Here’s an abridged version of the sermon I preached at the final youth service of Grace Retreat 2012.
The story of our faith is unbelievable to a thinking mind and sounds like a fairy tale to non-believers; any argument made would probably be counter-argued. That’s why it is important for us to be filled with the Holy Spirit – so that He’d confirm our message and make the Kingdom come alive. Hence, let us not dilute the power of God through the Holy Spirit!
Authentic Christianity with the power of Spirit is attractive because it makes you want to want it. When God’s power shows up, people would naturally talk about it; and it is more persuasive than cutting-edge creativity or intellectual brilliance. We are limited by our own ability, but one act of the Holy Spirit changes even the most stubborn mind. But it is ironic that we still choose to rely on ourselves.
Always remember that the power we receive when the Holy Spirit comes upon us (Acts 1:8) is mighty, miraculous, supernatural and environmentally-changing. That power was given to us for us not to be witnessing but to be a witness; it’s not what you do, but who you are. Therefore, be convinced that the Spirit is a catalyst for unbelievers to be drawn into the Kingdom.
On a personal note, I don’t want to lead a numerically large, but a spiritually powerless youth group. It is my prayer that R-AGE youths become Spirit-filled disciple-makers. After all, we are called to be a pentecostal Spirit-filled ministry. Let us not mute ourselves to the spiritual realm that the devil is trying to rule, but tap into God’s power that is available to all.
Be warned that the forces of darkness will not cower at our intellect or be intimidated by our creativity, but will shut down when they encounter a disciple who is filled with the Spirit. The best publicity for Jesus is when a Spirit-led demonstration follows a Gospepl proclamation. After all, it just takes one powerful, significant and authentic move of the Spirit to accelerate things to the next level. Aaron Kok (one of my youth leaders) can relate to that, I’m sure. Click here to read his powerful testimony.
In order to be catapulted into a Spirit-led way of life, I’d encourage us all to practise a PDA Lifestyle (I borrowed this concept from my wise mentor, Ps Edmund Chan):
- Personal revival – meeting God daily.
- Divine appointments – seeing doors open.
- Active obedience – responding with faith.
You see, if you dare to do the ridiculous, God will do the impossible. God is looking for young men and women to take spiritual risks, out of obedience to what God is saying. God is looking for (young) people who would potentially change their environments. So, R-AGE youth, would you be the next person God uses to do something extraordinary in your school, work place or home?
I aptly ended with a quote I picked up from AIYS 2012 (where this sermon was birthed at anyway):
For me, living an ordinary life is not an option anymore. – Peter Parker (aka Spiderman)
I know that “A pat on the back pushes out the chest”. And I’ve also learnt (and taught) that to “En-courage” someone is to “Put courage into” him. Sometimes, all we need is for someone to believe in us and to be our cheerleader; the older I get, the more I want to be someone else’s cheerleader. Don’t underestimate the power of speaking life into someone else’s life – you might just help him to realise his potential and help him to unlock his capacity to do things beyond what he’s normally capable of doing.
As such, in no order of importance, here are my top ten practical ways to encourage someone:
1. Listen to him intently and be genuinely interested in his life. Learn to draw insights out of him and provide a platform for him to share his heart. Don’t patronise him or brush off what he says but take him seriously. A good encourager listens.
2. Give him feedback whenever you see him in action. Every teachable person would want to learn where he did well and where he could improve in; you could be the difference between his future success and failure. A good encourager coaches.
3. Pray for him whenever you get an opportunity to, whether you’re with him or not. God is more powerful and loves him more than you do and so it’s comforting when you direct his reliance above. A good encourager intercedes.
4. Spend time together because giving him your time is giving him a part of your life. Time is an irreplaceable and irreversible entity, so when you take time to hang out with him, it tells him that he’s important to you. A good encourager avails himself.
5. Find out what he’s been up to (and stalk him online). Subscribe to his blog and read it regularly; whenever possible, check out his activity on social media platforms and leave your comments. A good encourager validates.
6. Message him periodically and randomly. It’s always nice to know that you’re on someone else’s mind; whenever the Holy Spirit brings someone to my mind, I will pray for him and tell him that I’ve done so. A good encourager remembers.
