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 (Manna 73: Employing Our Gifts )
Once Stiff-necked and Foolish
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Once Stiff-necked and Foolish

Peter Wong—Malacca, Malaysia

In the name of Jesus, I testify. My father came to believe in the Lord when he was in his thirties. He used to gamble and, even after his conversion, he did not stop until God personally reminded and moved Him through a series of events. Like my father, I am also a rather stiff-necked person.

REFUSING GOD’S CALLING

In 2008, a few preachers proposed to the board of ministers at my local church to ordain me as a deacon. When I heard the news, I was shocked. I was extremely unwilling to serve as a deacon; I felt that a person with my character would not be suitable. I rejected the proposal.

When a few ministers reprimanded me on my rejection, I believed I was in the right and I even became upset with them. I felt that it was good enough to be active in the church without being a deacon. I had a very good career, and I enjoyed my personal and church life. Moreover, I thought that this was my life and the church had no right to decide what I should do. I was wrong. From the moment we are baptized, our life does not belong to us because it has been redeemed by the blood of Jesus; our life belongs to Jesus Christ and we are members of His body—the church.

A STRANGE CONDITION

Not long afterwards, however, something happened to me. One night in 2008 at 3 a.m., I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my back, as if somebody had just punched me very hard. I woke up and asked my wife for a massage. But that did not help. I walked up and down the stairs in my house, trying to relieve the pain. Suddenly, I lost all motor functions and could not stand. Before I collapsed, I called to my wife, “I’m going to fall!” Lying on the living room floor, I could only move my head. The rest of my body felt completely numb. I was shocked but I tried to calm myself. After my wife and I prayed together for about an hour, amazingly, there was a soothing feeling in my neck and suddenly, I could move again. Deep in my heart, I knew something was wrong, but I suppressed the feelings of my conscience.

After the incident, I went for an MRI scan but the results showed that there were no problems. I was relieved and continued my life as usual. About one year later, in 2009, the symptoms reoccurred, and I collapsed another three times—twice at home and once at church. Each time, after prayer, I recovered. Clearly, God was trying to tell me something. My wife even asked me, “Have you done something wrong? Do you need to repent?” I answered, “Of course not.” However, deep in my heart, fear began to build up. I knew that God was trying to teach me a lesson, but I kept suppressing that feeling. I was stubborn and foolish.

After these incidences, we consulted various doctors. All of them said that there was nothing wrong with me. One physician wanted to refer me to a psychiatrist, and another doctor even asked me to see a medium. I also went to see a Chinese physician for acupuncture. I almost died in that clinic. About five minutes after the physician had started the acupuncture and had left the room, I lost all my motor functions yet again. In addition, I could barely breathe and I felt as if I was going into a seizure. It was terrible. I was shaking, and I shouted for help but no one came. Then I prayed and struggled to reach out to grab my mobile phone. Thank God, I managed to call my wife, who then rushed into the treatment room with the physician.

They were shocked when they saw me. At first, I couldn’t move but after about an hour, I regained mobility and went home. The Chinese physician urged me to see a surgeon immediately.

REMAINING STUBBORN

The next morning, on June 14, 2009, I went to the hospital and was admitted straight away. For that whole day I just lay in bed, without anyone coming to check on me. The surgeon checked my MRI scans, which had been performed one year earlier without revealing any problems, and he thought that it would be impossible for anything to happen to me in such a short time.

However at 7 p.m. that night, my pain returned and I endured it until midnight. I was given painkillers but to no avail. The pain reached a point where my body couldn’t handle the stress and I went into a seizure. I started convulsing horribly on the bed. I don’t even remember what happened afterwards, but it was as though I had completely lost all my senses. According to my wife and my sister, I began randomly shouting at people.

Apart from the pain, my whole body felt numb and I could not breathe. The doctor came with some nurses and they pricked my body with needles to test my sense of touch—I could no longer feel anything. I truly thought that I was not going to survive. Yet, even at this agonizing moment, I remained stubborn. Other people would have started to repent and ask God for forgiveness, but I did not. I did not want to promise God anything.

That night, I went through another MRI scan and CT scan before the doctor finally found bleeding behind my neck. I had to undergo life-saving emergency surgery. The doctor was still uncertain over the cause of the bleeding and told me that the surgery would be very dangerous. He also said that if I did survive, I might lose some of my motor functions. Deep within me, I knew that I would not die, yet I told my wife that I loved her, just in case I did not wake up.

The next morning, I underwent the surgery. Thank God, I did wake up afterwards, and I recovered within the week, despite having three vertebrae removed from my neck. I also thank God that I did not have any side effects from the surgery apart from some memory loss.

SERVING GOD STARTS WITH SUBMISSION

After this incident, I started to think about why this had happened. I started to pray to God. I knew that I was not submissive and that a deacon who is not submissive would cause much trouble in the church. I told the Lord: “God, if you want to use me, you have to change me.” Later on, I realized that God had indeed changed me through this experience. He left a very deep scar on my neck, which would always remind me not to be stiff-necked.

In 2013, local church board members once again approached me regarding deaconship and this time, I accepted the calling. Ever since, my views regarding divine work have changed significantly. In the past, I was quite self-centered and I would only do divine work that I liked. However, I came to realize that church work is not a hobby; it is our service to God. So when we humbly carry out divine work that we do not like, we are submitting to and truly serving God.

After my ordination as a deacon, God continued to change me. Today, I always pray to God to mold, change, and help me to do things according to His will instead of my own will. Sometimes, I still have negative or stubborn thoughts. Whenever that happens, I reach out and touch my neck. I truly thank God for the second chance to serve Him according to His will and for teaching, molding, and changing me the hard way.

If we are stiff-necked and try to challenge the Lord, we will find that we have already lost the battle, because we will never win against God. However, if we submit ourselves completely to God, we will find peace and joy in our service to Him.
May all glory be to our beloved Lord Jesus. Amen.

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Author: Peter Wong
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