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What If I’m Not Sure What to Do With My Life?

Written By Sam Ly, Singapore

“What is your advice to people who do not know what they want to do with their lives yet?”

I was recently asked this question by a polytechnic student at my alma mater when I was there to share about getting into law school and studying law. My reply in short was this: It’s okay if you’re still not sure, don’t be afraid of uncertainty.

Let me explain.

In Singapore, one has to make the decision about what course to study either at the age of 17 (for those applying to polytechnic or the Institute of Technical Education) or 19, for those going to university. At this stage of our lives, most of us may not be entirely sure about what we like to do, or want to work as in the future. While we may pray and ask the Lord to tell us clearly what we ought to do with our lives, God doesn’t always give us a clear “calling”.

Was I crystal clear that it was God’s will for me to pursue a diploma in law? Certainly not at the beginning. Law was recommended to me on the simple basis that I was always a strong advocate of right and wrong. As I continued to grow in my relationship with the Lord and through my studies, God showed me—through conversations with other believers and my internship experiences—that I was suited for this area of work, and that my knowledge of the law could indeed be used for His kingdom. That’s when I continued to pursue a degree in law as well.

Am I now crystal clear that it is God’s will for me to become a lawyer? Certainly not either. While I know that I want to serve in the field of law, and have been working hard to ensure that my understanding of the law will be useful for His Kingdom work, I do not have full assurance that God wants me to become a lawyer for the rest of my working life. There are many things beyond my foresight and control which may lead me to reconsider the very question I started this article with: what am I to do with my life?

So, what am I actually clear about? Did I bring you around in circles just to tell you that we can never have clarity about how to live our lives?

No, certainly not. There is one thing I am crystal clear about and it’s this: my life ought to be spent in full seeking God’s kingdom first and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). While I may not be so sure about my “what”, I am sure about my “why”.

The world operates on a system that convinces us that our identity rests in what we do as a lawyer, an athlete, a pastor, etc. But I believe the true answer can be found if we are clear about who Jesus is and who we are. When Christ forms the core of our identity, we have the greatest reassurance of who we are and why we walk this earth. Our identity lies in being God’s children, and not in what we do.

To clarify, I am not advocating a nonchalant and lazy approach of merely waiting for opportunities and “signs” to drop from heaven. To a large extent, we still have to seek opportunities and put ourselves in places where we can understand more about ourselves. What I’m saying is this: the fear of not knowing what to do with our lives need not cripple us. In fact, our scramble to have everything in complete order may come from a heart that is seeking to wrestle with God for absolute control over our lives. That mad dash for grades, internships and other things in our “to-do” list may suggest that our actions are motivated by fears and desires instead of whole-hearted trust in God (Proverbs 3:5-6).

I may not be crystal clear about what I will do or how I will do it, but I am crystal clear about why I will do whatever God calls me to do. As long as I’m seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness, I know that all these things shall be given to me (Matthew 6:33). So, fellow believers, may I encourage you not to fear seasons of uncertainty, for we surrender our lives (and our future) into the safe and trustworthy hands of God.

What Missing “My Calling” Taught Me

Written By Crystal Brockington, USA

She had lost the baby.

When I heard that she was expecting, I was ecstatic. I couldn’t believe that this woman—whom God had revealed to me a few months prior that she would conceive this year—was already pregnant! I squealed with excitement and literally jumped up and down. I couldn’t wait to rub her belly and watch her wear motherhood like a crown.

But in the midst of our celebration, I felt it—the unmistakable signal from heaven that God wanted me to do something. For me, it felt like a sudden intense heat inside my body. Sometimes, it can also feel like the moment a roller coaster drops, or as though I’ve just eaten three Thanksgiving dinners.

In this case, the feeling was accompanied by a really strong desire to pray, along with the certainty that something was not right. Like so many times before, I could feel the prayer rising from deep, deep inside of me. If I had opened my mouth, the words would have fallen out without me even having to think about them.

But I held them in.

I didn’t want to make a scene and I didn’t want to seem dramatic. I told myself that I could pray for Sara’s* pregnancy longer and better in my private time with God. I told myself that I was imagining the fullness and the heat in my stomach, that the prayer which was sitting in my throat like acid reflux was just a trick my mind was playing.

