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Pastoral Exhortation - Series of 2010

Testimony Of God’s Will For My Life

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After becoming a Christian in my late teens at a crucial crossroad of my life, it soon dawned upon me that God has a plan for my life. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10). This is not “fate” as some superstitious Chinese like to resign themselves to, but rather what the Bible calls “predestination”. I certainly didn’t want to be left to the dictates of my own will or depraved mental specifications (so warped by the world and media). Wanting God’s Good Plan for my life, there were 3 heartfelt prayers which I constantly made of the Lord. And looking back, I felt that all but one of them have been answered.

The first was: “Lord, lead me to the life-partner of Your choice.” For those who knew me in my younger days, that was quite an impossible request. I was such a shy boy; I would feel my face burning whenever I talked to a girl. How was I to befriend a member of the fairer gender, let alone choose  a wife? To cut the story short, God has marvellously worked for me even in this tender matter. He has given me a prudent wife (Prov 19:14) who loves God’s work and God’s people. Of course, she has her rough edges (so have I!) and we have our differences. Knowing that wedlock is not all smoothness and roses, we entered marriage with a tinge of romance but a large dose of realism and forbearance. Truly, there were times when we got frustrated with things, circumstances and yes, with each other! How can we harmonise and complement each other, as we must? I can think of no better “marriage formula” than Ps 127:1-“Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” Thank God we have Christ as our common and crucial “denominator”.

The second, closely related to the first, was: “Lord, grant me the privilege  of bringing up godly children ‘in the nurture and admonition of the Lord’ (Eph 6:4).” After getting married in Nov 1995, my wife and I were eagerly awaiting our first “arrow in the quiver”, to use a biblical analogy. As the months turned into years, however, our excitement turned into anxiety, and anxiety gave way to disappointment when “the gift from heaven” seemed a little long overdue. Over time, we consulted 2 gynaecologists, but both respectively recommended IVF, stating categorically that time was not on our side and that we should not wait any longer. But IVF is a revulsion to us, as we have strong biblical convictions against it! To us, the conception of a child is a wonderful mystery and is one of those secret things which belong exclusively to God (Deut 29:29). It is God who opens and closes up the womb. What do godly couples do when they go barren for a long period? They prayed! Gen 25:21 tells us that “Isaac intreated the Lord…and Rebekah his wife conceived”. So that was what we did; and we asked trusted people to pray for us as well. Some time in mid-2001, when we visited a doctor, I was speechless to discover that my wife was then two months with child! We were thrilled at this totally unexpected gift and realised that God has vindicated our faith. God has given me 2 wonderful children (though they can be very trying at times!) But through it all, I realise that parenthood is a special God-given privilege and responsibility; it is a high calling that requires lots of love and stamina. My prayer is that God will grant me grace to nurture them and I shall “have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4).

And my third heartfelt prayer, which I felt would give a complete “recipe” for a blessed Christian life, was: “Lord, lead me to my life’s work.” I could still remember as a young Christian, one of the favourite events that I looked forward to were missions rallies and conferences organised by the OMF (Overseas Missionary Fellowship) and some missions-minded churches. My heart was stirred whenever I heard reports of the Gospel work in the mission fields, and the lack of labourers in God’s harvest worldwide. Usually an altar call for full-time service would be given at the end of each conference. I did not respond as I did not feel the call then. However, when a missionary on one occasion prayed if anyone would give his life to serve God full-time in the future when God calls, I promptly put up my hand. I kept that to myself and did not share it with any of my church friends, though the all-seeing God must have taken notice of that little gesture.

