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 (Manna 96: Spiritual Nurture: Prayer)
Youth: Vessels for God's Work: Post-Pandemic Reflections on Serving God
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Elgin and Aberdeen Youths—Northern Scotland, UK


"Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and truth." (Josh 24:14a)

Towards the end of his life, Joshua gathered the people of Israel to relay God's word and recount their history—how God chose their ancestor, Abraham, and made his descendants a great nation; how they were delivered out of Egypt and brought into the land they now occupied. He reinforced the message that they should choose the Lord as their God and serve Him as they came to rest in the different parts of the land. Being God's people meant serving and obeying Him alone. Knowing the good works that God had done for Israel, Joshua resolved to commit his life to this.

In his letters, Peter described such a life as a holy priesthood, a precious status made possible through Jesus Christ, where we serve and offer our lives to God.

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Pet 2:4–5)

Careful reflection is needed to cherish the grace God has bestowed upon us and ensure that what we offer is acceptable to Him. God intended the priesthood to be a gift (Num 18:7), so it befits us to consider how we receive it.

We thank God that, although the COVID-19 pandemic presented obstacles to the ministry, we have seen His guidance and providence in how various holy works continued in different formats and via alternative channels. Some workers found their areas of service put on hold, unless they adapted. Either way, the pandemic presented a time of change. It provided points of reflection on our service, even after restrictions were lifted in Scotland in the spring of 2022. What have we learned about our heart to serve during this time of upheaval, and how can we move forward to renew our zeal as vessels of God? In this article, brethren from the church in Elgin and the place of worship in Aberdeen share some of their reflections.

Carol Ly

"Serving is a burden"
So for me, I don't feel that
I have the strength to continue
For God
Because the underlying fact is
I don't know if God is there
He isn't listening to my prayers and
I'm not going to pretend that
God wants me to serve so I can be blessed
That He cares when I am burnt out
But instead, I will keep reminding myself
That I am a useless, failed servant
And nothing I hear will make me believe
God still loves me
Because I know no matter how I feel
I am not gifted enough for Him to love me
Other people can serve in place of me
And I should not then think that
I must help to do my share of the church work
Because whenever I hear God's commission, I think
Should we really be doing our part to serve God?

Now read the same lines in reverse, from the bottom to the top.

Terie Chan

Many look back at the COVID period with mixed emotions. It was a time of much uncertainty, fear, sorrow, loss, and grief. However, some view the lockdown with fondness—perhaps they were living in a bubble with family or friends and were able to reassess and realign their priorities and mindset. It was a wake-up call from the monotony of life. Each of us has our own pandemic experiences and stories to share—a testament to God's guidance and timely reminders.

I was born into a True Jesus Church (TJC) family, and we emigrated from Taiwan to Brisbane, Australia, when I was young. Having spent most of my life in Brisbane, I relocated to work in London in 2018. Even though my initial intention was to stay for only a year, God had other plans for me. A year became two, and just as my life was becoming more settled in London, the world as we knew it turned upside down.

In the short space of twelve months, between December 2019 and December 2020, my life changed dramatically against the backdrop of COVID-19 and the uncertainty it brought. During this time, I got engaged to a brother from Scotland, whom I met a few years before in Taiwan; my work contract ended because of the pandemic, and I returned to Brisbane as borders were closing—blissfully unaware of the risks and challenges to come. I found myself navigating a period of unemployment before eventually starting a new role. But after only four months, I resigned to relocate again—this time to Elgin, Scotland, to get married.

My life during that year felt like an interminable period of waiting and change. Our wedding planning was delayed as I waited for my UK spouse visa to be approved and for the ever-changing government guidance on gatherings to be confirmed. I spent nine months in Australia before the international border restrictions eased and I could return to the UK. God was moving me from place to place, and although I sometimes felt confused, lost, or lonely, I knew I was never truly alone. Throughout it all, returning "home"—both physically (to my family) and spiritually (to the church)—was a source of solace, peace, and comfort. It was a constant reminder not to worry and to be patient, for God is in control and holds our future in His very hands.

"Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." (Mt 6:34)

A key lesson I learned during this time was to be always willing and open to serve and take hold of every opportunity. Often, we make excuses for ourselves: we are too busy, not gifted enough, other people are more fitting, or we do not know what to do—the list goes on! However, as vessels for God, we need to cleanse and empty ourselves so God can fill us and use us. If we are willing, God will do the rest. We should not let these opportunities simply pass us by.

This firm belief that service is integral to our faith—that they go hand in hand—was instilled in me from a young age. The Bible tells us that faith without deeds is dead (Jas 2:17). So, both in returning to Brisbane and after moving to Elgin, I found myself wanting to serve as a way of contributing—to feel like part of the family of faith, and to repay God's love.

Despite knowing what I should do and feeling the urge to do it, I sometimes found myself lacking in many aspects—unmotivated, without the drive, and conflicted about whether to participate in specific divine works. Other times, certain works I had previously participated in (such as interpreting and teaching religious education classes) were no longer possible due to differences in language or services being held online. While I was in Brisbane, uncertain of how long I would remain there, I selfishly did not want to commit in case I disappointed others and failed to fulfill the works entrusted to me wholeheartedly.

However, through encouragement and prayer, I was reminded that we must be willing and ready as God's vessel. We should not wait until we think everything is perfect, as we will be waiting forever and fail to act. Patience is also an important quality for us as children and servants of God. Sometimes, God does not give us opportunities immediately, so we must wait. In such times, God may be testing our patience by giving us time to prepare better, cultivate ourselves spiritually, and undergo the necessary training to mold and equip us for His good works. Everything happens in God's time.

