What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you will be boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.
James 4:15-16 (New Living Translation)
If life is uncertain and death is certain then how in the world are we supposed to negotiate our journey in this lifetime? What on earth are we doing for heaven’s sake? James proposed his resolution in verse 15, which calls for us to tweak our alignment.
It’s not about the planning but about the perspective, not the pursuit but the priority. If life is truly punctuated by question-marks and death completed by full-stops, then I’m grateful that God is my space – the punctuation most-often used in every sentence; every word is preceded and followed by a space. I thank God that His grace is laced in space!
James instructed us to renew our mind. We naturally speak with presumptuousness so he wants us to think differently and speak with renewed positioning. He’s blatant enough to say, “What you ought to say is”, which signifies a deliberate change in speech; speaking like that won’t come naturally, that is precisely why we have to intentionally train ourselves.
So how exactly does James want us to change in our speech? First and foremost, we must acknowledge God’s will in our lives. Everything counts for nothing if God is not in it. That explains why he began his sentence with, “If the Lord wills”. Then he says, “We will live”, meaning that we should check if we are even alive, for it is pointless talking about plans if we are not alive to carry it out. Finally, James says this last, “And do this or that”. Once we have committed our plans to God (and asked Him for His purposes in our lives), and ascertained that we are alive to carry it out, we can consider implementing our plans.
Of course, James knows we’re hardly so obedient; he correctly diagnosed the problem by identifying the opposite of seeking God’s will, that is, to boast about our own plans. This evil boasting is rooted in human pride, where we think we are in control. In Greek, “evil” is an active verb, which means that if we boast of our own plans, we are continuously doing evil.
I didn’t plan to return to Singapore last July. I thought I’d be in Shanghai for a few more years. But everything changed within a week. In a nutshell, I was caught in the middle of a senior management dispute and had to make a decision. I sought the Lord and I made the decision to return home. I had His peace reigning in my heart. Everyone around me was shocked – my mother, sister, colleagues, business associates and even Huiyi’s family – because I was doing well in Shanghai. In fact, I left in the same month of a promotion and significant pay increment.
But a still small voice in my heart assured me that it was all right to come home. I knew that the Lord was going to take care of me, so I obeyed. That was simply it. I had no idea that it would lead to what I am doing now with R-AGE; I didn’t expect myself to be a full-time youth minister so quickly but God knows His timing and I trust Him for it – that’s the beauty of life.
When we understand that this life doesn’t belong to us but to God, we will realise that all we need to do is to obey. Obedience is the highest expression of stewardship; the best way to see the mark of obedience to God in your life is to observe how you have stewarded your life according to what God has revealed in your heart. I do not look forward to the day when God puts His arm around my shoulders to commend me on all the good things I have done for Him only to sound a tad bit disappointed because I missed out on the only thing He wanted me to do; it is important for us to be faithful to our calling.
People say that change is the only constant but I beg to differ for God is the only constant. And if God is the only constant, then wouldn’t it be wise for us to bank on Him to see us through this uncertain life leading up to a certain death? We must remember that life does not revolve around what we want but what God wills. Our lives ought to be a declaration of the true sovereignty of God and never about the imagined control of Man.
If I am an investor and someone told me about a stock that would eventually be good for me, I would buy it in a heartbeat. The stock will fluctuate, but because I know that it will eventually be good for me, I will hang on to it no matter what. The Bible tells us in Romans 8:28 that we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them. Our job becomes really simple then; all we need to do is to love God and live out His purposes in our lives.
A couple of hours before I turned 21 for the seventh time, I received a Facebook message from a correspondent in BBC. She googled Wayne Rooney related news and chanced upon my blog. And she asked if I was keen to be on the “World, Have Your Say” radio talk show. I didn’t ask for this and I thought it was a pretty cool birthday present from the Lord, so I agreed without blinking. And it wasn’t before long that I was on the line with the talk show host, awaiting my turn to speak.
As a student, I was trained to talk on the radio, but nothing quite prepares you for your maiden experience, no less than on an international platform like BBC. Many things rushed through my head in the build-up to the programme and I was getting ready to regurgitate at least five minutes of continuous talking. As it turned out, based on the question that I was asked, I only managed to air about a tenth of what I had intended to share.
At the end of my very short interview, I hung up with a sigh of disappointment.
No, it wasn’t because I didn’t get enough time. And no, it wasn’t because I spoke poorly. It was simply because I didn’t get a chance to talk about Jesus Christ and about young people. I was disappointed with myself for that. I felt I had let the Lord down, and let my profession down.
