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The Thorns of Life

Title: The Thorns of Life
Materials: Digital painting
Artwork by: Jessica Wang
Description: Have you ever felt far away from God’s love? Sometimes as humans, we can easily feel locked up in all thorns and difficulties of this life that we forget about God, who is our Friend. We forget His unique love for us.

 

When we are going through trials in our lives, we may feel stuck, lost and alone. However, He is with us; in fact, He is closer than ever. Although we may not see Him physically, His presence is always with our lonely souls as we struggle in this world. Every day, He waits patiently for us to see Him and turn to Him.

 

Life can be likened to a rose. It is beautiful to look at but has thorns that can prick us. Such thorns are like the struggles and difficulties that God allows us to go through. But thorns have their unique purpose—to prevent the rose from being harmed. In the same way, God uses our difficult circumstances to protect us by strengthening our faith and helping us grow.

Career Advice from Hidden Figures

Photo taken from Official Trailer

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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Written By Chia Poh Fang, Singapore

Have you ever felt angry for your lack of opportunities? Perhaps, due to the color of your skin, your looks, your gender, or your not so well-connected family background.

We’d all like to believe that career success is strictly a result of talent, drive, and skill set, but experience may tell us otherwise. In reality, it seems as though hiring managers favor those who are better looking. And we know all too well that prejudice against a certain skin color and gender is still prevalent in this day and age. In environments where supply exceeds demand, we may even need people in high places to help us land any job—not just our dream job. I’ve heard that in China, many university undergraduates are fretting about their job prospects because of a lack of connections.

That’s probably why Hidden Figures’ message is especially poignant and relevant for us today. Based on the true life stories of three African-American female mathematicians, the inspirational movie portrays how these three women crossed gender, racial, and societal barriers, to help America chart a new frontier—send an astronaut into outer space and return safely.

In one of the noteworthy scenes in the movie, one of the key characters, Mary Jackson (played by Janelle Monáe), was challenged by a fellow colleague, Karl Zielinski (played by Olek Krupa) to dream big and not allow societal prejudice against females and colored people to hinder or deter her from achieving the “impossible”, i.e. becoming an engineer.

Karl: Mary, a person with an engineer’s mind should be an engineer. You can’t be a computer the rest of your life.

Mary: Mr. Zielinski, I’m a negro woman. I’m not gonna entertain the impossible.

Karl: And I’m a Polish Jew whose parents died in a Nazi prison camp. Now I’m standing beneath a spaceship that’s going to carry an astronaut to the stars. I think we can say we are living the impossible. Let me ask you, if you were a white male, would you wish to be an engineer?

Mary: I wouldn’t have to. I’d already be one.

That conversation awakened Jackson to realize one thing: she didn’t have to be a victim of low expectations. She later went on to win a court appeal to study in an all-white high school and became NASA’s first black female engineer.

That’s inspiring, you may say, but that’s not me. I’m no trailblazer. I’d rather take the path of least resistance and be resigned to my fate, than go against the grain. You’re probably not alone in that thinking.

However, let’s consider this possibility: we may never reach our God-given potential if we don’t try and give our very best. One author puts it this way: “If we never attempt things that would stretch, grow, and strengthen us, we may end up weak and unprepared for the amazing future that could have been.”

It’s the same message the Apostle James wrote in his letter to encourage the believers who were undergoing immense persecution: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” (James 1:2-4, NLT, emphasis mine).

If not for anything, this should encourage us that difficulties and hardships can be for our good if we respond rightly. On top of that, we as believers have good reason to not let society define us. In the words of missionary William Carrey, we can “expect great things, attempt great things” for we serve a great God, who not only holds the universe in His hands, but also holds us close to His heart!

So what does it mean for those of us in a seemingly unending job search or for those of us stuck in a rut in our current job? Consider how God has made you. Use whatever He has bestowed on you—skills, intellect or disposition—to overcome all obstacles, by His strength, to reach your fullest potential! You are God’s wonderful and unique creation (Psalm 139:14), and He has prepared a good work for you to do (Ephesians 2:10).

