Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 1 Corinthians 9:26
Ever since I moved back to Hong Kong, I have constantly found myself trying to catch up with the pace of this vibrant city. People talk so fast that I’m always the last one laughing at my friends’ jokes. People walk so fast that whenever I change lines on an MTR platform, I feel like I’m in the middle of a race-walking competition. People act so fast in a “cha chaan teng” that you have to decide what you’re going to eat immediately, because you only get 8 seconds to place your order! Within the next 10 seconds, your 3-course breakfast meal will be presented on your table — not to mention you’re expected to finish your meal within 7 minutes.
We all get used to living in this fast-paced environment. It almost sounds ridiculously impossible when we’re asked to slow down the pace of our lives. But why is everything moving so fast?
Paul reminds us of the importance of self-control in 1 Corinthians 9:25. He wants us to set our focus on something that will never perish. Paul didn’t ask us to do things at a slower pace, but he wanted us to remember what the purpose of living is, so that we will not run aimlessly or box like a man beating the air. Paul did it all for the sake of the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:23a) and we are reminded that we are all called to be witnesses of God.
To slow down is actually taking time to,
Yes, we need to act fast for the sake of the gospel. We need to have a sense of urgency to be witnesses of God. We need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit to see the spiritual needs of others.
So, the next time we’re talking to our friends, walking across the crowded MTR platform or eating at a “cha chaan teng,” look around at people’s faces and try to observe things from God’s perspective. I am sure you will find someone who is desperate to hear the gospel. God loves each and every single one of them as much as He loves you and me.
Let us slow down and take time by:
Tangible is more memorable. Our memory isn’t so reliable. It often changes with our circumstances so we need to give ourselves memory aids. The more real we can make our memory, even to being able to touch it, the better we remember. Jesus, the great teacher, taught us a tangible way to remember Him through the sacrament of Communion with its elements, the bread and the cup.
In the Old Testament, the Israelites witnessed and experienced one of the greatest miracles in the parting of the Red Sea. They walked across the dry sea bed and watched as their pursuers were swallowed up after them. But surprisingly soon after this amazing event, the grumbling and complaining began and they forgot about the amazing God who delivered them out of Egypt.
After experiencing a similar version of the Red Sea miracle in crossing the Jordan River, Joshua told the people to gather twelve stones to make a memorial.
“When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” Joshua 4:21-23
We’ve talked about creating our own Remembrance Stones here at Island ECC. I’ve always been more of a journalling person, keeping track of answered prayers and high points with pen and paper. But I’ve come to appreciate the even-more tangible nature of the stones. In writing this devotion, I reflected back on these stones and remembered His goodness:
My daughter finding good friends again
Healing and progress in another of my children
My own healing for a skin condition
Looking back on these simple reminders of significant turning points helps me trust Him for the future and I’m looking forward to collecting a jarful of these.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:21
Take some time to look back at your “memory bank” of God’s goodness today (in whatever form you keep it). Record something in your journal or start your collection of Remembrance Stones. Give thanks for His goodness and trust Him for what’s ahead of you.
I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33
The Easter holiday is a great reminder that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection have assured us of victory. Despite that amazing truth, I admit that I often find myself in a reactive and stressed state when dealing with work situations, health issues, family relationships and so on. To compound that, those issues seem to only become more difficult, more severe and more complicated as I get older. Put simply, the stakes get higher. Those factors make it increasingly harder for me to live a life reflecting the peace and victory that God provided to me.
So what am I to do? Each day I am faced with the choice of either relying on my own wisdom and strength or remembering to turn to the Lord. In looking back over my life, there is a clear pattern that situations always work out better when I choose the latter. For me, reliance on God consists of regularly spending time with the Lord in prayer and in studying the Bible. Amongst the benefits of those actions are (1) being filled with peace as I absorb His life-giving words and promises, and (2) receiving guidance as His will is revealed.
A function of absorbing God’s Word is that belief in Jesus does not mean trials will not come my way. On the contrary, James teaches us to persevere in the face of difficult circumstances so that our faith can become mature and complete (James 1:2-4).
Recalling verses like that in the book of James brings me encouragement and helps me to keep a healthy perspective on eternity. How are you doing in that area?
Let us exercise keeping perspective by:
Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox. Proverbs 14:4
Think of the things you are most proud of in life, the things that have brought you the most joy and satisfaction. Maybe it was that degree, crossing the finishing line of that race, that personal project you finally put the finishing touches on, that family or romantic relationship, that promotion, or that fitness goal you finally reached.
Now stop and consider this, all of these either took a lot of effort to attain or take a lot of effort to sustain. The good things in life are messy. Working out is messy. Eating healthy is inconvenient. Healthy relationships demand self-surrender. Long-term goals require discipline.
Proverbs 14:4 reminds us that fruit in our life doesn’t come from the clean, picture-perfect life we often subconsciously desire. I’m sure the hypothetical farmer in Proverbs 14:4 would have much rather installed that jacuzzi room instead of the manger for the oxen. Yet, he possessed the wisdom to look down the road and see he desired crops even more than comfort, so he housed the oxen. Despite the animals’ smells, the space they took up, the daily care they required; he understood the mess was his ticket to his ultimate goal.
Work (aka: discipline, self-denial, effort, trust, sacrifice, etc.) was always in God’s plan for us as humans. Adam and Eve were destined to cultivate and grow the garden of Eden well before sin came into the picture. Yet, in the midst of all that “work”, they were simultaneously designed to thrive and have endless joy.
If this is true, then the first work we have to do is in the renewing of our minds. It’s to change the narratives in our head that we’d automatically find joy if things in our life would be less complicated or come easier to us… if our mangers were clean. Instead, we need to ask God to help us joyfully work as we keep our eyes on the fruit we hope to reap.
In fact, it’s in the messiness and the process of reaching our goals that we are changed.
Oh, and especially coming out of Easter, let’s remember Jesus endured a messy manger so that we could reap something in abundance: life.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. Colossians 3:23
Monday morning to Friday evening is usually a period where we like to fast-forward because of what is sandwiched in between: our jobs. For many of us, our job is associated negatively with words such as “stress,” “long hours” and “uninspiring”. As a result, we have the tendency to isolate what we do at work from the other aspects of our lives which we find meaning in, such as God and church.
Even though my full-time job is not ministry related, it would be quite unfortunate if I did not associate what I do at work with God. If we don’t associate or at least strive to associate our jobs with God, our jobs, in the words of Ecclesiastes 1:2, would be “utterly meaningless”. God had intended for our vocations to play an important role in our lives. It would therefore be uncharacteristic of God had He designed the jobs, which He has placed us in, to be anything but meaningful.
Colossians 3:23 has taught me how to approach my job from an eternal perspective. It is liberating to understand that even in a “non-ministry” workplace, it is still the Lord, not our “human masters” whom I should serve. When I was able to take this to heart, I realised that my job is no longer just about drafting documents, meeting clients’ needs, attending meetings or completing urgent tasks – instead, it is ultimately about bringing glory to Him.
It may not be entirely clear how we can glorify God through our work. Even if you do not know how God can be glorified at work right now, take comfort in the fact that He has placed you at your workplace in this season of your life to accomplish a specific purpose of His. We can find fulfilment, joy and meaning in our jobs if we view it as an exciting opportunity for us to advance His Kingdom. So work with all your heart for the glory of God!
Let us identify who is our boss by: