Backpack on Sale – Thanks, Lord!

Quechua 20 L backpack from Decathlon

I am thankful to God for this timely sale at Decathlon. I had been eyeing this good quality backpack for my upcoming Camino Ignaciano. I was not prepared to pay the $70 original price a few months back. So I waited and occasionally peeped the website. A few days ago, I saw that it was on sale at $50! Was I seeing things? Was it only available on line?

My wife and I were going Decathlon anyway to change a hiking pants that was too tight. So what a joy it was to see the backpack on sale. Bought it immediately with joy and thanksgiving.

In todays world of consumerism, waiting is a struggle for many. Why wait when you can have it now? Enjoy now with credit card and pay later. We want what we want now. Instant gratification is the rule of the day.

To wait requires holding back gratification of our demanding desires (often as demanding as Arsenal football club fans). What I found was that patient waiting is worth it.  I experienced God’s fatherly love and great timing ( I fly off this Sunday). It is so sweet and special. Whenever I carry this backpack, it will remind me of His meticulous provision and evoke thanks and praise for his kindness.

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Reunion with Swiss Cottage classmates

I was in Swiss Cottage Secondary School and Pre U center for seven years from 1968 to 1974. I have lost touch with most of my classmates from then. However, as we reach the empty nest and retirement years, there is a strong pull to reminisce about the shared school years. Furthermore, we have more time on our hands, and with the help of quick contact via social media, many school reunions suddenly spring to life. This year I got added into a Swiss Cottage chat group. It was such fun looking at old school photos, wondering who is who, and what happened to so-and-so, and talking about our form and “out of form” teachers.

As I was clearing leave before my sabbatical I decided to initiate contact with some classmates who I found out attend the same church near my home: the Bukit Batok Presbyterian Church. So I arranged to meet with them for breakfast before the service and and lunch after the service. We ended talking for about four hours at a coffeeshop opposite the church.

With Keng Seng at Coffee Bean

A few days later I had lunch and tea with one of them: Kuan Keng Seng, formerly a council member in All Saints Anglican Church. It was easily another four hours of catching up on our respective history since Secondary School. Higher education, career path, family and as in all reunions a miscellany of various emotions and memories of people and events as they arise.

We do have a great need to reminisce and recall the past in our later years. It is important to bring out the jig saws and try to make put the pieces together and make sense of what God had been doing and working in our life. We step into a needed process of wholeness and integration as we reflect on God’s presence and activity in our life. It can be a life-affirming and healing process.

Thankful, so thankful.

It is also another arena for gentle witness.

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Sabbatical tiredness and struggles

church bulletin

It should not be surprising that I am slow to realise how physically tired I really am. After all, this is the third time in 39 years of pastoral ministry that I am having a sabbatical. This first was for three months. The second was six months. I remembered how in that second sabbatical it took me about a month to get into a rhythm of rest and play and pray and be fully rested.

Now I am on the threshold of my third sabbatical of three months. I have been clearing my leave before my sabbatical officially begins on 1 October.

It is dawning on me that I don’t have to do anything, that my schedule is no longer dictated by ministry routines, demands and expectations. I must admit it to be rather awkward, but pleasant.

I must also admit that trying to rest my body is a struggle. I become aware I am tired, so I lie in bed in the afternoon but cannot sleep. I keep resisting sleep, surfing Carousell for a bargain hybrid bike I do not really need, and scanning mostly negative news about Arsenal football club, and watching Netflix movies.

This is made worse by the haze outside. I am an outdoors person. To stay indoors is to rot. I would prefer to cycle or hike. But I have no choice. Fortunately, I have an aquarium (I built for my grandkids) to maintain.

I have been listening to Tom Wright’s YouTube video lectures and find them brilliant and thought-provoking. Find myself drawn to theological reflection. I have also been waiting on God in silence…actually more of trying to slow down in his presence.

