By Ronnie Lee
Staying Home under the Movement Control Order (MCO) has its advantages. More time is spent touring and cleaning the house, reading volumes of messages (including spiritual ones), waiting for the next meals with the family, glued to Netflix for movies, or for some working from home. Our mental health is at times in question, as our movements are basically confined in and around the house, other than going out to buy groceries.
It was about 3 weeks into the MCO that I came across a quotation by Joyce Meyer – “Patience is Not Simply the Ability to Wait – It’s how we behave while we are Waiting.” After reading it a few times, it strikes me as the sensible thing to put my mind into work for my next Church Bulletin article, which has been delayed since March 2020 due to my traveling.
I love this chorus (since my teens) on the subject of WAITING. The words were taken from the book of Isaiah 40:31 “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” This passage gives me a sense of how I should behave while I wait for the Lord. The renewal of our inward person is central to the process of waiting to enable us to mount up our wings for flight, run, and walk so as not to be weary or faint spiritually. It requires active reflection and making things happen (constantly renewing our minds), as servants in the Body of Christ.
At the age of 19, Bro Chang Long Jong (Jurong Chinese congregation now) used to quote this phrase in one of his conversations while we were still in high school. “There are three types of people in this world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happens.” That was in the ’70s. We do not have the luxury of computers to google what the quote meant. However, it was in my memory all this while.
This MCO gives me all the time to reflect. Looking at the successes in the secular world, even in the church he serves, Long Jong belongs with those of the first category and so do many of you. I would say that I was one of those in the second, if not the last category for many years. However, over the 40 years of many failures, I continue to get up and get going. My Standard 5 teacher used to say, “time and tide wait for no man”. We cannot expect to wait for good things to come without overcoming the struggles which come with them. Having our lives crucified in Christ Jesus (Gal. 2:20), we do have Jesus close to us throughout our struggles. We depend on the scriptures to guide us while we wait for what lies ahead, the outcome of which, sometimes may take years but sometimes within days.
When I announced my retirement, my employer offered me a six months contract. Rightly so, since they knew that the first six months of the year is always the most crucial period (also not knowing that the COVID 19 pandemic was looming). After 30 years of working with the company all, I asked for was a 2-months break as a condition, for my children’s sake. In hindsight, I made the right decision. My mental health would not have held up too long with working from home in such challenging times. I guess two out of six months of a contract doesn’t seem favorable to my employer either. I sent my employer a text message that I will proceed with my retirement from Jan 2020.
Weighing between more money and the needful duties towards my two daughters overseas, I fervently prayed to God for an equitable decision. I am now back after two-and-half months away fulfilling my duties and also improving the bonds between father and daughters, while the pandemic situation was about to blow up in March 2020. I was still rewarded with the last performance bonus in March 2020 having set my priorities right, and a thank you note from the Group CEO ”….you have contributed a lot to Etiqa”.
Similarly, in the Body of Christ (the Church), we are all in the “Waiting Room” on earth for his Second coming. While waiting, we are actively investing our time to serve in the Church in ways to expand the borders of the kingdom. The past 30 years in the secular world has given me much insight into Jesus’ own life.
That is, to have the courage to stop doing the tasks which we currently consider as important, as opposed to what may be more pressing. I felt for the woman who had had a discharge of blood issue for 12 years in Luke 8:43-48. Having spent all her money on seeing physicians, her problem did not go away. She came to Jesus with great faith and urgency, believing that if she only touched the fringe of his garment, she would be healed. She did and because of her faith, the power which came out from Jesus’ body healed her.
In the church, the elders and deacons have varied duties. Empowering members to share and carry out these duties should not be taken lightly. Empowering is not just passing the various duties to some members and expect them to be done. It needs person-to-person engagement with all team members collectively to understand the objectives of what needs to be done. With unity in purpose will the overall plans of the church to be carried out effectively, and be God-glorifying. Lack of engagement and empowerment, as taught by Jesus to his disciples, will affect the stability and going concerned of the church as a whole. I am so happy to see how the youth have progressed with empowered young leaders for the church to excel to the next level. The future leaders of the church are the youths.
