Christ’s Finished Work: Overcoming The World

People never change. Throughout the world people endlessly search for satisfaction and honor through the accumulation and enjoyment of all that the world offers. People accumulate the latest, biggest, desirable and most expensive of objects and they seek all kinds of pleasures, old and new. Despite feeling an emptiness in these pursuits, they assume what they need is more of the same. It all ends in futility: trying to catch the wind.

King Solomon tried everything “under the sun” so as to quench his thirst for satisfaction and honour. He did this by building a formidable armed force and impressive buildings, having a harem of hundreds of wives and concubines, trading with other countries and filling up the royal treasury, displaying his intelligence, knowledge and diplomatic skills, and having the respect of his own people and surrounding nations. Despite all his endeavors to seek fulfillment through these earthly means, instead of finding fulfillment he found a meaninglessness about these empty pursuits. His journey, described for us in Ecclesiastes, a book of the Old Testament, is one shared universally by millions around the world throughout history. Even in this century.

This emptiness of heart cannot be filled by anything but the love of God through Jesus Christ and his finished work! No one can overcome this thirst for satisfaction and honor except through faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. This is what the apostle John meant when he said in 1 John5:4,5: “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” 

“The world” is of course not creation – the earth and the sky. It is a term that describes the world system of values that spring out of human pride and rebellion against God since the fall. Values like hedonism, materialism and status seeking. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:15-16). This anti-Christ world system seek to press everyone into its mold. The only ones who can overcome this and fight the temptations of this anti-God system is the Christian who has forged a faith relationship with Christ, who by faith has found a deeper satisfaction, honour, and filling up of that emptiness in our hearts with the love of God. 

Experiencing being filled with God’s love through the Holy Spirit, takes away that desperate search for love, honour and satisfaction in all the wrong places. We find our restless hearts rest and are at peace once we dwell in Christ’s love, and in the true Christian community. The crazy pursuit of more possessions, more money, more thrills subsides greatly. Paul expressed it this way: “May I never boast except in the cross of Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and me to the world” (Gal 6:14). Paul’s opponents in Galatia boasted in keeping the Law and sought honour through their obedience to rituals and rules. Paul is saying, This sort of thing no longer satisfies or brings true honour. Rather real satisfaction and honour comes by experiencing the cross and the new life in the Spirit. He does not care for the kind of joy and honour received from external keeping of the Law.

Christians who do not abide in the love of God and instead seek satisfaction and honor outside of Christ will be unhappier than even the people of the world. They have their feet on two boats – they will lose balance, get wet and drawn away by strong currents. They will need to call out in faith on the name of the Lord, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, save me from drowning.” By faith you overcome the anti-God world system. This faith is focused on Christ, who himself overcame the world when he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, and throughout his ministry. 

This is part of a planned series of writings on the topic, “The A to Z of Christ’s Finished Work”. I am writing it alphabet by alphabet. Thus far the others that I have written can be found HERE.

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The journey of faith

We live in a world where it is expected that you know which direction you are heading in life. It is desirable you have a plan. It looks impressive: you have figured it out, you are ahead in the game, you are in control. People nod in approval. They are impressed and the probing stops. 

What if you have no plans of what you will do, for instance, after retirement? What if you said, “I do not have a plan. I don’t know. I am giving God a blank page.” Such answers go against the grain. It goes against common sense and conventional wisdom. It shows a lack of preparation. It surprises some people and they try to hide their surprise, and change the topic, as if to protect you from further embarassment. 

I am one of those without a plan for post-retirement. Actually, my old self-reliant me would have a sustainable, convergence plan. But I have deliberately refrained from strategizing. I do not even have a tentative plan. I want to rely on God more.

For me personally, it is okay, even imperative to not know what lies ahead. God is weaning me from self-reliance and self-sufficiency. He is teaching me to follow in the footsteps of Abraham, my ancestor in the faith, who obeyed even though he “did not know where he was going” (Heb 11:8b). It’s a journey of faith. He will lead me and I will end up being where He wants me to be, doing what He wants me to do. In the meantime, I want to be content with being with God, until He reveals what I am to be doing for God. Both “being” and “doing” are important but the order is paramount: the former must precede the latter. 

Already He has shown me two things He has already written on the blank sheet. He wants me to write; and second, to journey with younger pastors. Therefore, I will begin to obey Him with these two divine directives. I will obey, and watch and pray to see what develops from these steps of faith. 

Recently, I was hiking when a vista captured my attention. I stood there and saw a path that disappeared into the foliage. I could not see beyond a bend. What I could see were several large rocks at the beginning of the path. I took the photo above.

In silence I stood still and pondered. Suddenly I realized I was on holy ground. I was in front of the burning bush and God was reassuring me that though I may not have charted a map for my future, and did not know what the future held, He was with me at this beginning of my journey, as certain as I could see those rocks.