Yesterday, I visited Bukit Batok Presbyterian Church’s Sunday service. I have some Swiss Cottage secondary school classmates who attend that church and I wanted to catch up with them. So we had breakfast at 9.45am before the service started at 10.30am. Then after the service ended at about 12.15pm we went for a long, long lunch – about 4 hours!! It was a good thing that parking was free on Sunday.

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70th Birthday Celebration at Bukit Indah

I have been away on vacation for some time. I have to use up all my annual leave for the year before I embark on my sabbatical from 1 October to 31 December 2019.

We celebrated my wife’s brother’s 70th birthday. We chilled out at an AirBnB apartment (Skyloft Premier Suites), a seven minutes walk from Aeon Bukit Indah, Johor for two nights. It was a relaxing and rewarding time.

At the Jurong East Bus Interchange – a reasonable queue, a short wait.

The journey from Jurong East Bus Interchange on Friday morning took an hour and a half including going through Singapore and Malaysia customs. On the way back on Sunday afternoon it took longer, about 2 hours because many buses loaded with tourists were also returning via the Second Link.

What did we do? Shopping was inexpensive because of Singapore’s strong currency. We shopped. I bought 4 polo Padini T-shirts at S$10 a piece. I could never get them at this price in Singapore nor in Thailand. And then there was the catching up on movies. The apartment was equipped with TVn Movies which streamed one Korean movie after another. I must have caught about three or four movies the best of which was a movie titled, I Can Speak, which was specially moving.

Tim sum and local delights
Red tablecloth birthday treat for birthday boy Simeon Poh on the left in orange polo.

What else did we do? Eat. Eat. Eat. There were cooking facilities available but why cook when good inexpensive Malaysian and international food was available with a short walk. Tim sum, Malaysian ze char dishes, Korean food, Japanese food, local Malay and Indian food – we enjoyed the food, the conversations and just being together.

I felt rested and blessed and satisfied. Must try to do it again.

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Helping Ruth Center renovate its home for elderly poor

There is something about putting in time, talent and treasure that moves your affection towards something. Here we were, six men who wanted to help renovate a home for the elderly poor in Uthai Thani, four hours drive north of Bangkok,  in a rural area so rustic there is no shopping mall or cinema. We landed at Bangkok’s international airport at about 9am and were straightaway driven to a rural province that is full of farms. Along the way, we stopped for lunch at Texas Chicken, and after that the towns got smaller and more rural and quiet.

The WRPF construction team to Uthai Thani

Before we knew it we were moving our luggage from the van into individual colourful chalets in a neat row. SGD$10 per night per person. At this hotel rate, there was nothing to complain about. Outside all around are corn or “jagong” farms. Very serene, very quiet. The only staff a lady, whose husband and young child, stays in a makeshift hut without walls near the entrance. She is the receptionist, the housekeeper, the chambermaid, the concierge, the security guard.

Kenny and Kenneth with the colourful chalet in the background

After thirty minutes to settle we boarded the Volkswagen and headed to the home for the elderly poor which was about fifteen minutes drive away. Steve the highly skilled and committed YWAM worker from the US, who  was in charge of the construction and renovation projects of Ruth Center, showed us the scope of the renovation project and  introduced us to the elderly poor who were already settled into the home.

The temple had been renovated for use by six elderly residents. More rooms were needed.

One building, a former temple had already been renovated and fitted for use for the current elderly folk. Another huge building, formerly a barn or storage building, was partially renovated into a kitchen, dining and activity or recreation space with a TV set.  Our job was to paint, and set up the metal framework upon which to affix the wall partitions made of prefabricated mental panels and door frames. At the end, we possibly could make 4-6 bedrooms each accommodating about 2 men in each room. But this goal proved to be too ambitious.