But experience had taught me better. By this night, I knew that I could not ignore God when He asks me to interrupt normal life and pray for people. Sometimes, He tells me things about people and instructs me to tell them. Most times, I have no idea what I am going to say or what I am going to pray until I hear the words coming out of my mouth.

I remained speechless, still clutching Sara’s arms and looking beyond her shoulders long enough for her expression to drop.

“What?” she asked.
“Nothing,” I lied.
I asked how far along she was.
She responded.
It felt like the wind had been knocked out of me as I heard a voice from above say, “She is going to lose the baby.”
The urge to pray got stronger. I still chose not to do it.
My expression dropped. I shook my head. I hugged her and said congratulations.

I don’t know for certain whether my prayer would have changed this tragic situation. What I do know is that in that moment, I missed an opportunity to walk in my calling. Sounds dramatic, but it’s true. Our culture may have over-complicated “calling” to mean some pinnacle of our lives or something to be attained, but I am speaking of calling in its simplest definition—a strong urge towards a particular way of life.

In that moment, when I fought against the urging of the Holy Spirit to lead my friends in prayer for Sara’s pregnancy, I knew I was missing an opportunity to walk in alignment with the Holy Spirit; I was going against the strong urge to obey God.

We all have the same calling.

Although our lives and our individual purposes differ, at the core we are all called to the same thing: obedience to God (James 2:14-26; John 14:23-24). This truth is the true measure of success in our lives.

Every believer is called to this obedience for the sake of furthering the kingdom of God. We have all been commanded to love those around us (Luke 10:29-37; Matt 22:39), to set an example with our lives, and to make disciples in the process. We are called to crucify our flesh daily by laying aside every desire that hinders our devotion to Christ and His Kingdom.

We are called to be salt and light in the very places that we are now. We don’t need to wait for permission or a sermon to remind us to live for Christ and His kingdom. We simply need to respond with obedience to what the Lord is saying. For me, this realization has been quite the journey, and as you can gather from the story above, it is one that I am still on.

However, I don’t always get things right in my pursuit of the selfless obedience. Still, God lovingly, graciously and mercifully restores me when I fail and strengthens me to keep trying.

Your calling is now and later and even after that.

In Christ, we are free to run the race that God has set before each of us. We are free to grow, learn, and to be useful within the Kingdom at every stage of our development. What that looks like is obedience, regardless of the life stage we are at. We cannot put off being salt and light today as we wait to be called tomorrow.

As Christians, we are not to measure success by how much popularity or profit we attain, but by how much we accomplish our purpose: to hear what God says and do what He commands at every stage of our lives. This is the height of our calling.

Consider Noah. The humble man who found favor in the eyes of the Lord was called to be the man from whom all the inhabitants of the earth would spring. Only he and those who were connected to him were spared the judgment of God. Noah’s calling was great, but it was also realized progressively. When he was living his life righteously, he had no idea that God was going to instruct him to build an ark in the middle of the desert. He was simply doing what he could to honor God. Then, when the instructions were released to him, Noah labored faithfully in his old age to construct the boat.

Noah walked out that calling his entire life, by living in a way that honored God and by following specific instructions. We must do the same.

Bringing God glory isn’t always glamorous.

Christian culture today has a somewhat romantic view of what it means to be called by God. The phrase churns up images of powerful ministries and reaching the unreached people groups. Not everyone’s manifestation of the Great Commission looks like this, however.

Being the Church extends far beyond formal services and preaching engagements. We are all called to partake in ministry, but not all of us can be employed by the church. Some of us are called to be accountants, to bring Biblical wisdom to the business sectors of society. Others are called to bring encouragement to the lost or hurting as they bag their groceries at the local supermarket. Some others are called to teach, and to fervently pray for generations of children as they pass through our classrooms year after year.

At this point in my life, I am called to write and to pray. I am called to encourage those around me who seem downcast. I am called to say whatever God tells me to say to whomever He sends me. It is an unglamorous but meaningful time when I yield to His Spirit and, moment by moment, walk the path that He is setting before me.

