Editor’s note: In the first part of this article (Manna 92), four youths shared their experiences of God’s guidance as they took their first steps into adulthood—in the years before, during, and after university. Through reflecting on the direction of their lives, they were shown the state of their faith and learned to trust and draw near to God even when things were not going to plan. In such formative moments, our relationship with our heavenly Father is shaped, and we forge an independent faith. In this second installment, we feature three more testimonies of how our choices can impact our faith and how we should commit our plans to the Lord and His will, for He directs our steps (Prov 16:9).
Seek First the Kingdom of God
Sarah Tan Hui Shyn—Singapore
Hallelujah, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I testify about my time studying abroad and learning to seek God first.
After completing high school in 2015, I decided to further my studies in Canberra, Australia, where the foundation studies program is only one year long, compared to the two-year pre-university college course in Singapore. This meant I could begin my tertiary education and enter university a year earlier. Many church members questioned my decision to study in Canberra because there is no local True Jesus Church (TJC). While I understood their concerns, I did not give them much thought. I knew attending church services was important but did not think it was that important. I felt that each person’s faith was their personal relationship with God, so sixteen-year-old me did not see the need for a physical church. I naively thought that my faith would grow stronger in such a situation.
When I first arrived in Canberra, everything went smoothly. I prayed, did my daily devotions, and reserved the Sabbath for God. Life did not feel as hard as people had warned me.
However, as time passed, I realized I was falling behind in my routine. My daily prayers grew shorter, I put less effort into worship, and I started falling asleep while listening to sermons. I knew something was wrong and that I would risk losing God if I did not do something to rectify this problem. Coincidentally, during that period, I heard a sermon reminding us that our faith in God should be progressive. One’s faith is never stagnant—it is either progressing or declining.
Because of this message, I started praying more and changed the way I worshipped. Instead of listening to sermons while lying on my bed, which made me sleepy, I sat at the table. This routine continued for the rest of the year, and I thank God that He preserved me and kept me safe in His arms.
Just as I was completing my foundation studies, a thought suddenly struck me: why did I choose to study in a place with no church nearby? Looking back, it made no sense. I was risking my spiritual well-being. I wanted to study law, which is not some niche degree. I no longer saw the advantages of studying in Canberra. I spoke to my dad about this, and we concluded that I should study in a city with a local TJC.
I prayed over this matter but soon started getting cold feet. I disliked the idea of starting over again—getting to know new people and adjusting to a new environment. After all, I had already been in Canberra for a year. I did not want to leave my friends who had gone through thick and thin with me.
I had to decide quickly, but I was very conflicted. During that time, a particular Bible verse stood out to me during my daily devotions. Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
This verse was the deciding factor. Although I was apprehensive about my unknown future, I rested on God's promise. I believed He would arrange and settle everything for me because I sought Him first.
In retrospect, this was the first decision I made where I put God first.
Thank God, my decision to move to Melbourne was the right one. God blessed and guided me in settling down in a new environment, allowing me to worship Him in church. My year in Canberra helped shape my relationship with God and taught me how precious it is to be in His church. However, moving to Melbourne showed me the value of fellowship with brothers and sisters and the importance of having spiritual companions. I now understand why Paul missed his fellow brethren—I experienced the Melbourne members' warmth, love, and kindness, for which I thank God. We pray, play, and push each other to better ourselves in our walk of faith. I thank God for allowing me to serve in the choir, hymnal worship, and the evangelism team. I learned much and grew spiritually.
God also blessed me physically. My initial fears of starting over in a foreign place were unfounded, as God cared for all my needs. I stayed in a brand-new hostel on a beautiful campus, which I selected online despite having little information. Of all the hostels available, it turned out to be the best—it was in the most accessible location. God gave me three good campus friends. He also blessed me academically and provided me with several job offers in Singapore even while I was still studying in Melbourne.
That said, my greatest takeaway from my five years in Australia was the spiritual blessings. God taught me to be accountable for my faith and to be alert and of sober mind, for the devil prowls around, waiting for the opportunity to devour us (1 Pet 5:8). By making adjustments to our life (whether big or small), God will help us draw near Him if we resolve to put in the effort. We can truly experience God’s grace and blessings by seeking God first.
In life, whenever we are faced with choices, let us be brave and rest on His promise—that if we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, He will surely provide (Mt 6:33).
God’s Perfect Arrangement: My Journey to University
Jemima Hsu—London, UK
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I testify about how God guided me into university. Looking back, I can see His hand throughout the application process. For those waiting for university acceptance offers or exam results, I hope my sharing gives some reassurance during this nerve-wracking step into adulthood. For the rest of us—whether we are long past university or a long way from it—I hope this reminds us that, while we may face uncertainty about our future, there is no need to worry because our heavenly Father is in absolute control.