So in order for me to go to bed with a peaceful heart, here’s the full part of what I had intended to say just now. Of course I would never dream of saying this entire chunk, but well, this is my blog and so I shall freely air my opinions here without any time or space limits. This is in context of the recent headlines of Wayne Rooney deciding to leave Manchester United and to answer the question: “Is money your priority at work?”
Hi Ros, thank you for having me on the show. Now, there aren’t many things that Wayne Rooney and I have in common except for the fact that we both belong to Gen-Y.
Before we talk about his supposed motivations of money, which we speculate, let’s take a step back to examine the generation that he belongs to. Unlike Gen-X, or the baby-boomers, who pride themselves in staying loyal to an organisation and finds it an achievement if they can call themselves a one-company man, Gen-Y, or the Millennials, is a group of people born from 1982-1995 and are motivated by their own personal ambitions. It has become a common practice for people of this age group to change jobs frequently, not because they are fickle, but because they are ambitious and adventurous; they are achievement oriented and want to attain as many career landmarks in their lives. We must not forget that Wayne Rooney is just 24 years old – he’s about as old as my extremely capable younger sister!
I think I can scarcely identify with Rooney because I am a Gen-Y in contact with Gen-Y everyday. I’m a youth minister with a Christian church in Singapore and for me to even be doing what I’m doing is proof of the characteristic Gen-Y attribute – to pursue your dreams; I’ve always had childhood dreams of being a youth pastor simply because of the way that I was brought up and the people who came into my life to invest in me. To be in the pastorate is something I’ve always wanted to do.
Before I worked in church, I worked in the marketplace as a marketing manager with an imported wine company. To a lot of my peers, especially the older (Gen-X) ones, what I have done is career suicide, simply because I have swapped a relatively high-paying salary to take on this job and earn an amount that half of what I used to take home. There are initial struggles with the financial adjustments of course, but I’d gladly do it all over again, anytime, any day. Simply because I’ve always dreamed of being a youth pastor.
That is why I think it wouldn’t be too far-fetched an idea to say that it’s for monetary factors that Rooney has decided to leave United. Even in his latest statements, we can pick up traces of ambition and pseudo-guaranteed success (or at least the platform to achieve it). On one hand, I won’t be surprised if Rooney cloaked his decision to leave United due to the recent controversies surround his private life – and I think if family is his priority, then good on him to move abroad to escape the vicious press in the UK – but on the other hand, I think it’s really because he’s an ambitious person.
Maybe he’s doing a Ronaldo, where he’s won everything he could win in England and wants to move to greener pastures. Or maybe he simply wants a change of environment after being at United since he was a teenager. A lot of people will tell him many different things – some advice are born from personal financial gain (his agent, perhaps) and some would simply be for the sake of his family (Coleen, perhaps). I wouldn’t be surprised if Rooney’s father was against his decision to leave United because of the loyalty-stained blood he has as an older gentlemen.
What I would tell Rooney, if I ever had the opportunity, is to listen to what his heart is telling him to do. I would love to say that he should listen to the voice of God, for that speaks louder and clearer than any other voice this world is offering – the only catch is that you have to first hear it! Unlike Rooney, who I assume isn’t a believer, I had an inner peace and an inner motivated that I’d like to believe is placed there by a divine being. With a supernatural backing, it was easy to go against the natural. I banked on God’s prompting in my heart and I made a decision based on a simple virtue that is uncommon in this world – obedience.
I’m not sure what you would think about it – but honestly, it doesn’t matter – because we could go on and on about opinions; they will continue to differ and digress. Everyone has childhood dreams. For Mr Rooney, he wants to be constantly on a platform that would enable him continuous success; I don’t think it’s really about money and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up with a club that gave him a similar salary as what United offered. For you, Ros, maybe you’re already halfway through your childhood dream of being able to speak to a worldwide audience.
For me, I am certain that what I am doing – and man! I absolutely love what I am doing! – and at this point of my life, I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I consider it an immense privilege to be able to play a small part in influencing, inspiring, intervening and interceding for a generation. For I know that whatever that I am doing with them today will impact them in their tomorrows. It gives me great satisfaction that I’m investing my life in theirs, and to tell them how much God loves them, has a great plan for them, and then to play my part in believing in what God can do through them – wow, what an honour! It really gives a reward that the world could not offer.
Thank you for having me on the show. I know that I’d never get to say all these things on air, but I thank you for giving me an opportunity to spill my heart in this setting, on my blog, as I always do. It is my prayer that this blog gives God full glory, for I am merely putting into words what He has put into my head. What a way to kick off my seventh 21st birthday. Be blessed, and be awesome. Cheers!
I know I am supposed to sleep, but I just remembered that United is playing Bursaspor now! Of course I will give in to this temptation to watch a Rooney-less United in action! With or without Rooney, Ronaldo, Beckham, Cantona or the plethora of talents that have gone before them, United will continue to advance. If they have survived Busby, Best, Charlton and Law, they can survive anything! United we stand, divided we still stand and remain United! GGMU!
