In this second instalment of his personal reflections, Pastor Tan Kim Hock, Academic Dean of City Harvest’s School of Theology, shared how he had a renewed understanding of his primary calling and purpose in life.
In my previous article, I shared about my valley experience due to my physical condition; and how the Father lovingly led me and chastened me as His son. I tasted the faithfulness of God and experienced His presence in a deeper way. Psalm 23:4 is indeed true, that we will “fear no evil when we walked through the valley of the shadow of death”, because “You (God) are with me.” I realised that there are “treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places” (Isa 45:3) that you can only discover in the dark valleys of life.
I began to develop a deeper conviction of Roman 8:28; that “all things will work together for the good of those who loved God; to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Everything that happens in our lives—the good, the bad or the ugly—will work for our eventual good; if we keep loving God and doing our utmost to obey His will. What a wonderful revelation! Our lives are not dependent on our outward circumstances, even if we make terrible mistakes along the way. As we respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit, we can dwell constantly in “righteousness, peace and joy”; which is the atmosphere of God’s Kingdom (Rom 14:17). Though we are in this (fallen) world, we are not of the world (not influenced or affected by a negative environment) (Jn 17:11, 14).
UNDERSTANDING HOW TO SEEK GOD FIRST
I have a renewed understanding of God’s calling and purpose for my life. My primary calling and identity is that I am a child (son) of God; my greatest personal goal on earth is to be Christlike. As a son in my Father’s house, my primary task on earth is about my Father’s business, which is best expressed in the Lord’s Prayer: “Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done; on earth as in heaven” (Mt. 6:10). Life and ministry become simpler in the sense that it is not about the accumulation of wealth, or becoming famous and well-liked by others (though all these “bonuses” are great). It is about becoming more like Jesus, both in character and power; so that we can represent the Father and His Kingdom well, and glorify Him with our lives! I want to “show off” the goodness and grace of the Father, and demonstrate the superiority of God’s Kingdom.
When I have a sudden realisation that I have been about my own business for most of my ministry life, serving God with a divided heart; I repented of my many selfish ambitions, prideful achievements and competitive attitude. I made a renewed commitment to love and serve my Father—just like how we started in our youth; with a simple passion and devotion for His House. I do not need to prove my ability, seek the applause of others, or be anxious over my own needs. Over the following few months, the Word of God became real and alive in my daily life. I woke up feeling the “smile of the Father” and slept in His peaceful embrace. Yes, I still struggled physically in pain at times, but there was an ease in my soul. I discovered that when I come to Jesus in simple trust, “His yoke is easy and His burden is light” (Mt 11:28); because He shoulders all my burdens by His grace.
Personally, Matthew 6:33 takes on a “new life” for me in this season. It almost seems surreal; that when you learn to “seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, all the things you need will be added to your life.” Many friends and church members visited me, prayed for me and encouraged me. My family was given so much food that we bought a new fridge to contain it all; and even with that, we gave the “oversupply” to others. My doorbell rang daily with many deliveries and I had more than enough for all my medical costs, expensive health products and nutritious food. Even my children did well for their studies in this season. For the first time, my four teenage boys received Edusave awards for their academic improvement and achievement. The funny thing is, when I tried so hard to motivate them to study (with all possible approaches), my best human effort was pathetic. However, when I began to let go and trust God, our heavenly Father did amazing miracles.
Please do not misunderstand that I’m thinking I have arrived at spiritual maturity. On the contrary, I honestly feel that I’m still so far away from the standard of Christ. I’m just taking one step at a time, “forgetting those things that are behind and reaching forward to those things which I ahead” (Phil 3:13). I’m doing my best to press on because “Christ had (first) laid hold on me” (Phil 3:12).
Some may ask, “Is it really possible to be like Jesus—the perfect Son of God?” I know in the natural, based on our limited understanding and human frailty, this seems like an impossible task. Yet, all throughout the Scripture, God’s objective is clear and the standard has never lowered. We are called to be “perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Mt 5:48). We are called to conform to the image of His Son (Rom 8:29). The good news is that we don’t have to achieve this through human efforts or striving; because It is “not by (human) might nor by power, but by His Spirit” (Zech. 4:6).
Of course, one does not arrive at spiritual maturity the moment we are born again. The process to become like Jesus begins when we believe and receive the work of the Cross. The “DNA” of our heavenly Father—His divine nature—is birthed within us as we become a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17)! His “seed remains in us and we cannot sin” (1 Jn 3:9). In other words, the power of sin is broken over our lives, and we do not need to continue in our old, habitual sinful lifestyle. I am not saying that believers are automatically free from a sinful lifestyle. Rather, I’m saying the nature of God is already in us, and as we mature in our son-ship to Christlikeness, we will live in the freedom of His grace and the power of His Spirit. Romans 8:14 tells us that as we are “led by the Spirit of God, these are (we become mature) the sons of God.”
WHAT IS THE FATHER’S FIRST BUSINESS?
