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3 Truths to Cling to When You’re Hit With Challenges

Written By Cassandra Yeo, Singapore

Whenever we’re hit with challenges in life, we often expect our situation to improve and get better. I know that I often carry this hope into my prayers to God. I expect Him to intervene and provide breakthroughs during the vulnerable moments of my life.

However, when prayers are delayed or seemingly unanswered, I am forced to grapple with uncertainty. Understandably, in such situations my friends who support me in my journey do not know what to say to comfort me. In the face of my own doubt, and the uncomfortable silence from others, I begin to doubt God’s goodness.

However, in spite of my growing disbelief, God shows up in unexpected ways, and He uses difficulties to teach me about His constant character in the midst of changing circumstances.

 

1. Remember that God is still in control

When I grapple with loss or anger, I am reminded of characters in the Bible who also went through crises. Ruth, Joseph and Paul, for example, were people who had lost much. Yet, their responses were vastly different from how I would expect someone to react in a crisis.

When Ruth was a childless widow, she chose to follow her mother-in-law to live in a foreign land, and to follow God (Ruth 1:16). Joseph decided to show hospitality to his brothers despite their earlier ill treatment of him, as he knew the Lord was doing good in the injustice he faced (Genesis 50:19-20). Paul continued his ministry despite facing persecution, knowing that his work would result in many others coming to Christ.

In each of these situations, God worked through the difficult situations to ultimately bring good: Ruth became great-grandmother to the first king of Israel; Joseph preserved the lives of the twelve tribes, and Paul spread the gospel throughout the known world.

Whenever calamity strikes, these examples from the Bible remind me that God is still in control, and He is still good. I need to be thankful for His work in my life, even if I can’t always see the outcome. In times of difficulty, I often go to trusted friends and groups to confide in my struggle to remain thankful, and rely on them to remind me of God’s goodness.

 

2. Remember that we can trust God in the midst of uncertainty

I had planned to find a stable full-time job before I graduated from university, and had begun actively searching long before my peers did. However, what I thought would be a one-month hunt became an eight-month affair. With every passing interview, I prayed that God would open the door to an opportunity, only to realize that every door was shut.

While it was immensely difficult, I saw God’s hand in the midst of my circumstances. I found a contract job quite quickly, which allowed me to earn some money and hone my professional skills while still looking for a full-time job. In the process of seeking, praying and waiting, the job search taught me perseverance, humility and joy in the midst of fruitlessness, allowing me to grow in my relationship with God. Slowly, I began to trust the Giver, rather than long only for the Gift itself.

After a long search, God finally provided an open door—one that I wasn’t seeking or expecting, but one that was in line with what I was looking for. I’m about to begin my career journey there in December. This experience has trained me to trust God to provide in the midst of uncertainty. It was no longer a job search that was based on my own terms, but rather, what God had in mind for me, and it was beyond what I had in mind for myself.

 

3. Remember that our worth is found in Christ alone

In university, I served God actively in fellowship and church. However, throughout my journey, I was met with many roadblocks. I faced the untimely death of a friend and my grandma, lost treasured friendships, and my grades dipped even though I worked doubly hard to keep them up. The fight to keep my hope and self-worth afloat seemed like an endless struggle, even as I saw my friends and peers sail through their university life without much difficulty, and easily obtained the academic success I yearned to have.

When the pillars of my security—grades and friendships—were taken away, I had to examine whether I was basing my worth on how much I have, or in how God Himself sees me.

Despite the odds, God provided a breakthrough in my grades in my final semester. On my graduation day, as I looked back on the journey, I knew that the ultimate milestone was not academic success, but rather, the lesson of where my worth should lie. Moreover, this has also propelled me to share with others my struggles in my walk with God, allowing for encouragement, accountability and prayer to take place.

