Claim God’s promises

This week, I’d like to share a story with you that I’ve found to be very insightful.

Once upon a time, there was a widow who served a rich man faithfully. When she was old and left the rich man’s service, the rich man gave the widow a letter. Since she was only a humble servant, she never learned how to read so she didn’t know what the letter was about. Though she didn’t know the contents of the letter, since she loved her former master, she still treasured the letter greatly and hung it in a frame above her bed. After she left the rich man’s service, she was too old to work yet did not have enough money to live on comfortably. For the next ten years, she struggled in poverty. One day, she fell ill and knew she was on her death bed. Her friends and relatives came to visit her. They saw the letter above her bed and asked her who it was from. The widow said it was from her former employer, a rich man whom she loved dearly. Her loved ones asked her if she knew what the letter was about. The widow said – “No, I can’t read”. Then her loved ones told her – “The letter is the rich man’s will. He has left all his riches to you!” It was only then that the widow realized that she was the heir to a vast fortune. But it was too late – the widow never claimed her inheritance and she died, penniless.

This story struck a chord with me because it illustrates a point about the need to claim God’s promises. The Bible is full of promises from God that can bless our lives. However, we have to be aware of those promises and claim them in Jesus’ name. If there’s a promise in the Bible that we don’t know about, then we are like the poor widow, living with a will above our bed. If we’re not aware of the Bible’s promises, or if we are aware of the promise but don’t have the faith to claim it, then the Bible’s promise is powerless in our lives and we won’t receive the blessing that belongs to us.

I’d like to share with you some promises from God that has changed my life and which I’d encourage you to claim for your life too.

One is in Romans 8 – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This promise is one I claim whenever I face trouble in my life. I know that if I face adversity or failure, it is only temporary and in the long run, I will be victorious. This hope of final victory brings joy and calm into my life, enabling me to be peaceful amidst the storm.

Another awesome promise is in Jeremiah 29:11 –

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

When things are bad in my life, this is a promise that I claim. I know the struggles I am presently having in my life are only for the moment, and that my final future is a bright and prosperous one.

I think it’s important to feed your mind with these promises of hope in the future. Without these promises, when trouble comes, you will be tempted to worry and the negative energy and mental pain caused by worry can lead to depression and even despair. When you’re depressed, then you’re even less capable to deal with life and this starts a downward spiral that might be difficult to get out of. But if you claim God’s promise – that He will work good in your difficult circumstance, that He will grant you victory in the future – this enables you to have a positive attitude and your hope and joy will empower you to fight against whatever adversity you may be facing at the moment.

So don’t be like the widow. Make a habit of reading the Bible and good Christian books to find out what promises God has given you. This blog is too short for me to list all the awesome promises God has given us, but there are hundreds of promises in the Bible that can change your life if you just have the faith to activate it. So don’t hesitate – start researching God’s promises for you today and claim the victorious Christian life that is promised to you!

How does the Bible influence society?

This week I am a guest blogger at the website, What Christians Want to Know.

It’s an honour to be featured on the site, as What Christians Want to Know is ranked by Blog Rank as the #2 blog site according to unique visitors. They get about 250,000 unique visitors a month.

The blog post is about how the Bible influences society.

You can read the article at

http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/how-does-the-bible-influence-society/

 

Will God allow you to suffer more than you can bear? Part 2

This week’s post follows up on last week’s debate about whether God will allow you to suffer more than you can bear

http://hweehweetan.com/will-god-allow-you-to-suffer-more-than-you-can-bear/

In last week’s post, I concluded that God does some times put us through circumstances which are beyond what we can bear.

In those impossible times, what can we do?

The first step is to use the power of prayer, to cast your burden on God. In 1 Peter 5:7, it says, “Cast all your cares upon Him for He cares for you.” When you feel crushed by your burden, know that God does not want you to bear your burden by yourself, but that God wants to carry your burden for you.

In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus tells us –

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will

gave you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and

humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

In prayer, give up your crushing load to the Lord and have faith that He will strengthen you and deliver you.

It is through accepting our helplessness and turning to God’s power to help us that we can be rescued. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:8-10:

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”

Here Paul speaks in metaphors. To experience the resurrection life of Jesus, we have to first experience a metaphorical death. When we experience a weakness so great that we are as helpless as a dead person, when we are faced with this utter inability to cope by ourselves and when we surrender our hopeless selves to God, he empowers us, grants us the victory and deliverance and gives life to our lifeless selves.

Sometimes God puts us in difficult circumstances so that we will rely on His strength to do the impossible and change the circumstance. But what if He doesn’t rescue us? When that happens, we can develop the ability through God to stand strong, be patient and endure the circumstance. In tough times, God either rescues us or pours out his overwhelming peace in our heart. As we experience God’s deliverance and peace, this grows our faith and enables us to trust Him greater with our lives and difficult circumstances.

We might not always be rescued from our burdens but when we are crushed, God promises us His comfort. In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul writes

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

When we feel overwhelmed by our burdens, God comes to comfort us. And when we receive His strength to carry on, the next time we meet a fellow Christian who is going through a tough time, we can use our comfort in sufferings as a testimony to encourage them. Then as brothers and sisters in Christ, we can all bond by sharing the comfort we find in God in the midst of our dark times.

Life can be overwhelming but we can find reassurance that we are not meant to carry our burdens on our own. In Galatians 6:2, Paul writes, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” When we feel we cannot cope, it is ok to reach out to others for help. Sometimes we resist sharing our troubles and asking for help because we want to be seen to be self-reliant and our pride prevents us from reaching out. But we were not created by God to be able to handle everything by ourselves. This is why we need to live in community with other strong Christians, so we can grow closer by helping to carry each other’s burdens.