Jesus has done His part; the work of the Cross is completed. Everyone who believes and is born again by the power of the Spirit is a child of God (Jn 1:12). The more firmly we are established in our primary identity as sons of God, “looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2); the more we experience His Kingdom’s presence and power. My “job” on earth is rather simple—to be about the Father’s Business (Lk 2:49)—which will inevitably lead to a transformation of the soul. I hope to elaborate more on the transformed soul, which is characterised by “Kingdom-mindedness, heavenly-affection and crucified will.” However, I think it is important to first understand the Father’s first business, because it is the foundation of our transformation.
Our Father, the Sovereign God and Creator, has many “businesses”. From personal to global; from our spirit to our soul and body; from families to cities to nations; God wants His Kingdom to come and His will to be done in every segment of human affairs. He desires souls to be saved, families to be restored and societies to be established in righteousness, peace and joy.
So I began to ponder, what is the Father’s first business? Recently, some of the pastors had a spiritual retreat with Pastor Kong; and we had a wonderful time in the presence of God. Pastor shared with us from the Gospel of John, which I believe, was not a coincidence. John 1:1 kept coming back to me the past few weeks; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
I would like to propose that the Father’s first business or first priority is the Word of God! (Of course, you can disagree with me.) By that, I mean (in simple terms) that a believer must know the Word of God and experience the Word. The Bible is the written Word, Jesus is the Living Word and our lives are supposed to be living epistles (words) written by the Spirit of God (2 Cor 3:2-3).
What was Jesus doing in the temple at the age of 12? What was His focus? In His mind, what was Father’s business? He was “sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions” (Lk 2:46). At a young age, Jesus was actively engaging in the knowledge of God’s Word, seeking understanding and growing in wisdom (Lk 2:52).
When the early church first started, they were persecuted and despised within a hostile environment. How did the church grow stronger and become a positive influence? Acts 2:42 tells us that “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine (the Word of God) and fellowship…” When the early church had a crisis in their administration, the apostles refused to be distracted and “leave the Word of God”; but gave themselves “continually to prayers and to the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:2,4). The result of giving priority to God’s Word was found in Acts 6:7, “Then the Word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.” There was great growth, such that even the religious group that used to oppose them was impacted!
In the Parable of the Sower (Mk 4:3-9; 13-20), found also in the other synoptic gospels; Jesus made it plain that “the sower (which is God) sowed the Word” (v14) and understanding this particular parable is vital to “understanding all parables” (v13); that reveals the truth of God’s Kingdom. In fact, in this parable, we see clearly how the devil’s main attack in our lives is to steal the Word from us (v15). If he can’t steal it, he will stir persecution and offences against the Word (v16); or choke the Word with the deceitfulness of riches and cares of the world (v19). Paul affirmed that the real spiritual warfare was to cast down “every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God (the Word of God)” (2 Cor 10:5). Hosea the prophet lamented that God’s people “are destroyed for lack of knowledge & forgotten the law of God” (Hos. 4:6). However, when we receive the Word as good ground, the harvest is guaranteed; we will become fruitful in our lives (v20)!
That is why Jesus was urgent about communicating God’s Word because His Words “are spirit and life” (Jn 6:63) and the moment you know the truth of God’s Word, “the truth shall make you free” (Jn 8:32). God’s Word keeps us from sin (Ps 119:9-11); cleanses our lives (Eph 5:26); produces faith in us (Rom 10:17); heals and delivers us (Ps 107:20); guides our decisions (Ps 119:105), and the list goes on.
I can go on to discuss the supremacy of God’s Word and the tremendous effects of God’s Word in every area of our lives (I think we shall leave that for the next time). The knowledge of God and His Word outweighs all other knowledge and its impact is eternal. I’m amazed by many Christians who invest large amounts of resources in the pursuit of an academic degree, or professional certification, and even attend motivation talks or new investment strategies, but leave little time and resources to read the Bible, or attend a Bible study course. Once again, please don’t think that I am against acquiring a good education or professional knowledge. I love knowledge and enjoy learning many other expertise. However, every other knowledge fades in comparison to the greatest knowledge of all—God and His Word.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE CHURCH’S DOCTRINES
I am really excited when Pastor Kong shared recently in our weekend church services the overall “blueprint” of City Harvest Church and why he was teaching and clarifying the doctrines of our church. I fully agree that our knowledge of God and His Word will influence our spirituality and experience with God; which will in turn determine our ethics and practices that can either bless the world or bring confusion.
I know that God is preparing CHC for a greater breakthrough and revival in these coming years. My prayer is that we can strengthen our foundation in the Word of God, so that we will have the capacity to contain His glory and become the light (solution) in the darkening world. My desire is for every CHC member, especially the next generation, to become more Christlike, living epistles where the Word becomes flesh (reality); and to show the dying world the glorious kingdom of God!
Let’s be about our Father’s first business! Let’s get stronger in the Word of God! Amen!