But now, O LORD,
You are our Father;
We are the clay, and You our potter;
And all we are the work of Your hand. (Isa 64:8)

As God is the potter, we are the clay; we must be submissive to how God wishes to use and mold us. It takes time and work to be refined—to be equipped, ready, or worthy to serve God. Our service is not limited to "official assignments" or specific divine works. We should be open to serving God in other ways, such as reaching out to lost sheep and the overlooked brothers and sisters, praying for others, working on our faith, and better equipping ourselves with the resources to serve when the time comes.

In recent years, my life has been a series of unfathomable and unexpected changes: moving countries, changing jobs, having a COVID wedding, and much more. This has taught me that the only constant in life is change—we make plans, but plans change—and only God remains unchanging. Only He knows what tomorrow may bring (Prov 27:1; 16:9).

Our faith in God grounds us and is the thread that binds together the various aspects of our lives. It must be the anchor of our existence. Our service to God demonstrates and manifests our love and gratitude to Him. So, let us be vessels for our Master's good use, always ready to say, "Here, am I, send Me!"

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying:
"Whom shall I send,
And who will go for Us?"
Then I said, "Here am I! Send me." (Isa 6:8)

Sean Ho

Everyone aims for success in their endeavors. Whether in work, study, or personal pursuits, we all desire our time and energy to lead somewhere and not be spent in vain. We typically gauge our success by examining the results: Is the outcome favorable? Does it meet our expectations? The answers to these questions help us to determine whether we did enough to achieve what we wanted in the first place. If our goals were met, we have done enough; if not, we have fallen short in some way.

Often, we take the same approach towards God's ministry. In wanting to serve well, we may look for tangible results, such as members' feedback. While seeking improvement in our holy work is not wrong, such a results-driven mentality can lead us to focus solely on ourselves and our actions. We end up thinking that the outcome, whether positive or negative, depends on what we have or have not done, thus becoming a form of pride. However, when it comes to working for God, we cannot forget that this work is not our own.

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. (1 Cor 3:6–7)

This verse reminds me that the workers of God are only servants through whom He does His work; all glory belongs to Him. When I evaluated my service according to the outcome, it produced a self-centered mentality about serving God. I had overlooked an important question: does God accept my service? This is the metric we should consider when it comes to holy work.

"Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' " (Mt 7:22–23)

Jesus teaches that He looks at the person rather than what he has done. If I want to be truly accepted by Him and, by extension, my service, too, then I must first make sure that I live a life obedient to His word.

During the lockdown, I was reminded that I should still maintain a God-fearing attitude even though I was observing the Sabbath in my home. It led me to examine and test the kind of heart I had toward worship. The same can be said about serving God; He is looking at our heart towards Him, reflected in the life we lead.

The opportunity to do church work is a gift from God, giving us the chance to be used as vessels for His wonderful works. Therefore, we should allow Him to work on us and strive to be sanctified and perfected by His truth.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:10)

May all glory be unto the Lord Jesus Christ!

Chloe Chan

Though the pandemic caused many aspects of our lives to grind to a halt, I am thankful that I could continue serving God in various capacities since most of my duties smoothly transitioned to being done virtually. However, one area that I was no longer serving in was hymnal leading. A year passed, and my local church asked for volunteers to lead hymns for the Northern Region online services, jointly hosted by the three churches in Scotland. The number of members attending would be quadruple the congregation of my local church. At first, I was hesitant; even though there was no physical congregation, the thought of leading hymns with so many online members was daunting. After some consideration and time spent in prayer, I decided that if I were given the opportunity, and I am able, I should take up the work. In the lead-up to my first session, I was extremely anxious. I spent much time singing over the chosen hymns and praying for everything to go smoothly.

Despite having led hymnal sessions in my local church for many years, I felt the same as when I was being trained to lead for the first time. This made me reflect on my attitude towards the work over the previous years. Why was there a difference in the time I spent preparing? Should it not have been the same as before? I started hymn leading at a young age, around eighteen years ago, and it was one of the first church works I participated in. As the years passed and I picked up other duties, my focus shifted towards these tasks. Upon reflection, I was reminded that any work done for God is holy work, and we must always have a reverent heart and correct mindset, regardless of how big or small the task.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (Rom 12:1)

We may have served for many years, and some tasks can become routine. Perhaps we have done something so often that we can even do it without thinking. We rely on our abilities, and rather than turning to God for guidance, we use our knowledge and experience. However, we must remember that we are merely vessels for God. We can only serve because God has given us the opportunity, and we can carry it out as God has given us the ability. Perhaps the pandemic has reduced our workload, or we may have been blessed with more opportunities. No matter how much we do, let us take the time to reflect on our heart and mind, making sure that these are acceptable to God. Coupled with prayer, we will be mindful to remove any impurities, ensuring we are sanctified for God. In doing so, we can be vessels fit for use and bring glory to His name. Therefore, no matter what holy work we are called to do, let each time we serve be as though it is the first—seeing it not as routine but as God's grace towards us.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. (Heb 12:28)


As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (1 Pet 4:10)

To be able to serve is a blessing, a grace of God. It is an opportunity to be used for His will—to manifest our love and to glorify His name. Doing work for the church allows us to become a part of God's great work of salvation.

For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building. (1 Cor 3:9)

We thank God for allowing us to reflect and realize that what we offer is not the work itself but ourselves as vessels and living sacrifices (Rom 12:1). It is not only about the efforts we put into our given tasks but the life we lead and our attitude towards service. These allow us to be servants acceptable to God.

Therefore, motivated by the wonderful grace and love of our Savior Jesus Christ, let us be zealous for His work, continually sanctifying and perfecting ourselves with His word so that we can be called good and faithful servants when we joyfully meet our Lord (Mt 25:21, 23).

May we continue to strive and become living sacrifices pleasing to God. Amen!

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Author: Elgin and Aberdeen Youths