Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 28 Dec 2010
“To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue. “ (Prov 16:1)
MAIN POINT: Four Positive Learnings from the Year 2010. Four ways to find meaning through the past year.
For the past 10 years, I have used the last week each year to do an annual reflection of my own life. This year is no different. In fact, when I told my senior pastor about my intention to take a personal reflective retreat, he invited me to preach about it. Last year, I declined so that I can be with my family down at Seattle for the New Year street party bash. This year, I thought I should accept the challenge. My reflection this year is essentially a search for meaning.
I have been writing SabbathWalk for the past 2 years, and it has been very helpful as I take a day a week to simply share my spiritual journey, a process of ‘Sabbathing.’ As part of my doctoral thesis, I want to use this SabbathWalk to encourage my readers to take the Sabbath seriously. God created the world in six days, and he rested on the seventh. Should we as his creation not do the same?
Searching for Meaning
In one Bible Study recently, I shared with my group the need to beware of the 3Ms in modern society. The first is the temptation of Money/Materialism. This age-old threat continues to wreak havoc on the spiritual lives of many, replacing the need for God with the wants of materialism. The second is the threat of ‘Me-ism,’ where individualistic concerns overwhelm community care. The third M is basically the threat of Multiplicity, which I describe as a dizzy array of distractions from technology, busyness, and all manner of care and concerns. In our modern world, it is this third M that is a major threat to our spirituality. We cannot find meaning in any of the 3 Ms. Meaning can only be understood through the Word of God. Meaning cannot be found in Money, or self-fulfilment via Me-ism, or the huge array of multiple distractions in technology, business, or knowledge. While these 3Ms are stuff I want to avoid, there are four things I want to embrace.
1) Wise Up
We need to learn wisdom each year. This year, like many others has their share of ups and downs. accomplishments as well as mistakes, the important thing is that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past. When we learn from mistakes, we will benefit from the past.
My year began with an unwitting foray in a consulting business started by a friend. I was invited to provide some business expertise, even being offered promises of a share in the enterprise. The owner is a believer in Christ, and has tried to offer me a way to use my talents. What began with promise ended quite mysteriously. Without warning, I was dropped. I was left to wonder why.
I learn that I need to wise up, regarding trusting people. In business, even among believers, things do not always work out. There is no need to mourn over a failed business relationship. Indeed, man may plan out, but the meaning behind each plan comes from the LORD.
Though I was hurt by the whole arrangement, I learn that I need to re-focus on my core skills, and not be distracted by failure. Learning from failed business relationships teaches first-hand how messed up the world is. What we plan does not always come out the way we wanted. Christ didn’t say that Christian businesses all become 'successful' but for believers to be faithful. Wise up but press on.
2) Give Out
My giving has not been regular since I began my theological journey. After all, if I have no income, how can I tithe? While I have given the Church a substantial amount of time and talent, serving in many different ways, and offering hospitality to visitors and friends, there is still something very unique about monetary giving. Recently, I re-started my tithing, and it has re-energized my faith. I learn that giving is an act of faith and worship.
Earlier this month, I decide to forego my purchase of a new electronic gadget upgrade. The money saved goes directly into giving to a needy cause. Instead of building up my collection of technological toys, perhaps, the money can encourage someone who needs the money more. After issuing the payment to this charity, a few weeks later, I received a gift card from someone else. Issued in my name, it is an EXACT amount that I had given away. What is particularly intriguing is not only the amount but the manner in which I feel God is speaking to me.
I learn that we express our faith through giving. When we practice giving, God is pleased, and He will encourage us in very unique ways. Giving is an act of worship, and it should be a mark of every disciple of Christ.
3) Learn Within
Soren Kierkegaard once said:
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."
This insight is so applicable when we reflect upon our lives. For me, the past year has been full of goodbyes. A member of my Church describes it well when he talks about attending 5 funerals over 3 weeks. It reminds me that I am not getting any younger. When I look at my children, my nieces and nephews, I cannot help but feel a sense of getting old. My father passed away few months ago. As the eldest son, I have a heightened awareness of responsibilities. I remember the words of my father that my family is not one that should seek fame and fortune. How precious these words are. In fact, it is very Christian.
I learn to be glad about living a quiet life. There is no need to seek fame or great fortune. More often than not, if it is the Lord’s will, fame and fortune will seek us. For me, seeking Christ must remain first and foremost.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
I should not be discouraged when the things I do are not recognized for fame, or paid back in terms of fortune. Instead, what I do for Christ, I need to learn not to expect earthly returns, but heavenly accumulation of Christlikeness.
4) Gratitude Always
Finally, I thank God for a year. For all its beauty and ugliness, its hello’s and goodbyes, its joys and its sorrows, this is the same world that God loves so much. He comforts me when I am sad. He remains my anchor of hope when all things seem to be at the mercy of the winds going out of control.
I give thanks for the group of men faithfully meeting in my Church. They came out strongly each fortnight to study the book of Job. While not everyone attends, the enthusiasm of those who are present are contagious. I give thanks for the small group of faithful readers to this blog, and for those who regularly encourage me in my writing. I give thanks for my family and friends who are there for me in my darkest moments.
I learn to be grateful for those who are present, and are faithful, and not be distracted or discouraged by those who are absent.
Let me end the year with a prayer.
“Dear heavenly Father,
Thank you for Your faithful guidance through the year. You have taught me to wise up and to learn from mistakes. You showed me that wisdom is often learned in hard and challenging times. You taught me about giving. You showed me what it means to be reflective upon the cause of Christ, and the cost of following Jesus. Despite the ups and downs of the year, you call me to remain faithful and thankful. True meaning can only be found in You alone. Lead me away from temptations, of materialism, of Me-ism and of Multiple distractions in life. Give me what I need. Not too much or too little. Just enough.
Help me to learn that Your will is for me to learn to attain wisdom, to give and share of my gifts, to reflect on your goodness, and to be thankful. Within each of these ways are precious glimpses of You as a Person. May the New Year be filled with more opportunities to learn from You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.“Sabbathwalk wishes all readers a Meaningful New Year.
Thought: While it is said that "Man proposes, God disposes," perhaps the following is better. "Man may plan , God always has a better plan."
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