God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Saviour
This song brings back so many memories.
This idea of God leading us to swim where our feet can no longer feel the ground first settled in my heart during Church camp 2013, where God continued to write my journey. The song reminds me of faith; faith that I have the unseen, yet omniscient and omnipotent God who loves me more than I can ever imagine.
Hours after the Lord melted my heart with the words ‘everything and more’, I attended a workshop by Aunt Ai Bee which was called something along the lines of ‘Quiet Time with God’ or ‘Hearing God In Your Quiet Time’. As part of the workshop, we had to find some place in the hotel, sit down and just focus on God, and ask Him to speak to us.
So, where did I go? I went to the top floor where the swimming pool was. And I sat at the bench facing the swimming pool, with the city in front of me and the sun on my face. What a beautiful place to be calm in the presence of the Lord.
The time limit was 20 minutes. So I set my timer on my phone. And I waited. I focused on God, on His love and asked him to speak to me, anything. All I wanted was to hear Him or feel something.
17 minutes on, I was still waiting. Then the word ‘faith’ kept coming to me. If my God is so big, surely I can have faith to wait on Him. If I can have faith in Him for big things, surely I can trust Him with small things. ‘Have faith that I will hear Him’
THEN SUDDENLY, my attention was diverted to a family that was swimming in the adult pool. The youngest child, a boy probably about 7, got up and ran into the children’s pool.
Dad: What are you doing in that pool?
Kid: I like this swimming pool.
Dad: But it’s the kids pool
Kid: But this is the normal-sized pool!
And then, it struck me. And that’s how this song really related to me. We are like that little child, we have our Heavenly Father to take our hands and watch over us as we swim in the adult pool. Yet, we choose to swim in the baby pool, because we think that is the normal pool; because it is proportionate to our size. We choose the situations and challenges that we think we can handle on our own strengths. In our experiences, we would rather just wade in the shallow waters of the children’s pool.
Yet, faith is going to the big pool. Faith is swimming in water where we can’t see our feet; where we don’t know where the bottom of the pool is. But we focus our eyes on God, because He is with us in the big pool.
Back then, this scene really spoke to me because He had literally JUST called me to Durham and He wanted me to start swimming in the big pool.
Now, I think it applies to a lot of situations. Like this morning, my friends wanted to go somewhere and celebrate in a perfectly normal way. According to the world, it was a perfectly sociable way of spending the rest of the day. But I prayed and I really didn’t want to go. But this was not how I was supposed to live. Socialising in this way would not honour God. There was an inner conflict within me: my God vs myself; my reputation; my friends; my social life. I prayed and I reminded myself that I needed to have faith. God will provide a way out of this. My heart is willing, and God is willing to answer.
And to my surprise, things did get better. Suddenly, someone couldn’t make it and thus, the plans were ditched. PTL!!!
Indeed, if I have faith as small as a mustard seed, the mountains will be moved.
In all situations in life, may we put our trust in Him. Just as I trust in the Lord that He would speak to me in the last 3 minutes of a workshop in Malaysia. Just as He revealed to me how faith is likened to a trusting child who swims in the deep waters, with his eyes fixed on his Daddy. Just as I put my faith in God this morning. Just as I put my faith in Him for all my formative and summative essays.
Forsaking All I Trust Him
Fantastic Adventures In Trusting Him
Woke up today with this song in my head. I first heard this at Kingdom Invasion last march and I can’t believe it’s been ringing in my mind from the second I woke up.
Truly, God is good and He has made this day especially for all of us.
Essays, here I come! God has made essays and God has made me – AND He has made me to do my essays. Hahahaha
“Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them,‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.” Matthew 20:1-16
Reading through the passage for iFocus, the phrase that struck me was ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong.’
The workers who had started work first complained to the Master that they should have been paid more and that the workers who had worked the least did not deserve their wages. As master of the house, He had every right to get angry with these complacent, unappreciative and discontent workers. Yet, he chose to address them, not as an master would do to an ungrateful subordinate, but as a friend. The master addresses them patiently and graciously as ‘FRIEND‘.
We Christians are the workers in the vineyard, and many a times, we go up to the Lord and compare ourselves to another Christian –
‘God, why do they get a better salary than me? Why do they get better grades than me? I don’t just go to church on Sundays, I pray to you every night, I honour you, I keep your commandments, so why is so-and-so doing as well/even better than me?’
‘God you know how hard I have been working. I have been a Christian longer than them. Surely, You are being unfair.’