 

All the experiences that I have listed were the challenges I faced in my life, which were bitter to taste when I was experiencing them. However, I am learning to see that the bitter experiences can be turned into opportunities to walk ever so closely with God, and to understand His purposes and goodness in spite of difficulties. I challenge you today to look at the challenges you have in your life and to learn to see beyond the struggle—God can turn it all into something beautiful in His own time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

I Was Told I Would Be A Failure

Written By Hilary Charlet, USA

“You’ll never make it in marketing; you’re too shy and quiet,” my professor told me, “I think you should change your major.”

I have since replayed this memory many times. I had gone to my professor one evening for help with an assignment, and I can still tell you exactly where I stood outside the business building when my teacher dropped the bomb.

What she said wrecked me. I left that office defeated and questioning myself. Back in my dorm, I bawled my eyes out. I was upset for days. But I knew I wasn’t going to change what I was doing. I was in my third year of school already. There was no way I could let all the hard work and effort I’d put into my degree go down the drain because of one little comment.

I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been hard on myself. My parents never pressured my siblings and I to get good grades, but 95 per cent of the time, I found myself striving to get the highest grade possible. Each time I turned in an assignment or took an exam, I faced an unhealthy amount of stress and anxiety. Even when I knew that I had done my best, I continued pressuring myself to go above and beyond.

Even though my professor’s words crushed me, I was determined to try even harder. I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life, but I couldn’t let her be right, so I just worked harder and kept going.

It wasn’t until my final year in school that, for the first time, I completely entrusted my life and the plans for my life to the Lord. My brother’s girlfriend (now wife) moved in with me during my senior year, and her faith was something I admired. Every morning, we would get up for coffee and devotional time, and talk about Jesus. This was the first time that I had a consistent routine of quiet time with the Lord. And as I did so, I kept wanting to know Him more and more.

As I grew to understand God’s love for me and learned that His plans for us are good, I felt complete peace—instead of anxiety—about what was to come. This was a peace I hadn’t experienced before, and I knew that whatever God had in store for me was going to work out, even if I really wanted Him to work it out as soon as possible.

You see, graduation was approaching, but I was still jobless. I had turned down an earlier job offer because I felt that it wasn’t where the Lord wanted me. Though the job would bring me security and comfort, prayers for discernment and clarity led me to feel increasingly certain that this wasn’t the plan for me. Though my classmates all had their next steps planned out, I still had no idea what I wanted to do or where I wanted to be.

About a week before graduation, I finally received an email with a job offer. It was with a company who organized events raising funds for their clients. And guess what field it would be? If you guessed marketing, you’re right.

I knew that through this job, I would be accomplishing good—by raising funds to support team USA for the 2016 Olympics Games. But the job was on the American East Coast and out of my comfort zone. As I prayed about this, I felt that the Lord’s plan was going to be just that—something new in which I’d have to trust Him, even if I was afraid to be so far from home and everything familiar.

It has now been three years since graduation, and my career path has looked very different from many people my age. I haven’t had the standard “full-time job with benefits” or the kind of financial security my friends have, but each opportunity has helped me discover more of my passions.

In all this time, God has proved faithful over and over again—sometimes at the very last second. Even when I thought I knew better, it always turns out that God’s plans are so much better than anything I could have dreamed up. Through prayer, seeking counsel from close friends, and staying grounded in God’s Word, I continue to grow in clarity and confidence in following God’s plan.

That’s not to say that I don’t have moments of doubt. Sometimes I feel as if I’m not reaching my full potential in a given task, and I begin comparing my job with those of my friends. I remember how my professor told me I wouldn’t make it, and a small voice in the back of my mind would creep in: “You’re a failure. Look what you’re doing right now while everyone else is leaps and bounds ahead of you.”

This is not the voice of the Father, but of the enemy that seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. The Bible says that I am a child of God (Galatians 3:26). I am right where I am for a reason. I am valuable. I am capable.

Every time this voice tries to make me feel worthless, I repeat Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

It’s not a paycheck I’m working for, but God. I am a vessel for Jesus exactly where He wants me; I am not a failure.

