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this one’s for you, ‘O’ level students.

Please forgive me for not being able to write as regularly as before; juggling a full-time job and a part-time education has been challenging. I’ve spent the best parts of the last few nights working on my assignment. I felt a sense of pride when I submitted it just now; not because I think it’s good, but because I think I have worked hard for it. I haven’t felt so driven about academia since I prepared for my ‘O’ levels.

I told myself that for every assignment or project that I embark on, I’ll try to make it relevant to my job. It helps me to stay motivated as I know it will give me a greater insight into my work. I’m thankful that I was able to do that for this assignment; the task was to come up with a business plan for a communications company. And I found myself investing so much time and energy into it because I truly believe that it is a business plan that might actually materialise in days to come! I’m excited to receive my lecturer’s comments because I know the business plan will be further sharpened.

Anyway, I am writing tonight not just to silence the days of silence, but to also share something I wrote when I was 18 years old. It was an article for Grace Pointer and I’d like to feature it tonight because I know the ‘O’ Levels are about to begin in a week! Nonetheless, you should read this if you’re sitting for your exams soon.

Memoirs of my secondary school days

Cherish your secondary school days while you still can. In retrospect, my days in the navy-blue and white of the ACS uniform will be penned down in my memory banks forever; that is because primary and tertiary education may never be as enjoyable as the secondary school days.

Needless to say, your secondary school education plays a pivotal role in your immediate future – your ‘O’ level results point the way to your academic future.

Back in Secondary 1 and 2, I was someone one would label “hate to love and love to hate”. I was a nightmare to my teachers, schoolmates and family members (they can bear witness to my horrendous testimony). On hindsight, my two years in shorts leave me in revulsion of myself. I would not be surprised if I had schoolmates and teachers waiting to stone me after school. Strangely, I was appointed class monitor, and it did not take too long for my classmates to boycott me, and that ultimately lead to me getting the boot.

Ironically, I was appointed as prefect in Secondary 2. Unfortunately, the prefect master had to remove me from the prefectorial board due to my ailing grades.

However, I scored exceptionally well in secondary 1 – I even qualified for an academic award. Alas, this diligent attitude did not follow through to secondary 2 and I managed to get 1st position in class, from the back! My grades progressively got from bad to worse in secondary 3 and I was close to getting retained!

My walk with God was perpetually in fluctuation. I received Christ just ahead of my entry into secondary school and I backslid throughout secondary 1. In the earlier part of secondary 2, I was what one would term a “Sunday Christian”. I vividly reminisce being an angel on Sundays and hurling abysmal obscenities the day after. I rededicated my life during the 1997 Grace retreat and I embarked on a slow, excruciating climb back to where God has called me to be.

Weeks prior to my ‘O’ level examinations, I was way behind my classmates. One of my regrets would unquestionably be the manner that I loafed in secondary school. That resulted in the doubling of my studying pains – I had to put in twice the effort to get identical results. My standards were so miserable I scored an atrocious 39 points for my preliminary examinations! But somehow, God had planned ahead for me – He assigned my uncle to Mission: Nearly Impossible.

Prior and during the ‘O’ level examinations period, my uncle (AH) spent every other Sunday taking me out to lunch. On top of the free lunch, the advice he dispensed was invaluable; it proved to catalyse my rude awakening. “Joey, study as hard as you can, I don’t want you to look back and regret your efforts”, he urged. Those simple words got stuck in and never left my mind.

Thereafter, I furiously pursued my books. I studied, day and night, night and day. Feel free to ask my mum or my sister how vigorously I studied. 15 minutes was all I took for meals, and then it was immediately back to my books. I had to master everything I failed to learn in 2 years, all in the short duration of 3 weeks! My room was literally sprawled with notes, worksheets and all varieties of paper. I’ve never used my brain this much in those four years.

It was an anxious moment on the day when the results were released. To be honest, there really was not much meditation left to do because the papers were already marked. One’s prayers should be done before and during the examinations. Nevertheless, I uttered a final prayer, “God, please give me 12 points!” (That was the safe aggregate for qualification into the mass communication studies course) And God did! God’s grace allowed me to enter the course of my aspirations. I knew I deserved all of 12 points because I seriously studied hard. However, I am certain I will still come to terms with a score exceeding 12 points because I have already strived for my best. God desires for you to try your best. And I mean your BEST. In fact, that is the ONLY thing God asks from you in every aspect of your life – to do your very best.

Young people, my advice to you is: STUDY LIKE MAD! Romance your books like never before! It would be tragic to receive your ‘O’ level results next year and then wail like a baby, wishing you had studied harder. It may seem hard to motivate yourself to study hard now, but I promise you it would be even harder to motivate yourself if you repeat. I almost did in secondary 3; but by God’s grace, I was spared from the anguish.

To folks in the normal stream: you have to work just as hard, if not harder! Since when MOE said normal stream students were permitted to slack? Do not be disheartened by the extra year, turn the tables around and capitalise on the extra 365 days to score even better than the rest! There is simply no excuse to be sluggish and slothful.

You must realise that if you do not study hard, it is YOU who will bear the consequences, not your parents, teachers, or your friends. Get my drift? Hence, study REALLY hard. Embrace your education; it makes the arduous process easier. There will always be light at the end of the tunnel; ensure your light shines for all to see (Matthew 5:16). Run towards your books; do not let them run after you.

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imparting a passion to the next generation.

I think it’s fair to say that I’m not just a passionate individual but also a person with many passions. And something that I’m exceptionately passionate about is the Word of God. This keenness was originally infused into my spiritual bloodstream by JH, when I was much younger; I saw the fire in his eyes whenever we discussed about the Word of God or when we pursued truth. I also have to thank Him for introducing me to JP, who is undoubtedly one of my greatest influences in this area, even though I’ve not met him yet. It was JH’s gift – Pierced by the Word – that got me into JP’s solid teaching.

