This is a sharing done at church yesterday

Introduction

If we compare Paul before and after Paul his conversation, you can see a big contrast. Before his conversation, he was a Pharisee, he persecuted Christians and threw them into prison.  After his conversation to Christ., we can see him serving God greatly, he went through hardships  and he sacrificed a lot for the Lord.

So how does Paul find strength in his ministry?  This is something we ought to learn, for like Paul, we were chosen by Christ to serve him. He had given us responsibility to do divine work. Before Christ ascended to heaven he instructed his disciples.

“Go into all the world and
  preach the gospel to every
  creature.  He who believes
  and is baptized will be saved;
  but he who does not believe
  will be condemned.” – (Mk 16:15-16)

teaching them to observe all
  things that I have commanded
  you; and lo, I am with you always,
  even to the end of the age.” – Jesus (Matt 28:20)

This is the mission given to us by the Lord Jesus. We need to understand that this work from the Lord is not in vain, for God will reward us just as he reward Paul. For Jesus once said

“The harvest truly is plentiful,
  but the laborers are few.”- Jesus (Matt 9:37)

Jesus is talking about the ministry of the word of God.For the harvest is plentiful but the workers are indeed few. This message is not just for the disciples in those days, it is for us as well. Within the church there is much divine work to be done,in the last days the church must be like the bride ready for the bridegroom. The church must be ready to welcome the Lord. In order to prepare for it the church must have workers.

In another words the church must do divine work and seek to be perfect in all direction. God had given the church various gift and we need to use them to develope the church. We need to use these gifts to accomplish the ministry of his word.  Therefore we need to learn from the spirit of Paul as he ministers.

Pt 1: Paul Realised That God Had Chosen Him Before His Birth

“But when it pleased God, who
  separated me from my mother’s
  womb and called me through His
  grace, to reveal His Son in me,
  that I might preach Him among
  the Gentiles, I did not immediately
  confer with flesh and blood,” – Paul (Gal 1:15-16)

Paul tells us that he realised that Christ had chosen him for the work before he is even born. God had chosen him to preach to the gentiles and that what he experienced. Let us look at ourselves in the church today. There are some of us born into the church while some converted as adults. 

But God had chosen all us before we are born and Gods purpose is for us to preach the gospel, so no matter if we have believed as infants or if we have joined the church in our youth, we need to understand the will of God, the mission he had given to us. Let us realise this commission, let us accomplish the will of God and serve him in the ministry.

Pt 2: Paul Choose To Live For Christ

“For to me, to live is Christ,
  and to die is gain. But if I
  live on in the flesh, this will
  mean
fruit from my labor;
  yet what I shall choose I
  cannot tell.” – Paul (Php 1:21-22)

This is a testimony of Pauls commitment to the ministry. For him to die is gain and to live is Christ. Everything that he did, he did for Christ. He did not live his life in vain for he knew God had a reward for him. Paul had indeed suffered for the sake of Christ. He once shard with the Church in Corinth.

“From the Jews five times I received
  forty stripes minus one.
  Three times I was beaten with rods;
  once I was stoned; three times I was
  shipwrecked; a night and a day I have
  been in the deep;  in journeys often,
  in perils of waters, in perils of robbers,
  in perils of my own countrymen, in
  perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the
  city, in perils in the wilderness, in
  perils in the sea, in perils among false
  brethren; in weariness and toil, in
  sleeplessness often, in hunger and
  thirst, in fastings often, in cold and
  nakedness” – Paul (2 Cor 11:24-27)

But all these suffering this did not make him give up. He did heis best to do the will of God. He did his best, and that is something we ought to learn from him. For he once told the Corinthian church

Therefore, my beloved brethren,
  be steadfast, immovable, always
  abounding in the work of the Lord,
  knowing that your labor is not in
  vain in the Lord.” – Paul (1 Cor 15:58)

This message is for us today , it is a reminder for us to be steadfast and immovable in our faith. For our labor in the Lord is not in vain. For there is a reward awaiting us in heaven.

Pt 3: Paul’s Selfless Service With Love

Paul did not work for his own sake, his service is accompanied by his love for others. That love is the love that od had given him. That is why his service is not just for the sake of his own salvation but for the salvation of others as well. He spoke of this on 2 occasions.

“But what things were gain to me, 
  these I have counted loss for Christ.  
  
Yet indeed I also count all things loss
  for the excellence of the knowledge of
  Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have 
  suffered the loss of all things, and count
  them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” – (Php 3:7-8)

“For though I am free from all men, I have
  made myself a servant to all, that I might
  win the more;” – Paul (1 Cor 9:19)

From here we can see that Paul loss everything for the sake of Jesus. He count them all for lost for the sake of knowing Christ.  Paul counted then as lost because of his love for Christ. He regarded all his worldly possession as rubbish. That is why his service is one that is full of love. It is the strength in his ministry.

He express the love of God. His service reflect the love of Christ to the rest of the world. That is why he told the Corinthian that even though he is free, he had made himself a servant so that he can win more for Christ.

Pt 3: Paul’s Humbleness

“of which I became a minister according
  to the gift of the grace of God given to me
  by the effective working of His power.
  To me, who am less than the least of all
  the saints, this grace was given, that I
  should preach among the Gentiles the
  unsearchable riches of Christ” – Paul (Eph 3:7-8)

If we were to examine the words of Paul, you will be able to see his attitude. The attitude of Paul is one we ought to emulate. Paul regarded himself as the least of the apostles. He acknowledge his humble beginnings. How he used to persecute Christian and torture them.

That is why he consider himself the least of the apostles , he regarded himself as the chief of sinners. That is why he is humble before others and his humbleness is something we ought to learn from.

For humbleness can attract others to follow us and impact the growth of the church. For in the last days there are many workers who thinks that they have receive many gifts from God. They feel that they have great authority in the church. Instead of building the church they became stumbling block to many brethren.

The gift of God is not given to us so that we can be proud and arrogant. It is used to glorify God therefore we need to use them humbly. We need to be like Jesus who is God who became flesh. He came in the flesh to save the world. He had set a good example and we must be as humble as Christ.

The same lesson applies when we are serving the Lord. For Paul regarded himself as the least important person, he acknowledge his weakness and he did his best to serve God. At the end of his life, he received a reward in the end.

Conclusion

If we were to read the last words of Paul

“I have fought the good fight,
  I have finished the race, I have
  kept the faith. Finally, there is
  laid up for me the crown of
  righteousness, which the Lord,
  the righteous Judge, will give
  to me on that Day, and not to me
  only but also to all who have loved
  His appearing.” – Paul (2 Tim 4:7-8)

That is his song of victory, he had fought a good fight, he had did his best He had reach his finishing line, for he had finish his race.  Most importantly he had kept his faith. God had promised to give him the crown of righteousness.

Likewise in our service we must do our best, We cannot stop halfway and we must never abandon this faith. We must keep our faith like Paul, and we will receive the crown of righteous  and we will enter heaven.

We have learnt the 4  points regarding Pauls Spirit In Ministry. He realised that God had chosen him before creation. He choose to live for Christ and he reflect the love of Christ in his service. He is humble in his service.

If we learn the spirit of Paul we would be able to serve God effectively.

So far we have studied 3 of the last will of King David.

1. The 1st will is to be strong and keep Gods commandment
2. The 2nd will is to judge and execute Joab the commander
3. The 3rd will is to show kindness to the sons of Barzillai (Part 3, Part 4)

Now lets continue by looking at the 4th and last instruction of King David.

 The Fourth  Will : To Judge Shimei The Benjamite

“And see, you have with you Shimei 
  the son of Gera, a Benjamite from
  Bahurim, who cursed me with a
  malicious curse in the day when I
  went to Mahanaim. But he came
  down to meet me at the Jordan,
  and I swore to him by the Lord,
  saying, ‘I will not put you to death
  with the sword.’  Now therefore, do
  not hold him guiltless, for you are a
  wise man and know what you ought
  to do to him; but bring his gray hair
  down to the grave with blood.”- David (1 Kings 2:8-9)

The 4th will of King David is to kill Shimei the Benjamite. For he had cursed David. On the surface it appears that David is pursuing  a personal vendetta against Shimei  But this instruction is concerning the security of the Kingdom Of Israel.

This instruction will make some of us wonder. “If  David had swore the Shimei not to put him to death with the sword’, is David going against his oath?”

If that was true, than David is showing disrespect to God by breaking his oath.

In order to understand the story better, let us ok closer into the story of Shimei.

