I guess I haven’t really blogged in a while, so I apologise in advance if my writing is incoherent or has grammatical errors. I suppose the simplest way to summarise the last year and a half (and not just the time since I last posted, which was in February), would be the word “patience“. Patience is something I struggled with in the various circumstances that God placed me in over the last year and a half. Patience is something I learnt a fair bit about from my experiences with different settings and people. And patience is something I still continually strive for as I try to make sense of God’s plan for my life.
I wouldn’t really know where to begin in terms of sharing about how the theme of “patience” has been frequently popping up in different areas of my life; but I will admit that “patience” has come through many positive and negative situations in areas such as work, church and personal relationships. Customarily, it is not wise to share the negatives over a medium such as the Internet and as such I can only at best be vague about my struggles in regards to the negative things in my life. As a result it would only be fair that I don’t recount as much on the positives that God has shown me, because one thing for me is certain: both the good and bad things that God had planned in my life over the last year and a half have been equally as significant and impactful on my life, I wouldn’t be able to talk about one without the other. For those of you who chat to me in person, you will know some of these positive and negative things that I am alluding to and hopefully you personally understand both my joys and encouragement from the good that happens, as well as the frustration and tears from the bad that happen. Nevertheless both have shaped me to cling to God more and more with each passing day.
I am still very grateful to God for giving me the job that I have today. It has truly been a blessing to be graced with a job that in honesty I don’t feel that I deserve. Even more so, I am glad for the colleagues that I have met over the last year and a half for working. Although I often times keep to myself at work, it’s been quite easy opening up to my work colleagues and sharing about the things that we get up to outside of work. It’s good that my workplace doesn’t have the culture of working non-stop, but everyone seems to occasionally stop and have cheerful light conversation that keeps the workplace seem less like a prison where we slave away at our work. I am glad that I’ve had the opportunity to meet a fair number of other Christians across my organization; some of them sit near me on my floor, and others I catch up with about once a week to pray together with them. It’s been great being able to have these once a week reminders to keep God central to our lives whilst we work, as well as to think realistically about the struggles that we face whilst in the workplace. Though I don’t see my Christian colleagues too often, I am really glad for the support I get from them time to time.
I am fearful, however, at the struggles that a secular workplace will provide for everyone; and not just in particular the persecution a Christian may expect to face (though I suppose our beliefs and values will entice a number of challenges). As one would expect, the secular workplace is slightly corrupted by greed for both money and power. And I suppose I would say that most of the managers I have come across so far do not have the interests of their peers and direct reports in their mind. This has made work a struggle for me, in seeing that not everyone is looking out for me, particularly the ones who have the most amount of influence. It has even gotten to the point where I’ve seen some of the colleagues I’m closer to lose their positions after weeks of persevering through their trials and trying to make things work out. And to no surprise I fall under the same fate as them as well, as I try to find another position that will not be as toxic as the environment I am presently in. This is only to say that a select number of people have been the cause of much negativity and distress in the workplace for me and other colleagues, but for myself at least, I trust that God has a good plan for me and will continue to deliver me in this area of life as he has done so far.
Church has been a setting where I have seen the Word of God slowly take effect in the lives of many people who have been attending, both people who have been coming for a long time, as well as those who have only recently joined my church. It has been an encouragement to see the number of people turn up and to see the number of events that we run which seem to be fruitful in creating a Christ-centered community. I am glad for the many activities that our church runs over the week that allows everyone to participate and grow in their knowledge of Jesus Christ and to be able to share His love to the people around them. It has been a while since our congregation first started and a lot has changed since then; it has been encouraging seeing the way we’ve improved the quality and efficiency of our church services as well as the Bible teaching that we try to equip everyone with. It truly has been fun being a part of growing God’s kingdom in our suburb.
But whilst we do celebrate the growth that has taken place and just how much has improved over time, I also cautiously fear for what the future may hold for our church. It is very easy to become overconfident from the good things that have happened such that we forget about the core of what we are trying to do (and I hope for our church the goal is still to make disciples of Jesus Christ), or to drift away from the Bible. This is not to say that our church is becoming unbiblical, but I would dare to question whether our actions and decisions utilise Biblical wisdom; and to me a number of things my church is doing would incite a fair amount of unrest in me as I ponder whether some of the things we do will help people grow as followers of Jesus Christ. And I’m not talking about growing in numbers (something I’ve been fortunate to be a part of during my time at university), but about growing in spiritual maturity. And though I’ve wrestled often with various people with influence about these Biblical issues, many of them remain unaddressed and the potential threat towards the spiritual growth of many people at my church looms overhead. I suppose only prayer and time will tell what God has planned for our church.
