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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When Conscience Pricks……

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They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them. – Romans 2:15

Having been working on my own for 6 years, I know that running a business is not easy. It is akin to treading on treacherous ground when I am surrounded by a lot more shrewd business-people. On many occasions, I have been conflicted by compromising situations, either a make-it or break-it decision. I could not count how many times my conscience has been on toes.

Sometimes as a result of unwise decision with lack of prudence, we acted indiscreetly and made mistakes. I can totally relate to how it feels to have my conscience gnawing relentlessly. But when I seek to redress the wrong and do right, it feels good to breathe the air of liberation,  and able to lift my head up without condemnation.

Our conscience can bear witness to our actions, and we will reap what we sow. We have to consider even our innermost thoughts which can breed evils that prick our conscience too. If you think you can camouflage an evil thought or keeping hush over a bad action, be warned that God knows every details, whether inwardly or outwardly.

Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord. – Jeremiah 23:24

When one’s conscience is seared, that is when darkness of the soul has rendered the person impotent of thinking, feeling and doing right. And if we persist in walking down the wrong path, we will be on a spiritual downward spiral.

Holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, – 1 Timothy 1:19

But if we seek righteousness, we leave no room for malice and can stand upright before others.

Having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. – 1 Peter 3:16

Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. (Romans 13:5) It is good to include in our prayers that we be sure we have a clear conscience and desiring to act honourably in all things (Hebrews 13:18), just as Paul could declare, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” (Acts 23:1)

Our spiritual lives should be temperated by love, guided by a pure heart with good conscience and acting upon a true faith. (1 Timothy 1:5)

In a nutshell, it resonates with a famous quote that goes:

Watch your thoughts;

They become words.

Watch your words;

They become actions.

Watch your actions;

They become habits.

Watch your habits;

They become character.

Watch your character;

It becomes your destiny.

“You Gotta Wait, Lord, I Am Not Free Now.”

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“Good day, My Child! Hope you have a good night rest. Today will be a good day! Look……”

(Interrupt……) “Sorry God, I am in a rush. There are too many things on my plate now. You gotta wait, God.”

“But I just need……”

(Interrupt……) “God, I gotta go! Please let me settle what I need to do first ok?”

God replies lovingly, “Sure, My Child. I can wait.”

As the day goes, and the night falls.

After a long hectic day, “Sorry Lord to keep you waiting…… But I am too tired now…… Can I talk to You tomorrow? I badly need a break……”

With a sad undertone, God waits in vain, “My Child, is it too much to ask you to give Me 15 minutes out of 1440 minutes of your time?”

“There is so much I want to share with You…… Have you pause to look at how I send the cool breeze while you are walking to work under the sun?”

“Have you pause to look around that I have sent angels to cheer you up when you are stressed and feeling down?”

“Have you pause to notice that you have received messages that I am trying to get your attention?”

“Have you forgotten I am just next to you?”

 

Does the above scene sound familiar? We all have moments like these when we take God for granted. When we are busy and no time for God, then we are really too busy and need to re-look into our priorities and time management. Sometimes we get too consumed by our own that we have neglected what really matter, to the extent that He has to resort to disciplining us for our good, because He wants us to learn the values of true kingdom living and not the values of this world, for everything on earth will pass away.

Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.” – Haggai 1:7-11

“Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. – Isaiah 55:2NASB

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. – Ephesians 5:15-17

We are called to give very careful thoughts to how we should be living, and to give account to everything in our lives. We will reap what we sow, and we will not know if we can stand before God unashamed on Judgement Day. God will not get angry, but out of His great love for us, He is still waiting for any of His beloved Child that none should perish but everyone to come to repentance to His saving Grace.

Every moments count. Review your life in all earnestness today; do not take it lightly, consider those who do not even have a chance to do so.

 

Courtesy photo (P1030901) taken by Rachel Hong @ Bandung, Indonesia, August 2017.

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.

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.

Procrastination

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So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. – James 4:17

This morning I jumped out of my slumber when a voice seemed to jolt me hard in my half-awake moment- “Procrastination is a sin!” I felt as if I was confronted. While trying to figure it out if I have issue with being a sluggard or with procrastination, I came across this verse-

How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man. – Proverbs 6:9-11

Woah, I definitely do not want to be robbed that way! Isn’t that enough to shake us up?