This reminded me of Thomas Merton’s honest and humble prayer:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please You. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore, I will trust You always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.”(Thoughts in Solitude)

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Lord grant me your faith

“O you of little faith! Why did you doubt?”

Why wouldn’t I doubt? If I were Peter and had to walk on churning mammoth waves with a strong wind screaming in my ears. Peter panicked and sank immediately. Even though the invitation of Jesus “Come” still rang in his heart, his mind and sensory experience shouted that he would sink. And he sank.

O you of little faith. Why doubt?

I thought it demanding of Jesus to expect Peter not to doubt. Probably to whom much was given, much was required. After all Peter had seen marvellous miracles of water turned to wine, of 5,000 men fed with five loaves and two fish, of miraculous healings of the sick, and deliverances of the demonised. Jesus had revealed himself to the disciples in ways that led him to expect much from them. He expected them to exercise a child like faith in His word.

I so identify with Peter. What I see, hear and feel conveys a lot of information to me. These often conflict with my faith in what God had said to me. I get discouraged, intimidated and despondent. I worry, panic, and become upset.

Lord, calm the whistling wind and overwhelming waves of confusion and hopelessness in me. Come Holy Spirit and grant me the kind of faith Jesus displayed: the kind that walks on water with singular poise, and dares to invite others to exercise faith and do the same.

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Testing, Testing

5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming towards him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, ‘It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!’ (John 6:5-7 NIV)

When we are faced with a challenge what would be our response? Would it be one of faith, hope and love? Or would our response be one of fear, despair or indifference? What would be your internal and spontaneous response when faced with a challenge?

The company announces that your department will be affected by a restructuring exercise. The Polyclinic suddenly urges you to immediately go to the Accident and Emergency Department of a general hospital. Your daughter has sent hundreds of resumes to secure a job but all were unsuccessful.  You have been praying for a loved one to be cured of a serious illness for some months but the latest check-up showed that his condition was getting worse.

What is your response to these challenges? One of faith or fear? One of hope or despair? One of love or cold indifference? God is testing you because he has hopes that you have it in you to respond with faith, hope or love. When you respond with faith, hope or love, it pleases the Lord and puts a smile on his face. It gives him great pleasure and joy.

Philip was put to the test by the Lord. There are thousands of hungry folks here. “Philip how can we feed these people?” Philips reasoned and very rational response was, “No way we can feed them. We don’t have the finances. Why even six months’ salary could only put a mouthful in each of their mouths!”

Jesus knew he would do a miracle of multiplication. However, he always wanted his friends involved in his kingdom miracles and work. He had hoped that since Philip had seen the miracle of the supply of the wine he would say something like, “Lord you supplied wine supernaturally. Surely you can supply food supernaturally too!” But Philip did not say that, to the Lord’s disappointment. He relied on his own understanding and on what he saw and calculated. “No way Lord, we do not have the budget to take care of their needs.”

“Oh Philip, how long must I be with you guys. How many miracles must I do to show you my power and love? O you of little faith!” Did these thoughts flash through Jesus mind?

Thank you, Philip. You are not alone. We identify with you. I and many like me would respond as you have responded. We think in very human terms: by what our senses tell us. We are greatly limited by our lack of faith and imagination. We are too practical and realistic to imagine a solution that the faith of Jesus had actually grasped.

Lord increase my faith. Your ways are higher than my ways. When I am faced with challenges and limitations and impossibilities, help me to believe, to have hope, and to love. I want to bring a smile on your face, and great wonder in your eyes.

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Simeon Poh: found faithful

Simeon Poh seated on extreme right
Simeon Poh seated on extreme right

Simeon Poh was a young man of 27, with a girlfriend, and a career in precision instruments with Timex. He was Spirit-filled and zealous for his Lord. On the way home from a mission trip to Simpang Rengam, Johor, where WRPF planted its first church, the car that Simeon Poh was in, crashed with a Johor lorry. He almost died. The neurosurgeon did two major operations on him in Tan Tock Seng hospital. A Swedish evangelist, who traveled and preached with David duPlessis, the famous Pentecostal statesman, prayed for his healing. The surgeon was

Simeon Poh at 65
Simeon Poh at 65

surprised at his accelerated and remarkable recovery. Though his physical co-ordination deteriorated, and his personality,  somewhat altered, he was independent, and able to go anywhere he wanted unaided. He still loved his Lord.

Yeo Hiap Seng compassionately gave him work for many years. Then he was graciously hired to clean our church premises for the last 14 years. Friday was his last day of work. He has been thorough, diligent and faithful in his duties, often going beyond what was required of him. His example of a faith that endures setbacks and hardship will encourage many. He could have been a bitter man. He could have turned his back on Christ. Instead, he still loves and serves his Lord.

Simeon will receive due honor on that Day when Jesus comes.  May the Lord, watch over him and bless him with good health and meaningful ministry in the years to come.

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