Bishop's Message

Keeping our eyes on Jesus

Nov 2006    

THE past few months have been a difficult time for our Church and for me personally. Anonymous letters have been circulating about the bishop’s remuneration package, making various allegations against the Church and its leaders. Newspaper articles followed.

As a result, the Commissioner of Charities enquired the Church about this. We answered all their questions and supplied them with all the necessary documents.

We are glad that the Commissioner, after examining all the records, has come up with a statement that was reported in the press. We praise God that our Church and its leaders have been cleared of any wrongdoing, and the matter is closed.

Adversity helps to sharpen us, and we pause to learn the lessons that the Lord has for us. We regret the inadvertent administrative lapses, and thank the Lord that the matter has been thoroughly investigated and cleared by the government authorities. Our Church is not perfect and we are always open to improve the way we administer and minister. As bishop, I will do my part in assisting in making such improvements. Let us move on as the united Body of Christ to continue the good works that the Lord has enabled us to do in the Church and society.

Let us continue to pray for the Church and its leaders and members. It is the Lord Himself who has established His Church and the gates of Hades cannot prevail against it (Mt. 16:18). I want to thank the many who have been praying for the Church and for me.

May the Lord continue to guide and protect His Church, so that together, with faith, humility, unity and compassion, we can serve the Lord for the glory of His name. I write this to share my own personal experience during this difficult period and to encourage those who may be going through a trial of their own, whatever it might be.

When we suddenly find ourselves in a storm, our first question may be “Why Lord?” or “Why this?” or “Where are you Lord?” Often God answers our questions His own way, and He shows us that He is still around.

I found, in this situation, that God often sustains us through the spiritual disciplines. In our difficult moments, the Word of God becomes a special means of grace, when God speaks to us clearly. The Psalms became a special place of encouragement and refuge for me. In times of trial I have often found the Psalms helpful; this time they were particularly real. God’s voice is richly present in them.

Other parts of Scripture also came alive and communicated God’s presence and promises. In fact, I found so many parts of God’s Word speaking to me directly that I began to compile a list of passages that were particularly and clearly God’s word to me.

Many of them are very personal in nature. Sometimes God seems to be silent in our trials. However, often God gets through to us to assure, encourage, strengthen and challenge us. Besides the Bible, God sustains us through prayer. It is strange how we pray more when we face trouble. God often allows trials to draw us closer to Him, to deepen our love for Him, and to strengthen our commitment to Him. In trouble, we often pray more, and more fervently, but as we learn to trust God, the quality of our prayers changes.

IN DIRE circumstances, Paul wrote something quite mysterious – I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings… (Phil. 3:10). Paul knew that suffering deepened his personal knowledge of God. Somehow suffering sweetens the fellowship we have with the Lord; I have found this to be true.

It is in difficult times that the Church can also best reveal its nature as a community of God. I have been personally touched by the prayers of people, and by the encouragement from Methodists and others in the Christian community.

Many were praying; some even fasted and prayed for the Lord’s grace and mercy to be upon His Church. There are many largely unknown and “ordinary” Methodists who have shown me that they live a vibrant Christian life, quietly serving the Lord – they shared encouraging words from their own faithful devotional lives.

We may face different kinds of personal trials in our lives, but it is the same God who loves us and sustains us with His grace. He fulfils His larger purposes in our lives, making us holy and Christ-like, humbling us and strengthening us. He allows us to sail into storms, not because He enjoys seeing us suffer but because He often
tests our faith. Our ships may creak and be stretched to the limits; our sails may tear in a few places, but we come through the storm strengthened because God was with us, and the stuff of our faith, though sorely tested, is largely safe and intact.

In my study Bible I came across a phrase that I found helpful – suffering helps us to look upward and forward. Recently I came across a verse in the Bible that helped me to understand this even more deeply. For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear, I will help you (Is. 41:13). After reading the verse I was praying it into my life when I thanked God for holding my right hand with His right hand (Is. 41:10). The idea was that God was walking with me into the future as He guided me.

Then as I realised that it was an awkward way to walk together, a picture came to mind. If God were to hold my right hand with His right hand, then I had to face Him. I would see past Him into the past. I would then trust Him who can see my future and walk with Him – backwards – if I were to keep looking at Him. As I look more closely at Him, I would see reflected in His eyes the future that He can see.

I would be guided only if I did that. Surely, the writer to the Hebrews knew this for he writes, let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus… (Heb.12:1-2). How do we run the race by keeping our eyes on Jesus? It is possible only on the way of the cross as the writer explains. Sometimes, we learn such lessons best in storms.

EDITOR: For the full statement from the Commissioner of Charities, please visit the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports website at: http://www.mcys.gov.sg

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