The Sin Of Shimei

When David returns to Jerusalem to retake his throne in 2 Sam 19:18-23. Shimei led a party to welcome the King, and he admitted his sin before the King

“Do not let my lord impute iniquity to me,
   or remember what wrong your servant
  did on the day that my lord the king left
  Jerusalem, that the king should take it to
  heart. For I, your servant, know that I have
  sinned. Therefore here I am, the first to come
  today of all the house of Joseph to go down to
  meet my lord the king.”- Shimei (2 Sam 19:19-20)

Interestingly, Abishai, one of the Warriors of David did not accept it.

“Shall not Shimei be put to death for this,
  because he cursed the Lord’s anointed?” –Abishai (2 Sam 19:19-21)

Shimei did not just curse anyone, he had cursed the Lords Anointed. This is not just an offense before King David, it is an insult to God. Even if David can forgive the offense of Shimei to him, he will still need to be judge according to the law of God.

when Solomon executed the judgement to Shimei he said

“You know, as your heart acknowledges,
  all the wickedness that you did to my
  father David; therefore the Lord will return
  your wickedness on your own head.” –Solomon (2 Kings 2:44)

Shimei knows the iniquity in his heart, and God had return his wickedness on him. For he had cursed the Lords anointed. In the past when David had the chance to kill Saul, he refused for Saul was the Lords anointed.  It is against the law of God to harm the Lords anointed, it is a rule that all in Israel knew. Abishai is aware of it, that is why he felt Shimei must be executed for cursing David. For it is a sin onto God and not man.

Are Christians Allowed To Criticized The Lords Anointed?

There are some who thinks that “not harming the Lords anointed” means not criticising his mistakes. But if that is true, than no one would be able to say anything against God anointed workers. That will mean that ministers are given free rein to do whatever he likes.

That is not the right concept, for that only mean that we cannot criticise them base on our own opinion and perspective. If the Lords anointed were to go against the law of God, he will likewise face judgement.  We are allowed to expose them before the congregation and let them judge. The words of God can still convict him of sin. But we must never take the law into our own hands and move against them.

In fact this is how the law works in our world right now.

If a man were to kill our brother, we are not allow to take revenge by killing that man. We are allowed to report them to the police and to allow the law to convict him of murder.

If Shimei is Guilty, Why Not Execute Judgement Immediately?

The sins of Shimei was because of him offending God. For he had cursed the Lords anointed.But why did David not execute that judgement immediately?

2 Sam 19:22 tells us the reason

“What have I to do with you, you
  sons of Zeruiah, that you should
  be adversaries to me today? Shall
  any man be put to death today
  in Israel? For do I not know that
  today I am king over Israel?”- David (2 Sam 19:22)

Shimei had indeed sinned and he is deserving of death, for he had insulted God. But David did not carry out the judgement on that day, for that is a day of grace. God had allowed David to return to Jerusalem. But 2 Sam 19:17 tells us of another reason.

“There were a thousand men of
  Benjamin with him, and Ziba
  the servant of the house of Saul,
  and his fifteen sons and his twenty
  servants with him; and they went
  over the Jordan before the king.” – (2 Sam 19:17)

Shimei came and brought with him 1000 men from Benjamin and the servants of the house of Saul. David did not spare Shimei because he had an army with him. But David knew that if he were to punish Shimei on the spot, those men may rebel and start another civil war.

The action of Shimei also tells us that he did not really come for the forgiveness of David. For no man will bring along 1000 men just to make an apology. David understood his intention to make himself the martyr and he did not want to shed anymore blood that day.

Moreover that action would have portray David as a man who is gracious to the house of Saul. David had already planned to judge Shimei for his sin, that is why he wanted Solomon to carry out this judgement.

By doing so, he did not break his oath, for David had pass away and his oath was simply “‘I will not put you to death with the sword.” This oath is lift at the death of David. This is similar to our marriage vows. It is lift at the death of one of the partner.

The will of David tells us that we need to keep the law of God. For those who transgress his commandments will eventually face judgement.

Now let us look deeper into the Character of Shimei the Benjamite

The Character Of Shimei

2 Sam 16:5-6 gave an introduction to Shimei, it also tells us the character of Shimei the Benjamite

“Now when King David came to Bahurim,
  there was a man from the family of the
  house of Saul, whose name was Shimei
  the son of Gera, coming from there. He
  came out, cursing continuously as he came.  
  And he threw stones at David and at all
  the servants of King David. And all the
  people and all the mighty men were on
  his right hand and on his left.” (2 Sam 16:5-6)

Shimei was from the house of Saul, he was a relative of Saul, and a loyal supporter of King Saul. Even though Saul was killed in battle, but Shimei hatred for David remains. When David was in distress, he cursed and threw stones at them.

Shimei is a man who add sorrows upon sorrows. He is a type of man who will bully the victim instead of helping him. He will choose to attack only when his target is too weak to retaliate. David was feeling down and it was made worst with the curses of Shimei. But yet David’s silence reflected his graciousness. For David can choose to fight back if he wants. He had warriors around him. Those warriors are eager to take revenge on behalf of David.

Abishai who was with King David said this.

“Why should this dead dog curse
  my lord the king? Please, let me
  go over and take off his head!”- Abishai (2 Sam 16:9)

The actions of Shimei irritated Abishai so badly that he wanted to kill Shimei. But David stopped him, for he felt that it is a judgement from God

“What have I to do with you, you
  sons of Zeruiah? So let him curse,
  because the Lord has said to him,
  ‘Curse David.’ Who then shall say,
  ‘Why have you done so?’”- David (2 Sam 16:10)

David continues his explanation

“See how my son who came from
  my own body seeks my life. How
  much more now may this Benjamite?
  Let him alone, and let him curse; for
  so the Lord has ordered him. It may be
  that the Lord will look on my affliction,
  
and that the Lord will repay me with
  good for his cursing this day.” – David (2 Sam 16:11-12)

David felt that if he endure those cursing, perhaps God will look upon his suffering and show him grace. That is why David could withstand the cursing of Shimei, that was not because he had a better temper, for he only thought of God and his punishment.

Did God Instruct Shimei To Curse David?

But that explanation lead to 3 other doubts.

1. Did God instruct Shimei to curse David? Why is it not recorded in the bible?

2. If Shimei was following Gods instruction, why is he judged?  

3. If God did not instruct Shimei, then did David just accused God?

But we know David is a man who feared God, he would not dare bring an accusation before God. So what did David mean by “God has told him to curse me?”

David was referring to the judgement of God he was experiencing. David is saying that all these are part of Gods judgement for his sin. For God once spoken through Prophet Nathan.

“Now therefore, the sword shall
  never depart from your house,
  because you have despised Me,
  and have taken the wife of Uriah
  the Hittite to be your wife.’

   Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will
  raise up adversity against you
  from your own house; and I will
  take your wives before your eyes
  and give them to your neighbor, and
  he shall lie with your wives in the
  sight of this sun. For you did it
  secretly, but I will do this thing
  before all Israel, before the sun.” – Nathan (2 Sam 12:10-13)

David had committed a sin deserving death but God saw his repentance and forgave him. Even though David was forgiven, he must bear the fruits of his sin. One of it was that the sword will never depart from his house.

At the same time God will  raise enemies against him from his own house. If he was prepared to accept the sword from his son Absalom, then the curses of Shimei is insignificant compared from the sword of Absalom.  

David felt that these are all troubles that he must bear and those are the fruits of his sin. Therefore he did not choose to take revenge but he endured them quietly. He felt that if God were to see him bearing his sins quietly, God may grant him grace and end his punishment early.

The Importance Of Confessing Sin and Accepting Punishment

There are many who choose not to confess sin, for they knew that with that confession came with punishment and loss. But a man who truly repents will admit his guilt and accept the punishment of God. He will be willing to take any punishment that came as a result of his sin. David is a man like that, he accepted the judgment of God.

Many a times punishment is accompanied with the psychological stress. Not everyone is able to handle it. That is why modern counselling chose to convince the person that it is not their fault. For that could reduce stress within the person.

They often say that even though these men have done wrong, the fault lies in the others as well. But taking this direction will not make him repent from his mistakes. For he will feel that everyone had a part to play in his sin.

That is why we need to confess our sins before God. Even though there are many factors that may influence our decision to sin against God. The ultimate decision to sin lies with us. That is why we need to take responsibility for our actions. Even if we push the blame to others, God will not acknowledge that line of defence.

For Solomon told Shimei

“You know, as your heart acknowledges, 
  all the wickedness that you did …”

That is why David acknowledges his sin and accepted his punishment.

He is wiling to accept all the stress and all the pain that comes with the punishment. They did not deter him from coming back to God. He allowed those pain to lead him back to God. These troubles made him desire the mercy and forgiveness of God.

That is why his sin was forgiven and he was allowed to start again.

Conclusion So Far

The bible tells us that we all have sin and we must come before God with repentance. But we tend to ignore these and only remember the fact that the Lord had forgiven David  of his sin.