Tonight marks the completion of my first year as a full-time minister in R-AGE and Grace AG. Three questions have dominated my heart in the last 24 hours.
- How have I contributed?
- What legacy have I left behind?
- Who have I become?
I am still in deep thought over these three questions. Actually, I have surprised myself by not asking, “What have I accomplished?”. I’d like to believe that it’s a sign of growth and maturity. I remember again tonight, that the Great Commission is not an assignment from God but an alignment to God.
Many things have also come to pass in the last 365 days. I’ve decided to exercise introspection tonight to perhaps, attempt to recall three ministry highlights.
- Directing REAL 2010 and investing into my champions
- Leading R-AGE @ GII and mentoring my shepherds
- The privilege of the pulpit and growing in my preaching
There were many other moments which were hard to leave out – like the unforgettable PIERCE – but my choices were made based on what I wouldn’t and couldn’t have been able to do if I didn’t come into full-time ministry. It all began with a simple act of obedience – which is the highest expression of stewardship – to answer the calling that had brewed in my heart since I was a teenager.
God has been marvelously good and gracious to me. And so I would also like to remember His many blessings in the past year. The three events have affected and reminded most me of His everlasting faithfulness in my life.
- Purchase of Dawson, for it catalysed my breakthrough with HY’s parents
- Providence of mentors – from Peter Chao to Benny Ho to Edmund Chan
- Potential of joeyasher.com, for through this blog, I’ve gained access into people’s lives
Looking back at the year that has passed also allows me to look forward to the year that is to come. 2011 looks next to be one of the most eventful years of my life. Amongst many new events that will be added over time, here are three that I look forward to the most. May God will these to happen in His time and way.
- Marrying and sharing my life with HY
- Embarking on various mentoring journeys
- Growing the youth ministry and as a youth minister
But above all else, I desire most to:
- Love God more
- Love God’s Word more
- Love God’s people more
So tonight, I do not celebrate a year of my forgettable achievements but a year of His unforgettable grace. And with that confidence at the forefront of my mind, I can’t help but to await the next 365 days as a youth minister in R-AGE with a great sense of hope, anticipation and excitement. I put my faith in a big God
Not my will, but Yours be done, O Lord. Thank You for Your favour, grace, mercy and loving-kindness. I love You Jesus, deep down in my heart.
I dug out an old notebook a few weeks ago and within the first couple pages I found a list of nine things I had wanted to accomplish that year. I recorded these things in 2003, when I was 20 years old, in the final semester of my polytechnic days.
- Get grounded in the Word.
- Learn piano and guitar intensively.
- Stay single until 21st Oct 2003.
- Transfer captaincy of TeamR-AGE.
- Record FhLY album.
- Record Castor & Pollux album.
- Attain driving licence.
- Cultivate a lifestyle of punctuality.
- Learn to be more pastoral.
It’s interesting to note that the items that I’ve made little progress on are #2, #5 and #6, which are incidentally all related to music! Well, seven years have passed and with each passing year the likelihood of accomplishing these three items diminishes. Perhaps I’m not all that passionate or serious a musician after all. What a sad thought.
All right, that silly introduction above has little to do with what I am about to share.
Music is a big part of my life; I’d like to believe that while I’m not musically trained, I am musically inclined because I pick things up pretty quickly – be it percussions, strings or even song-writing. I’m always attracted to worship teams and as I peered into the 3rd Level Hall tonight to check out the worship team in action, I reminisced my days of being a worship leader and how that I spent most (and the early) parts of my ministry in church in CAMY. I progressed from a 14-year-old backup vocalist to a worship leader in both the youth and adult services.
God called me into worship leading when I was 15 years old, at a “Bondage Breaker” conference in Trinity Christian Centre, and I’ve always pursued this area of service. I was confident that I had the anointing of a Spirit-led worship leader. And God is faithful; throughout the years of worship leading, God always sends at least one person to affirm and to encourage me in my calling, usually by someone who was in the congregation; God has never missed out affirming me on any session and I am most thankful for it.
When I went to Shanghai and saw the “state” of the worship atmosphere in my church, I immediately felt compelled to join the worship team to “rescue” and “value-add” it. The Holy Spirit rebuked my prideful self and I quickly dismissed this arrogant attitude of wanting to “fix things” and to “show them how it’s supposed to be done”. I could easily enter the ministry under the pretense of humility but what good would it do if I served with a wrong heart? For months, it was an internal struggle because I knew that I could contribute positively and to even make a significant difference!
