It Doesn’t Stop At Our Votes

On May 10, 2018, Malaysians woke up to a new reality. For the first time in the nation’s 61 years of history, a new coalition—Pakatan Harapan—has assumed the role of the government.

This reality has been years in the making, and for many Malaysians, it probably still feels too good to be true. As one of many Malaysians living in Singapore, the lead up to the elections was a whirlwind of an experience. As soon as the date of the General Election was announced, me and my friends scrambled to book flight and bus tickets home, or help each other find carpool arrangements, so we could all go home and vote.

I myself had planned to leave Singapore right after work, vote early the next morning, and then fly back to Singapore in the evening. It was an insane plan, and I had underestimated how exhausted I would be from all the waiting and traveling, but seeing the proliferation of “purple fingers” and pictures of the voting queues on my social media feeds made my heart swell with pride. It was the greatest display of unity that our country had seen in a long time, and I was glad that I got to be a part of it.

My family and friends kept each other updated as we queued to vote and anxiously waited for the election results to stream in. For the first time, it was unclear which way the votes would swing—and while we were all hopeful that our votes would make a difference, our hopes were also tempered with caution.

As soon as I landed in Singapore, I rushed home so I could follow the results. That night, me and my friends were glued to our television, hand-phone or laptop screens, hearts in our throats, afraid to move, bathe or even eat—just in case we might miss an important moment or result. It wasn’t until 3:00 a.m. that I reluctantly forced myself to go to bed so I would not appear as a zombie at work the next day.

A few hours later, I woke up to a torrent of jubilant messages on WhatsApp and social media about the new era that Malaysia had just entered into. There was much excitement in the air as everyone around me began anticipating the changes that they hoped the new government would put into effect.

It has been a few days now since the government has been installed, and the euphoria of the victory is wearing off. As the government begins focusing its efforts on reforming the country, the question on my mind, and probably on many others’, is: Will it be able to fulfill all its promises?

While I believe and hope that the government will set many new laws and policies in place that will improve the well-being of Malaysians, as a Christian, I am also cautious of placing all my hope in the hands of men. As with any transition in power, the government will take time to put its plans into place, and nobody knows how long this process will take or how extensive these changes will be—but we can be encouraged by the fact that our voices have been heard, and our voices matter.

So, what can we do next as citizens of Malaysia?

If there’s one thing that I’ve realized from this election, it’s that we have the power to change things around us. What filled my heart with hope this election was not the speeches of the candidates or the manifestos of the different coalitions, but witnessing ordinary Malaysians rise up to take charge of their nation’s destiny.

I saw hope in witnessing throngs of both the young and the elderly queuing up to vote so that future generations will have a better Malaysia. I saw hope in the decisions of young people who refused to give in to the voices of defeat around them, but who gave up comfortable and promising careers to dedicate themselves to nation-building by actively participating in politics. I saw hope in the way Malaysians—whether overseas or at home—came together, contributed their time and energy, and used the resources that they have to volunteer as Polling or Counting Agents, book flights to help bring postal votes home, and even organize car pools and donate their own funds to ensure everyone had a chance to decide on the future of the nation. These were the actions that made the world stand up and view Malaysians in a different light. These are the actions that make it clear to me that change has already taken place in Malaysia.

While I may not be in Malaysia at this juncture of my life, I hope to carry that same spirit wherever I go. I’ve learned that we should not solely rely on our elected representatives to do the work of reforming our nations, but there are many opportunities for us to bring hope to those around us as well. I hope that as believers and co-heirs of God’s grace, we will open our eyes to the plight of the fatherless, the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized around us (James 1:27). I hope that we will treat our foreign workers with dignity and care, and help them feel welcomed and at home as they help build our nations (Leviticus 19:34). I hope that we will make our hearts and home a refuge for the lonely and brokenhearted (2 Cor 1:4). I hope that we will have compassion on those who are struggling and lend a listening ear or a helping hand to them if needed.

Whether we’re overseas or at home, let’s pray for a smooth and peaceful transition, and submit ourselves to the governing authorities and their decisions, for as Paul wrote in Romans 13:1, “there is no authority except that which God has established”.  In view of that, let’s also focus our efforts on praying for our government (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Let’s pray that as our newly appointed leaders put together their plans in this crucial period, they will do so with the people’s interests at heart. Let’s pray that they will be a government that leads with righteousness and the fear of the Lord. Let’s pray that they will be a government that understands the weight of the mandate that has been given to them, and work faithfully and diligently to carry it out.

Most importantly, even as we pray for our leaders, let us look towards the Hope that “will not lead us to disappointment” (Romans 5:5, NLT) and pray and long for the day when He will return to bring forth justice to all nations and restore all things.

ODJ: John’s Question

June 27, 2016 

READ: Luke 7:18-28 

He sent them to the Lord to ask him, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” (v.19).