We often ignore the suffering that David took to receive that forgiveness and we think that God simply forgave David just because he prayed Ps 51.

As the result, we concluded that God was unjust and bias, for  he choose to forgive those whom he liked.

The bible records in details the Gods judgement onto King David and the bible likewise recorded how David accepted those punishment from God. That is why he could make a rebound from sin and continue his walk with God.

This is something we ought to consider and something we ought to learn.

Let us continue the study of this story later.

Introduction

In the previous post we have explored the 5th miracle of Jesus in the book of John. It was Jesus walking on water. The miracle is recorded in the Jn 6:16-20.

So far we have drew the conclusion and understand the need of worshipping the true God. We have also discussed about meeting the storms in life.

Now let us take a look at the other teachings we can learn from this miracle.

Looking At Peter In The Water

The Gospel of Matthew recorded one additional story that happened. It shared that Peter was walking on the sea as well.

“Lord, if it is You, command me to
  come to You on the water.”- Peter (Matt 14:28-31)

Peter saw Jesus walking on water, so he made this request to Jesus. It appears as if Peter had greater faith than the others, for no one dared to make such request to Jesus. Undeniably Peter is one with courage and faith, for he believed that Jesus could make him walk on water. Jesus did not complain about his curiosity and gave him the permission to come.

A Faith With Obedience

Let us consider another scenario, what  if Peter just tell himself in his heart “I have the faith Jesus will allow it” and he proceeded to step out of the boat. He would have sink immediately. For he cannot act without the approval of Jesus.

It is true that we must have faith in Jesus, but it doesn’t negate the fact that we need his agreement before taking actions. For if we act without his approval, it will not be good. For the action is a result of a faith based on ourselves not a faith based on Jesus.

This is a mistake found in many Christians. Often they feel that something ought to be done, and they prayed about it till their faith breaks. Then they allow unbelief and doubt to come into their mind and they went on to say that “The Promises Of The Bible is fake”. They even quoted the words of Jesus “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”

Many a times we focus so much on one verse and we neglect the other verses from the bible. Indeed there is this verse written in the bible

And if we know that He hears us,
  whatever we ask, we know that we
  have the petitions that we have
  asked of Him.: – John (1 Jn 5:15)

If we believe in this, we will know that Jesus hears our prayer. But then why is it that we do not receive what we ask for? Let us consider the verse before that

“Now this is the confidence that we
  have in Him, that if we ask anything
  according to His will, He hears us.” – John (1 Jn 5:14) 

It is true that we need to have confidence whenever we pray in faith. But we need to ask according to his will. For if our request goes against his teaching, he will not agree to it.

Understanding The Meaning Of “Asking According TO  His Will”

Now let us consider a practical case scenario

We believe that God can raise the dead and now our loved one is sick unto death. So we kneel down and pray, and we tell ourselves not to stop until Jesus had healed him.

So is that an act of  great faith? Is that our will or the will of God?

We know that God will is to save man and take him back to heaven, at the same time we know that if God will that he should continue living he will heal him. Sometimes we need to understand that there are instances where the will of God is to allow someone to pass away.

King David understood it when he prayed to God when his son that was dying. While his son was alive he prayed for him daily and he ignored everything around him. When the child died his followers was afraid that David would be broken completely.

But yet David return to his palace as if all is normal. For he understood that Gods will it to be so. He will not force his will upon God.

If Christians cannot understand this, they risk losing their faith. Let us learn from the fact that Peter acted only when Jesus gave him the permission to.

Answering the Question “Why Then Did Peter Sink?”

But another question may have pop into our mind at this point of time. Since Peter acts according to the instruction of Jesus, why then did he sink?  Interestingly when Jesus pulled him out from the water, Peter did not dare to push the blame to Jesus for allowing him to sink.

Why is that so? Most likely Peter understood that the problem lies with him, for Jesus asked him “Why did you doubt?”

Dispelling The Misconception Of The Waves Becoming Great

The more we examine the scriptures, we would wonder “Why did Peter doubt?” 

One thing is for sure, Peter did not doubt the fact that Jesus can give him the power to walk on water. That is why he had the courage to get down from the boat and that is the reason why he can walk on the water initially. But the record of Matthew tells us

“But when he saw that the wind was boisterous,
 
he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out,
  saying, “Lord, save me!””- Matthew (Matt 14:30)

Some Christians had the misconception that the wind and waves are not so strong at the point Peter got out of the boat. We used that as the reason why Peter was unafraid when he got out of the bottom. Then we proceed to explain that the waves became stronger and it worries Peter. That is why we claim that the problem doesn’t lie with Peter but because God made it hard for him.

Even in our lives we push the blame to God when we are in trouble. We said that we could handle small temptations, but the ones we are facing us are too great so we cannot overcome it.

This misconception when it is full blown, will lead us to wonder “If God is omniscient and he knew that Peter will doubt eventually. Why did he shame Peter by getting him to come up in the first place?”

Jesus did not did this to shame Peter, but rather he wanted Peter to be able to see his own faith.

If Peter were to sink now, it is still alright as Jesus is there to pull him up, and he can still change and improve. Therefore it is more important for Peter to understand that his faith is not as strong as he think. With that knowledge, he can build a faith that is truly faith. That will be faith that is a acknowledged by God.

Having The Right Faith That Saves

So are there faith that is not acknowledged by God? Could that even be possible?

We can see many Christians with much faith, and they did so much in the name of God . Why then is their faith not acknowledged?

The Book Of Matthew talks about Christians with such faith.

“‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied
   in Your name, cast out demons in
   Your name, and done many wonders
   in Your name?’”- Matthew (Matt 7:22)

These people were all with faith that no one could deny. For they can prophesy in his name and they could perform miracles. These are the things we feel are proofs for their faith. But over here Jesus rejected them, he did not know them and their faith was not acknowledged. Jesus also said  in Matt 7:21 that not everyone who calls him “Lord Lord” will enter his kingdom, only those who does the will of God will be recognised.

Only those who does the will of God will be recognised by him. Therefore it is pointless to perform thousands of miracles if it is not according to the will of God.

Yet we defend ourselves saying “Isn’t it Gods will for his children to preach the gospel, to cast out demons and to perform miracles?”

Indeed they are the will of God. But what about the other commands of Jesus? What about his instruction to be baptised for sins to be forgiven, and to receive the promised Holy Spirit?  What about following the commandments of God and to lead a life free of sin?

Today many churches who ignores doctrines for they feel that it is the reason for split the church. That is why they only talk about the love of Christ to to love one another. They are indeed the commands of Jesus, but can we ignore the other commands?

“teaching them to observe all things that
  I have commanded you; and lo, I am with
  you always, even to the end of the age.” – Jesus (Matt 28 :20)

We need to listen to all that Jesus commanded than he will be with us always

The Waves That Always Have Been Strong

We read from the bible that Peter sank because he saw the strong waves . That is why we think that the waves are small initially and it became huge. This is because of the verse in Matt 14:30

But John gave us a different story

“Then the sea arose because a
  great wind was blowing.” –John (Jn 6:18)

It is not true that the waves became larger as Peter was walking, Peter had already seen the waves when Jesus called out to him to get out of the boat. The waves were already strong when Peter began walking.

So why did he sink? If so, What is the problem?

When Peter first step out of the boat, he only saw Jesus walking on water. He believed that Jesus could make him walk and he kept on to that faith even though the winds are strong.

When Jesus first commanded him to come forward, he saw Jesus and not the waves. But as he walk towards Jesus, he saw the waves and not Jesus. As the result he was afraid. Today if we only focus on the waves around us, it is natural for us to be afraid.

But the truth is, the winds and waves hade always been strong and it was always blowing against us. And when look at the same wave with doubts  they will appear bigger than they really are. If we choose to only look at the waves, we will become fearful naturally. But if we we choose to focus on Jesus who is walking on the water, then there will be no fear. 

Conclusion

Therefore let us not murmur because the great winds are blowing, for the truth is that the winds and waves had always been that boisterous. It will only appear larger when we choose to look at it only.

But if we choose to focus on Jesus, there will be no fear

Therefore no matter what storms we encounter in life, let us not be afraid. Let us choose to listen to the words of Jesus “Be of Good Cheer It is I; do not be afraid.”

We may find this difficult for we know that we cannot walk on water. But Jesus could walk on water, and he can pull Peter out from the water. If we allow Jesus onto our ship he will always be willing to help us.

Jesus did help Peter and brought him safely back to the ship.

Let us focus on Jesus and not the winds, then we will never fear and we will always be of a good cheer. For Jesus could walk on water and we only need to turn our eyes upon Jesus.

Introduction

In our previous post, we have discussed that the bible contains 2 types of will of God. One type is known as the Laissez Faire  type. Where God allow a person to do whatever they want. Basically it means that God had given up and will not choose to stop a individual from offending him and sinning against him.

