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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Why Waiting Is So So Hard……

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“God does everything just right and on time, but people can never completely understand what He is doing” – Ecclesiastes 3:11 NCV

Living in today’s fast-paced world where everything is a quick-fix, quick-gain, quick-grab, quick-bite, quick-sale, quick-fly, quick-quit and quick-confirm (a Singlish terminology), little wonder that people are a lot more impatient now than ever. Nobody likes to wait — except Singaporeans’ unflinching penchant for good food that long-long queue means die-die-must-try (speaking in Singlish again) — as waiting always challenge one’s patience, and is always the hardest and perhaps painful, especially when we are in a hurry.

And it hurts to know that God has never been in a hurry- He is never too early nor too late – His Timing is always perfect. But we are the problem – how do we hear His answer, nor know His Timing? 

Wait, wait and wait… Delay after delay… And yet God is still silent. We all have such seasons in our lifetime. But God has His reasons that we are not able to grasp His infinite incomprehensibleness.  

So when we are in a hurry, we are susceptible to commit the fallacy in taking matters into our own hands, thinking that God will still bless us if we think our decision is right. Little are we aware that impatience really means it is a lack of trust. When we are impatient, we are implying that we do not trust God enough to wait any longer, because time is running short and we reinforced our decision, thinking that God does not care enough to answer on time in our best interest, or perhaps, we think that God’s way is not the best. And here’s another pinch to our already bruised soul- God never reveal His Timetable nor His plans for us, ahead.

Sounds familiar? 

I had been there, and it took me donkey’s years to really learnt that trusting God’s timing is always a maturing of character and testing of faith, that I need to discern between hearing God says, “No.” and “Not yet.”. And delays are not necessarily His denial. (And yes, I often wish God can simply say, “Yes!” and make my life easier, but I guess I would not have learnt what it means to differentiate discernibly His Will in so doing.)

From time to time, I often have to remind myself how God had prepared Moses for 80 years, including 40 in the wilderness from a somebody (he was born a Prince) to a nobody (he became a refugee from murder) then to be somebody He had intended Moses for (leading the Isrealites to the Promised Land). I am sure, like Moses, we all have wondering and wandering times, struggling with “What is next, God?”, “When, God?”, “Is it time yet, God”, “What is this, God?”, “Are you there, God?”…… And God’s “Not Yet” took Moses 80 years in waiting… Woah, it is a-gulping-long-time…

God can do any thing any time, time is never a factor to Him. But He is far more concerned in our Character than our comfort; that we act in Faith than respond in fear; and that we preserver in Trust than we panic and tumble. Common to the adage that great souls are birthed through seasons of pain and suffering, our learning path will be shorter so long as we do not short-circuit our process of God’s refinements. Just as James advised, “Don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed” (James 1:4 MSG).

Just remember where we are standing now- how far we have come, we are not yet where we want to be, but at least we are not where we used to be. 

Here’s God’s golden rules:

Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act – Psalm 37:7 NLT

Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, And he who hurries his footsteps errs.- Proverbs 19:2

Last but not least, LEARN to be patient and WAIT in trust for God’s Best in His perfect Timing.

“Teach Me What I Cannot See.” (Prelude)

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Transformation does not take place in experience, transformation takes place in reflection on experience.” – St. Ignatius

I usually take time to do some reflection for the year end closing. It is an important spiritual discipline to take the time to review our life and reflect over our experiences over the year:

  1. Take inventory of our walk with God and bring all things under the Lordship of Christ.
  1. Be honest with ourselves with a magnifying glass to see our weaknesses and our strengths:

(a) We may discover something about ourselves that need God’s help.

(b) How can we overcome weaknesses to glorify God?

(c) How can we become a better person that honour God?

(d) How is our Christlikeness quotient?

  1. It cultivates gratitude to count our blessings so that we will never forget God’s Faithfulness, and thank Him for how much He has shown His Love to the extent of caring, providing and protecting us.
  1. It allows us to detach from worldliness of a secular life and re-align ourselves to our Saviour and Creator.
  1. Life in retrospection tracks our progress in becoming better disciples of Jesus Christ, where new godly habits may need to be cultivated and certain teachings or disciplines to be reinforce.
  2. Through identifying how God is working in us and how He is working around us heighten our awareness in living a more fulfilled Christian lives.