Simon and Steve painting the walls in the former barn
Kenny and Steven painting the outside walls of the barn
Tom and Steve painting the high walls with scaffolding
Simon cutting the metal column and beams to size
Kenneth drilling holes in the metal columns and beams
Xavier sealing the windows with silicone
Xavier bashing down a disused telephone pole
Tom and Xavier drilling holes in the concrete floor to affix the metal columns
Tom Cannon leading the construction team by example
Tom affixing the vertical columns to the wall
Kenneth painting the metal beams
Steve welding the metal columns and beams
Delicious meals cooked by Not, the leader of Ruth Center

On the next day, a Saturday we started the renovation and we left our chalet at 7am in the morning and returned back each night at about 8pm. We had all our meals at the home. And we went straight to the airport on Tuesday after breakfast, saying goodbye and thank you and photo-taking. It was straight to the airport, no shopping, no reception, almost like a special forces mission haha!!

Every one was tired but feeling grateful and satisfied and joyful after the mission ended. We felt our heart was with Ruth Center and its vision We could not see the project to completion and we felt like coming back to finish it, but it was not possible. Someone else or Steve with some assistants would have to complete the rest of the work. I find myself feeling fulfilled, since the Lord had been putting in my heart to be more incarnational in my service, to be practical and concrete in showing love, to not remain in the safety and comfort zone of pastoral work.  I felt good that I had taken some baby steps in this direction and this is one of the platforms where I have been learning to obey the Lord.

I further believe such works of service are a great platform for believers who have gifts and skills of practical service to serve God in missions.

Here is a video of what we did (video will be uploaded when completed):

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Regretting the National Day

Hazy and lazy day

It was National Day. It was a hazy and lazy day for me. One I regretted. I went for a long ride to the Jurong Lake Gardens with my Brompton bike. The cloud cover and slight haze made for a cooler ride. The park was more crowded than usual but still pleasant to cycle on the park connector. It makes no difference marking out paths for cyclists, pedestrians and joggers. Most do not observe them anyway. Still it was a pleasant 10km ride back and forth from my home to the endpoint near the AYE expressway.

View from atop Passion Wave a new building for water sports at Jurong Lake Gardens

TV and internet

When I returned my brother in law and wife were visiting. They had been there an hour but I was riding. Talked a little before they too went off and my wife and I went out to the Yuhua hawker center and market for a yong tau fu lunch. We bought some kueh kueh for tea so when I got home I plonked myself in the sofa and surfed the web happily: Arsenal had bought some good players at the last day of the transfer window and I was reading all that different newspapers in England said about that. I also manage to catch a Korean variety show, a K-movie titled Microhabitat, and in the evening an African movie titled, The Queen of Katwa, based on a true story of a chess prodigy. The whole afternoon and evening was taken up with internet news and television.

Reviewing the day

On Saturday morning as I reviewed how I idled on National Day I regretted that I was throughout the day mostly oblivious to the presence of God with me. If the Holy Spirit had been a physical friend who was with me the whole day he would have felt offended, upset or saddened that I had hardly paid any attention to his presence with me throughout the day. So absorbed was I in relaxation activities I had forgotten His lovely presence. As I sat there I enjoyed His companionship. It was so peaceful, refreshing and enlightening. I felt sorry and told Him so. And I found my thoughts absorbed in the Korean movie I had watched. In God’s mercy and ability to recycle waste, I saw how the Microhabitat movie threw light on a verse that had puzzled me before. I even remember praying, Lord help me understand this verse. And now the Lord was shedding light on it using the Korean movie to give me some insights into the life of the Spirit.

I felt blessed and enjoyed God’s company throughout the Saturday as He helped me finalise the sermon I would preach on Sunday about the Holy Spirit. Life with the Spirit is always interesting.