The second type of will of God is the predestined will of God. It is set within a certain boundary where God grants man autonomy to do all that he wants. In this will only the boundaries are defined. This means that out of the many options that are available for choice. All of them are in the will of God. Some of the options may carry with it consequences but all of them leads to the general direction of the will of God.

The previous post left us with a question that in our mind. “How then do we make the best choice?” This is important as all the options seems right and we need to choose the one that give the best outcome.

So how should we choose? Paul once talked about the principle for choosing in the book of Romans

“I beseech you therefore,
  brethren, by the mercies
  of God, that you present
  your bodies a living sacrifice,
  holy, acceptable to God,
  which is your reasonable service.
 
And do not be conformed to this
  world, but be transformed by
  the renewing of your mind,
  that you may prove what is
  that good and acceptable and
  perfect will of God.” – Paul (Rom 12:1-2)

Here Paul describes the will of God. He also gave the standards that are used to determine the will of God. We know for sure that we must make our choices within the boundaries of the Lord. For we know that it is dangerous to go beyond the boundary of God. Therefore we need to base our decision on the 3 standards listed here by Paul. Let us consider the 3 standards we see here.

Pt 1 :  What Is Good?

How do we know what is Gods will? What should we base the standard on? Paul once talk about this standard of goodness of God

Therefore the law is holy,
  and the commandment
  holy and just and good.” – Paul (Rom 7:12)

This law of God contains the will of God that is good. Knowing the commandments of God and understanding the law of God help us understand this standard of goodness that is defined by God.   That is why Paul said that the will of God is just and good.

The modern word “Ethic” was taken from Greek and it means customs or traditions. It often refer to the acceptable practices that is local to the region . But we know that the standards of man keep changing over time. What is regarded as “unacceptable” ethics is now being legalised all over the place

That is why Christians ought to understand that the customs and tradition from Christ never changes. It transcend time and it holds more authority over the customs of man.  We know that the bible spans between 2 periods of history. The Old testament talks about the Law, The Prophets And The Commandments. The New Testament records the words of Jesus as well as the teaching of the Apostles.

Even though the bible spans across thousands of years, but the moral standards found in the Old Testament And The New Testament are constant. It must be use as the base for the understanding of goodness and righteousness. For Jesus once told the rich young ruler

“Why do you call Me good?
 
  No one is good but One, that is, 
  God. But if you want to enter into
  life, keep the commandments.” – Jesus (Matt 19:17)

Making A Good Choice Within Gods Boundaries

So today, if we were to encounter choices, how can we determine that we are within the boundaries of God?  We ought to compare the choices against the standard of the commandments of God. By understanding the moral standards of the bible we are able to tell our boundaries correctly. We need to make our choices base on the standard of his goodness

Just like What David once said

“Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
  For You are the God of my salvation;
  On You I wait all the day.” – David (Ps 25:5)

David asked God to direct his way and lead him. He pray to God to guide him into understanding the truth in the bible.  David knows that scriptures are the best guide for men. Likewise Paul mentioned of the importance of the bible to Timothy

“and that from childhood you
  have known the Holy Scriptures,
  which are able to make you wise
  for salvation through faith which
  is in Christ Jesus.

  All Scripture is given by inspiration
  of God, and is profitable for doctrine,
  for reproof, for correction, for instruction
  in righteousness,  that the man of God
  may be complete, thoroughly equipped
  for every good work.” – Paul (2 Tim 3:15-17)

Paul is saying that the scriptures are inspired by God and that can serve as a guide to make us wise for salvation. It is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. If we choose to use the scriptures to direct us in life, it will lead you to do good and be righteous before God. If you keep the words of God in your heart and mediate on it daily , God will use them to guide us to understand his will. Your experience will be similar to what David experienced

“Open my eyes, that I may see
Wondrous things from Your law” – David (Ps 119:18)

David trust in the word of God all his life and he tried his best to make sure he lived within the boundaries of the word of God. He compared his actions to the standards of the goodness of the word of God. Today if we focus on the word of God and we try our best to understand it.  Our eyes will be open as well and we can see the wondrous things from his law.

On the contrary if one were to ignore his words, it will be like him cutting off his communication with God.  It will be difficult for him to understand the will of God. His knowledge of God will be superficial. If one is unwilling to learn the word of God, it is like knowing someone without talking to him. If we attempt to know God through feelings alone, it will result to shallow knowledge.

That is why if we want to know the will of God, we must put in effort to understand the standards that he had set. If we stay within that boundary we will always make choices that are according to his will. If we go beyond that boundary, we will enter his wrath and we would grief the spirit of God. Finally God will give up and allow us to do whatever we want.

Pt 2 :  What Is The Perfect Will Of God?

In Rom 12:2. It tells us that the will of God is one that is perfect. The Greek Word for Perfect here is Teleion (G5046). In its original language it a also means that it is matured or Matured into perfect condition. So what does it mean to be perfect?

It means in order to make the best decision, you will need to progress and mature. To achieve that one need to enter the trial of the Lord. Within the trial we will learn slowly about the perfect will of God. Sometimes God put us in a difficult situation to help us mature and to learn to make a better decision

Misconception That A Smooth Sailing Way Indicates The Will Of God

Many Christian had the misconception that as long the way is smooth and easy, as long as they encounter no opposition, no divine intervention then it must be the will of God. People who hold this concept will also think that as long as they encounter trouble, it is God who stopped them from doing it. And they judge whether a matter is the will of God base on it

This is  dangerous thinking for it is not necessary the case every time. Imagine a poor student who had straight As and he wanted to go overseas to study. His immediate surrounding is poor and he cannot afford the trip. But yet sometimes in our testimonies we hear  how through much prayers and struggle, God reveals his will and allowed him to get scholarship.

Having  a good surrounding and not having opposition doesn’t necessary mean that one is according living according he will of God. The reserve is true as well, adversity doesn’t necessary mean God is opposing you and you are not doing the will of God.

Sometimes the will of God could be contrary to the current situation we are facing.

Lets take a few example from the scriptures

In Exodus, all of us know that the will of God is for the Israelites to leave Egypt and return to Canaan. For God had sent Moses to Egypt and he went to talk to the Pharaoh.  Lets look at the response of the Pharaoh

“Who is the Lord, that I should 
  obey His voice to let Israel go?
  I do not know the Lord, nor
  will I let Israel go.”- Pharaoh (Ex 5:2)

Here Pharaoh said that he will not obey the Lord and will not let Israel go. We know that soon after that Pharaoh added trouble to the children of Israel, they are told to produce the same amount of bricks and they are no longer supplied with straws from the Pharaoh. Moses had failed at that time, it result to more opposition from the Pharaoh. Many of the Israelites blamed Moses for making life difficult for them.

But we know for sure that Gods will is for Israel to leave Egypt, it is just that it was not possible at that particular point of time. Even after God sent the ten plagues and Israelites left Egypt, they continue to face the opposition of the Pharaoh and they were pursued by the armies of Egypt. We read of how they were stranded between the Red Sea and the chariots Of Egypt.

Gods will may be contrary to the current situation

Now let us consider the story of Jonah.

We know that the will of God is to send Jonah to the city of Nineveh and to preach against it. But yet Jonah came to sea port of Joppa and he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. Perhaps today we do not find it miraculous for we can fly to anywhere anytime. But during those days there is no boat schedule in ports for no sailors can ever be sure when they will arrive at any seaport

Therefore it is a “miracle” that Jonah found a ship heading to Tarshish and  he did not meet with any opposition. The process of finding the ship is smooth sailing. But yet it is not the will of God

Even though we all desire an ideal surrounding as well as a smooth sailing life. Let us not allow it to cloud our judgement.  For success and failure in a certain matter do not determine the will of God. Having a smooth sailing process with no opposition doesn’t indicate the will of God.  Similarly being in a bad situation does not necessary mean you are going against the will of God.

We need to understand that a good and perfect will of God must be well pleasing at the same time.

Pt 3 :  What Is The Acceptable And Well Pleasing Will Of God?

So today whenever we encounter many options, we must first determine which of them are good based on the standard of Gods word. This is the first step because any option that went against the word of God will never be good. 

At the same time, it must be perfect and mature. We can make such choices if we are experienced with the trials of life.

But what if we encounter many options and they are all acceptable in sight of the will of God, how do we pick the best option among them?

Paul reminds the church in Ephesus

“See then that you walk circumspectly,
  not as fools but as wise,  redeeming the
  time, because the days are evil
  Therefore do not be unwise, but understand
  what the will of the Lord is.” – Paul (Eph 5:15-17)

Firstly we must not walk in the path of evil, let us not be foolish within the way of the Lord. We need to know what is pleasing before God, what is within his boundary and that which is perfect.

