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Don’t Mistake Surplus for Security

Have you ever been betrayed by earthly treasures? Or by material promises that vaporise overnight? It happened to my family during the 2009 financial crisis. Through that incident, I was awakened to my confusion of surplus for security, and my misplaced trust in earthly treasures.

A few months before the financial crisis, my wife and I agreed that I would leave my corporate job to work full-time in church. We made a firm commitment. Up till the moment of our decision, there was hardly any sign of an upcoming global financial market crash that would turn out to be the worst in 80 years.

Back then, our two children were below nine years old. My wife was a full-time homemaker. Our family lived a very simple life, way below our means and income. Covenant EFC’s Intentional Discipleship Training (IDT) had taught my wife and I well—that we must live below our means. We sought to limit our household expenditure to about 40% of our income, if possible. We were blessed with a fully paid-up apartment. We took public transport and saved on upkeeping a car.

The church work gave us about 15% of my usual income. This was a very precious support. We were deeply grateful as it supplied some basic family needs. Nonetheless, there was a monthly deficit. My wife and I did not know how long we could cope with such a reduced income. We had simply followed the Holy Spirit’s leading and committed to serve the church full-time.

I must confess that I secretly thought we could rely on our savings which were held in unit trust investments. I had hoped that the investments would tide us over for a few years. Little did I know that the investments’ value would vaporise in 2009 to the extent that they ended up worth only a tiny fraction of their original price. My family was truly down financially. Yet amazingly we had no lack as we journeyed on!

From that episode, I learnt a few hard lessons that had stayed with me throughout these years of my life: Do not trust in your earthly treasures! Do not confuse your material surplus for security. Trust in God alone and abide in Jesus our Lord and Saviour!

Twelve years have since passed. I can testify that God is totally faithful. His assurance to my family that we shall have no lack has come true. Brothers and sisters in our church, as well as my biological family, had blessed my family with all kinds of gifts and helps. They gave our children storybooks and Lego sets. We received café vouchers for the occasional family treats. They offered us free rides home and the priceless conversations in their cars. They shared with us their homes overseas. And the list goes on. Over these past years, God faithfully provided for my family. Living simply, we could even joyously give bountifully to various causes and needs in church and beyond.

Most importantly, my family and I can testify today to the indescribable joy of following Jesus, and to the wonderful truth and abundant life with which He blesses us. Jesus and His good news of eternal life is the treasure above all else. This gives new meaning to Mark 10:30 where Jesus promises that those who have chosen Him over earthly treasures shall “receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” I delight in both my biological and spiritual families around me. I enjoy these earthly treasures without owning them. And I greatly cherish the one True Treasure, Jesus Christ our Lord, who alone gives eternal life!

As I reflect on Jesus, the Treasure above all else, many songs (see the list below) come to my mind. One of the songs—“Blessings” by Laura Story—questioned whether God’s blessings might at times come to us through some betrayal (e.g. my financial one), pain and storms. Indeed, the trials of this life might just be blessings in disguise, with the outcome that we find ourselves embraced by the Lord Jesus and experience Him as our True Treasure in life. Here is an extract from the beautiful lyrics of that song:

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace, 

Comfort for family, protection while we sleep.

We pray for healing, for prosperity, 

We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering.
All the while, You hear each spoken need;
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things.

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win,
We know that pain reminds this heart, that this is not our home.

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy?
What if trials of this life—the rain, the storms, the hardest nights—
Are Your mercies in disguise?

We are so blessed by God! To Him be all the glozry!

Written by Pastor Adrian Chan

We hope that you will check out the recommended resources below. May God bless you in your spiritual journey ahead.

 

SCRIPTURE

Mark 10:17-31

Mark 4:18-19

Mark 8:34-38

Matthew 19:21-26

Luke 16:19-31

1 Timothy 6:9-11

James 5:1-6

Proverbs 27:23-24

Proverbs 30:7-9

 

SERMON

“All-In Discipleship”, by Rev Edmund Chan: https://sermonresources.cefc.org.sg/file/1584

The Rich Young Ruler”, by Kent Hughes: https://resources.thegospelcoalition.org/library/the-rich-young-man 

 

SONGS

Blessings”, by Laura Story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQan9L3yXjc 

I’d Rather Have Jesus”, by Selah: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bt_1sAg-Q40 

In Christ Alone”, by Michael English: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTD2PnGP6YY

My Treasure”, by Scott Wesley Brown: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3z_r8kbVUBw

Be Thou My Vision”, by Selah: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3ofkPLroRA

 

VIDEOS & ARTICLE

God Provides | The Rich Man & Lazarus”, by Crown Financial Ministries: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWxc3qwBQZI 

God Provides | Widow & Oil”, by Crown Financial Ministries: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuVhrt8VoDk 

Various resources by Crown Financial Ministrieshttps://vimeo.com/moneylife 

Interview with Dr Tan Lai Yong, the “Wandering Saint” of Singaporehttps://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/wandering-saint-of-singapore 

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Daily Devo

Daily Devotional Journal

Scripture:
Jonah 4:1-9
Fri, 28 January 2022

The Angry Man

Observation:

What question does God ask Jonah twice in this passage?

Deeper Reflection
IN CHAPTER 4 WE GET A GLIMPSE OF THE REBELLIOUS prophet’s true worldview and values. We would expect Jonah to be delighted that the Ninevites experienced God’s mercy, as he himself did (Jon 2:6). Then, the first word of chapter 4 – BUT – hits us like a sledgehammer. BUT Jonah was exceedingly displeased! He was angry! Why? Because, as verse 2 reveals, Jonah the rebellious prophet had not truly changed his perspective, even after his fish belly experience. He tells God: I told you so! That is why I never wanted to preach to the Ninevites – because I knew that You would forgive them. Jonah had preached, hoping that God would not be gracious to Nineveh, or that the Ninevites would not repent, thereby incurring judgment. Jonah resented God’s grace to the undeserving – except when he himself was the recipient.74 God asks Jonah a rhetorical question twice in verses 4 and 9: do you have a right to be angry? The second time, Jonah actually answers this question – YES, I DO, I’m angry enough to die. Aren’t we all somewhat petulant and immature like Jonah? We love God’s grace – primarily when it is extended to us. When we see others receive God’s grace, our first instinct may be to cry “Unfair!” rather than rejoice with them. Or we think it unfair when we do not receive the grace we (ironically) think we deserve. Jonah was very happy when God graciously provided him a plant (v.6), but furious when God took it away. God’s grace is His prerogative – we never have a right to demand it. And He is gracious to all!
74 Stuart, Hosea-Jonah, 443.
Application:

How do I deal with feelings of “unfairness” when I do not receive the blessings that I think I deserve, or when I see others blessed “more” than me?

Prayer:
Write a prayer to God as your response from your meditation on and application of the Scriptures.
Prayer Pointers:
  • Give thanks and praise
  • Pray for SGI leaders: That all small group leaders will depend deeply on God’s grace and serve others because of it
  • Pray for significant people
  • Pray for those in need
  • Pray for self

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