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 (Manna 48)
My Story as a Writer
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My Story as a Writer

I’m thankful of God's grace and overjoyed that I was asked to contribute to this special issue of Manna. When I look back at my work for literary ministry, I cannot but marvel at the way the Lord has taught me through the course of writing.

I started writing some short Christian prose and passages back in the year 1988; not exactly with the intention of getting them published in various English TJC publications, and this was before Manna unified them all in the mid-90s.

The idea was to express some of my reflections and teachings that I gathered from Bible reading and my encounters in service to God. Also, I wanted to ensure that I would remember these precious inspirations, both directly from God and through Bible study sessions, and develop them into more readable, organized, and structured messages to share in the community of faith.

It is still somewhat clear in my mind that whenever I felt like expressing myself, I would quickly scribble it down on a sheet of paper for a proper type-out later. In those days, a laptop was quite a rare commodity—a gadget that only the rich literate could afford, let alone for me to carry around to meet my spur-of-the-moment writing needs.

I habituated myself to the practice of translating thoughts into written words. I enjoyed doing it so much that, even after a game of Scrabble, I would not hesitate to pen my thoughts down. When time permitted, I would revise them. A few years later, by the grace of God, I managed to produce many unpolished articles, both short and long, some of which were adapted, revised, and used for the church literary ministry.

To be honest, and maybe suffering from some sort of forgetfulness, I can remember neither the topic nor the publication date of my first church article. Many times, however, when I recall how God has provided me with the opportunities to write for Him, there is always a sense of impossibility in view of my background but immense joy for where I am now in the Lord. My response to such grace is to continue to write for Him whenever and wherever possible.

Each time that a chance arises for me to share in writing, I humbly and happily accept the offer. I have been so eager to serve in the ministry of writing, and my zeal for it is grows everyday. How God has shaped my writing has been deeply imprinted in my mind. It has been a long and difficult journey—one that started out with a sense of impossibility in view of my background—but a truly fulfilling and rewarding one.

Come to think of it, to be given the ability to write was well beyond my wildest ambitions and expectations. I have come to realize that a gift may not be readily given to us when we ask of the Lord. It requires much effort on our part, and it takes time for the gift to develop. The best way to fulfill our writing potential for God is to frequently get involved in writing itself. Constant practice instills confidence and creates momentum in our will to produce works through trial and error. It makes us long to learn more.

When Pr. M.S. Tsai was in the UK in the early 90’s, he always helped conduct literary workshops to train up more writers in LondonChurch. I was always one of the most faithful participants. I even took up a writing course by correspondence with a writing school, though I did not complete it. These courses actually helped me a lot; especially the technical aspects of writing. They resolved some of the problems that I faced, as they would to any new or experienced writer alike.

When trying to jot an idea down, for example, some of us may suffer writer’s block, which, in fact, happens to all writers. But if we face it positively, it compels us to search more deeply and regularly into the Bible. If we persist, we become more and more acquainted and equipped with the word of God, with the understanding that learning is life-long and humility is always required. And before we know it, we would have accumulated enough writing to use at our disposal.

Below is an excerpt from my article, “Be conversant with the Bible,” which I think might be useful for those who are in pursuit of God’s word:

“[Being conversant with the Bible] is best achieved, as some may assume, by reading, searching, and preaching. We can take verses from any chapter to commit to our memory. Memorizing a list of verses may have a retention value but we may only acquire weak feeling for life’s application and impartation. Knowing the Bible should not be a mechanical process but should occur spontaneously with learning, meditating, and practicing the truth. Apart from searching, learning God's words requires divine guidance for our comprehension. Not only is it for self-edification but also the enhancement of others' spirituality. Meditating on the scriptures is the key not only to increasing the retentive capacity but also discovering the pattern of the sounded word. When we come upon an important verse... pause and ponder over it to find out how it is related to other passages. Most importantly, we need to know how it can be applied to our lives. Practicing the words should be the strict reason for being conversant with Scriptures. It is the practice of God's words and not just academic proficiency that brings out the spiritual momentum and vitality in the doer. The more we do, the deeper our understanding, thereby becoming conversant with the Bible.”

I can still remember the early years of my writing for the church. I found it hard to piece biblical ideas together. To make them flow and easily understandable, I adopted the approach of organizing them into thoughts and drafts and then revising them as the writing progressed. It was wonderful.

It was during that time that I had many quiet moments of meditation over God's word. It even became an intrinsic part, if not the whole, of my character. This was also the phase of my life where I grew to love and embrace God's word in totality.

Whatever teachings I learned in the past from workers of the church are now dearly mine. In particular, I thoroughly worked through practically every doctrine that our church preaches. I developed them into booklets, and I answered questions raised by other denominations in writing. It became very handy when talking about, preaching, and sharing the Bible. By repetitively going through the same mental process, I became more organized in my verbal presentation, such as talking to truth-seeking friends and giving sermons.

Through regular writing, I also generated a system, with God’s direction, to uphold the precious truths that the Lord has given to the church. I learned how to defend the truth logically, though I did not and still do not perceive myself as one worthy or qualified to do so. And once it is put on paper, it will not be forgotten and is good for future reference, which can be improved upon and useful for the church and the many generations to come.

Writing for God is a spiritual discipline. Not only does it help me understand more of His word, it also shapes my spirituality as I learn to co-operate with the circle of fellow writers in the church.

For an article to be published, it has to pass through the editorial and review processes. Sometimes, the article may have to be revised. Other times, it may have to be shelved, to put it in the mildest possible way. To me, this is the time at which my humility and endurance are put to the test.

I learn to be less egotistic when rejection occurs and see how my writing can be improved upon with help from my brethren. The good thing about having been through such a situation is that in my service to the Lord, I become less critical of others and more open to diversified views, insofar as they are not against the Bible.

Serving God through writing is very meaningful, and anyone who has a willing heart is able to experience it as long as he or she tries. God values the heart to serve Him much more than the writing skill acquired.

I believe the youngsters of the church today are so much more equipped with the basics to embark on the ministry of writing, as long as humility is in the forefront and is the foundation of their work. Globally, many of them have a good command of the language, which, in this case, is English, and have been through numerous Bible seminars and training courses.

If you are one of them, do you still linger?

Now is the time to serve God through writing.

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Author: FF Chong