Yes, some callings are more glamorous by the world’s standards, but none are higher or lower by God’s standards. Whether a pastor shepherding in a mega-church or a mother shepherding her children and the local Girl Scout troop, we will all stand before the Lord and have our works judged one day. I don’t know about you, but from today on, I want to build only things that can withstand the testing of God. This means taking actions that are motivated by my love for God and a desire to bring glory to His name—and not simply to make a name for myself.

Today, we can aim for victory tomorrow by wholeheartedly applying ourselves to the situations and opportunities that the Lord has set us in now. We can choose obedience over pride. We can lay down the idols that we erect in our hearts when we strive for higher callings by choosing the highest calling in every moment: obedience.

 

*Not her real name

I Wanted to Sing, But God’s Track was Different

Written by Michelle Lai, Singapore

I had always loved singing and wanted to join the singing club in school. However, God had a different track in mind for me.

When I entered university in 2013, my Christian friends encouraged me to join the Christian Fellowship (CF). They even linked me up with a cell group leader whom I knew. But there was a problem—I had no intention of joining CF. I secretly thought that joining a Christian community in university was uncool.  In my mind, I imagined a group of people reading the Bible together every week. As someone who wanted to be seen as cool and trendy, I definitely did not want to be part of that.

Instead, I wanted to join the school’s singing club. I envisioned myself on stage singing one day. You see, I have always loved the “emotional” experience that singing brings whenever I sing with friends and allow the music and lyrics to “speak” to me. I wanted to spread that infectious feeling on stage. I was so convinced that I wanted to join the singing club and not CF that I decided to message the cell group leader to inform her of my decision.

I might have forgotten to mention one thing, though: I could not sing to save my life. I had no background in music. My singing voice was of a higher register, while most songs suited those who had a lower register.

I remember feeling very disappointed when I did not pass the audition for the singing club. The senior, who was conducting the audition, had asked me if I could play a musical instrument. I felt useless because I couldn’t—plus the fact I did not understand the musical terms used.

Still, I wanted to experience what it was like to be “cool” in university, so I decided to join my friends to drink and party. But one night was all it took to change my mind.  As I watched my friends lose control of themselves after drinking, I decided that was not how I wanted to live. Besides, those were expensive and unhealthy habits.

While I remained friends with those who had hobbies vastly different from mine, I wondered what else there was to life aside from just partying and studying. I began to question my identity and took a hard look at what I was doing in my life at the time. That was when I realized my need for a community with similar values to anchor me and help me navigate the confusing path of adulthood. It was then that I decided to join CF.

Once again, I wanted sing in the worship team. In fact, I was given the opportunity, but that didn’t last either. A couple of my seniors gave me feedback that I had failed to help people to worship God because I kept singing out of tune. After that session, I knew that God had not called me to lead worship.

After that, I was given many opportunities by my seniors to serve in different areas. I was determined to heed the advice of the words I had seen on an Instagram post: “Bloom where you are planted.”

As I started to examine my strengths and weaknesses objectively, I became an active CF member and eventually stepped up to be a cell group leader. I also became a part of the encouragement ministry in CF where we pray for the group, write notes of encouragement, pack welfare packs, and organize bonding activities.

Studying the Bible—which I initially thought was uncool—helped me develop my love for God’s Word. Over time, God showed me that I did not have to be fixated on the one talent that I did not have (singing). If we respond in faithful obedience, He will show us our gifts that can be used to honor Him.

Slowly, it dawned on me that writing poems was a way to express myself and offer praise and honor to Him. As I posted my poems on social media, I received some positive feedback from my friends. My best friend—a non-believer—told that it was encouraging for her to read about my faith and my God, and how my belief helped me in times of struggles. It amazed me that God could use my poems to reach my non-believing friends!

I started my university life wanting it to be the most thrilling and cool years of my life, and in the end, God fulfilled it—but not in the way I had envisioned. By His grace, I had numerous opportunities to identify my weaknesses and develop my strengths. These experiences shaped me and I hope they will continue to guide me in the future, especially for my future job. That said, I know that I do not have to worry, because God can use anybody who is willing to be molded by Him.

