God’s will

TemporaryVisitors - Guest Post

Whenever there’s a 5th Sunday in a month, we take a break from the regular rotation between myselfHeliconTim, and Dien to feature a guest writer. Since there were 5 Sundays in April, this week’s post comes to you from my good friend and younger* brother, Nathan Yee.

* He does not allow me to call him “little” for obvious reasons if you’ve ever seen us standing next to each other. 


Lately I have been contemplating what it means to ‘be in God’s Will’.  We always speak about and pray that we want the ‘Will of God’ to be expressed in our life and that we would co-labor in it.  The question I posed to myself in studying this was:

Am I not seeing an opportunity that is right in front of me which God has placed in my life, that I ought to be pouring into? 

I am reminded of Paul’s missionary work and how he had a genuine desire to go and share the Gospel to the Romans. Obviously Paul didn’t just wait and not do anything and wait for God to open a door for him to get to Rome so he could fulfill his desire.  If so, the book of Acts would have looked much differently, but on the contrary what we do see is Paul actively contending for the faith everywhere God sent him.  Even though Paul didn’t immediately get to Rome in the beginning of his missionary journey, he poured everything he had into what was before him. Acts 14:20 tells of Paul being stoned in Lystra and dragged out of the city presumed dead by the locals, but immediately re-enters the city which tried to kill him.  We do not experience that type of persecution today, but how often do we bow out of opportunities to share the love of God when confronted with the slightest opposition? Paul could of said at that point, ‘I’ve had it with Lystra, my desire is to be in Rome and that is where I’m going.’ But Paul didn’t allow life’s circumstances and his own genuine desires to get in the way of doing what God had for him and followed faithfully.

We can have our desires for our life but the Lord will take us ultimately where He sees fit. Even when our desires are praiseworthy and for the God’s glory, it may not be what God has in store for us at the moment.  We ought not to let circumstances dictate where we believe God is leading us.  God has not promised us comfort and ease in following Him but the contrary ‘Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,’ 2 Timothy 3:12.  Easily we fall into a trap today where the most comfortable and logical choice is sought after as God’s plan for us.  We pour everything we have into obtaining this dream to where we have lost sight of what it says in Matthew 22:37 ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’.  Lets be reminded that we are to love God for who He is rather than the blessings He gives.

I am reminded of the lyrics to ‘Give Us Clean Hands’ by Chris Tomlin, “Oh God let us be a generation that seeks, who seeks Your face, oh God of Jacob”.  We have an opportunity to have intimate fellowship with the one and true living God for all the days of our lives, let us not consume ourselves with the periphery.

For the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

Shalom,
-Nathan

True Contentment (pt. 2)

Philippians 4:13

So in my last post, I posted some thoughts about New Year resolutions and how they are often manifested because of our dissatisfaction or lack of contentment with the way things are in our lives.  I moved on to talk about Gospel Contentment and how Paul is able to have such an incredible peace amidst the hardships that he was facing during his imprisonment.  What Paul shares to his beloved friends in Philippi is that he has learned to find this incredible contentment/peace in Christ through the depth of his understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and how it is only through the Gospel that he can say with such confidence “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).

So why do we have a Part 2 to this True Contentment topic then, Helicon?  I could totally have stopped at the end of last week’s post and ended this train of thought but I believe that God has helped me see some new wisdom and insight on the topic recently.   There were times when it was not so easy to be filled with joy or fixated or at peace with Christ, but it was in those times that I continued to pray and ask God to show me more reasons why this understanding is so important and how much further it continues to go into my foundations and faith.

Here’s why this contentment stuff is so important… like me, you WILL face times when you will encounter hardships /discouragements /trials/suffering /loss/heartbreak/loneliness!  The question is… how will you respond in those times?  Will you become so distraught that you are unable to function?  Will you start to panic and perhaps even go as far as to blame God for what happens?  Maybe you won’t panic as much, but inside you are deeply shaken to the core of the foundations of your faith and this may become the catalyst to a growing distance from God in your daily life.  You may even be rebellious due to your frustration and lack of seeing God’s activeness.

The reality is we face these dilemmas and they are a part of our lives that we cannot ignore.  Rather than facing these times, we often rather hide these struggles as we try to put on a brave or courageous face for the rest of the world to see.  What happens is we ignore these thoughts until they are upon us and then we have to struggle even more so because we are ill-prepared to face the reality of our lives.  This denial or willful blindness only makes the journey longer and the hole deeper; rather than finding ourselves to God, we feel further and more ashamed than before.  To ignore these dilemmas then would be a huge blind spot in our soul, and a place where we will be missing God’s grace and refinement (God’s there, but our blindness leads us unaware or unwilling to listen to him in those areas).

Paul grasps this hope/eschatological confidence in the Gospel… and as a result, he not only has a deep peace in the truth of the Gospel, but in the promise of the Gospel.  What is the reason we can trust God so much in the present when things look so screwed up? I think that we can have such confidence in the present because of a confidence in the fulfillment of the promise in the future.  The promise of that hope and the belief that it will be fulfilled drives our confidence in the present… and though this may seem so elementary, we can easily gloss over it in our own hearts.  The truth is that this is a very powerful ingredient to Paul’s confidence in the Gospel.  He believes what Jesus Christ has said and that God will redeem it all in the future; he has no doubt about this and this is what strengthens him in the present.  We remember the past and what Christ has accomplished, but we anticipate the future for its fulfillment.