Sometimes in order to choose the best will, we need to pray often. For prayer is like a wrestle between our will and the will of God. Paul once describe that when he talks about someone

‘’Epaphras, who is one of you, 
  a bondservant of Christ, greets
  you, always laboring fervently
  for you in prayers, that you may
  stand perfect and complete in all
  the will of God. “ – Paul (Col 4:12)

The Greek word of laboring is agonizomenos (G75). It could mean contending and struggling. Therefore the prayer of Epaphras is just like wrestling, this wrestling is similar to the time where Jacob wrestle with God as he pray.

Prayer is the time when your will is struggling against the will of God. At the same time the devil may want us to make the wrong decision. Therefore we need to pray hard to find the best decision when face with choices.

Sometimes the moving of the Holy Spirit is like fire within us . That is why Paul once reminded the church in Thessalonica

“Do not quench the Spirit.” – Paul (1 Thess 5:19)

He means not to extinguish the moving of the Holy Spirit, it is just like someone blowing out the candle. To extinguish is to stop something as it was already burning. Paul describes the Holy Spirit like a fire burning within us. Therefore to quench the Spirit is like pouring cold water onto the burning fire.

Whenever we encounter a problem or when we are faced with multiple decisions the Holy Spirit will guide and move us. But we need to discern through prayer. Those who had experienced the guidance of God will know what it means to be moved by the spirit of God.  The moving of God is clearest when we are calm and peaceful. It comes when we choose to draw near to God and listen to the moving of the Holy Spirit.

If one makes a decision when his heart is in turmoil and when he did not entrust the matter to God. The decision he makes is most likely hasty. Even if it correspond to the direction of God’s will it will most likely not be the best choice available.

When your heart is not at peace within you, it is usually difficult to hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. The calling of God is one that is peaceful and soft. It begins like a still small voice and slowly as time grows it become louder bit by bit. God usually do not speak out suddenly and order you to do this or that, 

For God once spoken through Prophet Isaiah

“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
  In quietness and confidence shall be your
  strength.”- YHWH (Is 30:15)

So when it comes to choosing the best decision it should be make after we pray and entrust the matter to God. We need to be calm and composed. This is true especially when we make a decision that is not in direct opposition to the word of God.

Therefore when we are faced with tough decision and all of them seem good and within the boundaries of Gods word. We need to face the problem with prayer and entrustment. God will use his still small voice to guide us, but a man who is emotional will find it hard to hear it.

A Practical Example : Paul’s Macedonian Ministry

Now lets take a practical example of this from the scriptures.

“Now when they had gone
  through Phrygia and the
  region of Galatia, they were
  forbidden by the Holy Spirit
  to preach the word in Asia. 
  After they had come to Mysia,
  they tried to go into Bithynia,
  but the Spirit did not permit
  them.

  And a vision appeared to Paul in
  the night. A man of Macedonia
  stood and pleaded with him, saying,
  “Come over to Macedonia and
  help us.”” – Luke (Acts 1:6-7,9)

Paul wanted to preach in the place known as Phrygia but over here we see the Holy Spirit stopping him. As far as we know, preaching the word of God is definitely a will of God. We know that God desires all man to be save therefore Paul is doing something good and perfect in the will of God.

But it seems that God had other plan for Paul to preach to Europe. It is good and proper for one to plan in his service to God. But in order to fully understand the will of God frequent prayers are needed.

So therefore when we encounter obstacles and obstruction or if our plan fail, we need to consider if it is the Holy Spirit preventing you to act. It is important to pray to God to reveal his will to us. But we must also need to entrust the matter to God.

To entrust the situation to God does not mean sitting there and doing nothing. We see Paul and his team continue moving as they were praying. They did not force their plan unto God. There is something we ought to learn about entrusting to the Lord.

As we pray to God about our problems and make our decisions known. We need to let go of our own will. We need to remember that prayer is like struggling with God, it is our will verses the will of God. We can tell God our plans and ask him to guide, but we also need to let go of our own will and allow God to guide us. Only then can we see the direction God wanted us to take.

There are times our decision may coincide with the moving of God. But there will also be times when our decisions may not be the one with the best outcome. Therefore we need to be patient, we need to pray and entrust the matter to God.

We need to learn to let go of our will and allow the spirit of God to guide us.

Conclusion

Indeed, sometimes it is difficult to make the right decision, we need to trust that no matter what decision we make. God is on top of it and he will guide us. Even if we encounter oppositions and troubles as a result of our choices. Let us not be too quick to doubt and to think that we are going against the will of God.

As long as the choices we make are within the boundary of the words of God. As long as we make the decision base on the perfect will of God, as long as we learn to entrust the matter to God. God will definitely guide us to find the best solution to our issues.

Not long ago I have shared a series of blog article about the decisions made by the saints in the bible. Perhaps now when we re-read them we will have new insights when it comes to making the right choices.

The articles are here for your references

1. Choice Of Oprah And Ruth
2. The choice Of Mary And Martha
3. The Choice Of Abraham And Lot
4. The Choice Of Joshua
5. The Choice Of Agur

May God guide us in all the choices we make.

Introduction

What is the will of God like? How does it relate to the notion that man was given free will by God? These are one of the most complicated question found within Christendom. The “Will Of God” is also the most commonly abused term in the Christian world.

Once in a bible study group there was a person who claims that God’s will is to send him to South Africa to work. He received a job offer from the company there. Interestingly, 2 days later the fickle minded God now wills him to work in England. Finally after 1 week of consideration God finally decided to ask him to stay put where he was when his present company offered to renew his contract.

If you ask any Christian “What is the will of God? their answers may vary greatly.  Some will reckon that as long as God does not put a stop to it, it must be his will. Some will tell you that as long as you feel peaceful and happy while doing something it must be his will.  Some will tell you to wait for the inspiration from the Holy Spirit before acting, that will be Gods will.

Once I had a army buddy who tells me “Everything that happens in life is part of Gods will.” That includes him waking up late, missing the bus, failing to report to camp  and almost ending up being charge for being AWOL. (Absent Without Official  Leave)

Indeed the idea of God having a will sometimes bring about an irresolvable contradiction. For if God had absolute authority over everything, then the idea of the free will of men is non existent. But if man have a free will to do what he wants, then it will appear as if there is a flaw in Gods omnipotence, for there are areas in life  that are outside the control of God.

So how do we resolve this contradiction? If there is, how will it affect our understanding between the will of God and the free will of men?  Let us take a closer look at the matter

Understanding The Limitation Of Men to Fully Understand God

The first step to the problem is to acknowledge that man can never fully understand the ways of God.  For God once spoke through Prophet Isaiah

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
  Nor are your ways My ways,”
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
  So are My ways higher than your ways,
  And My thoughts than your thoughts.” – YHWH (Is 55:8-9)

Isaiah understood that the will of God is difficult to understand. Many of the Old testament saints understood it. For King David once said

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
  It is high, I cannot attain it.” – David (Ps 139:6)

Here David was talking about the will of God, and it is something too wonderful and too high and he cannot attain it. Therefore as men, we must first acknowledge that Gods will is something hard to understand. For even David, a man after Gods heart, finds it hard to understand the will of God.

Therefore once we have the right attitude, we can begin this study.

Can Anyone Understand The Will Of God?

So now does that mean that no one can ever  understand the will of God? Does that mean we give up and not think about the matter anymore? No, in fact Jesus once told us something about the will of God

“I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven
  and earth, that You have hidden
  these things from the wise and
  prudent and have revealed them
  to babes.” – Jesus (Matt 11:25)

Here Jesus was also talking about the will of God. It was hidden from the wise and prudent yet revealed to babes. God did not show his will to the wise but yet choose to reveal them to the babes. Actually, babies do not know how to talk, they are unable to comprehend the issues of the adults. How could they understood the will of God?

The bible once recorded of Mary visiting Elizabeth the mother of John The Baptist. When Elizabeth saw Mary she was filled with the Holy Spirit and the baby within her leap. For the baby knew the will of God.

So from here we know that if God choose to reveal his will, it will be so simple that even the babies could understand. So one of the best way to understand the will of God is to look into the bible. So what does the bible say about the will of God?

The bible described two types of the will of God. Let us examine them one by one

Type 1: The Laissez Faire Will Of God

Dictionary Definition;
Laissez Faire :
1. a policy that allows businesses to operate 
     with very little interference from the government
2. a philosophy or practice characterized by a usually 
     deliberate abstention from direction or interference
     especially with individual freedom of choice and action

The first type  is recorded in Ex 4:21 when God spoke to Moses

“When you go back to Egypt,
  see that you do all those wonders
  before Pharaoh which I have put
  in your hand. But I will harden
  his heart, so that he will not let
  the people go. “ – YHWH (Ex 4:21)

Over here God had allowed the Pharaoh to be hardened in his heart. In a way God had willed that the heart of the Pharaoh to be hardened. It is not that God made him so, but God allowed him to remain unmoved.  Therefore that can be said to be a will of God

But this type of will is not one that Christian ought to have. Paul talked about it in the book of Romans

“Therefore God also gave them
  up to uncleanness, in the lusts
  of their hearts, to dishonor their
  bodies among themselves

  For this reason God gave them 
  up to vile passions. For even
  their women exchanged the
  natural use for what is against
  nature.