Ideally, reflection should be done on a daily basis, so that: (a) we are continually living in God’s Presence, and (b) it helps to set our heart and mind on spiritual things that matter (Colossians 3:2).

Take Up And Cross (Part 2)

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I shared previously about denying my self- When I started to question my faith, I could no longer hear nor feel God, to the extent that spiritual journal for the last quarter of 2015 to the whole year of 2016 was unusually bare. I had lost the intimacy with God totally when I was in rebellion in my pit. Thereupon, I arrived at the next hurdle found in the same key verse:

“If any man will come after me, let him (a) deny himself, and (b) take up his CROSS DAILY, and (c) FOLLOW me.” – Luke 9:23 KJV. 

The centrality of true discipleship is: 1. Take up the Cross daily. And I want to add in another parallel, 2. Crossing daily.

  1. The way of the Cross:

(i) A total dedication as His Disciples – For Jesus relinquished His rights as God and lived His Life solely in fulfilling His Father’s Will

(ii) Giving up our lives for the Kingdom – For Jesus had died on the Cross for the redemption of mankind. It calls for a full surrender of our lives.

(iii) It requires sacrifices that will cost us – Consider that God paid a very exorbitant price when He gave His Only Son to die on the Cross to pay the penalty for our sins that Jesus doesn’t deserve to bear.

(iv) An instrument of death – It is a reminder that we need to die to ourselves, daily

Most of us stop at taking up the Cross, but yet to CROSS further because of limitations, fears, inadequacies, inconveniences, sacrifices to make etc. Simply, we haven’t arrive at denying ourselves. The first hurdle in the verse points to denying ourselves, upon which we can then take up the Cross. Then Jesus said, “AND follow Me.” “and” is found twice in the same verse, which emphasises a step-by-step call for action. It is a daily process, and not a one-time destination. There is no way we can move forward without first denying ourselves. (And by the way, denying ourselves apply for good times too, and not just the bad times.)

  1. The last hurdle will then be “Follow” Jesus. Following Jesus require crossing daily- Do as He did. 

I think, to summarise all the above is found in this verse-

He (God / Holy Spirit) must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. – John 3:30

Just want to end my sharing with 2 more hard truths that never fail to rein me in:

Many of us can address God as God, but how about calling Him Lord? Having His Lordship, means He rules and reigns in every areas of our lives: work, finances, relationships, emotions, our heart and even our plans. If Jesus is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.

Life will always be a series of TEST but through them we can come out stronger and glorify Him in our TESTIMONY;

Our lives may be a MESS but they can be turnaround for His beautiful MESSAGE;

When we face TRIALS in life, always recall and remember, how God can bring us into TRIUMPHS.

The Pain Of Denial (Part 1)

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P.S. I will be sharing in parts as it will be too much to share at one time. I was prompted to share my convictions, and hope by sharing this entry in my own spiritual journal, it will bring illumination in a new light.

“If any man will come after me, let him (a) DENY himself, and (b) take up his cross DAILY, and follow me.” – Luke 9:23 KJV. 

We all have heard this verse far too many times. If we are honest, we also switch off many times. This has been the mandate of my previous cell at one time till a time it became alive to me– I went through a very difficult transition in my life two years ago when I was impacted with a physical condition, although not life-threatening, that a surgery could not fix and a healing miracle seemed implausible — Dashed dreams. Crushed hope. Wretched self. Menacing fears.

The first few weeks upon receiving the check-up report, I wasn’t able to worship in church– I was incapacitated to sing nor clap along. All in my mind was, “Why??” and “God, where are you?” My ex-G12 cell and my mentor had showered me with inordinate amount of concern, but I wasn’t grateful. I just wanted to be left alone as I justified the rights to my disappointments and lamely to confess my anger with God too. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to attend the weekly G12 meetings, and I even withdrew myself from the cell. But to my surprise, I couldn’t abandon my open cell that I had to lead every Friday. I still fulfilled my duty, shared the Word, and put on smiles (though I was struggling very badly as if a hypocrite).