There are many reasons why we procrastinate, and very often they are lame excuses to justify our inaction. Some of the common excuses are:

1. Just Plain Lazy……

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing – Proverbs 13:4A 

If we are honest enough, we all want things easy, quick and convenient. Anything that challenge our comfort zone will be off on the cold shelf, for a long long time…

2.  Just Can’t Decide……

A double minded man is unstable in all he does. – James 1:8 

We make decisions every day, but some decisions which stress us out will likely be put on hold as we can’t seem to decide simply with a “yes” or “no”. And we end up vacillating with our decision by conveniently citing the reason, “I am still praying about it…”

3.  Just Not The Right Time……

If you wait for perfect conditions, you’ll never get anything done! – Ecclesiastes 11:4LB

The truth is, there will never be the right or perfect time. Things are not going to happen by sitting on it. And the day may come that we won’t even have the time. And who knows, if we get to live another day……

4.  Just Don’t Feel Like It……

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? – Jeremiah 17:9

We are emotional beings who always let our heart rules and mood dictate our feeling for the moment. We will always be on a roller coaster rides if we allow life’s ups-and-downs to control the way we think, feel and act. Does it mean we will be dysfunctional or justifiable to do nothing in the our downtimes or not-in-the-right-mood?

5.  Just Feeling Fearful……

Fearing people is a dangerous trap. – Proverbs 29:25

Although this verse explicitly points to “people”, it can also be things we feel fearful about., for example, fearing the unknown. The acronym of fear actually is, “False Expectation Appearing Real”, and the opposite of fear, is “Faith”. In other word, fear is the absence of faith.

Procrastination is a passive resistance, we do not want to take action because we keep thinking there is always another time or another day… But what if we do not get to live past tomorrow? Therefore it is time, and it is now to get going what you supposed to do or call to do. Look out, God is watching from above too.

“Don’t put off something till tomorrow what you can do today. Just do it!”

How Do You Run Your Race?

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“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” –1 Corinthians 9:24; Ecclesiastes 9:11

I am trying to shed some pounds, so I decided to head to my office’s gym. The thread mill is a challenge to me since I have a poor stamina, so every minute is a test of strength and endurance. Notwithstanding, I challenge myself for 30 minutes, and begin slowly with a paced speed. Halfway through, I really want to give up as I am panting profusely. But the motivation of shedding the pounds get me going. However, eventually I still cannot overcome my physical lethargy.

Meanwhile, a verse from Hebrews 12:1, dawned upon me, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” At that instant I receive a vision: Jesus waiting at the end of the red line, cheering me to persevere. There are many runners already run past me and ahead of me. At the back of my mind I am wondering, “Oh dear, will I be the last? Will the crowd jeer at me?”

Through this vision, I begin to ponder if I am running my own race for the applause of men or for the glory of self… Since I am already in the race, it will be a shame to give up. When I catch a glimpse of Jesus cheering me on at the end of the red line, I decided to fix my eyes on Him. (A song then played back in my head, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”, by Micheal W. smith)

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full, in his wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of his glory and grace”

As I desire to run into the embrace of Jesus at the end of the line and to hear Him affirming me, “Well done!” follow by a pat on my shoulder, I reckon it is better to go slow and steady to complete the race than going fast and run out of breathe later. So I pray to the Lord to help me finish this race, no matter how daunting, I will not give up. Eventually, I manage to persevere and finish the race.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” – 2 Timothy 4:7

I care not how fast I have completed the run, God cares more about my shape. Hang on, the word “shape”, refers not to my body, but my character. So is the word “race”, which denotes my journey and my destiny. To sum it up, God is not concerned about how well I have started, nor how fast and how far I can go, He is more concerned on how strong I can grow.

Some of us may be ahead (the runners running ahead in my vision); some of us are still behind; some of us are discouraged that the “crowd” (in my vision, it represents the people around you. It also corresponds with “a great cloud of witness” in Hebrews 12:1) do not appreciate your effort, or have condemned you thinking that you cannot make it; some of us really want to give up this long-drawn race since strength is sapped…

The crux is:

Do you run with your own strength and focus on the wrong things in life, and thrown off-track?

Or, will you run in partnership with the Spirit and set your heart on things above and not on earthly things, and stay on track?

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” – Acts 20:24