   And even as they did not like to
  retain God in their knowledge,
  God gave them over to a debased
  mind, to do those things which
  are not fitting;” – Paul (Rom 1:24,26,28)

Over here God gave them up to their Passions. It can be said to be a will of God. But it is not the type of will that we would like to be following. God allow them to do whatever they like since they were disobedient to him since the beginning .

This is why sometimes we see Christians committing evil and we wonder why did God not punish them for their actions. Interestingly we see other occasion where God is swift to punish the same type of sin.

Example : Judas Iscariot
This type of will is best illustrated if we consider the story of Judas. Jesus tried very hard to turn him back from his sin. He even washed his feet, dip the bread and pass it to to expose his intention. Yet Judas was unrepentant and he continue to asked the Lord “Lord, is it I?”

Finally Jesus gave him up to sin and told him “What you want to do , do quickly” and from then on Jesus allowed him to do whatever he pleased.

Type 2: The Predestined Will Of God

This is the type of will that we need to follow.

This type of will could be seen in the garden of Eden. Where God’s will is for Adam to tend the garden of Eden. During that time Adam named the animals (Gen 2:19).  God brought all the animals before Adam and he is free to name them.

But we need to note that this predestined will had a limit and a boundary. As God instructed Adam

“Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat;
  but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil
  you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of
  it you shall surely die.”- YHWH (Gen 2:16-19)

This is the freedom God gave to Adam and God told Adam the consequences of the choice he makes. This is a freedom from God  is very different from the freedom we know today.

The modern form of freedom is often interpreted to be one without any bounds or control.  The modern form of freedom could go beyond the constraints of law and order. Where one could go all out to do what they want without any regards for rules and authority. They could even break the law of the sake of freedom

But this is not the freedom that was recorded within the bible. That was not the freedom that God gave to Adam. Even though God had absolute authority over everything in the life of man. But he grants autonomy to man to make his own decision

Man could do whatever he wants and he can make decision himself without having intervention by God.But God did warn Adam of the consequences for trespassing the boundaries.

God had given man the right to choose but it must be within the boundaries set by God. Therefore as Christian we ought to better understand the will of God. That is why Paul one said this in Athens

“And He has made from one blood
  every nation of men to dwell on
  all the face of the earth, and has
  determined their preappointed
  times and the boundaries of their
  dwellings, “ – Paul (Acts 17:26)

Here it tells us that God still have controls over the boundaries of our life, he know our days on earth, where we are born and where we will live. They will be within the boundaries set by God.

Understanding The Control Of God Over Our Lives

But didn’t God give men the right to decide? Why then did God set boundaries for us not to trespass? it may seem as if God was being unreasonable.  But God does not control us like a robot. He does not decide what we eat today or tomorrow.Whether we wake up on time or late.  For if God controls a man like this, life would not be worth living.

That will just be like a bossy parent controlling every detail of the life of their children and the children would be devoid of a mind on their own and will only need to follow the will of the parent.

That is why Paul said that God had determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.

In simple words, it is because of God that is why today we have the freedom to make decision . But that decision will be constraint by the boundary given. For example.

All of us have the freedom to choose whatever job we like to do, but we must make the decision base on the constraints such as our education qualification and the our immediate surrounding. Those boundaries are in the control of God and there we do not have much control over them. So we have to work according to the constraints that God had given us.

Many Choices That Are Within The Will Of God

So therefore we can have free will because God allowed us to work within his boundaries. As long as we make our choices within the boundaries it will be safe. So therefore when we think of the will of God, let us not think that there is only one choice that is his will.

As long as we are in the boundaries that God set, there may be multiple  choices that we can choose. But we need to understand that among the choices, there are some choices that are better than the others and among them there is also the choice that produces the best outcome.

If we fail to make the best choice , even though our action may still be aligned to the general direction of the will of God. But the choices we make may comes with certain consequences that we must bear.

The Example Of Esau And Jacob

The best example to illustrate this is the story of Esau and Jacob. We know that Jacob was not he first born son but he got his birth right by trading it with Esau over a bowl of red pottage. Later on he followed the scheme of Rebekah his mother to trick Isaac into blessing him instead of Esau. Jacob resorted to  treachery to get the blessing of God.

But what was God’s will regarding Esau and Jacob? Paul once talked about it in the book of Romans

“(for the children not yet being born,
  nor having done any good or evil,
  that the purpose of God according to
  election might stand, not of works
  but of Him who calls),  it was said to
  her, “The older shall serve the
  younger.”- Paul (Rom 9:11-12)

Paul tells us that before the children are born before they have a chance to choose between good and evil. God already told Rebekah their mother that the older shall serve the younger.  This is a fact that both Isaac and Rebekah knew. In fact Isaac was going against the will of God when he choose to bless Esau instead of Jacob.

But I believe if Jacob choose to rely on God. The promise of God will still be given to him . The result of that story will be good for God had his will set in the beginning. God will grant him the right of the first born and God will grant him the blessing of Isaac. Esau will be willing to give them up peacefully in one way for or another.

This is similar to how David choose to remain the King of Hebron for 7.5 years and not fight the house of Saul. David allowed the children of Israel to slowly acknowledge him as King. Eventually God will make good his promise in his time and he became King. As the result David ruled for 40 years , in Hebron he reign 7 years 6 month and he ruled in Jerusalem for 33 years. (2 Sam 5:4-5)

But we know that Jacob followed the advice of his mother and he choose to do the will of God in the way he wanted. God did not stop him because it is still the will of God for him to get his rights and the first born and to inherit the blessing. That is the freedom that God gave to Jacob to choose. For either way the will of God will still be done.

But if he choose to wait on the Lord, it would have been a much better, the middle east may have been a more peaceful place than what it is right now.  So we can safely say that the choice of Jacob is not the one that produces the most desirable outcome .

For there are many ways to fulfil the will of God. The only question is which is the best way with the best result. The choice of Jacob (As well as Rebekah)  brings about much consequences to their life. Its effects are all recorded in the book of Genesis, where they must pay for the consequences that resulted from their actions.

This decision cause Esau to hate Jacob and forces Jacob to flee his house at the approximate age of 70. Rebekah had to send her beloved son away and Rebekah never got to see him again. For when Jacob return, Rebekah was no longer around. Jacob got a taste of his own medicine when Laban his uncle exploited him and took advantage of  him using treachery.

All these things that happen does not change the fact that God had already willed that Jacob to receive the first born status and to inherit the blessing of Abraham.  The events of that story are still according to the general direction set by the will of God.

The Conclusion So Far

Sometimes a simple illustration of how it works can be seen in our lives. For example. We have a mango tree in the garden and the fruits will eventually enter our stomach. But we can choose how we want to do this.

Some would choose to cut the fruit down from the tree before it is fully ripe. As the result the taste of the fruit will not be as good as waiting for the fruit to fall down from the tree naturally. But the outcome of the matter is still the same, we ate the fruit. The only question is which way produces the most tasty fruit?

Indeed the direction of the will of God remains the same. He had set them as a boundary in our lives. Within which he had given man autonomy to choose what he can do. But man should only act within the boundary set by God. Within that boundary, there are  many ways in which the will of God can be done. Some of the ways  carries more consequences than the other. Among them will contain one that give us the most desired outcome.

I hope by now we will understand the 2 types of God’s will. One is the will of God where God allowed man to do what they please without any intervention from God. This is bad as God had given up and had allowed man to do what they please and to continue in their sin.

The other will of God is one that is predestined. Set within his boundary. This is the type of will that we ought to be doing. Within it there are many ways to accomplish this will. But the question we need to ask is “Which is the best way?  How would we know which one gives us the best result?

We will continue to think about this in the next blog entry.

Today I was just thinking about this song as I was watching through some of the videos of the Singapore National Day 2015. One of the video post was done using the tune of the song as the background.

I am sure many of my friends would have sang that at some point of their school life. So I decided to find out more about it.

The song was the work of Dr Liang Wern Fock, he is a Singaporean writer, musician. He was one of the pioneering figure of the Xinyao movement during the 80s and 90s. 新谣(Xin Yao) is the term used for  Singaporean Chinese Folk Song. This song was voted one of the best xinyao song.