But the Lord simply says to us ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong … Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’
Indeed, God has done us no wrong. The master, at different times of the day, personally negotiated with the different groups of workers on their pay. Each of us have a personal relationship with God; He personally ‘hired’ us and agreed with us on our wages. What other people have negotiated with God is really none of our business.
In fact, sometimes God’s logic and notions of fairness and justice is different from ours. As a previous part-time worker, I was paid by the hour. Of course I would be hopping mad if someone was paid the same as me if they took half a day off! Yet, God says ‘I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you’. God reinstates His sovereignty: ‘Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?’
At this point, I paused and looked at verse 16 – ‘So the last will be first, and the first last‘. What does this mean? Beth provided insight. The last are those who have been called into the faith in the last hours. They have nothing to give to God, no long years of toil for the mission. They have nothing … but Jesus. They rely on Him so much. That is why the last probably go first, because by His grace, God rewards the humble and the undeserving, giving them ‘hundredth fold and eternity life’ which is more than what they would have ever expected from the short time they started believing in God. Of course, this is not to say that the workers on the earlier shifts are otherwise.
Again, I refer back to ‘Friend, I have done you no wrong.’ And somehow, it links me back to Jesus’ words at the cross ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do’. Here, the role is reversed! In the Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard, the workers thought the master had wronged them, and despite this, the master treated them with utmost love and friendship. At the cross, the people did in fact sin against Jesus, and again despite this, Jesus looked up to heaven and with his last breaths, forgave them even though they were undeserving.
What Jesus did on the cross was what He meant in the verse ‘Or do you begrudge my generosity?’. God’s generosity was to die on the cross for us. Perhaps, those wages are not only about the rewards we get as Christians, e.g. the blessings, salvation, eternal life. Maybe those wages are Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross. Indeed, God is so generous. He didn’t have to recruit those four groups of workers, in fact by 9pm, He probably didn’t even need workers. But he hired them because they were idle workers with no aim in life and no hope. And even when he hired them, He did not need to pay them all equally.
God is so, so, so gracious, loving and kind. For me personally, sometimes I find it hard to feel grateful everyday for what Jesus has done on the cross. Sometimes I lift my hands up in church and ask God for me to really, truly ignite my soul and for me to be thankful for what Jesus did. But maybe because I have felt it for so long, I feel a bit numb.
So, for me to see the master’s words ‘Friend, I have done you no wrong’, it reminds me of the times when I have hurt God and yet, Jesus still chose to embrace me and call me friend. He has hugged me all along, even before I was born.
THE ONLY TIME HE EVER STOPPED HUGGING ME WAS TO STRETCH OUT HIS ARMS AND DIE ON THE CROSS FOR MY SINS.
And for that I am grateful. For that, I will always feel. And for that, God is gracious and generous. I am happy to be a labourer in the master’s vineyard, regardless of what I get or don’t get. My relationship with God is personal and it is not for me to say how God touches others and what He gives to them. My focus is on God, and not myself. Amen.
Jesus at the center of it all
Jesus at the center of it all
From beginning to the end
It will always be, it’s always been You Jesus
From my heart to the Heavens
Jesus be the center
It’s all about You
Yes it’s all about You
‘What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil – this is God’s gift to man.’ ~ Ecclesiastes 3:9-113
Today, while walking to church, Theo quoted Ecclesiastes 3:11 and it has been resounding in my mind throughout the day:
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”
Indeed, one of the first comments I got when I talked to different people about the verse was that God is such a wonderful and amazing poet.
‘He has put eternity in our hearts’.
At first, it seems so ironic. Eternity has been put into the heart of a finite, material and narrow-minded creature. We humans might have our whole lives planned out, but it is nothing compared to eternity; forever and ever.
Yet, God puts it in our HEARTS. Our heart is the only thing that stretches our physical limits and goes beyond our mental capacity. With our hearts, we cherish moments we cannot physically replay. With our hearts, we learn to love each other despite the hatred and betrayals. Ultimately, our heart triumphs over our body and mind, no matter how hard we suppress it – which is why the evil will still love their own children. It is innate.
More importantly, it is with this heart that we learn to love our God more and more. With our hearts, we are limitless in what and how we live, feel and hope.
When God places eternity in us, He places in us a longing to find out more and to desire for things beyond this physical earthly world.
We inherently desire eternity. We inherently desire spirituality and God. And I think this is why we naturally marvel at beauty and desire for things beyond our grasp.