7. Rebuke him whenever necessary, in private. It’s better to tell the truth that hurts rather than the lie that kills. This risk you take may just forge a deeper relationship, and to establish your spiritual authority in his life. A good encourager corrects.
8. Praise him verbally and audibly in front of others. Everyone needs recognition; when you acknowledge his good work publicly, he will be motivated to grow because someone took note of his effort. A good encourager acknowledges effort.
9. Remember what he shared with you from the last session. Those without good memories must learn to make mental notes. If it’s important to him, it should be remembered by you. A good encourager recalls.
10. Bless him with a meal or a gift. It’s about the gesture – be it coffee, a pen, a book, a meal or just a pack of chocolates. People like to receive (but it is better to give than to receive). I tell my youths to pay it forward. A good encourager blesses.
That said, I think one of the most powerful ways to encourage someone is to remind him of his potential – tell him that he can do so much more, and have so much more room for improvement. Inspire him to develop his gifts and talents. Plant an insatiable hunger and thirst in him to grow. Remind him (in a loving manner, of course) that he’s nowhere near his final product. I’ve learnt that this is one of the best ways to stamp out complacency and infuse humility into someone.
But some of you might say, “I always encourage people but nobody encourages me!” It’s true and I shall not deny that there’s not enough encouragement to go around the world. But let me be the first to declare that I encourage people more than I am encouraged, and it has done me a world of wonders. Contrary to popular belief, encouraging others is to our benefit.
Perhaps we can take a paradigm shift and think of it this way instead: 1) our job is to encourage others and 2) our prayer is that God will send someone to encourage us. You see, if enough people achieve part 1, then part 2 will naturally be accomplished. Don’t worry about what you cannot control; instead, focus on what is within your control.
The Greek for Holy Spirit is “Parakletos” and the Greek for Encourage is “Parakaleo”. Para means to be “Called alongside” (someone). And that’s what the Holy Spirit does – to walk beside us. So I’m inclined to think when we encourage someone, we are most like the Holy Spirit.
Yes, it’s that simple if you want to mimic the Holy Spirit – you simply need to encourage someone today. (Do it now!)
This morning, I was powerless to prevent the bus from taking off without me.
Normally, I would leave home when SBS iris tells me that my bus was going to depart in 5 minutes. I did likewise today but forgot to compensate for my temporal geriatric movements. One of life’s depressing sights is to catch sight of your bus only to see it leaving the berth. Unlike other mornings, there was no way I could have chased after the bus if I hobbled like Jacob.
The Holy Spirit brought to mind a song which Jeanie led during the leaders’ retreat last August. I vividly remember it for it was my first time hearing the song and I had to quickly grasp it before strumming it out on the guitar for the worship leader. Today, only two lines flashed in my head.
Are you tired of chasing pretty rainbows…
… Give them all, give them all, give them all to Jesus.
I smiled and thanked the Spirit for such a timely reminder. So many times, we get so uptight and insecure when we miss opportunities; have we forgotten that our good God who bestowed this opportunity for us has the magnanimity to provide another? Do we sometimes trust our instincts more than we trust the One who gave us these instincts? Shall we then move away from looking at what we know and fix our eyes instead on Who we know?
Are you chasing grades in school?
Are you chasing promotion at work?
Are you chasing legacies in church?
Are you chasing favour amongst colleagues?
Are you chasing popularity amongst friends?
Are you chasing acceptance amongst family and loved one?
Are you chasing after… yourself…?
I think then, the only remedy to prevent chase exhaustion is to simply surrender. “Give them all” are three basic but profound words. A verb, a noun and an adjective (or pronoun, depending on how you perceive it). When you give them all to Jesus, I’m convinced that God will add to you according to His will. No wonder Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
It is my prayer that the next time you miss an opportunity, the Spirit would overwhelm you with peace and help you remember that, in His perfect timing, another one is just ’round the corner; and perhaps, the latter one might just be better. Unsurprisingly, I hopped onto the next bus 10 minutes later and while I arrived at the office slightly later, I still reached my destination.
Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.
