Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

We have heard this phrase a thousand times and have quoted it even more. But have we really – I mean, really – stopped sweating the small stuff?

I am a worrywart. Yup, that’s me! I believe it has something to do with personality type and temperament. Perhaps most of you are familiar with these personality and temperament tests. Well, I have taken a lot of them, and more than once, too!

My mother was a worrywart at some point and a neat-nick! She passed away several years ago but her “discipline” is ever present with me and my sister. Just to give you some of her “household tips”:

Ø Clean the house, furniture and windows everyday (they should always pass the “finger-swipe test”).

Ø Clean and wipe the soles of all shoes (everyday) before keeping them.

Ø Arrange all bottles, cans and boxes according to height and with labels facing out. This is also applicable to items in the refrigerator and bookshelves. Keyword: Aligned.

Ø Items inside all cupboards and cabinets must be neatly arranged at all times.

Don’t get me wrong – she was a good mother and never really gave us a hard time with these things. She just did them and set the example for us to follow. But she did worry if these chores were not done according to her well-planned schedule!

Needless to say, my sister is the mirror-image of our mother in this area. I believe they coined the words “worrywart” and “neat-nick” in the first place! Me, I’m just a faded reflection of that image – but with a striking resemblance, nevertheless.

My sister never left her dishes undone and worried endlessly about them – until she realized it wasn’t worth the effort. Her health and well-being were ultimately more important than a stack of dishes left overnight. Well, at least one night!

I’m getting ahead of myself here, but let’s just say she began to realize that there was more to life than getting her house in order. There will always be chores to be done – they just never end! It’s a vicious cycle that sucks the fun-life out of any housewife. True? Life has its priorities and we just need to figure out if our priorities are aligned with the eternal priorities like expressing love, preserving relationships and appreciating the wonders of creation.

So what if unexpected (and uninvited) guests come and find your dirty dishes dripping with spaghetti sauce all over the table and kitchen sink? Have a good laugh and tell them what a wonderful blessing it is to have spaghetti all over the place! Even Italy doesn’t stand a chance!

So what if you’re caught by your friends in the middle of sorting through your junk and you look like you need some major personal dusting yourself? Strike a funny pose in front of the mirror and start asking them why today’s fashion never caught up with yours. It might even get them going on some unique styles of their own!

So what if your husband and kids don’t put back their stuff in their proper places once in a while? You can always make a project of it and share the clean-up experience. Or you can always ignore it (for now) and decide to enjoy their utter dependence on you.

So what if some people like you and some don’t? That’s reality. It’s not a pleasant thing, but it’s just how things are for now. We cannot always be people-pleasers – we’d rather be God-pleasers! I know I would!

So what?

So, don’t sweat the small stuff!

The world will continue to turn and life will go on whether we worry or not.

There is more to life than getting yourself buried under needless worry!


My Purpose – A Lifelong Journey of Faith

One of the more frightening experiences for me years back was when I was asked a question that directly and unmercifully confronted my beliefs, ideals and the very reason for my existence. But even more daunting was, I did not have the answer to it! A very fundamental challenge was thrown at me and I was completely unprepared to tackle it. Worse, I felt like the whole world was watching when I dodged the challenge! What humiliation I felt! It was all about pride and the fear of being placed in a very tight spot where there seemed to be no escape. And as a human being, I was not an exception to either one.

When asked a few years ago what my purpose in this life was, I thought very long and hard, mentally reviewed all the sermons I heard in my lifetime (and maybe even came up with something quite witty), and tried to recall some well-known and oft quoted Bible verse that somehow explained the whole concept in just a sentence or two. Surely there was a quick answer to this one, or so I thought. It was a simple enough question and a “true and faithful” Christian would certainly know the answer. Well, I didn’t. The Bible, too, would surely have the answer and all I needed to do was pray, flip the pages, keep my fingers crossed (if my fingers were still up to the task) then miraculously end up with THE page that would have the answer I seek. Well, this never happened either. The question of purpose was not one that popped up frequently in my daily conversations and it was certainly not something I intentionally thought about then, much less pondered upon, until fairly recently.