Perhaps the one extra thing I’ll add with respect to church is the impact that university ministry has had on me. I can say without shame or fear that a lot of my understanding as a Christian has come as a result of the preaching and teaching on campus; and campus provided a very effective ground for training in godliness and righteousness. The amount of spiritual growth I’ve experienced on campus could not be compared to the teaching I’ve received from church over the many years I’ve been there. This last statement should in fact come as no surprise, as confronting as it may sound – university is just a better equipped environment for this level of teaching. Whilst church cannot emulate this model of ministry and teaching, I think it would be wise to consider adopting a similar attitude and style in the way that we teach the Bible and encourage people to learn from it, regardless of their age or maturity. The motivation behind this is that not everyone who walks through the doors of church are Christian (even those who would call themselves “Christians”); we need to be careful in the way we help people distinguish what it means to be a follower of Jesus and what the cost of that is.
I think I’ve recounted with a fair amount of details of the joys and pains of discipling people over the last year and a half. And this isn’t really a discussion about whether I should engage in preaching the good news of Jesus Christ to the people around me – it’s a commandment I cannot refuse, both because of the one who gives it, and also because of the consequences of accepting/rejecting this message. Nevertheless I’ve also had my ups and downs in varying personal discipleship relationships, as well as just keeping in touch with my friends from varying contexts. I am really glad for the many friends that have persevered as Christians over the many years I’ve shared with them; this is something I have learnt to not take for granted anymore. I am glad that God has given these people in life for me to depend on, because they continue to stand the test of time and continually keep the truth in their hearts, rather than turning away at all the temporary allure that the world has to offer.
It then follows for me to say that I’ve seen a fair number of close friends who have fallen away from following Jesus over the last few years. Firstly, it brings me distress and grief in coming to terms why they would exchange the truth of God for a lie now, and understanding what their circumstances were that would lead them to walk away from Jesus. Secondly, I hesitate when it comes to explaining to others who may not be aware of what has happened to the person who has fallen away. Just recently I found it peculiar that I was asked about a particular person at a Christian camp I visited briefly; it was exceedingly hard finding the right words to say about that person and how I would help those inquiring to understand the situation. Thirdly, it makes me wonder in silence but also in prayer at whether God has planned for them to be saved, even if in the future.
As much as I have had many joys in spending time with fellow brothers and sisters and encouraging them with the word of God, it has brought me a lot of grief in seeing when things don’t turn out well for them. It makes me feel like I’ve been lied to; that I partnered with these people for the purpose of the gospel, who in fact were not “Christian” as they claimed and temporarily lived to be. It sometimes makes me feel like I wasted time on these people; that perhaps another person would’ve benefitted in me spending time sharing the gospel with them. But as much as I feel regret and grief over the brothers and sisters I’ve lost over time, I still feel a sense of gladness that I was able to spend a “brief” period enjoying life with them, serving alongside them, and being able to depend on them. Their company and support is something I would still thank them for, even if they have walked away from the truth now. I am also prayerful even today, that God would grant for them a means to turn back to Him, that these people who once called themselves “Christian” would do so again and align their lives in accordance with what they hopefully profess to believe. All I know for me is that I must be ready to preach again the gospel of salvation should they ever have a change of heart.
I realize I didn’t really use the word “patience” much throughout what I have written. To patch up my lack of coherency, these three areas of my life have revealed to me that I need to learn and practice patience as I experience all the negative situations that God has planned as well as being glad for the good that has happened. It definitely is fair for me to say that life has not been as “joyful” for me as my previous years would’ve portrayed; but as such this should not be surprising to me – we as Christians are called to suffer in various ways and for me, this is just a brief surface level view of the things that have been happening in my life. It remains an unchangeable truth in my mind that God is in control of everything, and that despite how many bad things will happen in these areas of my life, and others, there is but no choice other than for me to cling onto God and His Word. And whilst I may stand confident in my salvation and my relationship with my Lord and Saviour, it comes down to prayer and patience for me to see what God has planned for me, and how He intends for me to be a part of His plans. When it’s really about His plans rather than mine, I have no choice but to be patient and await the wise plans of my God.
For the many things I may not have covered here (in detail), I am more than happy for anyone to come ask me privately to discuss any of these matters.