“I had plans for how my life was supposed to work out,” my friend David said. “And when things didn’t go as planned, I became bitter and resentful.” Who can relate to David? I definitely can! Often I find myself imposing my expectations on God as rights, and then sulking when they aren’t realised.

John the Baptist may have felt the same way. It’s possible that he and his disciples wondered why his famous cousin wouldn’t save him from Herod’s clutches. Reports spread of Jesus’ miraculous works throughout the region. But John had been imprisoned and was left to wonder if Jesus was truly the Messiah (Matthew 11:2-3).

So John sent his disciples to inquire. Was Christ the Expected One, or should they look for another? (Luke 7:19). In response, Jesus told them to report all that they had seen. The blind received sight, the lame walked and the dead were brought to life. Then Jesus added something else: “God blesses those who do not turn away because of me” (v.23).

John was beginning to wonder if he had got it all wrong. What he knew intellectually about Jesus was being affected by what he felt emotionally. He was behind bars and things were not going the way he had planned.

God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours, so, like John the Baptist, we can’t always grasp the intimate details He’s working out (Isaiah 55:8-9). Instead, He invites us into His plans and purposes for us.

Despite his doubts, John remained faithful. He was ultimately beheaded, but not before Jesus stated that none greater than John had ever lived (Luke 7:28). Imagine what awaited John when he entered God’s presence! Imagine what will await us as God reveals His perfect ways and plans in the days ahead.

—Remi Oyedele

365-day plan: Mark 2:23-3:19

Read Hebrews 11:1-2 and consider what it means to have faith in God. 
Do you find it difficult surrendering to God’s will when you don’t understand the full picture? What steps can you take to seek God’s perspective in a current challenging situation? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODJ: chosen instruments

September 13, 2015 

READ: Acts 9:10-19 

Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to . . . the people (v.15).

My daughter is only 5 years old, but she’s a self- declared ‘artist’. One day we talked about paintbrushes. I selected two and handed them to her. The first brush was slim, with bristles that ended in a fine point. The other brush was larger and thicker. I explained that artists typically use bigger brushes to fill in large areas, while tiny brushes work better for small spaces and creating details. Painting involves choosing the right tool at the right time in the artistic process.

Not long after Jesus’ death and resurrection, He announced, “[Paul] is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel” (Acts 9:15).

Paul was the right man for the job, partly because he had been “given a thorough Jewish training from [his] earliest childhood” (Acts 26:4). As a Jewish man using the Hebrew language, Paul reached Israel’s ordinary people as well as prominent government officials. He even had a voice with the uppity religious leaders because he had been a practising “member of the Pharisees” prior to his conversion! (Acts 26:5).

As a Jewish man and a Roman citizen by birth, Paul was fluent in Hebrew and in Greek (Acts 21:37). This additional language allowed him to converse with almost anyone he encountered on his missionary travels. Fluency in Greek enabled him to start churches and even debate with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers (Acts 17:18).

—Jennifer Benson Schuldt

365-day-plan: John 13:21-38

Read Philippians 3:5-7 and see more of Paul’s qualifications along with where he found his true identity. 
How do you see the limitations in your life as they relate to your ability to serve God? How has He uniquely called and qualified you for His service? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODJ: gift of submission

September 19, 2014 

READ: James 4:6-10 

Submit yourselves, then, to God (v.7 NIV).

I once wrote a book based on a collection of letters that François Fénelon (a French pastor from the 17th century) wrote to a younger friend who was serving in the morally corrupt court of King Louis XIV. Fénelon’s fatherly posture and his call for unflinching devotion to God captured me. Words like this are standard Fénelon fare: “Becoming a follower of God is hard because it requires that we submit ourselves fully to a God who is other than us. We must let go of our insistence that we know best what we need. We must let go of our demands that God act when and how we demand.”
James tells us the same. “Submit to God”, he wrote. The New Living Translation captures the right tone: “Humble yourselves before God” (4:7). Humility is a crucial part of submission because our pride (our insistence that we know best and do not need God) keeps us from laying down our demands and our will. Yet we must put down our arrogant hearts. We must empty our hands of all the things we grasp after. For if we’re full of ourselves and our accomplishments, we’ll have no room or desire for what God wants to give us.

That’s why James reminds us that “God opposes the proud, but favours the humble” (v.6). The proud are those of us who think the world is what we make of it. The proud are those of us who will not be friends of God, who will not see the world as it truly is—as God’s world. The proud are those of us who will not submit, who will not empty ourselves so we can receive love.

But praise God, grace flows freely to the humble. If we lay our life down at God’s feet, we’ll find that in giving up (submitting) we’re able to truly live.

—Winn Collier

365-day plan› John 17:1-26

Read 1 Peter 5:5. Peter repeats the proverb that James quotes (Proverbs 3:34). What’s the connection between submitting to God and submitting to others? 
What are you holding on to that you need to release in submission to God? What holds you back from trusting that God will not disappoint you if you surrender to Him? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)