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Dr Richard Teo’s testimony

This testimony was recorded at the Dental Christian Fellowship , on 24 Nov 2011, 8 months after his diagnosis. Richard would have liked to share this with you. We are doing this to continue his work.  Please have a read and leave it behind for someone else to benefit from his sharing. If you would like a copy, please let any of his family or close friends know and we will be able to provide both the audio recording as well as the transcript. Thank you, and may God bless you richly. Below is the transcript of the talk of Dr. Richard Teo, who was a 40-year-old millionaire and cosmetic surgeon with a stage-4 lung cancer, sharing at a Dental Christian Fellowship Meeting. He would have liked to share this with you too.Dr Richard Teo: at His call

HIS BACKGROUND

Hi good morning to all of you. My voice is a bit hoarse from the chemotherapy, so please bear with me. I thought I’ll just introduce myself. My name is Richard, I’m a friend of Danny’s, who invited me here. I’d just begin to say that I’m a typical product of today’s society. Before this, I was talking about how the media influences us etc. So I’m a typical product of what the media portrays. From young, I’ve always been under the influence and impression that to be happy, is to be successful. And to be successful, is to be wealthy. So I led my life according to this motto. Coming from a poor average family, back in those days, I was highly competitive, whether in sports, studies, leadership. I wanted it all. I’ve been there, done that. But at the end of the day, it’s still about money.

So in my recent last years, I was a trainee in ophthalmology, but I was getting impatient, cos I had friends of mine who were going out into private practise, making tonnes of money. And there I was, stuck in a traineeship. So I said, ‘Enough, it’s getting too long.’ At that time, there was a surge in protégés of aesthetic medicine. I’m sure you’re aware, aesthetic medicine had peaked over the last few years, and I saw good money in there. So much so that I said, ‘Forget about ophthalmology, I’m gonna do aesthetic medicine.’ So that’s what I did.

The truth is, nobody makes heroes out of the average GP in the neighbourhood. They don’t. They make heroes out of rich celebrities, politicians, rich and famous people. So I wanted to be one of these. I dived straight into aesthetic medicine. People were not willing to pay when I was doing locum back in those days. Anything more than $30, they would complain that “Wah, this lo kun (doctor) jing qwee (very expensive)”. They made noise and they were not happy. But the same people were willing to pay $10 000 for a liposuction. So I said, ‘Well, let’s stop healing the sick, I’m gonna become a beautician; a medically-trained beautician.’

And that was what I did – liposuction, breast augmentation, eyelid surgeries, you name it, we do it. It was very good money. My clinic, when we started off, waiting time was 1 week; 1 month; became 2 months; became 3 months. There was so much demand that people were literally queuing up to have aesthetic work done on them. Vain women – easy life!

So the clinic grew. I was so overwhelmed, from 1 doctor, I employed 2, then 3, then 4 doctors, and carried on. Nothing is ever enough. I wanted more and more and more. So much so that we set up shop in Indonesia to lure all the Indonesian tai tai’s. We set up shop, set up a team of people there, to get more Indonesian patients to come in. So, things were doing well. I’m there, my time has arrived.

Around some time in February last year, I said, ‘OK, I have so much spare cash, it’s time to get my first Ferrari. So there I was, getting ready for the deposit. ‘OK! There comes my first Ferrari!’ I was looking for land, to share with some of my friends. I have a banker friend who makes $5 million a year. So I thought, ‘Come, let’s come together. Let’s buy some land and build our houses.’

I was at my prime, getting ready to enjoy. At the same time, my friend Danny had a revival. They were going back to church, some of my close friends. They told me, ‘Richard, come, join us, come back to church.’

I have been a Christian for 20 years; I was baptised 20 years ago, but it was because it was fashionable to be a Christian then. All my friends were becoming Christians then. It was fashionable! I wanted to be baptised, so that when I filled in a form, I could put there “Christian” – feels good. In truth, I had never had a bible; I don’t know what the bible is all about. I went to church for a while, after some time, I got tired. I said it’s time to go to NUS, stop going to church. I had a lot more things to pursue in NUS – girls, studies, sports etc. After all, I had achieved all these things without God today, so who needs God? I myself can achieve anything I want.

