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.
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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.

Enslaved

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It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 5:1

The modern day world of the fallen times, we all come under pressure by people and things around us which resulted in some form of enslavement: some are slaves to social media; some are slaves to fears; some are slaves to the opinions of others; some are slaves to the expectations of others; some are slaves to past hurts; some are slaves to pornography; some are slaves to alcoholism; some are slaves to materialism; some are slaves to money; some are slaves to work; some are slaves to recognition; and the whatnots.

Whether we are aware or not, sometimes, our enslavement can be a form of escapism or as a coping mechanism, consciously or unconsciously. But God does not designed us this way nor intended for us to be enslaved by anything perishable in this world. That is why we need freedom in Christ. Only by knowing the truths, Christ can truly set us free indeed (John 8:32). Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set us free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2). And as a believer, we have the Spirit of the Lord in us, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17). Sin is no longer our master, as we live under the freedom of God’s grace (Romans 6:14). Though we all were once slaves to sin, but so long as we wholeheartedly obey the Word of God, to which we are committed to live in genuine repentance, we will surely be set free from sin (Romans 6:17-18).

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.2 Chronicles 7:14

Call sin a sin, and recognise that we all need help to deal with the issue. We must humble ourselves to cry out to God. True transformation can only happen when there is genuine repentance. We can deceive others, but we cannot deceive God, we will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). It is better to quickly do something about our enslavement before sin gets full-blown which resulted in death (James 1:15). Therefore, let us not misuse our freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. (Galatians 5:13).

T.R.U.S.T.

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The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You.- Isaiah 26:3 NASB

I still do struggle with trusting God periodically, especially during trying times. The word, “Trust”, seems too abstract to me on how to really apply it effectually. Proverbs 3:5-6 taught that we are to trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding; in all our ways submit to Him, and he will make our paths straight. The question is how to really trust God with ALL our heart? As emotional beings, our heart can be deceitful for we can easily swayed by capriciousness of being human; even if we get our feelings under control, our mind can still wander. Hence it has been my million-dollar question on how to really trust God under stress?

Until I found the answer in Isaiah 26:3, God will keep me in perfect peace if my mind is stayed on Him, because I trust in Him. I sum up TRUST as:

Total

Reliance (on God)

Under

Spiritual

Tenacity

 

Human strength fails because we have limited capacity, there is only so much we can do, but with the Holy Spirit living in us, we can be empowered and to persevere under testings.

Not by might nor by power but by my Spirit (Zechariah 4:6). For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

That is why we need to rely on God totally, only then can we pull through trials, trusting God to do what we can’t. And in any relationship, trust takes time to build, likewise with God. We can build a stronger trust in a never-failing God by:

(a) Recalling what He has done before and claiming what He can do for you now

(b) Recounting your blessings and be thankful

(c) Reminding yourself of His Love and how faithful He has been

(d) Remembering that God is Sovereign over everything on earth and is still in control

(e) Rejecting negative thoughts for what we worry about usually do not happen

(f) Resisting temptation of the flesh to manipulate things your way

(g) Refocusing on the goodness of God

(h) Relying fully on the Word of God and its living power

(I) Resting in quiet confidence that God will bring it to pass

 

These building blocks not only strengthen your trust in God, you will also find perfect peace in Him when you keep your mind steadfast to Him in trust.

How Big Is God Or How Big Is Fear?

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“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.

 

It Is Not The End

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I felt very led this morning to pen this “song” after I heard the song by a singer from Taiwan last Sunday at service. It resonated deeply with my soul, as I could relate entirely to his lyrics as I walked through that path before. Thus I decided to pen my own, as my deepest writings are always birthed from my darkest times. But they are not the end, like the Psalmists, God’s Glory always prevail. I have included the English translation lest some may not understand mandarin well.

 

在我失意堕落的时候

在我失信迷路的时候

眼前的黑暗让我迷失了自己

 

所有的疑问困惑

所有的恐惧痛苦

让我看不到以后的路怎么走

 

慌了碎了哭了

累了服了放了

这条路仍然还是要继续走

随着时光的流逝

随着时间的考验

我依然还能坚强到底

因为有一个人能够承担我所有的一切

祂不会让我孤单

也不会让我孤独

祂会陪我走完这条路

因为有祂的爱

这世界充满了希望

有了祂一切都能捱过去

 

English translation:

When I lost hope and felt depressed

When I lost faith and felt lost

The darkness ahead overwhelmed me

 

All my doubts and confusions

All my fears and pain

Caused me to lose sight of how I should walk the path ahead

 

Confused. Crushed. Teared.

Tired. Surrendered. Let go.

I still have to continue to walk on.

As time passed

As time tested

I still can endure to the end

Because there is Someone who can carry all my burdens

He will never leave me

Nor let me be alone

He will walk with me to the very end

Because of His Love

There is hope in this world

With Him, I can overcome everything

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (Romans 8:28) In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37) For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (1 John 5:4) For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

Courtesy photo (P1040119) taken by Rachel Hong @ Bandung, Indonesia, August 2017.

 

God In The Details

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Lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.- Proverbs 30:9

A friend gave me a hassle-free nano aquarium with self-sustaining eco-system of mini wonder shrimps and water snails. I love to take a break in between work to peep at these pets as it is therapeutic to observe how carefree they are around the tank. What really amaze me is, they can find food within their environment- they literally feed on any microorganisms bred in the specially designed eco-system. All I need is to feed them supplements – though not necessary- every alternate days to keep the shrimps happy. The round-shaped squishy looking mossy Marimo (in other word, algal ball in Japanese) latched in between the twigs provided decorative filaments to the already pretty aquarium, other than their main function to provide oxygen, and absorb waste and debris. (And yes, Marimo is considered a pet too, according to Wikipedia, since they are living organism.)

This aquarium is a very good reminder as a physical parallel to how I as an owner, an imperfect human, care for these little pets, and make sure they are fed and living well, so how much more our Heavenly Father who is perfect so desired to feed and provide for our every needs?

“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? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin… – Matthew 6:25-34A

I have also picked a leaf from these pets that they seem to have a quiet assurance that they will be cared and provided for so they can live worry-free and happy. How much more, we as Children of God, even more precious to Him who love us, care not how we are doing?

You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. (Psalm 139:2) For now You number my steps (Job 14:16A). And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. (Matthew 10:30) 

God is in the details. He cares for every little things in our lives. He knows what we are going through, and our every innermost thoughts. We can take heart that God takes great pleasure in giving us what we need, because He is our loving Father.

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32), And 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 10:3A) 

Therefore, God knows what we need even before we ask of Him. And His provision always come on time, not too much lest we forget Him, nor too little that we dishonour Him. It is always just right and on time. It is better to trust God than to put confidence in men or even ourselves. (Psalm 118:8)

Courtesy photo (P1030698) taken by Rachel Hong @ Bandung, Indonesia, August 2017.