Jesus’ example of empowerment
In John 21:15-19. Jesus uses words on a one-to-one level with his disciple. When He asked Peter three times if he loves him, Peter’s response in each of the three instances was an affirmative “Yes”. In response to the answer, Jesus told Peter to “feed my lambs,” “tend my sheep” and “feed my sheep”. He knew the importance of this engagement. Jesus knew the struggles His disciples would have to go through. Their faith would be tested, even unto death. To prepare them to withstand the wiles of the devil (Eph 6:11) when He was no longer in this world. That way the gospel will continue to be preached passionately.
I have always this lingering question in my head; “Will the Klang Church of Christ be just another memorial after we are gone?” Are we spending time engaging members on pressing issues to ensure that they are spiritually strong for the purpose of Christ? What is the meaning behind the instruction to Peter to” Feed my lambs,” “Tend my sheep” and “Feed my sheep”?
There is a clear process to get newborn babes in-Christ to be able to walk, engage them so that they are able to run and can help them take flight in their service to God and to withstand trials and tribulations. Squabbling over mundane and trivial matters does not help if the weightier ones for the sake of the gospel of Christ and His body (Mat 23:23), are neglected. We definitely need the solid food of the doctrines in the scriptures. However, possession of knowledge can make one puff up too (1 Cor 8:1) and to many brethren the process of engagement takes time. Yes. People of God may be destroyed for the lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6) and that is why it weighs heavily on leaders and teachers to continuously engage members to imbibe knowledge. The imbibing process has to take the form of engagement with each member, at the early stage after their conversion, on a one-to-one level. How did we fare on the latter?
Brethren, God knows our hearts (Luke 16:15)
As members of the church, we have individual roles to play and there can be no 100% preparedness, come what may. Are we prepared or ready for the role which Christ has for us while waiting for His coming? No matter what happens, God is working with us for our good, if we love Him (Rom 8:28). Be prepared to work together and let us submit ourselves to the elders and to one another and be clothed with humility, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Pet 5:5).
I have seen just too many brethren who are too proud, lacking humility. Just like people of the secular world where politics and power are great evils to their downfall. Are we putting our pride above God? I hope not. As long as our proud hearts are elevated above God, are we not falling into idolatry, which is SIN? Isn’t this a scary thought? Or continue to be humbled under the mighty hand of God so that He may exalt us at the appropriate time (1 Pet 5:6).
If each one of us has one thing to do while waiting, what will it be? In 2017, my company Senior Executives were required to put up a resolution each for 2018. Many of them suggested bizarre resolutions like buying a sailboat to go round the world, take up a new language, helping the poor, or learn to play a new musical instrument. Mine was just to take singing seriously (as opposed to professionally). In 2018, I really did spend serious time in my singing, with much success. Today, this has helped me to enjoy singing in the congregation even more. What is the ONE resolution that each can make to enhance our services to God? James 1:23-24 suggested that whatever we do, we should not forget to keep track of our objective – like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. …. goes away and at once forgets what he was like. We do not need to have many plans. A simple one that we can track will do as I am sure (T)ogether (E)ach (A)chieve (M)ore or TEAM in UNITY (Eph 4:11-14).
Demonstration of TEAM
While the MCO restrict members to meet together in the Klang Church of Christ premises, the elders and some members with capable computer knowledge, have been able to set up a virtual meeting place using technology. All within a few days, thanks to the feedback from some concerned members to have our own virtual services. The elders took up the feedback, planned with people who can make things happen and after the beta testing, a consensus was reached to go ahead. Eventually, a working virtual system during the lockdown at home for both Bible classes and Worship services was set up. This demonstrates our trust in God and engagement amongst brethren to come up with a solution while waiting for the MCO to be called off. Look at what a crisis can make us do, as a body in UNITY. But do we need a crisis always to shake us up?
Members who are affected by the MCO are also addressed by the leadership, especially ensuring the members who are financially challenged are taken care of. Members, without naming names, came forth to assist to deliver food and help members who are inaccessible to their basic needs.
While we wait for Christ’s second coming
Let us actively support the church, by the renewal of our minds in the services to God. We have a life that is hidden with Christ Jesus in God (Col 3:3) and who can separate us from the Love of Christ? (Rom 8:35). If it is not ourselves! The elders and deacons have their responsibilities and will empower us to make things happen. Just by having a single simple resolution to help out in the work of the kingdom, keep track of the progress and never give up, our TEAM unity has the power to carry forth the Gospel till Christ comes again.