In my arrogance, I told them, “You know what? You go tell your pastor to change your sermon to 2pm. I will consider coming to church.” Such arrogance! And I said 1 statement in addition to that – till date, I don’t know I’ve regretted saying that – I told Danny and my friends, “If God really wanted me to come back to church, He will give me a sign.”. Lo and behold, 3 weeks later, I was back at church.

THE DIAGNOSIS

In March 2011, out of the blues – I was still running around, ‘cause I’m a gym freak and I always go to the gym training, running, swimming 6 days a week. I had some backache, and that’s all I had, but it was persistent. And so I went for an MRI to exclude prolapsed disc. And the day before I had my scan, I was still in the gym, lifting heavy weights, doing my squats. And the next day, they found that half my spine had bone marrow replacement. I said, “Woah, sorry, what’s that?”

We had a PET scan the next day, and they diagnosed that I had terminal lung cancer, stage 4B. It had spread to the brain, half the spine, whole of my lungs were filled with tumour, liver, adrenals…

I said, “Can’t be, I was just at the gym last night, what’s going on?” I’m sure you know how it feels – though I’m not sure if you know how it feels. One moment I was there at the peak, the next day, this news came and I was totally devastated. My whole world just turned upside down.

I couldn’t accept it. I have a hundred relatives on both sides, my mom and my dad. 100 of them. And not a single one has cancer. To me, in my mind, I have good genes, I’m not supposed to be having this! Some of my relatives are heavy chain smokers. Why am I having lung cancer? I was in denial.

HIS ENCOUNTER WITH GOD

So the next day, I was still in a state of denial, still unable to accept what was going on. There I was lying in an operating theatre in a hospital, for a needle biopsy (for histology). There I was, just completed the biopsy, and lying in the operating theatre. The nurses and doctors had left; told me I had to wait for 15 minutes to do a check X-ray to make sure there’s no pneumothorax (a complication).

And there I was, lying on the operating table, staring blankly at the ceiling in a cold, quiet operating theatre. Suddenly I just heard an inner voice; it was not like coming from outside. It was inside. This small inner voice that I had never felt before. And it said very specifically, it said, “This has to happen to you, at your prime, because it’s the only way you can understand.”

I said, “Woah, why did that come from?” You know, when you speak to yourself, you’d say, “OK, what time should I leave this place? Where shall I have dinner after this?” You’d speak from a first person point of view. You don’t say, “Where should YOU go after this?” Whereas the voice that came spoke as a third party. It said, “This has to happen to YOU, at YOUR prime, because this is the only way YOU can understand.” At that time, my emotions just overflowed and I broke down and cried, alone there. And I knew then, subsequently, what it means to understand that why this is the only way.

Because I had been so proud of myself, my whole life, I needed nobody else. I was gifted with things that I could do, why do I need anybody else? I was just so full of myself that there was no other way I could have turned back to God.

In fact, if I were diagnosed with stage 1 or 2, I would have been looking around busily for the best cardiothoracic surgeon, remove a section of the lobe (do a lobectomy), do preventive chemotherapy…The chances of it being cured is extremely high. Who needs God? But I had stage 4B. No man can help, only God can.

A series of events happened after that. I wasn’t sold after that, because of the inner voice, I became believing, prayers, all that. No I wasn’t. To me, it was just ‘maybe there was a voice; or maybe that was just me talking to myself.’ I didn’t buy the story.

What happened next was that I was being prepared for chemotherapy. I started off with a whole brain radiation therapy first; takes about 2 -3 weeks. In the meantime they prepared me for chemotherapy, supplements etc. One of the things they used for chemo was a thing called Zometa. Zometa – they use it to strengthen the bones; once the bone marrow (replacement) is cured of cancer cells, it becomes hollow, so we need Zometa to strengthen the bone to prevent compression fractures.

One of the side effects of Zometa is that it can cause osteonecrosis (bone death) of the jaw, and I had to have my wisdom teeth removed. Years ago, I had my upper wisdom teeth removed, cos it was giving me trouble. The lower ones didn’t give me trouble so I said, “Forget it, just leave it.” So of cause, Danny volunteered to remove it for me.