I wanted to study biomedical engineering, a niche subject not available at many universities. At the same time, I wanted to stay near the church. I knew I would find it extremely difficult to keep up my faith otherwise. I decided to apply to universities in three cities: Edinburgh, where I would have my family and religious education class (despite only general engineering courses being available locally); Glasgow, which has a True Jesus Church (TJC) place of worship and is within weekend traveling distance from Edinburgh; and London, where I knew there were faithful and active youths in church.
In Scotland, students apply to a maximum of five university courses during the final year of high school, starting in October. I made my five choices and sent off my application in early December 2018. Many received their offers within a week or even on the same day. Those still waiting would become anxious and unsettled. University applications came up in almost every conversation. I have an active imagination and often dwell on the worst-case scenario. But this time, I felt calmer than my classmates—although I was worried, I knew everything was in God’s hands. In my prayers, I asked God to lead me where He wanted me to go, to help me humbly accept His will and have faith that He knew best. Thank God I received my first two university place offers (my fourth and fifth choices) within a week.
It was not until mid-January that I received an interview invitation for my first-choice course at a highly competitive university. As the interview approached, I became increasingly nervous because I had not heard from the remaining two universities (my second and third choices). However, a week and a half before the interview, I received an offer from my third-choice university and an offer from my second-choice university four days later—and to my surprise, the latter offer was made without having to attend an interview. This was God’s gracious timing—He gave me this reassurance just before my all-important interview. It boosted my confidence because I knew I had two backup offers I would gladly accept.
Before my interview, I prayed in silence and reflected on the grace that God had already shown to me. During the interview, I answered the questions confidently, even though I was not always sure I was correct. However, when I spoke to the other candidates after the interview, I was convinced that my interview had gone terribly in comparison. My fellow applicants came from all over the world, and I felt they were more knowledgeable than I. I doubted that I would receive an offer.
We were told that the offers would be released one month later. During this period of waiting, I asked God to guide me to trust His will and to help me accept His decision no matter the outcome. When the university contacted me, I was already half-convinced that I would not receive an offer. However, at 10 p.m., I received an offer on the condition of achieving three A grades at Advanced Higher (Scottish high school exams taken in the final year).
When the Advanced Higher results approached, I was confident that I had performed well enough in two of my three subjects but not in my Mechanics exam. The requirement for an A grade was seventy percent. Although a church sister told me Advanced Higher grade boundaries were often lowered by a few percentage points, I did not think it would be enough.
On results day, I was at the Youth Theological Training Course (YTTC) in Leicester TJC. When I learned I got three A grades, the brethren at Leicester thanked God for me. They knew how nervous I had been. When I got home, I discovered that I got sixty-five percent in Mechanics, and that the grade-A boundary had been lowered to exactly sixty-five percent. My mother and I realized that my precarious borderline result was not coincidental but arranged by God. As she pointed out, it told me two things.
Firstly, God wanted me to attend this particular university in London. Initially, I was worried about moving so far away. Yet if this was not God’s will, my result only had to be one percentage point below the grade boundary for things to be very different. It is only by God’s arrangement that everything turns out so perfectly. Also, the last two annual student spiritual convocations I had attended before university applications had been in London. God knew that I would need some familiarity and reassurance to move four hundred miles away from home to London. I had been praying for God’s guidance from the start of my application process. Who was I to now question His decision when He had clarified my direction?
Secondly, God wanted to teach me to be humble. Without God’s arrangement, I would never have made it into my first-choice university. Therefore, this was God’s grace, not a result of my abilities or hard work.
As I enter my final year of university, I have to constantly remind myself that I am not here by my own ability but by God’s grace. Looking back at everything that led up to the move, it is evident that God’s hand was present throughout. I hope my story offers those about to enter university some hope and comfort at a challenging time in life. Whether you are considering university or not, I hope you can see God’s guiding hand in my testimony and reflect upon God’s blessings in your life. We may not know what will come tomorrow, but the future is in God’s hands.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths. (Prov 3:5–6)
God’s Timing and Providence Are Perfect
Louise Chan—Edinburgh, UK
The transition from student to working life can be daunting. We may question: Will I get a job? How long will the search take? What if there is no suitable role for me? With an obscured career path ahead, it is natural to feel anxious about the future. In these moments, our human emotions may take the lead, making it difficult to put our complete trust in God.
In the Bible, Joseph had a rough start in his early life. From a secular perspective, he was cursed with bad luck: from being sold as a slave to being falsely accused and imprisoned. His future was uncertain, but God had a higher purpose for him. Our life journey may not pan out as we envision, and we may not understand why things seem to be going downhill, but we must remember that God has His plan and timing for us all.
Furthermore, God often uses events and the environment around us to teach us what we ought to learn. Through the experience of searching for my first full-time job, I learned to trust God, to have patience, and to have the humility to submit to His will.