The more I lean into God’s Word, the more aware I become of my identity in Him, and the less I need the approval of others. Because I already know who holds the future, I no longer need to worry about what comes next. As I grow in God, I learn that His Word provides direction, peace, discernment, as well as truth about myself and His plans for me. And so, I rely less on others and more on Him.

When you know who you are—a beloved child of God—the painful remarks of others can no longer cause you to question yourself and your path. People might look at your grades or your career choice and tell you that you will be a failure, but guess what? You’re not.

Though we fail at times (and learn from each experience), we know that God loves us more than we could ever imagine, and that He makes firm the steps of those who delight in Him (Psalm 37:23). He is beside us in each and every instance and will never leave our sides. The truth is that, whatever people say, we are beloved, valuable children of God, and if we allow Him to, He will guide us every step of the way into His plans and purposes for our lives.

Why Is It So Hard to Evangelize to My Friends?

Written By Rachel Raja, Singapore

After a few years of attending campus ministry at my university, I became increasingly gripped by the gospel, and evangelizing to my friends quickly took a front seat in life. I started spending time planning and meeting my non-Christian friends and thinking hard about who in my life could benefit from hearing the gospel. These meetups which resulted in dinners, games or exercising were easy to organize and quite enjoyable for my friends and I.

But often, I’d be on the train home after such a meetup, wondering if I had truly been effective in sharing Christ with my friends.

Why did the actual act of sharing Christ seem so hard? It was far easier to portray myself as a good person who cared about my friends and their lives, and it was far easier to look like a loving Christian, than it was to speak of Jesus. I always secretly wish that my actions could magically lead them to knowing Christ, without ever having to do the hard stuff like explaining the gospel and possibly offending my friend by telling them that they are sinful and need Christ.

I can’t help but wonder why exactly I feel this way when it comes to evangelizing. Here are some reasons I’ve come up with:

 

1. I don’t know why I should evangelize

I’ve always known that evangelism is important, probably because the church that I grew up in taught me that it was central to the Christian life. So, I invited my friends for evangelistic meetings and built deep relationships with them where possible. My friends knew where I was going with this, that I wanted them to hear and believe the message of Jesus Christ. Sometimes they were receptive, sometimes not. And when they were not, I acted like my job was done and resigned myself to the fate that I was not the person to lead them to Christ.

Actually, if I had really sat down and thought about why I was doing what I was doing, I had no concrete answer. I just did it because everyone else was doing it. It seemed the right thing to do, and it seemed like something I could do mindlessly.

Recently, as I was reading Jim Elliot’s diary entries from 1952 in the book The Shadow of the Almighty, I was struck by his fervor for evangelism. He commented that though there were only about 100 people in a particular group of untouched people in South America, Elliot wanted to find a way to them because “we [Christians] have orders of such.”

I think he was right. In Luke 24:46-47, Jesus explained the Scriptures to the disciples and told them that repentance and forgiveness should be proclaimed in His name to all nations. So why do we evangelize? Because the Lord Jesus Himself tells us to.

And why wouldn’t we want to obey Christ? If we have tasted and seen how good the gospel is, and know that we have the special privilege of sharing that good news, wouldn’t we want to share it with everyone and glorify the work of Christ? Perhaps, in looking at what the gospel means for ourselves, sharing the gospel may become more natural and less of a “chore”.

What then happens when we evangelize? In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus foretells the end days, and in Matthew 24:14 specifically, He says that when the gospel of the kingdom is proclaimed to all nations, the end will come, meaning that Jesus will come back!

Every time we evangelize, we realize that it’s that much closer to the day that the Lord Jesus Himself comes back. This is exciting! And it pushes me to share the good news of forgiveness and the glorious news of the Christ that I can spend eternity with—the same eternity described in Revelation 20, where God Himself will be with Christians, will wipe away every tear; death will be no more, and neither will there be mourning, crying or pain.

But even knowing this doesn’t translate to actually doing, sometimes. . .