So there I was, lying there in a dental chair, asking myself, suffering all the side effects of radiotherapy, and now I have to go through wisdom tooth surgery. As if I’ve not had enough to suffer! So I asked Danny, “Eh, bro, is there any other way? Can I not go though this?” He said, “Yes, you can pray.”

I said, “What’s there to lose? Ok lah, pray lah!” And so we prayed. And we did an X-ray after that. Everything was all there, all the appliances and everything. And lo and behold, the Xray showed that there was no wisdom teeth in the lower jaw. I know most people have 4 wisdom teeth, maybe some have none, but to be missing one or 2, as I understand – I’m not too sure, as I understand – is not that common.

Still I was, “Nah, I don’t care about that.” To me, as long as I didn’t have to take out the tooth, I was happy. At that point, I still wasn’t sold on prayers. Maybe it was just a coincidence – for whatever it’s worth.

I continued meeting my oncologist, asking him, “How long do I have?” I asked him. He said, not more than 6 months. I said, “Even with chemotherapy?” About 3 – 4 months, he said.

I couldn’t grasp that. It was difficult to come to terms. And even as I went through radiotherapy, I was struggling everyday, especially when I wake up, hoping that it’s just a nightmare; when I wake up, it’s all over.

As I was struggling, day after day, I went into depression, which is the typical denial, depression blah blah blah that you go through. But for 1 reason, I don’t know why, there was this specific day that I was supposed to meet my oncologist. At about 2pm, I felt this sudden surge of peace, comfort, and in fact, a little happiness. It was just overflowing. For no rhyme or reason, it just came about 2pm, as I was getting ready, dressing up to meet my oncologist. So much so that I whats-apped all my friends that, “Bros, I just feel so good suddenly! I don’t know why, it just came!”

And it was only days, or was it weeks after, that Danny revealed to me that he had fasted for 2 days for me, and he was bargaining with God, and fasted for 2 days, and he ended his fast at that exact same point, about 2pm thereabouts, that this surge of sensation came to me for no rhyme or reason. And I didn’t know that he was fasting for me. And when he ended the fast, I felt that sensation!

Whoa, things were getting a bit too coincidental. I was starting to buy a bit of the story, but still I wasn’t sold. As days passed by, I completed my radiotherapy, about 2 weeks plus. Getting ready for chemo, so they let me rest for a few days.

See, the mortality rate of lung cancer : Lung cancer has the highest mortality rate. If you add up breast, colorectal (colon) cancer, and prostate cancer (the top few cancers in Singapore for men and women), if you add up the mortality rate of these 3, it still doesn’t add up to lung cancer. Simply because, you understand, you can remove the prostate, the colon, the breast, but you cannot remove your lungs.

But there’s about 10% of lung cancer patients who do pretty well for some reasons, because they have this specific mutation; we call it the EGFR mutation. And it happens, only 90% of the time, in Asian ladies who never smoked in their lives. Me, first of all, I’m male. 2ndly, I’m a social smoker. I take one a day after dinner; weekends, when my friends offer me, I take it as well. I’m a light smoker, not a social smoker. But still, my oncologist was still not hopeful for me to have this mutation.

The chances of it happening for me was maybe 3-4% for me to get it. That’s why I was being primed to go for chemo. But through all the intense prayers, friends like Danny, people that I don’t even know, it turned out that, during my waiting for chemo, the results came back that I was EGFR positive. I was like, “Woah, good news!” Cos now I don’t have to undergo chemo at that time, because there’s this oral tablet that you can use to control this disease.

Just to share with you some idea – this is a CT scan – thorax – of my lungs, before treatment.

AFTER BEFORE

Every single dot there is a tumour. You can see all the mets (metastasis) there. This is just one single plane. Literally I had it in both lungs, and I had literally tens of thousands of tumour. That’s why the oncologist told me, even with chemo, at most 3-4 months.