I find the lyrics really beautiful. The song often reminds me of my friends in school which i have not met for a long time. Today since it is the 50th year of my country. I would like to share the lyrics on my blog.

Apparently the pioneer generation had a higher standard of Mandarin compared to me. As the original lyrics is very poetic and expressive, it is difficult to translate that into English. But i would try my best in this case.

Title: 细水长流 (The Tiny Stream That Flows Forever AKA “Friendship Forever” )
Lyrics :梁文福

(#1)
年少时候谁没有梦
无意之中 你将心愿透露
就在你生日的时候
我将小小口琴送
最难忘记你的笑容
(#1)
nian shao shi hou Shui mei you meng
wu yi zhi zhong ni jiang xin yuan tou lou
jiu zai ni sheng ri de shi hou
wo qiang xiao xiao kou qin song
zui nan wang ji ni de xiao rong
(Chorus 1)
友情的细水慢慢流
流进了你我的心中
曾在球场边为你欢呼
你跌伤我背负
夜里流星飞渡
想象着他日的路途
晚风听着我们壮志无数
(Chorus 1)
you qing de xi shui man man liu
liu jin le ni wo de xin zhong
ceng zai qiu chang bian wei ni huan hu
ni die shang wo bei fu
ye li liu xing fei du
xiang xiang Ta ri de lu tu
wan feng ting wo men zhuang zhi wu shu
(#2)
年少时候谁没有愁
满腔愤慨唯有你能听得懂
每当我失意的时候
你将那首歌吹奏
琴声悠悠解我情愁
(#2)
nian shao shi hou shui mei you chou
man qiang fen gai wei you ni neng ting de dong
mei dang wo shi yi de shi hou
ni jiang na shou ge chui zou
qin sheng you you jie wo ging you
(Chorus 2)
岁月的细水慢慢流
流到了别离的时候
轻拍你的肩
听我说朋友不要太惆怅
霓虹纵然再嚣张
我们的步履有方向
成败不论 切莫将昔日遗忘
(Chorus 2)
sui yue de xi shui man man liu
liu dao le bie li de shi hou
qing pai ni de jian
ting wo shuo peng you bu yao tai chou chang
ni hong zong ran zai xiao zhang
wo men de bu lu you fang xiang
cheng bai bu lun qie mo xi ri yi wang
(#3)
多年以后又再相逢
我们都有了疲倦的笑容
问一声我的朋友
何时再为我吹奏
是否依旧 是否依旧
(#3)
duo nian yi hou you zai xiang feng
wo men dou you le pi juan de xiao rong
wen yi sheng wo de peng you
he shi zai wei wo chui zou
shi fou yi jiu Shi fou yi jiu
After the music interlude
(Repeat Chorus 2, #3)
(# 4)
人生的际遇千百种
但有知心长相重
人愿长久 水愿长流
年少时候
(# 4)
ren sheng de ji yu qian bai zhong
dan you zhi xin chang xiang zhong
ren yuan chang jiu  shui yuan chang liu
nian shao shi hou

Translation
(#1)
When in our youth, we had  our aspirations.
Once you divulge your aspiration to me unknowingly
So on your birthday, I presented you a little harmonica
And how can I not forget that smile on your face?

(Chorus 1)
As the streams of friendship tickles over time
It flows into the our hearts continuously
As I cheered for you at the stadium
When you fell I carried you on my back
As we watch the stars and thought of our future in life
As the night breezes heard our countless aspiration

(#2)
When in our youth, we had  our worries
Only you could understand my joys and my sadness
Whenever I am feeling disappointed
You would play that tune on that harmonica
That echoes through time, reliving my sadness

(Chorus 2)
As time tickles slowly like tiny streams ,
We reach the time to part our ways
I patted your shoulder
saying “Friend, lets not be sad”
For the rainbow will continue to be there
And we have our directions in life
No matter success or failure, lets not forget our time together

(#3)
After many years, we met once again
We all had that same smile of weariness
So let me ask you my friend
When will you play that tune once again
Will it sound the same as the past?
Will it sound the same as the past?

(#4)
There are thousands of up and down in life
Only the best confidantes meet forever
For their friendship is forever, like water flowing from its source
When we were young.

I found an video containing a lot of sights that will be familiar to any Singaporean who are born in the 80s

This is the MTV that i believe most of my peers will remember

Introduction

The book of Nehemiah talks about how he led the 3rd group of Jewish exiles to return to the land of Israel. Nehemiah return with them as he wanted to rebuild the city walls of Jerusalem. For he had heard that the city gates are burnt and the walls are still broken

The Book Of Nehemiah also talks about the result of his work .

“So the wall was finished on the
  twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two
  days. And it happened, when all our
  enemies heard of it, and all the nations
  around us saw these things, that they 
  were very disheartened in their own
  eyes; for they perceived that this work
  was done by our God.” – Nehemiah (Neh 6:15-16)

With the help of God, the Jewish exiles were able to rebuild the city wall in 52 Days and it is by no means an easy feat. Nehemiah had to overcome many difficulties and opposition. Rebuild the wall seems like an impossible task in the eyes of man.

When the enemies saw the completed city wall, they were amazed and afraid. For they can see the hand of God working and helping the Jews. These enemies had been mocking the Jews and hindering their work. Now when they see the wall completed they could see the presence of God with them. Now they are fearful of how God will judge them for their persecution and mockery

Nehemiah is not a prophet or a priest, he is an ordinary Jew living in the kingdom of Persia. Yet he had a heart to serve comparable to the priest and the prophets in his days. Most importantly he had the heart to work for God. He did not just give moral support to the Jews, he used his actions to support them.

Even though building the wall seem to be an impossible task, Nehemiah was able to finish the work. He was able to do it because he knew that it is God’s will that the wall of Jerusalem must be completed. He knew that God will help him no matter how difficult it would be.

There are a few factors which contribute to the success of Nehemiah. These are things we ought to consider, especially today as we are trying hard to rebuild the church and revive the faith of Christians.

1st Factor: Nehemiah realised his commission and he prayed to God for help.

“It came to pass in the month of Chislev,
  in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan
  
the citadel,  that Hanani one of my brethren
  came with men from Judah; and I asked
  them concerning the Jews who had escaped,
  who had survived the captivity, and
  concerning Jerusalem.”- Nehemiah (Neh 1:1-2)

Nehemiah was living in Shushan (closed to border to Iran and Iraq) but his heart is in Jerusalem. He had to stay in the palace because he was the cupbearer of the King. He is a Jew of higher status, living a higher quality of life compared to his brethren.

Yet he had not forgotten Jerusalem or his brethren in captivity. Here we can see him asking about the people in Jerusalem. This is something that renew his faith often.

For we often to ask about shares, sports results and places to have fun but we would seldom ask about the house of the Lord. It appears as if we are not concerned and have nothing to do with it.

But a Christian ought to be concern for the house of God for we are part of Gods household. As Paul once said

“For through Him we both have access by one
  Spirit to the Father. 
  
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers 
  and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the 
  saints and members of the household of God, “- Paul (Eph 2:18-19)

Paul reminded us that we have access to the father through the Holy Spirit. We have access to God whenever we gather together for worship in the church.  Even though we may have our fair share of woes and trouble in our worldly life. But the Holy Spirit moves us to come to church and worship God.

Being members of the house of God, we ought to help each other. But it seems that some in the church of  Ephesus were behaving like strangers and foreigners in the house. But if we are members of this household of God, we must be concern for the wellbeing of our brethren we need to find out areas where we can contribute and help.

We need to learn from Nehemiah who asked about his brethren living in Jerusalem.

The Prayer of Nehemiah

  And they said to me, “The survivors who are 
  left from the captivity in the province are
  there in great distress and reproach. The wall
  of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates
  are burned with fire.”

  So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat
  down and wept, and mourned for many days; I
  was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.”- Nehemiah (Neh 1:1-2)

Here it tells us that when Nehemiah heard about the condition of Jerusalem. He sat down and wept for many days. He fasted and prayed before the Lord. For Nehemiah did not ask for the sake of asking, he was genuinely concern about the house of God. He was moved to tears and he cried when he heard the news.  

On the surface, it appears as if Nehemiah had the best of life in Shushan. Even though he is physically far from the house of God, but his heart is closed to it. He had a true concern for it and he knew that there is something he could do.

That is why he choose to leave Shushan and return to Jerusalem. This can be seen in his prayers.

“I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and
  awesome God, You who keep Your covenant
  and mercy with those who love You and
  observe Your commandments,  please let
  Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open,
  that You may hear the prayer of Your
  servant which I pray before You now, day
  and night, for the children of Israel Your
  servants, and confess the sins of the children
  of Israel which we have sinned against You.
  Both my father’s house and I have sinned.
   We have acted very corruptly against You, and
  have not kept the commandments, the statutes,
  nor the ordinances which You commanded Your
  servant Moses.” – Nehemiah (Neh 1:5-7)

We often ask ourselves how we could revive the house of the Lord and how could we rebuild the walls of our Jerusalem. Sometimes we feel helpless and we feel that there is nothing we could do about it. 