In conclusion, when God gives us more than we can handle, that can be a blessing in disguise. In those dark circumstances, we can learn to rely on God and receive his deliverance, comfort and peace. We can also have the opportunity to turn to others for help and thus build bonds with our fellow Christians through our trials. God can indeed turn all things together for our good!

Will God allow you to suffer more than you can bear?

You might have had the experience of feeling down and overwhelmed, and a well-meaning Christian friend tries to comfort you with the words – “God will not let you suffer more than you can bear”.

But is this backed by the Bible? Is this true?

Supporters of this theory usually quote 1 Corinthians 10:13 –

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

However, it’s important to note here that this verse talks specifically about temptation. It isn’t about trials, adversities, failures, setbacks and disappointments. The verse promises that if you are enticed to sin, you’ll be able to overcome that challenge. It does not promise that you’ll be able to cope with any suffering that comes your way.

For those who believe that God will not send them any suffering that they cannot bear, this can often lead to guilt, depression and shame when they find that they cannot cope with what life has inflicted on them. What if you get laid off and struggle to pay the bills, what if you lose a loved one, what if you suffer from an illness that is so painful it makes you cry? As you crumple on the ground, totally overwhelmed and someone comes up and tells you – “You can cope – God tells us that He will not give you more than you can bear”, those words can be like a kick in the gut. You either feel weak, or you may question God’s love, whether He is mad at you or has abandoned you. However, you’ll find that the idea of God not letting us suffer beyond what we can bear is not in the Bible.

If you read the Bible, particularly Paul’s teachings, you’ll find that Paul often came up with examples of suffering beyond what is humanly bearable. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul lists his sufferings in an extensive fashion:

I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.  Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,  I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.  I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

What a stressful life Paul had! Looking at this laundry list of trials, it looks overwhelming and Paul himself admits that he couldn’t cope. In 2 Corinthians 1 he confesses:

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

Paul describes the experience of being so overwhelmed by suffering, that it was far beyond his ability to endure. He was so weak it was like he was as powerless as a dead man.

So why does God allow suffering to overwhelm us in such a way? The clue comes in the passage above – unbearable suffering causes us to run to God, to rely on God and God alone. When we are in a situation so dire that only a miracle can rescue us, God comes to our aid and raises us from the pit of despair.

We as humans like to be independent, we like to do things our own way, in our own strength. So when storms hit you, when the burden is so great you collapse on the floor, you know you can’t do it on your own and you turn to God. This causes you to focus on the power of God, realizing that there is only one solution and God is your only hope. It’s when you stop trying to solve your problems through your own efforts, and just surrender and let go, put total faith and reliance on God, that’s when God comes and rescues you. Our weakness and our suffering reminds us that we are not self-sufficient. We cannot just hunker down and power through every situation. We need God.

When we face overwhelming suffering, we can be encouraged by the promises in Romans 8. God promises to work things out for our good, we are more than conquerers no matter how bad the situation is and nothing can separate us from His love.

So when the storms of life are drowning you, lift up your hands and cry to God to save you and watch Him lift you up above the waves!

Part of the inspiration for this post came from Ron Edmondson’s blog post at

 

Comparing yourself with others

I recently turned 38 in June and reflected that I was coming close to a milestone in age – that of turning 40.

It led me to reflect on what I possessed and what I have achieved in life so far.

I have a confession to make.

A few months ago, I found myself struggling with feelings of inferiority as I started comparing myself with my peers. I compared myself with the Christians friends I had and marveled at how God had blessed them. They had high-paying, secure jobs – some of them had held the same job for twenty years! They drove big, expensive cars and lived in big houses or costly condominiums. Compared to them, I had relatively little. My salary is rather low, which means that I still have to live with my parents (can’t afford to buy my own place) and can’t afford to own a car. My friends weren’t just materially blessed, but all of them also were married and had children, while I was still praying to God for a life partner and children, prayers which He hasn’t answered yet.

So comparing myself with my friends, they seemed to have the Singapore dream – good job and happy family – while I had failed to achieve the Singapore dream. I wondered why God hadn’t blessed me in the same way even though I’ve been obedient to Him and why my life hasn’t followed the same path as my friends.

Then God spoke to me. He said to me – “I don’t want you to be the same as your friends, I want you to be unique.” Humans are made to be unique, different from each other, and everybody was meant to have a different life story. Just as we all have different thumbprints, so God designed us to have different life paths. God spoke to me and gave me the conviction that He wanted me to live a different life from my friends, to walk an unconventional path, to live an out of the box kind of life and celebrate my uniqueness rather than being upset that my life did not match my friends.

God also impressed on me the fact that though I may have materially less than my friends, I was not inferior in his eyes. In fact, I have great worth in God’s eyes. The fact that I am a Christian means that I have been called by God, a calling that many others do not have. Because of my calling, I have become a child of God, become a daughter of the divine Father. I have great spiritual worth – I am a King and Priest in Christ.

In fact, my material poverty means I have get greater spiritual attention in the body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul writes about how the church is like a body, with weak and strong parts –

“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

God encouraged me through this passage, letting me know that I am one of the weaker parts of the Body of Christ that has greater honour.

God also told me to focus on my spiritual blessings. God told me through Jude 1 that I am called by God. When I reflected on that truth, I felt awed by God’s mercy and felt incredibly special, privileged and grateful for His calling. I compared myself with others who are not called by God and felt very grateful. I might not be able to afford to buy my own house but I do have knowledge of God and a relationship with the abundantly loving divine Father! And that’s a comparison that’s well worth dwelling on.