After graduating in the summer of 2018, my search for a job in graphic design lasted many months but only led to some temporary part-time roles. These were great for gaining experience, but I yearned for long-term work. I was also ambitious and desired to move away from home, where there were more extensive opportunities to excel in my career. However, things would take a downward turn whenever they started to look promising.
In the spring of 2019, I was accepted onto a competitive internship away from home. I was thrilled with this opportunity. Since this was what I wanted, I assumed it was also God's will for me. By summer, I had settled into a new city and was looking forward to the new role. But my contract was canceled abruptly after a week due to issues in the company. I found this difficult to accept and began to question: if this was God's will, why did He give, only to take it away so easily?
Nevertheless, I returned to the job search. The longer the wait, the more discouraged I became, even to the point of considering a complete career change. I began to doubt myself and my skills. Deep down, I started to doubt God and His love for me. My doubtful heart made attending services and fellowships feel like a chore, and my service to God was performed reluctantly.
After a few months, I started working part-time in the retail industry. However, I had to resign three months into the job because I had an accident outside of work—I fractured and dislocated my ankle, requiring surgery. In the moments on the way to and inside the cold operating theater, I realized that no one would be able to help me in this situation—no family, no friends, not even the orthopedic surgeon—if anything went wrong. I only had God to rely on. From this turning point, I resolved to put more effort into prayer, reading the Bible, and rebuilding a trusting relationship with God during my recovery, which lasted four months.
In December 2019, I had my first interview for what would become my current job. However, this position was subsequently put on indefinite hold because of the pandemic. Nothing was panning out as I had hoped. My job search had stretched on for over one and a half years. Thankfully, these circumstances created valuable space for self-examination. I realized that I had been impatient in my search. Through this journey, God wanted to teach me patience.
PATIENCE IS KEY
As I waited for my interview results, I prayed and chose to leave the outcome in God's hand. I resolved to wait on God to see if He would grant me this job. If not, I would wait for another opportunity. The job offer was eventually confirmed to start in April 2020, five long months after the initial interview. Today, there may be things that we are waiting for—be it a new job or a new chapter of our lives—but the time that God has appointed will be just right because He makes everything beautiful in its time (Eccl 3:11).
CLOTHED WITH HUMILITY
Upon deeper reflection, I realized I lacked the humility to submit to God's planned path. I was strong-willed and had a proud heart, as I had aimed to start my career in a high-flying role. God understood the condition of my faith, and so prevented me from starting a full-time job immediately. He ensured I did not become puffed up and gave me the time to work on my faith. God did not allow me to do the internship because He knew I could not take the pressures of a competitive environment. He gave me enough time to reflect and to learn humility. Even though my current role was not what I had expected, it is the most suitable position for me in many ways while also giving me the flexibility to do church work. By submitting to His will, I learned that His providence is perfect. All things are done not by our own will, but by God's will: “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that” (Jas 4:15b).
TRUSTING IN GOD
As time passed, I watched God’s will unfold and soon saw the bigger picture. I realized I did not trust in God entirely. Now, I believe it was His will for me to stay in Edinburgh for work. Being at home, I was available when my family needed me the most, especially when my grandad was hospitalized and eventually called to rest in the Lord. Though we may not see the reason behind certain events, we must remember that God's thoughts toward us are of peace and not evil, to give us a future and hope (Jer 29:11). Gradually, my trust in God was strengthened, as I understood Him more through His word. Attending services and fellowships became a joy again. The more I trusted, the more I loved God. Serving Him became easier; I did not serve half-heartedly but willingly. Without love, we will find it challenging to serve, as it requires us to dedicate time and effort. When we remember the grace of God in the Bible and our lives, we will be touched by Him, and this love will compel us to serve (2 Cor 5:14–15). After all, “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God” (Rom 8:28a), and He will provide for us when we put our faith and trust in Him.
GOD’S GRACE IS SUFFICIENT
Thank God for His wonderful grace: I was able to start a full-time permanent role during a nationwide lockdown in the middle of a global pandemic, a time when the chances of finding work were slim. Rather than moving several miles away, I am now blessed to work remotely from home. Through this experience, God guided me to where I needed to be. Indeed, a “man's heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps” (Prov 16:9).
Our life journeys may take an unexpected detour, but God remains our guiding light through the rough and smooth, over hills and valleys. Even if times become difficult, we should remember that God gives us bitterness in our lives so that we can taste the sweetness of His grace. In the story of Joseph, we know that the Lord was with him despite his difficulties. And whatever he did, the Lord showed him mercy and gave him success. We should be like Joseph—even when things are not going our way, we need to trust in God to lead us in His plan for us. God has a higher purpose for us, and we need to focus on our relationship with Him. As we transition to new stages in our lives, let us remember that everything has its season, and there is a time for every purpose under heaven (Eccl 3:1). Ultimately, the one true God in whom we believe is the One who created the heavens and the earth. In Him, we can certainly trust.