If there was any weakness that was almost synonymous with any young person, it would be insecurity. Following close would be identity crisis, which incidentally is birthed from insecurity. Growing up with a Sanguine personality, I am able to identify with youths (and adults alike) who struggle with this problem. I can offer little solution except my own – I found my security in God, who doesn’t just doesn’t change (get it?), but is also constant. This helps me to trust in Him, knowing that at the end of the day, He alone makes me whole and He alone is completely in control of what’s going on, even when things feel as though it will come crumbling down. I can’t speak for every insecure person, but these were some of the things I did when I was younger, as a defence mechanism against the ugliness and unpleasantness of insecurity. Maybe it’d strike a chord with you?
1. I ranked friends and always moved their positions based on how they treated me.
2. I rushed in and out of relationships for I was afraid of being single and lonely.
3. I took great pains to look good and spent lots of time enhancing my appearance.
4. I spent lots of money on material items to stay “ahead” of the crowd – to be first.
5. I did and said things to attract attention because I wanted to be in the limelight.
6. I picked on and poked fun at people who were weaker and slower than I was.
7. I manipulated people’s feelings to make myself feel good and better than others.
8. I hid behind an ego and always needed to prove to others how good I was.
9. I was extremely possessive of my friends and my status in their lives.
10. I was afraid to tell others my flaws so they won’t change their impression of me.
11. I gave in willing and compromised to make people happy so that I’d be accepted.
12. I hid behind humour and found great comfort in being the funny and witty guy.
13. I could never ever deal with awkward silences in conversations, so I talk non-stop.
14. I hated it when people scorned or slammed my ideas – I couldn’t handle rejection.
15. I was always on the defensive (and offensive) whenever people questioned me.
16. I was bossy and always needed to be in control of every situation, regardless.
17. I thrived on people’s approval (of me, or the things I did) and sought mainly that.
18. I hated losing and constantly needed to be in pole position in any competition.
19. I criticised others when they criticised me even when they were faultless.
20. I emotionally blackmailed those whom I loved so I could control them.
I know this is supposed to be a top ten list but listing all these things came so naturally I had to double the quota. I may be in my mid-twenties already and I may be a church leader, but I’m still a wretched human being with an abundance of weaknesses. I’d be the first to raise my hand and to admit that I’m still struggling (and may continue to struggle with it all my life!) with some of these symptoms. However, the older I get, the more battles I win against insecurity, the more I am convinced that the grace of God is the only solution for this perennial problem. Next week, I will post the top ten recommended scriptures one could commit to memory and use to counter insecurity. It is my prayer that we break this bondage in our lives in the victory that comes with Jesus Christ!
It was a whirlwind weekend for me – preparing the Barnabas sermon was more challenging than the Mary Magdalene one. Nonetheless, it’s over and I thank God for all of it. Honestly, I thought my delivery at the G2 youth service was not up to scratch.. Sometimes I don’t know what disappoints me more – a lack of congregational response or failing to meet my high personal standards. But God is good; while I felt that the preaching at G2 was one of my poorest to date, I was surprised by the response at the altar call and received rather positive feedback in both quantity and quality from people I didn’t expect. For that, I’m encouraged and thankful, for God worked through my weaknesses (2 Cor 12:9) and still brought Himself glory despite my shortcomings. Form may be temporary and class may be permanent, but the Holy Spirit is forever – I’ll choose the Spirit’s help over form or class, anytime.
After a post-sermon debrief with RY, some melancholy moments and an evening of personal reflection and self-critique, I refreshed the sermon contents and preached a significantly different sermon at G1 – new illustrations, analogies, activities, focus points as well as more internalising and tightening up of contents. (I’m actually slightly saddened by this phenomenon because G1 would almost always receive the more polished sermon while G2 would receive the raw one; my optimism, however, rephrases raw as original. Oh, euphemisms…) And this was the first instance I’ve reviewed my contents so many times; so I reviewed it again this afternoon and here are the key points in my sermon as well as my own lessons learnt, in no particular order of importance:
- Let us become the “Encouragement Safety Net” and the “Pedestal Platform” for each other.
- What does it take to be a “good man, full of the Spirit and of faith”? Answer: Encouragement! (It works both ways, get it?)
- If we want to be like the Spirit, then we must do what the Spirit does – to encourage!
- Barnabas was called the “Son of Encouragement”; if your friends were to rename you today, what would your new name be? What would you be a son or a daughter of?
- What the Holy Spirit does for us on the inside, we should do for others on the outside.
- The key to creating a culture of encouragement is hoping and praying to be encouraged by others (passive), while making every effort to encourage others (active).
- Encouragement is beneficial for both the encourager and the encouraged.
- Not everyone can be a Paul but everyone can be a Barnabas; not everyone can be a leader but everyone can be a supporter.
- Encouraging others is not about you or how well or badly you do it, but about what the Spirit can do through you.
- Our common ground is how broken and wretched we are – hence we certainly can emphathise with everyone regardless of age or life experiences.
- Everyone needs a person to believe in him, a “no-matter-what” person – through valleys, mountains, victories and defeats.
- The ministry of encouragement has a long-term effect in the lives of young people; so we should be patient with one another as God is patient with us, for if we wait long enough, they might surprise us with something good one day.
- Encouragement influences us in whether we finish pathetically or emphatically – it is the extra strength that we can give to and find from other people.
- You can encourage people you don’t know by affirming them on what they did and not who they are.
- You cannot stop someone from falling – that is inevitable – but you can stop them from crashing.
I look ahead and anticipate the preparation of the next New Testament character. Watch this space!
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!