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the four principles of contentment.

There are many times I wished I had bigger eyes or double eyelids, or that I was slightly taller, or that I was born with a silver (actually, I’d settle for a bronze) spoon in my mouth. I don’t know about you but sometimes I wished I had it a little better or had just a little more. In that respect, I reckon that “more” and “better” are detrimental words if you desire contentment.

In the last few months, I’ve dealt with youths who thought they weren’t good-looking, smart or capable enough; basically they felt inadequate about who they were, what God has given to them, and the roles they were to play in life – I don’t blame them, in fact, I do empathise with them.

From experience, I know that how they felt about themselves may just be a passing phase of their turbulent teenage-hood, but I also know from experience that some youths will really get caught in this vicious cycle of self-condemnation and an endless mire of comparison with the people around them. What a subtle trap this is!

I believe that, in order for you to avoid and escape this poisonous trap, you need to straighten the way you think. The following advice is what I’ve always offered to those whom I’ve had the privilege of counselling; may I offer you the four stop-starts of contentment:

  1. First and foremost, stop comparing yourself with others.
  2. Then, stop complaining about your situation.
  3. (Once you can change the way you think about your surroundings and circumstances,) start counting your blessings.
  4. Finally, start celebrating the successes of other people.

I won’t elaborate on the above because I want to keep it brief tonight. Perhaps another day I will expand on these four points. Incidentally, as I searched for scripture to support the above-mentioned points, I chanced upon something by CS that reverberated with what I’ve just written:

  1. Don’t focus on the situation, or you’ll become angry.
  2. Don’t focus on yourself, or you’ll become filled with self-pity.
  3. Don’t focus on someone to blame, or you’ll begin complaining.
  4. Don’t focus on the present, or you’ll miss the point of what God wishes to achieve in your life.

You know, each time I lament to God about my small, single-eyelid eyes, I could almost feel the Holy Smack on the back of my head and hear a deep, bellowing voice that says, “Be quiet, I gave you perfect eyesight”. The most appropriate reaction to that? -.-

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keep the main thing, the main thing.

Today, I commemorate my first year in Singapore since I returned from Shanghai for good. I fondly remember how I made my comeback at the No One Else album launch concert. I will never forget the microphone stand, the spotlight, the explosive Roller Coaster introduction, and those 10 memorable steps (wished it was 100!) I took to superstardom the centre of the stage. It was my moment of conceited indulgence (so bear with me) and it’s not very often I get to feel like a rock star. Yes, it’s a terribly vain thing to say, but I’ve never denied my appetite for the limelight. (Fronting a band gives me a completely different rush from leading worship or preaching and I’ve really missed that! RL, CK, JT… It’s time to revive…)

Anyway, I’m sure it’s not the first time you’ve read the above-mentioned expression. “Keep the main thing, the main thing” is synonymous with “Do not major on the minor” or “Know the difference between urgent and important”. Over the past nine months, something that I’ve honestly struggled with is to discern between my dreams and God’s dreams (for I certainly don’t want to mess this up!), as well as to think about how all these dreams are translated into ministry execution. I honestly find the marriage of the two dreams extremely challenging at times.

When I felt the call to enter full-time ministry, there were only three ministries that God deposited into my heart – Lead, Preach and Mentor – and these governed the way I operated; you could say that these are the three pillars of my personal calling. I’ve tried to center all my decisions around these pillars. Of course, I’ve made a couple of wrong decisions along the way, like getting involved in the Grace 60th Anniversary and being involved with the original YAYP transition team; I try never to live in regret, but to learn from retrospect for it is pointless if to lament about spilled milk.

As my portfolio increases and as my tent enlarges, so will my influence and competencies too. I’ve learnt that I must learn not to get involved with everything even though I want to and may foolishly deem myself suitable for it, and especially when it is logical to do so. (Sigh, logic – Man’s feeble attempt at second-guessing God’s sovereign will…) That’s the reason why I believe that a personal vision statement is important. If you have a motto to preside over the way you function, you more or less know what to say yes to and what to turn down; it helps you to live a principled life. What’s yours? Mine is:

“I am a bible-believing Christian who desires to know God
by working excellently, learning earnestly while having a balanced lifestyle,
for the glory of God.”

At our mid-year appraisal this morning, RY told me that “marrying your dreams into God’s will is a constant struggle”, and I concur. That’s why I think it’s always a step of faith to act on what God has impressed upon my heart. With RY, I always learn something new or am reminded of previously-learnt lesson – that’s why he’s my mentor and that’s why I look up to him so much. And in true hero-fashion, he balanced the above-mentioned statement with this: “But remember, it is God who planted these dreams into you”. That took a huge load off my shoulders; I couldn’t believe that I missed something as obvious as that!

I have been wired to lead with my heart on my sleeves and somehow this quality has become my signature. Perhaps it explains why Passion is one of the three flagships of my personality, besides Authenticity and Believing in Young People. These are the core values I think my life represents most dominantly and consistently. Again I quote my boss, “Passion is like a tap; once you turn it on, water gushes out” – I’d like to believe that my passion for youth ministry doesn’t just trickle out, but that it surges out.

However, I know that one day my passion will run out. RY encouraged me today and told me that I have tenacity; it was the first time this word was used to describe me. He deliberately chose tenacity over perseverance for (I think) the latter represents an indefatigability to endure present situations while the former indicates a determination to push oneself through to overcome challenges. I liked that distinction and I believe that tenacity should rightly be the best friend of passion for they are perfect complements.

So anyway, back to keeping the main thing, the main thing, I think it’s a good opportunity for me to take a step back and reflect, and to ask God to give me grace so that I can differentiate what I want to do from what I need to do, as well as to determine what He wants me to do. (God doesn’t need me to do anything. He doesn’t need anybody to do anything for Him. In fact, according to Psalm 50:12, if He was hungry He wouldn’t even tell you or me.) In our lifetime, we’d go through seasons after seasons and so it remains a wise thing to focus, always on the main thing. If I were to strip everything down to its core, the main tasks in life (in fact, the only two tasks), is to love God more and to love His people more everyday (Mark 12:30-31).

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