How do I know this? I believe that humans are the only creatures who can think about thinking, who are aware of our feelings and who truly appreciate beauty. We can take morning walks, then stop and stare at the sunrise and morning dew. We can simply stand in awe at the surreal majesty of the mountains, forests and oceans.
I see beauty in the snow drops that droop at Shern and Angela’s back garden. I marvel at the way Nat lay in my arms, sleeping. How my heart stands still when I look at the people I love so dearly. So surely, God has given us eternity in our hearts; a desire to see and feel for more than what we have and what we are.
In particular, I like the NLT version:
‘He has planted eternity in the human heart’ – we’re each like a seed that grows, blooms and bears fruit in our longing for the infinite.
Yet, I find it funny how we have eternity in our hearts, yet are unable to fathom what God has done. God has engrained in us a longing, a desire, and yet, we lack the knowledge to withhold such truths. Yet, God fulfils our desires slowly but surely. Singing hymns in church, praying in the Spirit, sitting still in front of the cross – these are the moments we may not see the full picture, but we still glimpses of eternity. Maybe in heaven, we’ll see the panoramic view!
Then again, another version says that ‘Also that eternity hath he placed in their heart, without which man could not find out the work which God hath made from the commencement to the end’.
One day, we will understand and fathom that God’s plans for us extend into eternity. Which is why everything is made beautiful in its time.
It came as such a surprise.
‘Dear Isabel, we are delighted to invite you to Allen & Overy First’
I couldn’t believe my eyes. Wait. Magic Circle Firm. Wait. Wants me? Chosen for their workshop. Rewind. HOW?
The only thing resounding in my head after that was ‘Thank you, God’. Songs from the band ‘All Sons and Daughters’ replayed in my head the whole day.
You truly bless those whom you love. Personally, I’m quite sure I was incapable of getting that first year workshop. How could such a big law firm in London have looked at my application and decided that they would select me for their programme? I don’t know.
But the one thing I know is that God is behind this wonderful opportunity. Of all the applications I made and the critical thinking tests I had to grovel through, He chose to bless me with a corporate international firm.
My heart is just full of joy, thankfulness and love. It’s just so funny how I honestly don’t even feel any pride that I got the workshop. I know it was not on my own efforts that I got into the programme.
When God blesses me in this way, the only thing I can think about is Him, not me.
Of course, it doesn’t mean my career and future is secured because there are obviously a lot more applications to make from here, but it’s a start. A start that God has chosen to bless me with.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
What does it mean to have a glimpse of heaven? That was a resounding question during iFocus yesterday.
As I pondered, the girls started discussing:
– ‘Heaven and/or Jesus is the hidden treasure’
– ‘God’s kingdom is worth more to the man than anything he already has’
– ‘He sells his property with conviction and with so much enthusiasm’
To me, this verse was one of joyful sacrifice. All along, the treasure was hidden and when the man found it, he immediately went to claim it. For so long, it was not known this him, and yet when he saw just a mere glimpse, he fully understood the value of it – to the extent that it was more valuable than everything else he had already owned.
Funny though, how when he finds it, he covers it up. Why? The girls laughed about whether it meant that we are not to share the gospel and God’s kingdom with others. Well, no. I think we have to consider that this is the first moment right after the man has marveled at the treasure. Him covering up the treasure is a symbol of claiming ownership of the treasure. He wants it for himself first. He wants to ensure he has got it first before he tells others the good news. And I think that’s how it applies to us. We want to make sure we have God in our lives first, above all other idols, before we share it with others.
Clarissa also mentioned that it could mean hiding it in our hearts. Good one.
The verse then goes on to say that the man BUYS THE WHOLE FIELD. Funny how if someone finds a treasure, the first instinct is to steal it. There is simply no need to buy the whole field. And yet, this signifies the legal stamp of ownership. He loves and absolutely adores the treasure to the point that he wants to buy the place where he found the treasure.
And then, what is the cost? Sacrifice. But it is joyful, willing and humble sacrifice. For this one treasure, he is willing to sell his identity, his reputation, his future, his pride.
But then I asked myself: ‘Surely I can’t catch a glimpse of heaven now’. But we can! That glimpse of heaven is found in people who fervently love God. I see a glimpse of God when I see Theo and when I read her blog. I feel a glimpse of heaven when I go to church and feel the overwhelming and inexplicable peace.
I have seen the hidden treasure and have hidden it in my heart.