In this world of fast food, express counters and instant noodles, I sometimes cannot help but desire some quick and easy answers to some really tough and painful life questions. My journey as a Christian has been, and still is, full of challenges and not a few heartaches scattered here and there. While I would never exchange my life in Christ with any other, I would have to admit that there were many times when I felt like giving up the fight. These were the times when I saw no light at the end of a very long tunnel, no pot of gold at the end of what seemed like an endless rainbow, and no God beyond the vast sea of clouds. These were the times when I fervently desired and sought the “quick and easy” solutions to my problems. And these were the times when I began to ask myself what my purpose in this life was, but was too afraid to seek the answers.

Before all these, however, I experienced much happiness and peace growing up. I grew up in a God-fearing home where many prayers were said before meals and at bedtime, and good values were taught and lived. My mother was a faithful Christian who loved the Lord with all her heart and devoted the latter part of her life to serving him full-time. My father was a good man and strove to be the best provider he could be. And my sister continues to be a faithful servant of the Lord in another part of the world. The Bible was very much a part of our lives growing up and stories of David slaying the giant and Noah building the ark to “save all the animals” were favorite bedtime stories. With this relatively “spiritual” background, I learned how to pray early on and learned some things about Jesus’ life and love for all of mankind.

I had led a relatively secure and “hassle-free” life, with the very painful exceptions of my father and mother passing away several years ago, and my only sister having to leave the country to be with the man she married. God has been gracious to me. He has allowed me to experience wonderful relationships and build good memories despite the great loss. And not so long ago, he gave me a very loving husband who is now a pastor and who faithfully serves Him. The Lord has also allowed me to be part of a very fulfilling ministry and to belong to a community of believers who truly love and serve God. I can easily recall more joyful moments than sad. But most of all, God has allowed me to experience Him, his grace, mercy and unconditional love, even at a very young age.

But looking back now, those happy experiences were there to prepare me for some of the pains of life that were yet ahead of me. After all, a Christian’s life is one that experiences Christ’s pain and suffering on the one hand, and his joy and peace on the other. And as I reflected on all these experiences, some important realizations and life lessons came to mind.

Some of the important lessons I learned were that if I wanted to know who I really was and what my real purpose in life was in the light of God’s word, then I would need to look long and hard at myself. I would have to be completely open and honest with myself, even if it meant having to be confronted by some very unpleasant facts. I would have to accept all my faults and weaknesses, and surrender them to God for his forgiveness and redemption. With these in mind, I realized that there was one thing that seemed to cripple me and hold me back from truly experiencing all the joys in life that were there for the taking; from entering all the doors of opportunity held open for me, and from giving all I had to my family, friends, and to the one I called my God. It was fear.

Fear paralyzed me and claimed everything that I felt was “rightfully” mine. I was always one step short of reaching my goal, of claiming this prize, or of achieving that award. I was too afraid of failing and of getting hurt that I just could not let go. I always seemed to tell myself that things were sometimes too good to be true and that something has got to give. It came to a point where I doubted God and his faithfulness and questioned his good intentions and purpose for me. If God wanted me to be happy, if he desired that his children have life and have it abundantly, then why did he take away everything that really mattered to me – my family, my job, and my sense of security – and allow me to experience so much pain that there seemed no point or purpose for living? I did not ask for riches. I did not desire to conquer the huge corporate world and be the big boss. But I obeyed him the best way I could, faithfully prayed and studied his word, actively served in church, and tried to love and forgive others. Is this not what true Christianity teaches? Was I not living it? Was this not my purpose in life? Why did God and those I loved the most abandon me? Why was I always so afraid?

As I struggled with these thoughts and with the pain for many years, God brought me to a place of isolation. It was just the two of us, “face to face”, with all our cards laid out on the table. He placed all my doubts and fears right in front of me and gently but firmly told me to confront them. One by one, my doubts crumbled before me. My fears chided me but were erased with such power that the slate was wiped clean. I was left with no defences before my God and my fearful heart was laid bare before him. God’s overwhelming love washed over me and cleansed me, and my life is now forever changed. He asked nothing but my total surrender. He sought nothing but my love in return for his. After all, he gave his one and only Son to die for me. His words rang loud and clear: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out all fear…”[1] God’s perfect love truly cast out my fears. They are not all completely gone, but my God is completely faithful.