I didn’t feel that God was calling me into worship leading for that season of my life in Shanghai so I avoided the music ministry completely and just waited for His prompting of where I should serve in church. I did continue to lead worship, but only in my cell group. (This sounds really haughty and I apologise for it but) word got around of my skill, effectiveness and experience – “This worship leader is pretty anointed!” and a couple of months later, as if to perpetuate the already dire situation with my pride, I was approached twice by the worship pastor and one of the key worship leaders; they invited me to join the ministry. (It must have been painful to read such words dripping with arrogance but I’m just being honest with my struggles and being real with my journey.)
Yet I’ve never moved into the worship ministry ever again because I was convinced that my season of being a worship leader is over. I felt the peace when I rejected both invitations and I also found the non-entry necessary for the development of my own humility as I stepped away from this area of ministry. I wanted to be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading and I believe I did the right thing, even though becoming a worship leader again felt like the right thing to do by my own logical deduction! (This isn’t a good gauge but worship leading no longer gave me a kick – I didn’t find it a challenge anymore.)
Instead, I felt the Spirit calling me into mentoring and preaching; in fact, I find that mentoring, preaching and leading are my three primary domains of ministry at this point in my life. Just as how God has prospered me as I pursued His prompting in my worship leading days, I believe that God will also give me success as a mentor, preacher and leader, simply because I desire to be obedient to His will for my life. I humbly ask you to pray with me, please; I only want to be a vessel.
Why do I share these inner thoughts tonight? I believe that it is more important to recognise the divinely-designated season of your life directed by God than to do what the ministry demands or what you’re naturally good at or gifted in. It may not make much sense at first but the satisfaction you get when you review your step of faith is immense. I desire always to walk by faith (to do what God directs) and not by sight (to do what Man demands). And the only way to do so is to remain connected with God.
Oh Lord, thank You for reminding me about John 15:5. Indeed, apart from Jesus, I can do nothing and I am absolutely nothing without Christ! I desire to be near You so that I will do the things that You desire and become the man You have designed. I love You.
If you had overheard the candid conversation I had with God prior to me coming into Full Time ministry…
Me: So, I really want to obey You and go full time, instead of sacrificing, because I know you desire obedience over sacrifice.
God: What are you sacrificing?
M: I don’t know… I guess you know, like the great amounts of money that I’ll be earning, the wonderful high positions that I’ll be holding, that beautiful house that I’ll be residing in, those fantastic annual holidays that I’ll be bringing my family on… You know… All these things… Well, but I love You and I just want to obey You instead of thinking about these things that I’m going to sacrifice.
G: Have all these things happened yet?
M: [stunned] Oh, erm, well, no… But it probably will, right?
G: But it hasn’t, right?
M: [resigned] Yeah…
G: Then they are not sacrifices. : )
M: [speechless] … -_-
All right, some bits were dramatised but essentially that really happened. I guess I’ll never know how life would be like in the ministry or in the marketplace so instead of speculating all the what-ifs, I should just focus on today and perhaps ask God for a preview of tomorrow.
I truly believe that I do not have to take the paths that others have walked on. My journey of faith is mine alone and may it be an adventure for me as well as for directly affected by my decisions.
We all have our own journeys of faith to take. Every person who goes into full time ministry embarks on a different route. And it doesn’t mean that a person who does NOT go into full time will end up any better or worse (however it’s being defined) as a full time staff. Do I struggle with the possibility that I might not have enough? I might if I consider the lives of the current full time staff that are seated beside me. But why should I look upon their lives as a probable outcome of me? That would totally limit God to operate – I want to offer up a clean sheet of canvas for Him to paint on.
However, on the topic of material well-being, I think that it doesn’t matter at all. By fixating our eyes on temporal things, which pass away after all and which we bring not with us when we die naked just as we were born, we would have completely missed the whole point of what following Christ is about. I think that a call to ministry and a call to the marketplace is JUST as important. There isn’t a “greater” or more “noble” calling. We’re both as privileged and as empowered to carry out the Great Commission. I’d like to think that Jesus wasn’t asking for some, or asking you to be rich or to be poor to follow Him – He was asking you to give your all and be nothing. So that He can be everything. I’m learning this daily.
As I wait for the torrential downpour to subside before I head off to work, I am reminded that God’s rain falls on everyone – full time ministers, marketplace ministers, students, parents, Christians, non-Christians. It doesn’t matter. Hence I’d like to think that our destiny is really in our own hands, just as it was in Adam’s hands. The crux of the matter is in where and who we are turning our eyes to. I don’t expect everyone to see sense in my decision because sometimes I struggle to see sense too. But I know this for sure – I want to obey God. And I think (for now), that’s all that matters.
Have a blessed day. Obey God. That’s all that matters.