Was I wearing a mask with my open cell? No. It was one method that helped me- “Deny myself.”

I couldn’t count the number of times “I didn’t FEEL up to it or FEEL like to”, “I didn’t WANT to…”, “I hate to be forced to…”, “I have the RIGHTS to…” I merely trying to cook up excuses as justified reasons. Till I came to a point that I realised I was actually very self-centered, very consumed with “I, me, myself” and very inwards-looking, focusing on myself only. I put my feelings and emotions before God as how I feel and what I want is more important than Him. It was a constant battle to deny, deny, deny, deny myself in the pit. It was even a scarier experience when I was enshrouded with darkness, alone, and found myself drifting away spiritually over six months. I was aware of such a downwards spiral, but I refused to yield as I was wrestling with God like Jacob. What really jolted me was- I began to lose myself while threading on a very thin tightrope, and any moment longer, I think I had tipped to the other side. That was unthinkably scary.

So how did I climb out of the pit, and back to the Cross? I have to simply keep denying myself daily, yes, EVERY DAY- deny my mood for the day, deny my emotions, deny my rights, deny my will, even to denying my convenience (my own time, my own pace, my own freedom…), and surrender to the Cross.

If we are honest with ourselves, it is by NATURE we follow what our flesh leads us. It is unnatural for us to contradict our flesh and that takes SUPERNATURAL intervention with the help of the Spirit. Aside to taking action to deny the self, we can draw reinforced strength from these verses:

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. – Galatians 5:16-17

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. – Romans 8:7-8

There is no change in my physical condition, but I had stopped asking all the whys because there will never be any answer- and who am I to question the Sovereignty? It was a decision whether to continue rotting by being my own god or to let go of all and let God be God. And letting go doesn’t mean to remain status quo. Just like bible says, “Faith without action is dead”, so I had to force myself since it is unnaturally of me to crucify my flesh to weaken its desires. It is simply to put to action in denying myself.

No doubt it is an uphill task because our flesh gets stronger when our Spirit is quenched by sins. It is a humbling experience to call upon God for help in this area.

So first thing first, get right with God. Face it honestly- Overcome it with God far easier and better than letting what consumed you and lose yourself.

“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.

The Ultimate Stress-Buster

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God knows when you sit down or stand up. He knows your thoughts even when you are far away” (Psalm 139:2). “And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” (Luke 12:7)

I was sauntering around the bustling Raffles Place, the heart of Singapore’s great commercial emporium, where contemporary skyscrapers towering over me seem to glint back at me from every direction, amidst throng of immaculately well-dressed office folks scrambling from building to building. I observed that the folks there seemed to be hunchback with stress. It is comprehensible that as the society progresses, it is getting more competitive and fast-paced, that life comes burdened with daily stress. Busyness can throw us off balance and stress can easily immobilise us, but chronic stress do far more irreparable damage to our health.

Although stress is inevitable, whether as a salaried employee or self-employed, but suffering is optional. That is, we need to be like Mary, who take the time to sit still at the feet of Jesus and listen to what He had to say (Luke 10:39).

When you are overwhelmed, do you recite your woes more naturally than you do Heaven’s strength? You may even feel that God doesn’t seem to care about the nitty-gritty details of your life. But have you forgotten that your omnipresent Father who loves you, is waiting for you to draw near to Him? God already know when you sit up and stand up. He knows each intimate details right down to the number of your hairs on your head. Wouldn’t He be able to grasp your innermost thoughts and inexpressible struggles? He even know when we are far from Him.

Don’t you realise too that worry or getting anxious is not going to help matters? So why not choose the better- take your focus off and take the time to draw near to God. He will refresh, recharge and reaffirm you that He is looking out for you and taking care of your every needs.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. (1 Peter 5:7 NLT) Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (Philippians 4:6-7 MSG) The Peace of Jesus given unto you, let not your heart be troubled, neither be afraid. (John 14:27) Let not your heart be troubled, trust in God. (John 14:1)