 

2. I don’t know when is the right time to share the gospel

In my meetups with friends, I usually spend some time warming up and catching up with them first. The moment the first hour mark is up, the whole thing turns into something of a ticking time bomb.

I’m waiting for the perfect moment to slip the gospel in, but we could spend hours talking about something else. When everyone’s having such a good time, I’d be the one ruining the day by bringing up a serious topic. What if I get blank stares? What if they stop inviting me to things?

It’s not uncommon for Christians to feel this way. In fact, because you’ve worked really hard to build a friendship with someone, you are afraid that the gospel could undo all of that.

I’ve always found it easier to ask questions about life and religion when I am in a big group of friends. This could really start with anything or any topic and quickly funnel into the differing views each one in the group might have. When it comes to my turn, I have an opportunity to share what I think and why I think that way. I find that it is helpful to let my friends know from the very start that I am a Christian. This way, they have an avenue for questions, and sometimes, they even ask you what you think as a Christian.

There is also a time for one-on-one sharing. Sometimes I feel that the time is right—when a friend is going through a really hard break-up, when they are fighting depression, or when a friend’s parent has a terminal illness—these are times when my friends are looking for more than just mere company, and are actually pondering life’s bigger questions. But at these opportune times, I’m still fighting in my head what question to ask.

Should I ask a simple question about what the other person believes in? Or how the person is doing spiritually? Some days I end up asking and sharing, though sometimes it goes nowhere (and that’s okay), but other days I choke on my words and stay silent.

On those days where I stay silent, I have to remind myself of something a staff worker at my campus ministry said once. In a bid to encourage students to evangelize, she told us, “What you are doing for [your friend] is a REALLY GOOD thing for them.”

Sometimes sharing the gospel might feel intrusive, disruptive, or uncomfortable for our friends in the moment. But what a Christian has to share is eternally loving for our friends. It is eternally loving, because though it may seem offensive, it is definitely more loving to care for a friend’s life and well-being in eternity than merely their  comfort on this Earth. With the right balances in mind, I am more encouraged to try again.

But when I do share the gospel or my friend warms up to the idea of finding out more, I start to realize that. . .

 

3. I forget who is the One who moves the hearts of men

Sometimes we succeed in having more serious and open conversations with friends who are willing to hear us out. But where do we go from there?

My friends usually smile politely at what I say, and sometimes they probe a little further. Typically, the conversation ends at dinner, and then I stop talking about the subject altogether. I end up going home thinking that I’ve tried, and sometimes even pat myself on the back for it.

In the weeks that follow, I either completely ignore my friend or see very little need for follow-up. This is because trying once and hoping for the best is way easier than asking my friend to come for an evangelistic talk, or to read the Bible with me, or to discuss questions.

Also, follow-ups are hard because often, I meet my friends as I run on empty. I think that my knowledge of the gospel and of the Bible can quickly turn them to Christ. Only sometimes do I even say a quick prayer on public transport, for things to go well. But I never really commit my friends in prayer, either in preparation or post meetups. What a shame, because prayer is truly a privilege given to us by our heavenly Father. It reminds us that this is God’s work, not ours.

 

At the end of the day, if I’m on that train ride thinking of all the things I messed up in my attempts to share the gospel, I’d probably feel the weight of the world on my shoulders. I might feel like I am totally responsible for my friend’s salvation, and that when I fail or my friend doesn’t receive Christ, it’s because I was incompetent or didn’t try hard enough.

But take heart! In John 10:27, Jesus Himself says that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. In fact, all we have to do is tell people about Him. Jesus is the one in charge of softening people’s hearts and helping them believe.

So yes, evangelism is hard work, but keep at it. Sometimes we learn things that make sharing the gospel easier; but more importantly, we need to remember the privilege we have as God’s people. Christ is using us in His grand plan to eventually unite all things in Him, things in heaven, and things on earth (Ephesians 1: 9-10).