ODJ: Rising Above

July 12, 2016 

READ: 1 Timothy 6:11-16  


Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well (v.12). 

Kris Silbaugh plays American football with just one hand. What’s more, he plays receiver—a position that’s all about using two hands. A receiver must catch passes thrown to him by a quarterback and then run with the football before being tackled by the defence. In 2015 the young man set the all-time receiving yards record at his high school, having amassed more than 912 receiving yards (the previous record) for his career. Born without a left hand due to a birth defect, Silbaugh says, “It has never stopped me. I just don’t let it—never have.”

Timothy didn’t let challenges stop him from faithfully serving God and the church at Ephesus (1 Timothy 6:12). Paul identified at least two difficulties for Timothy in a letter he wrote to him—his youthfulness and the fact that he was “sick so often” (4:12, 5:23). Timothy was probably about 30 years old at the time, quite young to be leading a dynamic and immature church. The fact that he faced chronic illness certainly didn’t help.

Paul also noted that Timothy had to deal with false teaching, persecution and the relational pain caused by his mentor—Paul himself—being imprisoned and near the end of his life (1 Timothy 4:1-2, 6:5; 2 Timothy 2:3,9, 4:6,9).

You and I also face challenges—things that could threaten to stop us in our tracks. May we, as Timothy did, receive these encouraging words from Paul: “Pursue righteousness and a godly life”, “Fight the good fight for the true faith” and “Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you” (1 Timothy 6:11-12).

Paul told Timothy to fix his eyes on Jesus, the “King of all kings and Lord of all lords” (v.15). In Him we find the strength to rise above the challenges of today.

—Tom Felten

365-day plan: Luke 8:22-56

MORE
As you face challenges and difficulties, consider Jesus’ words in John 16:33. 
NEXT
What difficulties have caused you to experience distress recently? How can focusing your eyes on Jesus and your hope in Him help you continue to “fight the good fight”? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODJ: Ride of Your Life

June 8, 2016 

READ: Nehemiah 2:1-6, 13:6-27 


Remember this good deed, O my God, and do not forget all that I have faithfully done for the Temple of my God and its services (13:14). 

When motorcycle riders approach a sharp turn in the road, they strive to look beyond it to the direction they want to head. By looking ahead—where they want to go—they can ride smoothly through the turn and continue on their journey.

Nehemiah was looking ahead to where God was leading as he sought to head back home to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. In time, the king of Persia granted his servant Nehemiah’s request to return from exile back to Judah. Upon his return, the former cup-bearer for the king and his fellow labourers rebuilt the walls in just 52 days (Nehemiah 2:1-6, 6:15).

As governor, Nehemiah helped to facilitate the repopulation of the city of Jerusalem, assisted in purifying the Jewish community for worship and enforced the cancellation of debt. He also assisted Ezra in proclaiming the Law of Moses. Later, after a brief visit with the king of Persia (5:14, 13:6), he returned to Jerusalem only to find that the people were again living in disobedience before God (13:7-27). Nehemiah was furious! He purified the temple, the priests and the Levites, and he again enforced the observance of the law of Moses (v.30). He kept looking forward as he faithfully served God during difficult days (v.14).

Jesus never promised an easy ride through this life. In fact, He said we would face challenges. The loss of a loved one, unemployment, unmet expectations, illness and broken relationships are all twists and turns we may face. Jesus did say, however, that we should take heart because He has overcome the world! (John 16:33). By focusing on where we’re going and the God who goes before us, rather than the obstacles we face, we’ll find that He provides what we need to enjoy the ride.

—Ruth O’Reilly-Smith

365-day plan: Luke 1:57-80

MORE
Read Matthew 6:25-34 and consider what it means to keep our eyes on God as we journey through life. 
NEXT
What opposition, obstacles or twists and turns are you facing today? Instead of focusing on these problems, how can you fix your eyes on Jesus and where He’s leading you? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)