Jesus looked at [the rich young ruler] and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:24-25, NIV)
Singapore is a great country to reside in – it truly is. I can say this because I’ve lived in Shanghai for nearly two years. We take pride in our credible and proven governance of meritocracy – where, by dictionary definition, “people [are] selected on the basis of their ability”. In other words, if you do well enough, you’ll probably get by. However, I’d like to think that meritocracy is poisonous, especially for a Christian making an honest attempt to live his life relying on God.
I’ve always lamented about the overly rigourous and demanding education system here. A young student is forced, whether voluntarily by his own will or involuntarily by unhealthy peer pressure, to do well in Singapore. Sadly, sometimes it’s not about doing well for his own good, but about doing better than someone else. We have produced countless outstanding people because of how (insanely) competitive we are. After all, it’s a known fact that Singapore’s greatest resource is her people.
Hence, existing in an environment as such, we have been continuously engineered to believe that we just need to do well enough, and we’ll be able to get what we want – chiefly wealth and status amongst others. Unfortunately for us, we have also allowed this secular mentality to creep into the Church and worse, into our walk with God. More often than not, we’d rather sort ourselves out first before going to God rather than going to God first to get sorted out.
We approach God thinking that if we have ticked the checklist boxes of praying, doing quiet time, worshipping, reading the bible, etc., we’d be accepted and be presentable before God. How scarily distorted that can be! Having a checklist may not be wrong, don’t misunderstand me, but it is severely inadequate.
A classic example is how we typically go to God in prayer only when we take our exams with insufficient preparation or when we commit a major mistake at work. It’s like we consider getting God involved only when matters are completely out of our control and domain of influence. Or sometimes when we ask for good results or work promotion (or even dating success), we use “I promise I’ll spend more time with You, Lord” or “I promise I won’t visit those sites again anymore, Lord” as stakes, thinking that it may actually move God to accede to our “requests”.
How dangerously misconstrued that is!
In a society where meritocracy calls the shots, we start to tattoo in our hearts and minds, “I CAN DO IT“. Great optimism and confidence, don’t get me wrong. But it may lead to one thing – that “GOD CAN DO IT” will slowly and steadily be obliterated from our operating system. We need to be extremely cautious because this swelling pride can mislead us – from trusting in God to trusting in ourselves. We constantly wage war between societal and biblical reality.
Now, may I beseech you to be alert and to quicken your spirit to this, that you do not draw confidence in your flesh but in God. Don’t become complacent when you exit an exam hall after a good paper because it doesn’t mean that you seeking God ends. In the same way, don’t become overly concerned about beefing up your resume just to raise your chances of getting a good job. Place not your confidence in yourself but in our faithful God who never fails to deliver! Be excellent but not wrongly/overly-confident.
For those with average grades, do not be discouraged – our God can operate with Bs and Cs (and even Ds and Fs!) and still give you success and a good future, only if you seek Him wholeheartedly. For those with soaring on societal favour and success, do not get complacent thinking that all these achievements arrived by your own merit – God can give but He can also take away, and what we are constantly challenged to say is, “Blessed be Your name”. Keep your eyes on Jesus, my friends!
Perhaps this is why the apostle Paul declared quite famously in 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV),
“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.‘ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
When we rely on ourselves, we may fail. But when we rely on God, He will deliver! Let us declare that we can’t and that God can!
Many who know me would also know my mantra for life – read above. I would be yellow Chinese trash if not for the grace of God. My life is one that is redeemed by the grace of God and it seemed a natural progression for me to be doing what I am doing right now.
A lot of Christians, myself included of course, have abused the grace of God in our lives. We revisit a sin because we know we’ll be forgiven. We entertain evil because we know God will still love us regardless. And we try to live a life by our standards thinking that it’ll get by God’s. Did we realise that by doing that we have unknowingly flouted one of the Ten Commandments is?
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”
We somehow have a tendency to imagine God as a loving and doting father only. While that is true, it is inadequate. It would be dangerous to forget that God the Father is also God the Judge and the Righteous One who has no dealings with sin and evil. We often exploit the His loving kindness with our unrepentance. Be wary of this – do not fall into the trap of violating that commandment.
The last thing we want to do is to make for ourselves an image of God that is not truly Him. We take what we want from the Bible – usually people only want to hear the good stuff – and we snuff out the rest which doesn’t appeal to us. Are you sure that the God you are worshipping is the God that is written about in the bible? Or is it a figment of your imagination (or more like your fantasyutopialand)? Let’s spend a little time to, by the grace of God, make sure that the God that we are worshipping is really THE God!
RY preached a great sermon today on how much God loves us. He loves us even when we fail to love Him and delights some more in loving us in spite of that! That’s just mind-blowing. It brings agape to another level. For that, I cannot comprehend and I am guilty of how we have hurt God time and again by our actions and inactions. God’s love demonstrated through His grace alone should move us into desiring to hurt Him lesser with our sinful thoughts and deeds.
The grace of God empowers us to do what is righteous; it should not cause us to sin some more, but to sin no more.