And it’s not surprising, a decade on, that I discuss the Word of God with the same fire in my eyes. One of the most satisfying things in life has to be reading familiar scripture and to have the Holy Spirit breathing into you new perspectives. I revel in those kinda revelations – don’t you? And so I find myself asking myself, “What then have I done to impart this passion through my lifestyle and how can I continue to perpetuate that?” I scrutinised my actions and I am inclined to believe that I have done my part.

  • I am a keen student and an even keener teacher of the Word. I enjoy preparing lessons and thrive in teaching them – it rejuvenates me when I exercise my gift.
  • I prepare sermons with excellence and will never preach something I do not understand fully; the last thing I want to do is to undermine or shortchange the pulpit.
  • I memorise scripture in my own time and I encourage everyone within my sphere of influence to do likewise.
  • I attempt to give scripture-based advice whenever I have the opportunity to dispense counsel, instead of just depending on my wisdom and experience.
  • I base my ministry objectives and vision on the Word of God; the daily themes of PIERCE were lifted from Hebrews 4:12 and the three primary roles of my GII Shepherds were derived from John 21:15-17.
  • I invest money into purchasing knowledge and fill my mind with the right things, instead of overspending on things that have little eternal value.
  • I make time to attend additional teaching seminars and conferences instead of just depending on the Sunday pulpit for my Word input and whenever possible, I will encourage my leaders to sign up and go together with me.
  • I have progressively added audio sermons into my iPod and listen to sound preaching (pun intended) more than I listen to music. In fact, I’ve done this so much there’s nothing but sermons and teachings in my 8GB MP3 player.
  • I subscribe to snail-mailers and online feeds and whenever there is new material, I’ll feast my mind on them so that I am able to generate new thoughts.
  • I am actually more enthusiastic to shop in bookshops (or online book stores) than in shopping centres or departmental stores.
  • I attempt to pray scripturally so that my prayers are theologically accurate and always be aligned to/with God’s divine will.
  • Lastly, I try to spend some time each day to meditate on at least one portion of scripture (but I could really do with some improvement here!).

But why do I tell you all this? To boast? (Oh heaven forbid me from that!) I am deliberately detailed in proving my passion for the Word because it has been a journey for me and I wish to encourage you to ask God to expand your capacity to love His Word. You see, I was never so into it right from the beginning. I certainly did not expect myself to end up at this point and I most certainly do not expect myself to stagnate here too – it’s one reason why I am massively looking forward to my theological education in 2012. I concur with what EC said at last year’s IDMC, that while theological credentials are beneficial, theological competence is essential.

But this is the hardest of them all for it is a daily death of self-denial and an utter dependence on the Spirit to enable me to do so – while I make a sincere and genuine attempt to put into practice what I have learnt, more often than not, I fail at achieving this and for that I am the chief of sinners despite all the “accomplishments” listed above. They’re really just merely accomplishments and nothing else. I will never be able to attain godliness (and holiness) by my own doing; I’m constantly a long-shot away from being Christlike and how I long to fare better in this arena. The Word of God repeatedly reveals my carnal nature and humbles me greatly for it exposes my sin and shortcomings. I don’t know about you (actually I do, I’m just writing rhetorically), but no matter how much I profess to love the Word, the most crucial thing is that I live (and do) the Word. In fact, the more I love the Word, the more I discover my sinful desires and the more I realise my need for the grace of God, the counsel of the Spirit and the redemption of Jesus Christ to see me through each moment.

Amazing grace,
how sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me.

All right, I have no idea how I ended up there but I guess what I really want to say is that, if I could only choose one passion to impart to the next generation, it would be the passion to pursue the Word of God. I pray that it becomes your primary passion too, especially if you are an influential leader in youth ministry.

dynamic, incisive and discerning.

It is with gratitude to God that I am able to declare that my G2 Shepherds cell group is growing in quantity, quality and cohesiveness. I am thankful for the new additions (KJ and BL), the ones who joined us halfway (KY and YX) and the ones who have stuck with me from the beginning (HY, JC, MF, MW, EL). Tonight we’ve completed our two-part inductive bible study on Hebrews 4:12 (theme verse for “Pierce”); it was essential that all of in the organising committee understand this powerful verse at the back of our hand, so that our basis for planning is one and the same.

I enjoyed teaching them as much as they enjoyed receiving from the Word – I’m reveling in developing my gifts of writing, teaching and preaching. Bottom line is, I enjoy communication and it’s a boon that the medium which I’m promulgating is God’s word. We’ve gone into a fair bit of details through our study and one may need to be in the cell to fully understand the following summary. Nonetheless, here are the seven truths (in context of the Word of God) that I’ve left with them in my conclusion of this short, one-verse series:

  • Our lives are changed when the Holy Spirit uses the scripture (which we first must have hidden in our hearts) to reveal specific truths to us.
  • One biblical truth is infinitely better than countless worldly wisdom: revolution trumps inspiration and permanent trumps temporary.
  • In spiritual warfare, Satan’s weapons do not stand a chance against the only offensive piece in God’s armour, which is the sword of the Spirit.
  • God is the master markman and expert archer who never misses the target with His arrows of truth: for every occasion, everyone, and always relevant.
  • If our life was an assessment book, then the Bible is the answer sheet hidden in the back pages: turn to it periodically for personal evaluation.
  • The Word of God doesn’t just last forever; it never fades in brilliance too: think stars, matchsticks and torchlights that diminish with time.
  • You criticise the Word because the Word criticises you: do not shun correction for judgment is a neutral word that merely determines outcome.
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