Here’s a poem God convicted me to write that describes this journey I went through.

Shape of Me

The Potter molded me
What is my destiny
I was formed from dust
Tell me
Would I last
I wanted to be a vase
To keep flowers in place
But the Potter had other plans
He told me to trust in His hands
He molded me into a jug
To be honest
I was not smug
I questioned the Potter’s hands
I wondered what were His plans
What else is He molding
Other than my shape
Something deep within me
He is changing me instead
He said the purpose of all these
Is to draw me to Himself
He delights in me
And now I accept myself

Paul Wong: Hotshot Lawyer to Devoted Campus Pastor

Featured Photo By Ian Tan
Written By Janice Tai, Singapore

As the son of one of Singapore’s top legal minds, Paul Wong seemed to be headed in a similar direction.

After studying law at Cambridge University, Paul landed a job in a prestigious law firm in London. The firm—Linklaters—was considered part of the “Magic Circle”, a term for the top five law firms in the United Kingdom.

As a corporate lawyer, he helped FTSE 100 companies—or the 100 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange with the highest market value—raise billions of dollars by drafting documents to help them sell their shares.

But at the prime age of 30, Paul decided to give it all up and walk in his heavenly Father’s footsteps.

Not that he ever thought he could or wanted to fill his earthly father’s shoes. Paul’s father, Lucien Wong, was recently appointed as Singapore’s Attorney-General in November 2016. Before that, the elder Mr Wong headed one of Singapore’s largest law firms—Allen & Gledhill—as its chairman and senior partner.

Paul’s legal career in Britain also seemed to hold much promise. When he quit his job two years ago, he was drawing an annual six-figure salary. A run for partnership was also possible if he stuck it out for the next two to five years.

Instead, he resigned and went for training to be a Bible teacher and preacher. At the end of August 2016, he returned to Singapore to become the campus pastor of the Singapore Management University (SMU) with the Christian Fellowship group.

From a gigantic law firm that employed some 2,000 lawyers, Paul moved to a workplace that had only one full-time paid staff—Paul—and an intern.

So why did he make such a huge career switch?

Paul-Wong-(4)

Photo By Ian Tan

 

Hitting rock bottom

Ask the 33-year-old if full-time ministry was ever on his radar, and his quick answer would be: Never.
As a teen, he had his fair share of rebelliousness. He skipped classes at Raffles Junior College a few times a week to play pool at Lucky Plaza or catch a movie in town.

Yet he made sure to tick all the obligatory boxes as a Christian. He attended Wesley Methodist church every Sunday and played guitar in its youth ministry. And when he was in London, he went to a local church that was a half-hour drive from where he lived and worked.

“Church was just a Sunday morning affair for me and had little impact on my life, decisions, and worldview,” says Paul. “When it came to church commitments versus work, work always won.”

Then, he was pulling very long hours at work. He was in office six days a week; it was considered a good day if he could leave the office before midnight for a full night’s sleep. On one occasion, he pulled all-nighters two nights in a row and did not leave his office for three days in order to meet a deadline.

“My thinking was, if God put you in a university or law firm, then the most God-glorifying thing you can do is to be the best student or the best lawyer. But I have grown to realize that this is a mistaken idea,” says Paul.

According to him, his spiritual walk hit “rock bottom” when he stopped living and thinking like a Christian altogether.

 

The awakening

On one particular Sunday in 2011, Paul was feeling the inertia of having to go to church. He was already in his office, and was reluctant to leave and return to office to finish up his work. His colleague suggested going to another church that was just five minutes’ drive away.

He went and was impressed by what he saw and heard. “I had heard many good sermons in the past but it was always one ear in, one ear out. But there I saw the Word being preached boldly and for corrective purposes, and people living those values out. It was God’s Spirit working through his Word that changed everything,” says Paul.

He started to attend this church regularly and also joined a Bible study group. The group was then studying the book of Mark for one year. It turned out to be a humbling experience for Paul.

“I thought to myself, Mark is the shortest of the four Gospels in the Bible and I have already read it at least 10 times. Why do we need one year to study it?” he says. “But in the process, I found out that I really didn’t know how to read the Bible at all. It was a very humbling experience. What was modeled to me as a child was that it was okay to treat the Bible as a magic book where I ripped things out of context when ironically, as a lawyer, I knew that was the worst way to read things.