And so my journey of faith with the Lord drastically changed course – and it deepened. It had begun many years before but it was only beginning to deepen in so many ways. God showed me that my life was not all about me. It was not about my dreams, ambitions and desires in life. Yes, God desired everything that was good for me, but our definition of “what was good for me” differed in so many ways. Again, I was reminded of his words: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”[2] Had the Lord not stepped in many times in my life, I know I would be lost. Had he “given up on me” – as if his great love ever could – death would surely be my only destiny.

But God had other plans for me, plans that would bring me life and not death. The Almighty God had an almighty plan – and it included an insignificant ME! He states it clearly in his word: “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”[3] Just when I thought it would be impossible for God to change my wayward heart and messed up life, things began to change and the pieces of the puzzle began falling into their rightful places. God began taking away all my other sources of security and taught me to depend solely on HIM. Every job I ever held brought me more financial hardship than prosperity. It became a pattern in my life and it was almost tragic! My pride in my intellect, education and other academic and work accomplishments did not mean anything to the Almighty and all-knowing God! He did not need my resources and he certainly did not want anything I considered my own in order for him to do his miraculous work in me. And even more shocking to me, he did not want me to “succeed” in this world – not in the way I understood success to be. Instead, God wanted me to succeed in Him!

It was a long and bittersweet experience as God lovingly but surely took away everything that hindered me from surrendering my whole life to him. He wanted ME – my whole life, my whole being – nothing more and nothing less. He showed me that he could and would provide for my daily needs, and even the desires of my heart according to his holy and perfect will. The Lord could do all these even without the security of a job that could eventually take me away from HIM and his purpose for me. He gave me a husband who is now my “family”, who would provide well for me, and who would dedicate his life to serving the Lord full-time. And God showed me that he wanted me to serve HIM as well, by loving and serving my husband and serving alongside him.

God has been truly gracious. Just when I thought that my sin would forever condemn me, HE forgave me and washed me clean. Oh, the joy I felt in my heart to be given a fresh start – a new lease on life! My heart wanted only to sing his praises and dwell in his house forever. Psalm 40:1-5 became a joyful reality in my life and the song in my heart:

1I waited patiently for the Lord;

he turned to me and heard my cry.

2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,

out of the mud and mire;

he set my feet on a rock

and gave me a firm place to stand.

3 He put a new song in my mouth,

a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear

and put their trust in the Lord.

4 Blessed is the man

who makes the Lord his trust,

who does not look to the proud,

to those who turn aside to false gods.

5 Many, O Lord my God,

are the wonders you have done.

The things you planned for us

no one can recount to you;

were I to speak and tell of them,

they would be too many to declare.”

Indeed, blessed is any person who makes the Lord his or her trust! God has shown me what his true blessings are. He has allowed me to experience his love and peace even in the onslaught of trials and tests. He has given me joy in pain, peace in suffering, and hope in darkness. He brought his praises to my lips when only tears would fall and I am now forever grateful to my God. My purpose for living had suddenly become clear – I was made to worship and praise the Lord! Even the angels praise the Lord day and night (Revelation 4:8-9)! In all things and in all circumstances, I must worship and praise him. I may be rich or poor, successful or not by the world’s standards, but I must still worship my Lord anyway – in any and all circumstances. This is now the prayer I say daily and hope to live by. The almighty and sovereign God is worthy of our praise (1 Chronicles 16:25). Anything less than this is simply not enough. If I call myself a Christian, then I must live by that great name and praise HIM who loved me and died for me.

I am now a new creation with a new purpose. By God’s grace, I am now “crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me”.[4] I no longer desire what the world can offer if it would mean my alienation from God and his people. While material wealth can and does help alleviate physical suffering, it no longer holds me captive to its worldly charms. I now look at it as a tool that God uses in the hands of his people – hopefully, for HIS holy use. I no longer define “success” as acquiring material wealth, achieving a high status in life, gaining recognition and accolades, or accomplishing MY goals in life.