But in fact the first and the most important step is to pray for Jerusalem. That is what Nehemiah did , he prayed for Jerusalem, he did not complain about the sins of the others, he included himself among them. For He said “Both my father’s house and I” . He recognised their sin and repent from it. He asked God to forgive their sins first, and he asked God to keep the promise he had given to his people.

For God once spoken through Moses

but if you return to Me, and keep My
  commandments and do them, though
  some of you were cast out to the farthest
  part of the heavens, yet I will gather
  them from there, and bring them to the
  place which I have chosen as a dwelling
  for My name.” – Moses (Deut 30:2-5)

As Nehemiah prayed, he remains hopeful, even though the situation before them is not good, but the promises of God will stand. As long as they repent and return to God, God will fulfil his promise and bring them back.

It is important to have hope when we pray and that hope comes from our faith. For we believe in Gods promise that he will gather them back. From there they are comforted and strengthen.

If we only focus on our difficulties, failures and problems, then doubt will eventually overcome us. It will make us question God why he allowed these to happen. On the worst scenario it will make us think that God had abandoned us and rejected us.

But if we focus on the promises of God, we will continue to have hope, we will wait and we know that God will one day fulfil his promises. Nehemiah realised his commission and he knew how to pray. That allowed him to preserve his faith.

Having Prayers With Objective

There is one more point we can learn from the prayers of Nehemiah

“O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear
  be attentive to the prayer of Your
  servant, and to the prayer of Your
  servants who desire to fear Your
  name; and let Your servant prosper
  this day, I pray, and grant him
  mercy in the sight of this man.”- Nehemiah (Neh 1:11)

Nehemiah is clear about what he wants from the Lord. He wanted God to grant what he desire and he is open about the help he need from God. What is his objective? What did he desire? Who is “this man”?

He wanted God to help him prosper and to receive compassion from the King. He gave his reasons in chapter 2. Besides praying for forgiveness, Nehemiah had a plan he wanted to do and he wanted the King to grant him permission to do so. He needed the King to agree so that he could return to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall.

He had also considered the other difficulties he will face, and how it can be resolved. Some of these requires the help of the King. Even though he is sure of what he wants, but one cannot just walk up to the king and ask him for a favour

That is why he needed God to help him so that his plan would be successful. If the King does not grant Nehemiah the permission, nothing could be done. Therefore Nehemiah did not pray without an objective, he is clear of what he wanted.

It is important for one to tell his request clearly before the Lord. For that will require him to put his thoughts into it and filter his request. He will know those request which are incorrect or not according to the will of God. For such prayer requires us to learn to give up our desires and to fulfil the will of God.

Sometimes when we pray, we speak at our whims and fancies and we do not tell God what we really want. But the prayer of Nehemiah is one with a clear objective. It is also the reason why Nehemiah introduced himself at the end of Verse 11  

“For I was the king’s cupbearer.”

Nehemiah did that deliberately to remind himself that he is in the best position to speak to the King. For they needed the King’s help to rebuild the wall,and that is a politically sensitive request. For it will appear as if they wanted to rebel against the King and declare independence from the Persian empire. This would also give his opponents an opportunity to accuse the Jews of rebellion against the King.

Nehemiah needed the Kings approval to do it, and he knew he had the chance to draw near to the King, for he was his cupbearer. That was his opportunity to serve the Lord. Therefore he must take up responsibly and he knew that God placed him in this location to serve him.

Likewise today we need to be like Nehemiah to realise our commission as Christians before God. For we have received much blessing from God and we are blessed with many talents. We need to use this to build up the house of God and not waste them in self indulgence. We need to use the grace of God in the right manner. 

2nd Factor: Nehemiah saw the opportunity and seized it. 

“And it came to pass in the month of Nisan,
  in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes,
  when wine was before him, that I took the
  wine and gave it to the king. Now I had 
  never been sad in his presence before.” – Nehemiah (Neh 2:1)

Nehemiah understood his commission and he was sad about the condition of Jerusalem. But he was not reckless and impulsive. For as he started praying , he started to plan as well. He waited patiently for the chance to meet the King and he waited for many months.

It was Chislev in chapter 1 and now it is Nissan in Chapter 2. Four month had pasted that was when opportunity came knocking.  For the King saw his sadness and he asked.

“Why is your face sad, since you are not sick?
  This is nothing but sorrow of heart.”- King Artaxerxes (Neh 2:2)

Nehemiah became frightened, for it is not good to serve the King with a face of sadness. It may upset the King and he may have to be executed for disrespect. But yet this situation is also an opportunity. For The King asked about his sadness but did not rebuke him.

Nehemiah knew that God was working and he saw this as a opportunity given by God. That is why he replied

“May the king live forever! Why should
  my face not be sad, when the city, the
  place of my fathers’ tombs, lies waste,
  and its gates are burned with fire?”- Nehemiah (Neh 2:3)

His words moved the King and the King asked

“What do you request?”- King Artaxerxes (Neh 2:4)

While the opportunity is present, Nehemiah made a quick prayer to God. He had been planning for a long time, but he was not in a rush to tell the King everything. He was praying to God to help him, so that his words would be reasonable and pleasing before the King. He prayed that the King would grant his request.

Nehemiah did not learn to rely on his wisdom solely. he learnt to rely on God as well. This is something that is important.

For there are many who claims that they rely on God but in fact they depended only on their own intelligence. They carried out their own plans, and they act immediately.But Nehemiah was different, he did use his wisdom to prepare and plan for his work. But he also entrusted his plan to God and ask for the help from the Lord. That contributed to his success.

Some fail because of a lack of opportunity and some fail because of a lack of preparation. There are some who failed because they are unable seize hold of the opportunity, they allowed the chance to slip them by because they are unprepared.

When it is time to present the plan, they were unable to talk about them. We need to know that good opportunities do not last forever and time waits for no man. That is why we need to learn from Nehemiah. Even though he is unsure of how God would help him. He believed that God will guide him to complete the work. That is why he thought of the things he will need and the difficulties he will face.

The Importance Of Planning When Serving God

That is why when the King asked Nehemiah his request. he was able to seize the opportunity. For he had prepared himself and he was able to told the King of his plan. Let us take a look at his request in details 

“If it pleases the king, and if your servant 
  has found favor in your sight, I ask that 
  you send me to Judah, to the city of my 
  fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.,”- Nehemiah (Neh 2:5)

His first request is to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall. When the King ask him how long he would take. He was able to give him an answer (Neh 2:6). Nehemiah knew how long the journey will take and how much time he need to build the wall. So the King was glad and gave him permission.

From here you can see the importance of preparation work.

the second request is this

“If it pleases the king, let letters be given 
  to me for the governors of the region beyond 
  the River, that they must permit me to pass
  through till I come to Judah,”- Nehemiah (Neh 2:7)

His second request is to ask for the King for the permit to travel across the land. This is an important request. Even though the King may have given him the permission. But the officers along the way may not know of the Kings decree. Therefore he needed a proof of the Kings decree as evidence. That will allow him to past through the land to Jerusalem.

His 3rd request

“and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king’s
  forest, that he must give me timber to make
  beams for the gates of the citadel which
  pertains to the temple, for the city wall, and
  for the house that I will occupy.”- Nehemiah (Neh 2 : 8)

Nehemiah’s 3rd request is to ask the King for a letter to collect the materials for the construction of the wall. This is not a easy request, but a necessary and essential request. For if he were to gather the resources on his own, it would take a long time. But with the Kings help the work would be done easier. 

We know that building materials are essential for any construction. Even if one were to pray to God for help, he will not know how God will help. Alternatively he can pray to God to move the King to help. He will need to gain favour before the King.

The king agreed to all the request from Nehemiah and Nehemiah knew that it was the mercy of God that granted him success. But he knew that he need to put in effort and prepare for the work. Therefore we should do everything that is within our ability to, and then ask God to help us with matters that are beyond our control.

There are many Christians who have the misconception that relying on God mean praying and doing nothing. They feel that as long as they have faith, God will provide everything for them. They just have to sit down and do nothing and wait for a miracle to happen. But we know that it is not what the bible tells us.

Conclusion

The bible teaches that we ought to make all the preparation that is within our ability and entrust our plans to God. We need to rely not on our intelligence but to rely on God. We need to ask God for help just like Nehemiah. But Nehemiah did everything that is within his control, he planned and prepared for the work.

That is why when God led him before the King, he is able to finish his work. Let us learn from Nehemiah

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