If we are honest enough, we are very good at cooking excuses based on how we feel.

A life controlled by feelings is not very healthy, especially when our spiritual walk will be affected, therefore it is high time to set right with God in this area.

Last but not least, we also need to be mindful that something that “feels” right doesn’t mean it is right. No wonder God says, those who trust his own heart is a fool.

The Pain Of Contentment

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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.

Can I Pray For You?

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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.

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“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.