James 4:17 (New Living Translation)
James concludes this chapter by issuing us with a stern warning. He doesn’t get any more explicit than this – he reminds us that it is a sin to know the good that we ought to do and yet not do it. This to me is a near-impossible standard to uphold. God gives us the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament, which tells us the things we mustn’t do – kill, covet, steal, lie, etc; whereas Jesus tells us what we must do in the New Testament – to love God and our neighbour. A violation of either renders us sinful; it’s virtually impossible to acquit yourself of blame when the stakes are so high.
I propose that there are three things we can do with the life that God has given to us to steward. The good news is, these choices are ours to make. We can either spend it, keep it or invest it.
- Hedonistic – You can choose to spend it on your pleasures and make your life all about pursuing your goals and dreams. In other words, this life is all about you. I think we are most susceptible to this way of life.
- Egotistic – Or, you can keep it for yourself and be selfish, self-centred, and live like a hermit, as if no one owes you anything and you owe nothing to anyone. You inevitably become greedy, mercenary and inconsiderate. I think we unknowingly choose this way of life.
- Altruistic – Or (and I pray this you’d choose this!), you can invest it in the things of God and in His people, knowing that one day, God Himself will give you great returns – some of it on earth and most of it in heaven. Life is fast and it will soon past; only what is done for Christ will last.
Think about it for a little while – if everyone in this youth group invested their lives in the good that they ought to do, imagine what we would be capable of accomplishing for God! If the local church comes together, unified in one vision to bear fruit, I truly believe that we will be world-changers, history-makers and life-shapers! There’s so much power in the potential of us doing good unto all men.
So my question then to all of us is - What exactly is the good that we ought to do?
When Jesus ascended to Heaven, He gave us the Holy Spirit and left us with the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. These aren’t great suggestions but great instructions for all of us to carry out. The former tells us to love God and His people. The latter tells us to go out and touch and impact lives for Jesus. I don’t know about you, but if you call yourself a Christian, then these two great instructions must sound good to you; these are what we must invest our lives in if life is uncertain and death is certain. And to help us along, we can depend on the Holy Spirit; we are not alone at all in doing good for the glory of God. May we learn to involve God in all that we do in this short life for His glory alone!
Previous post: The Commandment and the Trump Card
So how should the overwhelming victory of Christ affect the way we live?
Conclusion: The Quest for Imitation
After God said, “Let us make Man…” (v26), He brought it to pass immediately, “So God created Man…” (v27); God performed what He resolved. Hence, let’s make our resolutions count – may we walk the talk and practise what we preach! Let’s not exchange empty knowledge anymore but engage in passing on true knowledge. I have resolved within myself to share only the benefits I have reaped from applying the truth into my life after I’ve discovered it.
That’s the reason why I [have] changed the concept of our WOW sharing during cell; it will no longer be a sharing of insights we have gained from our quiet time. Instead of just exchanging information in hopes of education, we will now share illumination in hopes of transformation. I’d like to apply what I have learnt in IDMC 2010 – to discover the truth, apply the truth, reap its benefits, and then pass it on to each other. True knowledge is taking real action!
Let’s take some time to examine the arenas of our lives that we can truly become more Christlike in – be it at home, in school, amongst friends or in church. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to investigate our hearts and minds, and purge the sin in our lives that causes us to be separated instead of consecrated. With that, I humbly conclude that the only way to return to your original perfect condition of creation is through an active and intentional imitation of Jesus Christ, for this will result in our eventual perfection when we finally see God face-to-face.
Let’s intercede for the ministry and for each other as the Spirit leads. These are the same prayer pointers I shared with the GII Shepherds last night; may it serve a guide for you as you war with us in your prayer closet. I sense the Lord leading me (and all of us) into a season of prayer and supplication. We must pray before we pursue our plans.
Let us pray until R-AGE sees a revival. Let us pray until God redeems this generation for His eternity. Let us pray so that we can become more like Jesus. Let us pray until we meet Christ. The more we pray, the less we depend on ourselves to be successful.
Pray, young people, if you want to see growth in yourself and in the ministry… Pray like never before. It is in the presence of God that our lives are changed. Let the people pray, let the revival come, let Your will be done!