Too often, I think our understanding of the Gospel is stuck only in the present… and rather than seeing God’s powerful work transcending time, we can only see it from the singular (even narrow) perspective of the present.  We are so easily shaken because we can only see things within the present context and never consider the Sovereignty of God & His control that transcends time.  We may consider the past and we may consider the future, but what we must remember is that God is not bound by the boundaries of time.  God sees/defines/authors the complete big picture!  I think that it’s in seeing the promise of God (with an understanding of the future) that gives Paul this unwavering 100% confidence.  He doesn’t just understand this… he KNOWS this with all of his being to be true.  This is a real faithfulness and trust in God’s promises!

This is definitely something I feel that we have to desire and constantly pray for because it is so easily forgotten.  How often has that dreaded feeling of doubt and discouragement come creeping in during a bout or season of trial or hardship?  This is why preaching the Gospel to ourselves has such an essential role to our faith and its healthiness.  It is this constant radical reorientation back towards Christ; it is that recalibration that cannot afford to be off even by a teensy bit in our lives.  We need to be focused because even the smallest incorrect focus over the distance of our lives will end up far off the target of our relationship with Jesus Christ.  This constant vigilant correction is necessary and perhaps why we are compared to sheep: who are so easily distracted and strayed.

So as I share today, do we constantly see this future promise and it’s completeness in the Gospel?  Do we see and place our confidence in these promises and earnestly desire to see these things from this mindset?  It is perhaps when you are able to do these things that you can say with as much confidence as Paul the following words: “… for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11b-13).

What do you place your confidence in when things get tough?  Do you place it in the promises that Christ will return and things will be made right?  How often do you reflect on the Gospel and preach it to yourself?  Do you believe and long for the future fulfillment of God’s promise and see it as a definite or a possibility?  This my friends will be something you wrestle with your entire life… it is a journey that you will constantly encounter such moments, and the question then is: will you continue to remember to preach the Gospel to yourself, and cling to Christ?

Finding that Much Needed Peace in Your Life – How to Be Content

I have been wanting to type out my thoughts and notes from this message that deeply impacted me when I heard it at Redeemer one Sunday. I did not bring a pencil so my notes were roughly from memory as well as some personal commentary. But I would love to share this with anyone willing to read it, because I really find it quite necessary to remind ourselves of these three things.

*Based on Tim Keller’s Sermon on Peace and how to achieve contentment in our lives.

1.) Thinking

2.) Thanking

3.) Loving

Philippians 4:4-12

4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Thanks for Their Gifts

10I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Thinking:

Often in this world and society, if you want to achieve a feeling of peace and contentment, people advise you to just try to ignore whatever is bothering you and not think about the things that are causing you to worry or stress. They tell you to relax and distract your brain until you feel better. However, Paul tells us to think about what is troubling us. The type of peace the world advertises to us is a shallow kind of peace that uses ignorance as opposed to seeking deeper into the situation and understanding why you should feel content even through suffering. When writing this, Paul was in prison and facing possible torture and death. Yet, he still could find contentment in the wretched circumstance he was in. Having gone through so many tribulations and hardships in life already, Paul must have finally understood God’s way of giving us peace. Paul talks about a “peace that transcends all understanding”. Even through immeasurable pain and suffering in life, God and only God alone can give you a peace that is not understandable to this world.

Thanking:

We always seem to thank God after He answers our many prayers. However, we should be thanking God already during our prayers, before the results appear. For whatever God chooses to have happen in our lives will forevermore always be better than whatever we want to have happen. He knows so much better than us. If only we knew as much as God knew about our lives, then would we fully comprehend and agree with His ultimate plans for us. We only know what is the present, but God knows beyond the present in every aspect of our lives. God is a good Father and He alone knows what is best for us. And therefore, we should trust Him and learn to accept what is to come. The key here is to honor God’s Sovereignty in our lives with the act of trusting in Him, to the point where before anything even happens, we are already thanking Him regardless of the future outcomes. With this mindset, peace will come into our lives.

Loving God:

Instead of loving success or wealth or family, we need to love God with all of our hearts. When you put your life on the shaky foundation of success or even family, there is always going to be that insecure feeling of losing it even when you gain it. Therefore, putting your life hand in hand with these worldly goals will bring instability and constant dissatisfaction in your life. Those things will come and go, but God is constant and will always love you faithfully. It is us who turn away from His loving embrace and we fall in life solely because of ourselves. When you see a big wave crash into some pillars of rock on the side of a beach and completely immerse the rocks underwater, it seems that the rocks have been demolished by the waves. However as the waves subside, the rock is still firmly standing there unscathed. God is like that rock, strong and firm in our lives. We just have to realize our own weaknesses and fragility and LOVE God and turn to Him as the sole refiner of our lives. God loves us so much that He sent His only son, Jesus, down to this earth to painfully die on the cross for us! Who are we to deserve such love and care from one so great and almighty! Think of how Jesus must have felt. He, of no sin and of perfect peace from God in His life dying on the cross for us and so suddenly feeling all the woes of the world and all our insecurities and lack of peace. It must have been pure torture, yet Jesus beared it all just so we could gain that peace and contentment from God. What a sacrifice that is! We are truly so blessed to be God’s children.

And to end…

The Hymn: “It is Well with My Soul”

Horatio G. Spafford wrote this song in 1876. He had a wife and four little daughters. One day his wife and children were on a ship sailing to England. That ship suddenly hit something and began to sink. His wife and children were separated in the waters. His four little daughters did not make it, but his wife fortunately survived and was taken to England. She sent him a message with two words: “Saved Alone”. As he was sailing to England to pick up his wife, he began writing this particular hymn. In the world’s view, the lyrics have no correlation whatsoever to how he must have been feeling. But as Paul stated in Philippians 4, God can give us a “peace that transcends all understanding”. And that is exactly what he gave to this faithful man of God who lost all four of his precious daughters.

So when any of you are feeling discontent in life, think of these things and realize that there is no need to be discontent, for God has filled our lives with already so much of His love and His grace.