2016 will undoubtedly be remembered as the year of the "unexpecteds". Nobody expected Donald Trump to become the 45th President of the United States. That alone deserves an article on its own - but I won't. Brexit happened. Leicester City Football Club were crowned the English Premier League Champions of the 2015/2016 season. Worth mentioning because the odds of this happening was 5000/1. In fact some pundits pegged Simon Cowell had a high chance of becoming the British PM at 500/1. (source)
But I digress.
If you are from Malaysia and are reading this, well you would know things aren't going well for us and it does not seem like it will pick up. Our currency, the Ringgit, is the worst performing currency in Asia (and has been for a while) amidst the 1MDB scandal and the continuous reports of corruption, abuses of power and lack of transparency in the current government. Top it all off with the dire state of the world's economy - to say that there is much to be worried about would be an understatement.
When I think upon these things, I sense a gentle but firm tugging in my heart. I could almost hear Jesus saying: "Why do you fear?"
Take a look at these words of Jesus. He PROMISES us that we will have problems here on earth! Newsflash! Reality check! Being a follower of Jesus does not mean the absence of trouble - but it does mean the presence of the One who overcomes in our trials. There's both bad and good news in what Jesus says here. I get why Jesus often said "He who has ears let him hear..." which could be translated to "you are hearing, but you are not listening"
We are reading the words in the Bible but we are not believing.
That is why we fear.
As Christians, we are told that faith is the number 1 absolute thing we need to have. Yet, as human beings we are often quick to react in fear instead of responding with faith when faced with issues. However, fear and faith cannot coexist. In fact, they are the antithesis of each other. Faith mobilises, fear paralyses.
Yes, there is much to worry about and much to fear. But this is where the rubber hits the road: the sermons we have heard, the songs about God that we sing - are they simply rhetoric? Just theory? Just information? This is when we truly know whether the Word of God is simply occupying our mind or it has already taken root in our heart. Remarkably, much of the promises found in the New Testament was written under difficult and trying circumstances. Yet the authours knew who their God was - and so can we.
So maybe you have much to fear at this point: the uncertainty of the economy, the lack of direction of the future, the turbulent time your family is enduring, the disarray in your relationships... can I invite you to take heart, and have faith.
Fear will paralyse us: it cripples us, it causes us to become stuck, it makes us expect the worse (even though the worse hasn't even come, kinda like reverse faith), but the choice of faith will mobilise us to:
There can never be enough sermons, messages, articles and books about prayer. We know the importance of it, but sadly we don't do enough of it (kinda like exercise). OK lets pick up the thought on exercise. Once you get into the habit of doing it you realise how beneficial it is and you reap the rewards: you look great in outfits, you feel much more energetic and stairs don't make you feel like cleaving your lungs out. What's the toughest part of working out? Getting started. But once you find the motivation - the habit of it will keep you going.
Just like prayer. Starting will be tough. But once you get the hang of it - it becomes second nature.
A personal prayer life is essential when following Jesus. A Christian who does not pray is like a car without fuel - it goes nowhere! I can speak from personal experience: I don't consider myself an expert at praying, but I make it a point to spend time with God and I feel the difference. Trust me when I say this: something always changes when you pray. God either changes the situation, or He changes you to face it.
When your faith moves you to pray, you begin to gain a heavenly perspective. This beats an earthy one - which is often marked by fear, uncertainty, doubt, speculation, dread, distress etc. Even been on a plane? My favourite part is when the plane is taking off. I love looking out of the window to what's below. The buildings and vehicles almost seem like toys. I love it when I recognise a familiar building and I go "OH! So that's how it looks like from above" or how it is interesting to see places in relation to one another. You know what that is? Perspective!
Life wouldn't be so difficult and scary if we prayed more - kinda like how a flight of stairs will be like a walk in the park if you exercised.
Did you know what your words will form your worlds? This is an important Kingdom principle: words have power! When God created the world He didn't mould it with His hands; He SPOKE it into existence! (Check it if you don't believe me) Let me give you some practical examples: Have you ever been around people who are so negative all the time? They only know how to point out what is wrong, complain and whinge - after a while you feel a wave of negativity creeping into yourself as well. Someone could have said something that hurt you whether on purpose or by accident and it sticks to you for a really really long time.
You know that saying: "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words cannot harm me?" I think if we were really honest, we would agree that this statement is not really true.
Now, I am not advocating a "name it and claim it" philosophy or an "airy fairy" kind of attitude where we don't face facts. But the truth is, speaking and spreading negativity rarely brings about any solutions. The modern day equivalent for this would be how we use social media. People just love sharing bad news or posting all their emotional spew online - that's why you feel kinda icky after spending a long time on social media.
As believers of Jesus, I would spur you to start proclaiming the promises of God more - both online and offline. I want to be led by the promises of God and not be pushed by the problems of this world. I want to speak life where ever I go! Whether it is over our nation, our cities, our friends, our families, our people. If all of us caught onto this, how different things would be!
Words (whether in person or online) have the power to shape atmospheres, and the most amazing part is words are free - it is how we use them that may cost us. Our proclamation determines the posture of those around us - let us spur people onto faith!
Faith will also mobilise us to partner with the one who we have our faith in: God. Often times we feel a sense of hopelessness because we feel powerless, or we feel that there is no one who could help us in our troubles.
Political parties, currencies, education, properties etc all these things can come and go and if we find ourselves looking for security in these things we will always be left wanting. Trust in the sovereignty of God. That He has a reason for every season, a purpose for every pain and a plan for every problem.
I have learnt (and I am still learning) to trust God in spite of any circumstance - and He has never ever let me down. Jesus is real! I don't follow Him just because - I do it with the utmost conviction that He is alive and is still at work today.
You will not get a better partner than Him, and the best part is He often leads the way - and makes a way even where there is none.