- NBMNBPBBTSOG – Not by might not by power but by the Spirit of God
- WAITWBNOTW – We are in the world but not of the world
I joined the intercessors at the weekly Prayer Room Ministry this evening and I was tremendously blessed by the brothers and sisters who were present. The pastoral staff are rostered to attend this time of prayer and it was my turn tonight – so I went there with a heart to minister to these intercessors. However, it was I who left the prayer room feeling absolutely ministered to. Anointing flowed freely through the powerful time of prayer and I take comfort knowing that Grace AG has a team of faithful intercessors. I thank God for them and I am inspired to lead our weekly PUSH to a whole ‘nother level.
At the end of the hour-long session, they prayed for me and a number of them released words of accuracy and prophecy into my life. For instance, I know God has called me into this season of youth ministry to lead, preach and mentor – And I kept hearing the intercessors, most of whom I did not know before tonight, pray these exact few words over me. It was like when these words were verbalised, it amplified in my head – so imagine the throbbing volume in my mind! I must say that it was an extremely faith-building session tonight to say the least; it was as if God was reassuring me of the specific things I needed to do during this time of service.
But the event that takes the cake – and the highlight of my evening – was when the chief intercessor closed in prayer. As she closed, she released scripture to me, which practically got me grinning from ear to ear. I couldn’t recall which version she used, so I’ll just show four different versions of Deuteronomy 33:24-25.
New International Version - About Asher he said: “Most blessed of sons is Asher; let him be favored by his brothers, and let him bathe his feet in oil. The bolts of your gates will be iron and bronze, and your strength will equal your days.”
New Living Translation - Moses said this about the tribe of Asher: “May Asher be blessed above other sons; may he be esteemed by his brothers; may he bathe his feet in olive oil. May the bolts of your gates be of iron and bronze; may you be secure all your days.”
English Standard Version - And of Asher he said, “Most blessed of sons be Asher; let him be the favorite of his brothers, and let him dip his foot in oil. Your bars shall be iron and bronze, and as your days, so shall your strength be.”
New American Standard Bible - Of Asher he said, “More blessed than sons is Asher; May he be favored by his brothers, And may he dip his foot in oil. Your locks will be iron and bronze, And according to your days, so will your leisurely walk be.”
Now, get this – I checked with her if she knew my baptism name. She said she only knew that I was “Joey A. Tan” – according to the name on the roster given to her. She thought it was a “happening” thing to do to have that “A.” in my name. I told her that I chose to be baptised as “Asher” in 2005 because of its befitting meaning – blessed, joyful and happy – I felt these adjectives truly represented my personality, especially “joyful and happy”.
The funny thing is, I’ve always skimmed through the word “blessed” and gave its significance little thought; maybe it was because it was such a common word. But tonight, I found new insights into my baptism name from a passage of scripture that I’ve never read before – even through my meticulous decision-making process of selecting a baptism name!
She was stunned and awed by the “coincidence”. I mean, of all names – there were 12 tribes of Israel! – she chose Asher! And from an obscure book like Deuteronomy – how often do you get people referring to Deuteronomy!? And she didn’t know me or my baptism name previously! Seriously, WHAT WERE THE CHANCES of that happening!?
I was extremely humbled by what the Holy Spirit was doing in my life tonight. So there I was, with my eyes shut, head bowed, sporting an ear-to-ear grin and whispering, “I love You, Lord” (almost instinctively and uncontrollably) again and again until she said finally said, “Amen”. Excuse me everybody, but WOW! – tonight was truly an extremely special and anointed experience which I will remember for the rest of my life each time I see my baptism name.
Tonight’s “coincidence” was five years in-the-making; I don’t know if you get this or if it even makes any sense at all, but it’s like the Lord omnipresently KNEW in 2010, that I would select “Asher” for myself way back in 2005. A jaw-dropping episode indeed – I’m stunned, baffled, astonished, amazed and absolutely dumbfounded. Thank You, dear Lord – Your grace is enough for me!
For now, I will be meditating upon those two seemingly obscure verses. I’m buzzing with anointed excitement.