At one session, the group was reading Mark 8, in which Jesus told the crowd that whoever wanted to be His disciple needed to deny themselves and take up their cross to follow Him. “I realized that I called myself a Christian but I was still living for myself. It got me thinking about what it meant to follow God, and I realized that I hadn’t understood discipleship at all,” says Paul.

With that epiphany came drastic changes in the way Paul spent his time. He began to serve in a lunchtime ministry at Linklaters and hold one-on-one Bible study sessions for people from his office and church. To make time for these activities, he cut back his working time by at least seven hours a week. With his billable hours going at a high rate, the move costed his firm a hefty sum—and probably his career prospects.

“I had an understanding boss and I felt I no longer needed to be the best lawyer—I wanted to be the most faithful lawyer. All I had to do was to work hard and with integrity and to make God known to people around me,” says Paul.

The sudden change in his priorities shocked his mum, who thought he had joined a cult. She wanted him to focus more on his legal career.

“I could have fallen away from faith in those years but God turned my sin into good,” reflects Paul. He married his now-wife Angela three years ago and they have a one-year-old daughter, Elizabeth.

 

The new life

Angela’s support was instrumental in the next turning point of Paul’s life.

As Paul started to teach the Bible more frequently, Paul’s church leaders began urging him to consider entering full-time ministry in 2013. He discussed it with them, talked it over with Angela, and prayed.

Paul did not have a supernatural “calling” from God in the form of dreams or impressions. “Some people experience that but I don’t think one needs a special calling into vocation. The only call made in the Bible is to respond to Jesus. Since I am told I have the gift of teaching and that I should use it, I decided to obey and consider using that for God,” he says.

Besides, he thought, continuing work as a lawyer would mean limited time to use his gift of teaching. The impact of his work could be multiplied, he reasoned, if he became a teacher who equipped other students or office workers instead.

So he took the plunge in 2014, signing up for a two-year full-time ministry training course before joining SMU’s Christian Fellowship in 2016. The group has about 90 undergraduates. Paul preaches when they meet every Tuesday, and also trains student leaders to run Bible study groups on campus. “It is a joy to see their hunger for God and to guide them at a time when they are forming their identities and ideas about the world,” he says.

Paul-Wong-(3)

Photo By Ian Tan

He still works six days a week because he prefers preparing sermons on Sundays, but says the nature of the stress that he faces now is more meaningful—instead of chasing deadlines, he now worries about people and their spiritual growth.

“The most difficult part in going full-time is not the decision in itself but explaining the decision to people around me,” says Paul. His wife was supportive and surprisingly, so was his dad, who told him to do whatever he thought was right.

Interestingly, his mother—a lay leader in church who had brought Paul up as a Christian after his parents separated—was the one with the strongest objections. She felt that he ought not to waste his “good degree” or “bright future”, but work longer to build up a retirement nest egg. But she has since come round to the idea and is now fully supportive of his ministry.

Indeed, Paul had to cut back on his spending while he was undergoing training, as he was not earning anything during that time. That meant not taking taxis or eating out at restaurants. Now, he earns a stipend that is pegged to the median pay of a teacher. His wife looks after their daughter as a stay-at-home mother.

Paul Wong 2

Photo By Paul Wong

The biggest sacrifice for Paul, however, was not a financial one. It was having to curtail a sense of pride or self that came with his ambition. “Despite my career and earning potential, the status or position I occupy is dramatically different from my peers. But I would not trade what I am doing now for anything in the world,” says Paul.

His favorite verses in the Bible are from Isaiah 25, which paints a picture of the eternal future and hope to come. The verses in this chapter motivate him in his long-term goal of laying up eternal rewards—and not earthly treasures.

“It shapes the way I view this world,” he says. “This physical world is just going to head for destruction and the only thing that is going to be left is God’s people. It shapes why I live, how I live, and why I do my job.”

 

Write to us at contribute@ymi.today if you know of someone who has made a radical choice because of his or her faith. #FORTHISREASON