But because of this mutation, they have this oral medication. This is what happened after 2 months of treatment. As you can see over here; this is what God can do. And that’s why I’m still here having this opportunity to share with you. As you can see over here, the difference between before and after treatment.

At that point, I said, “Well, it’s to be expected, isn’t it? The medicine is good.” I’m still not buying the story. Well, the guys prayed for me and the tumour markers started to come down. 90% of the tumours were wiped out, and the tumour markers came down to more than 90% over the next few months.

But still, you know, once you have the clinical knowledge, you know the statistics. One year survival, two year survival; having all this knowledge is not a good thing. Cos you live with the knowledge that even with all this, the cancer cells are so unstable, they keep mutating. They will overcome and become resistant to the drugs, and eventually you’re gonna run out of medication.

So living with this knowledge is a huge mental struggle, a huge mental torture. Cancer is not just about a physical struggle, it’s a huge mental torture. How do you live with no hope? How do you live with not being able to plan for the next few years? The oncologist tells you to bear with it for the next 1 – 2 months. So it’s a lot of struggles as I went through: March, then April. April was my lowest point, in deep depression, struggling even as I was recovering.

HIS ACCEPTANCE & PEACE

And one of those days, I was there in bed, struggling in the afternoon, asking God, “Why? Why do I have to go through this suffering? Why do I have to endure this hardship, this struggle? Why me?”

As I fell asleep, in my dreamy state, a vision just came, that says Hebrews 12:7-8.

Now mind you, at this time, I had not read the bible. I have no clue what’s Hebrews, I don’t even know how many chapters there are. Totally clueless.

But it says Hebrews 12:7-8, very specifically.

I didn’t think too much of it. I just continued sleeping. Then I woke up, and I said, “What’s there to lose? I’d just check it out lah!” Danny had bought me a bible; it’s still quite new. I said, “It’s ok, just try.” So I flipped to the Old Testament. Hebrews to me sounds like something ancient, so it should be in the Old Testament right? So I flipped through the Old Testament. No Hebrews there. I was so disappointed.

Then I said, “Maybe New Testament, let’s have a look!”. WOW – New Testament, there’s Hebrew’s!! It says Hebrews 12:7-8. It says, “Endure hardship as discipline as God is treating you as His children.”

I said, “WAH!! Where did that come from?” I was getting goose pimples all over my body. I said, “This can’t be, right?” I mean, what’s the chance of somebody, who has never read the bible, to have a vision of a chapter of a specific verse, that answers my question directly?

I think God called to me directly as I was there sleeping, struggling with it, asking God, “Why do I have to suffer? Why do I have to suffer this?” And God says “Endure hardship as discipline as God is treating you as His child.”

At this point, the chance of that happening is even lesser than my EGFR being positive. There’s just no way; there’s so many millions of thousands of verses in the bible, how can I just conjure up something like that?

So at that point, I was sold I said, “YOU WIN! YOU WIN!!”

Ok , I was convinced. And so from that day onwards, I started believing in my God. And the last time I heard that inner voice was the end of April. And that inner voice, same thing, in the afternoon, as I was sleeping (this time I wasn’t struggling, just going to sleep). In a dreamy state I just heard Him say, “Help others in hardship.”

It was more like a command, rather than a statement. And that’s when I embarked on this journey, helping others in hardship. And I realised that hardship is not just about being poor. In fact, I think a lot of poor people are probably happier than a lot of us here. They are so easily contented with whatever they have, they’re probably pretty happy.

Hardship can happen to rich people; it can be physical hardship, mental hardship, social, etc. And also over the last few months, I started to understand what this true joy is about. In the past, I substituted true joy with the pursuing of wealth. I thought true joy is about pursuing wealth. Why? Cos let me put it to you this way, in my death bed, I found no joy whatsoever in whatever objects I had – my Ferrari, thinking of the land I was going to buy to build my bungalow etc, having a successful business.