In the meantime, I became preoccupied with pursuing a university degree and undergoing teacher training with the intention of qualifying as a schoolteacher, which I thought would offer great scope for influencing young lives. The prospect of guiding the young and teaching them life’s values in the light of increasingly undesirable values being promoted by the ubiquitous influence of mass media, appealed to me. I immersed myself in the teaching profession and soon all but conveniently forgot about my “little secret vow”. It was during this period of time that I experienced stagnant spiritual growth. My faith was all but faltering. I found myself rather demoralised and uninspired by the teaching from the pulpit in my previous Baptist church. There was a general lukewarmness about the Word of God. No clear doctrinal stand was taken against the inroads made by the Charismatic Movement and liberal theology. In short, the church had “shunned to declare…all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), to borrow Paul’s words in a negative sense. I felt spiritually stunted until by God’s Providence, I came over to Life BPC (under Rev Tow) in 1990, and later to Gethsemane BPC (under Rev Koshy) through transfer of membership in 1999. Thanks to the faithful preaching of God’s Word (Phil 2:16; Titus1:9), my parched soul was nourished and my faith fortified. Incidentally, it was here at these 2 churches that God respectively gave me 2 of my heart’s greatest desires. He provided a helpmeet for me in His time, and granted our desire to have children. The answer to my third heartfelt request seemed elusive, however.

Over the years, there has been a growing sense of emptiness as I did not find much fulfilment in my teaching profession. I felt as if I was, to use Pastor Koshy’s words, “engrossed in things that do not matter to God’s kingdom”. I had won no soul for Christ. Nor was I sure of laying up treasures and eternal rewards in heaven. Oh, the prospect of meeting God empty-handed did fill me with dread! Meanwhile, it all came to a head when I see pupils not turning better, but actually becoming more ill-mannered, sensual and ungodly – in short, all the sinful traits which are hallmarks of the perilous times mentioned in 2 Tim 3:2-4. This trend is not helped at all by schools becoming more worldly these days. I shared Rev Tow’s pained observation of the modern generation: “Oh, the sadness of seeing the flower of our own youth being drawn away by the world.” For they are without “hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). I saw very clearly that no amount of child psychology or humanistic teachings of self-realisation / actualization as advocated by the socalled experts can stem this moral deterioration. Deep in my heart, I’m convinced that nothing except God’s Word can change a person’s depraved heart. This heaviness and unease with regard to my life’s calling was made more acute recently, especially towards the end of 2009, through my personal Bible-reading, pastor’s messages at Tues-night prayer meetings and some of his pastoral exhortations. Isa 55:2 sums it up succinctly: “Wherefore do ye spend…your labour for that which satisfieth not?” I felt a strong urge to walk away from it all and serve God full-time. In what capacity, I do not know. But “I had rather to be a doorkeeper in the house of God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness” (Ps 84:10), or to dwell in the financial security of my secular career. There came a point when I told my wife that I find no more joy in preparing classroom lessons week in, week out; I’d rather prepare Bible lessons for children. My conscience was further pricked by the great debt of love I owe the Lord. He has blessed me with much – salvation, a prudent wife, 2 Godhonouring children, a sound Bible-believing church with a faithful pastor – blessings money cannot buy. To continue doing my own thing without due consideration for God’s kingdom is downright ingratitude!

“Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High” (Ps 50:14). Could it be that God is requiring of me to pay my “little secret vow”? While I don’t see myself cut out to be a preacher as I am rather “slow of speech, and of a slow tongue” (Ex 4:10), I did purpose in my heart to live the rest of my days on earth for the Gospel’s sake – if the Lord will use me – as my “thanksgiving” to the Lord for blessing me so abundantly. In any case, I have no more desire for any secular ambitions. Knowing that this gospel of the kingdom must needs be preached, proclaimed and published before the end comes (Matt 24:14), “I am resolved no longer to linger, charmed by the world’s delight; things that are higher, things that are nobler – these have allured my sight” [Hymns of Praise, No. 405].

As I put my hand to the plough, I am not unmindful of my own inborn corruptions which are enough by themselves to work my ruin. Do you know what my greatest fear is? It is “lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway (or disqualified)” (1 Cor 9:27). Knowing my ever lurking tendency to fall back and slide into my old ways, I realise I cannot do without the prayers, encouragement and even admonition of God’s people. May the Lord help me to walk worthy of Him.

Pastoral Exhortation