Society changes rapidly with speedy advancements in technology. If you delay in upgrading your skills, you may be rendered obsolete. Along with these changes in society come stress and insecurity about the future. The trades of fortune-telling and palmistry trades have mushroomed in a bid to soothe people's hearts today.
As children of God, we must fulfill our duties to study and learn to meet the challenges of societal changes. Nonetheless, we do not place our hope in this world. Rather, we look to a more beautiful heavenly home, to which this life is but a stepping-stone. Hence our values should be different from the people of the world. To them, happiness is defined by marital bliss, children, health and prosperity. Without these, life has no meaning for them. But as God's children, we do not measure our lives in such terms. In the well-known parable, the rich man is the successful one in many people's eyes. But in God's eyes, he is a complete failure because he does not act according to the truth. On the contrary, Lazarus the beggar withstands trials, holds to the truth, and enjoys heavenly blessings.
Holding on to God
The past forty-odd years of my life have convinced me that a person can have a better tomorrow only by going in the direction that is God's will. In my childhood, my whole family was brought into the grace of the Lord. Our financial situation improved and my father even opened a little shop. When business became too hectic, we neglected God. Then God's chastisement came. We were forced to close down the shop. On top of that, I fell critically ill. But my father did not bow to adversity. He remembered God's words, that "the blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it" (Prov 10:22). God did not want us to lose our lives for the profit of the world. He wanted us to return to His loving bosom.
My family then learned to rely on God. My father prayed zealously. He did not forget to draw near to God even as he toiled to make ends meet. He often fasted and prayed for my illness. At one stage, my illness was so serious that the doctors could not do anything. That was when my mother made a vow in her prayer. Thanks to the grace of God, I was miraculously healed.
My father constantly reminded me not to forget the vow. Even as a young child, I told myself that I was to live for the Lord and to study for Him. Prior to entering university, I chose to study humanities, as I believed I could thus serve God better. But on the eve of the university entrance exams, I thought to myself, how would I be able to serve God in the future if He has not granted me His Holy Spirit? In that moment of weakness, I put down commerce as my choice of study, hoping to help shoulder the financial burden of the family. After I completed my tertiary studies, I secured a well-paid job. Little did I expect the chastisement of God to come once again upon my family. Then in my prayer, I received the Holy Spirit. From that time on, I knew I wanted to serve in the full-time ministry. Looking back, I can only conclude that man's path is not his own.
Because of my decision to serve full-time in the ministry, my first principle in choosing a spouse was that she must be able to walk with one mind with me in my ministry. Academic qualifications and other factors were peripheral to me. If this first criterion could not be met, I refused to compromise. Thank the Lord! He gave me someone I could walk together with. During these many years of service, my marriage has been a great support indeed. When we put God's affairs first, He will certainly bless us. This experience gives me greater confidence to march towards a better tomorrow.
In the ministry, I have faced difficult challenges. Each time I thought that I could no longer go on, the words of the Bible became the light to my path: "If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that." When we hold fast to the promise of the Bible, with prayer, God will grant us sufficient strength to succeed. Such spiritual success is much more valuable and significant than that of the world. Riches, status, fame and power do not show us the path to peace. How can anyone who lives in sin ever be truly happy? Paul writes "as unknown, and yet well known; as dying and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things" (2 Cor 6:9-10). Such is the spiritual experience that grants true fulfillment and joy, which is found only in Christ. We must have the faith that as long as we hold on to God's promise, our service to Him will meet with His favor.
As I count my blessings, I am filled with thanksgiving. At the same time, I feel I really do not deserve the grace that is upon me. I constantly remind myself that inevitably, there will always be a battle between the Holy Spirit and the flesh. If we but relax for a moment, our flesh will get the better of us. Around us, we can easily see many weaknesses that displease us. In such situations, I remind myself to always look at others' virtues, to offer suggestions instead of criticizing, to pray instead of passing judgment and to encourage instead of opposing. Of course, this is easier said than done. If we do not nurture ourselves spiritually and pray consistently, if we neglect to examine ourselves daily and strive to do good, we may easily fall into the miserable state of murmuring, "O, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of sin!" To secure a better tomorrow, we have to discipline ourselves and always examine our ways.
"Now acquaint yourself with Him, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you" (Job 22:21). By planning our direction according to God's will, we will receive true peace and blessing. In all circumstances, we trust that God's arrangement is good, and accept them with faith. We should also leave a good impression wherever we go so that we are good testimonies to God's wonderful plans. So, we must first be clear about what we are striving for--not for wealth but industry, not for authority but love, not for status but humility.
When we are in Christ, our future will not be like a mist. May we support one another as we move on to a better tomorrow!
Looking back, a humble vessel like me has been richly blessed. In my 18 years of full-time ministry, I have had the opportunity to participate in the teaching of theology for the past 14 years. I love this work and know very well its role as the foundation of one's faith. I hope that brethren in the church will esteem this aspect of our faith so that we can grow sturdily in our spirituality and take up the work to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth.
The development of the church is an important factor in God's salvation plan. The true church raised in the last days has to complete the work of reforming the religious beliefs of the world. We have to preach the complete gospel to the ends of the world. This is not a pompous claim but rather a commission of the Lord. The church therefore has to nurture talent in various fields so as to be able to reach and propagate the gospel to different religious groups, different races and different strata of society.
We have many of our trained preachers participating in the work of world evangelism. But we still fall short of the grace of God, for the harvest is plenty and the laborers are few. In fact, the results achieved do not tally with the grace that God has showered upon us. There are a few reasons for this and these are also the very areas on which we have to focus in the years to come.
Theological Training Must Be Extensive
The divine work today cannot be completed solely by the efforts of full-time preachers. Although the church periodically organizes Bible classes for the general congregation, there is still a need to have a more systematic theological training program to provide a solid foundation for the members' faith.
By the guidance of God, when theological training is extended to the congregation, preachers will have more co-workers to push the Lord's work to greater heights.
Theological Training Must Be In-depth
Preachers can have tremendous influence in the believers' lives of faith. If we wish to see more believers obeying God, preachers themselves also need to improve on their own spirituality. Only then can the church grow. When the Lord was on earth, He did not forget to pray while leading the disciples. Amid the busy schedule of pastoral work, preachers must find time to improve themselves. It is essential for them to quiet and examine themselves and the work they have done. They can also, with arrangements by the Theological Seminary, attend enrichment courses.
Theological Training Should Be Multi-faceted
It is unavoidable that the church's divine work become multi-faceted. Besides the present need for preachers, writers and editors, religious teachers and administrators, there will in the future be a greater need for workers gifted in counseling, languages, youth affairs, and music. Hence the church should encourage believers talented in these diverse areas to offer themselves. When we extend theological training to these different areas, we will solve the problem of having to make use of the same people for all different kinds of work.
The church has to expend her resources in nurturing talent. This is crucial to her progress. Each and every one of us should be concerned and pray for this important work. These are some of my humble observations. May we all work together for a better tomorrow for the kingdom of God.