It brought me ZERO comfort, ZERO joy, nothing at all. Do you think I can hold onto this piece of metal and it’s going to give true joy? Nah, it’s not going to happen.

True joy comes from interaction with other people. And at a lot of times, it is a short term pride, the past. When you pursue your wealth, Chinese New Year is the best time to do it. Drive my Ferrari, show off to my relatives, show off to my friends, do my rounds, and then you thought that was true joy? You really think that those guys who sold you your Ferrari, they share their joy with you? And your relatives, wow, they share this joy with you? In truth, what you have done is just to illicit envy, jealousy, and even hatred. They are not sharing the joy with you, and what I have is that short-term pride that wow, I have something you don’t have! And I thought that was joy!

So what we have is basically a short-term pride at the expense of somebody else. And that wasn’t true joy. And I found no joy at all on my deathbed, thinking of my Ferrari – to hold on to it, sayang it?!?

True joy I discovered comes from interaction. Over the last few months I was so down. Interaction with my loved ones, my friends, my brothers in Christ, my sisters in Christ, and only then was I able to be motivated, able to be uplifted. To share your sorrow, to share your happiness – that’s true joy.

And you know what makes you smile? True joy comes from helping others in hardship, and because I’ve gone through this, I know what hardship entails. In fact, there’re some cancer patients who tell me a lot of times, people come up to them and tell them, “Stay positive. Stay positive.” Yah, right. You come in my shoes and you try to stay positive! You don’t know what you’re talking about!

But I have the licence. So I’ve been going out to meet other fellow cancer patients, to share with them, encourage them. And I know, because I’ve been through it, and it’s easier for me to talk to them.

And most importantly, I think true joy comes from knowing God. Not knowing about God – I mean, you can read the bible and know about God – but knowing God personally; getting a relationship with God. I think that’s the most important. That’s what I’ve learnt.

So if I were to sum it up, I’d say that the earlier we sort out the priorities in our lives, the better it is. Don’t be like me – I had no other way. I had to learn it through the hard way. I had to come back to God to thank Him for this opportunity because I’ve had 3 major accidents in my past – car accidents. You know, these sports car accidents – I was always speeding , but somehow I always came out alive, even with the car almost being overturned. And I wouldn’t have had a chance. Who knows, I don’t know where else I’d be going to! Even though I was baptised it was just a show, but the fact that this has happened, it gave me a chance to come back to God.

WHAT’S IMPORTANT

Few things I’d learnt though:

1. Trust in the Lord your God with all your heart – this is so important.

2. Is to love and serve others, not just ourselves.

There is nothing wrong with being rich or wealthy. I think it’s absolutely alright, cos God has blessed. So many people are blessed with good wealth, but the trouble is I think a lot of us can’t handle it. The more we have, the more we want. I’ve gone through it, the deeper the hole we dig, the more we get sucked into it, so much so that we worship wealth and lose focus. Instead of worshipping God, we worship wealth. It’s just a human instinct. It’s just so difficult to get out of it.

We are all professionals, and when we go into private practise, we start to build up our wealth – inevitably. So my thought are, when you start to build up wealth and when the opportunity comes, do remember that all these things don’t belong to us. We don’t really own it nor have rights to this wealth. It’s actually God’s gift to us. Remember that it’s more important to further His Kingdom rather than to further ourselves.

Anyway I think that I’ve gone through it, and I know that wealth without God is empty. It is more important that you fill up the wealth, as you build it up subsequently, as professionals and all, you need to fill it up with the wealth of God.

I think that’s about it. It’s good to share. Thanks.

1 Timothy 6:17-19 “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

1 Timothy 6:6 “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

(This was first posted on 29 Oct 2012. A pastor  shared this story to me earlier today and it sounded familiar. Indeed I found the story in my blog, and read it again. I thought it deserves to be re-posted for encouragement of readers. Blessings.)

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