God has also graciously taught me what true contentment really is. The phrase, “godliness with contentment is great gain”[5] is now very clear and real to me. It is a lesson God continues to impress upon me everyday. Waking up to a brand new day with my sweet and loving husband beside me, eating simple yet wonderful meals, looking out into our garden and watching God’s power at work in the things that breathe and grow – oh, what a delight it is to rest in the Lord! The world’s pleasures begin to fade as I reflect on His awesome creation before me. Now, I ask myself again, is this not what Christianity is all about? Am I not living out God’s purpose for me? Yes, now I can say that I am. But there is more to it than simply enjoying God’s blessings on my own, and God is merciful to once again bring me into another aspect of his purpose for me.

There is a world out there crying out to God for his mercy and saving grace. He has forgiven me, he has loved me so much, and he has given me so much more than I can ever deserve. And now God is telling me to love the world as he loves me! There is no excuse and I am not an exception. All the pain the Lord has allowed me to experience is but a small drop in a very large bucket of world suffering. Can I make a difference for God? Maybe not, but HE CAN make a difference through me! I may have to face big battles to follow him, but I have an even bigger God who will fight them for me! I need not be afraid anymore. The Lord has conquered my fears and he will more than make up for my weaknesses, for he has said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”[6]

I should now live my life as a conduit of God’s blessings to the world he so loves. God has commanded us to “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…”[7] If I desire to sincerely worship and praise God, and if I claim to love him, then I must obey him. The task is daunting, but it is more than achievable because God has already declared his victory in Christ. “Death has been swallowed up in victory”[8] and God “gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”.[9]

As I worship and praise the Lord, I must also share his awesome love and saving grace to those around me. As God so loved the world, so must I also love the world and pray for the nations that have not yet heard of Jesus Christ and his gospel. I need to pray for and support all efforts toward preaching his gospel to the whole world. God expects nothing less of me and he continues to give me all I need to develop a heart that beats for the world. I can no longer bask in his love and enjoy being saved while the rest of the world groans in agony under the oppressive veil of the enemy.

God’s mission needs to accompany the purpose he has given me. And if I continue to surrender to his will and obey his command, he has promised to be with me always, “to the very end of the age”.[10] What an awesome promise! Surely this is what I, and everyone else God has created, was born for! As I read about God’s blessed hope for all of mankind who, in the end, choose to obey him, I cannot help but shiver in anticipation: “…and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore, encourage each other with these words (italics mine).”[11] How I long for this time! How I long to be reunited with my parents and with the rest of my family, and to see the world worship and praise God! And how I long to dwell in the house of the Lord forever! But while I live on this earth, I must learn to encourage others with this hope that God has given me.

Should anyone come up to me now and ask me what my purpose in this life is, I will no longer be afraid. I will no longer hesitate and look around me for the answers, nor will I pretend to be witty, and flip through the pages of an invisible Bible. This is no longer about my pride. I can no longer deny God’s grace in my life and the wonderful things he has done for me. I am still on a journey of faith with the Lord, and I know he will continue to reveal his purposes for me as I grow in his truth and love. But for now, God’s purposes for me – to worship and praise him, to share his love and gospel to the world through the power of his Holy Spirit, and to dwell with him forever – will give me the boldness to speak, coupled with the humility to acknowledge His powerful work in and through me. This is my prayer. This is my purpose.

[1] I John 4:18, NIV

[2] Proverbs 14:12, NIV

[3] Hebrews 11:40, NIV

[4] Galatians 2:20, NIV

[5] I Timothy 6:6, NIV

[6] 2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV

[7] Matthew 28: 19-20, NIV

[8] 1 Corinthians 15:54, NIV

[9] 1 Corinthians 15:57, NIV

[10] Matthew 28:20, NIV

[11] 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, NIV

When God Defines Your Success

One of the greatest needs of mankind is to achieve. Whether it is material wealth, fame, peace, prosperity or a sense of self, we all feel the need inside to accomplish something that is of some worth to us and even to others. We plan and prepare to accomplish our goals from the moment we step out of high school or college to the time we reach retirement. And each time we achieve a goal, we feel successful and accomplished, ready to tackle the next one.

But what if, somewhere along our highway of goals, we encounter a divine roadblock? Often times this roadblock comes without warning and appears every so often in our journey. When God steps into our lives and begins to steer us along His path, do we readily follow? When God begins to reveal to us His master plan for our lives, do we willingly submit or do we insist on our own plans?

What happens when we let God define our success?

I have had to struggle with these questions for many years. Society has conditioned my mind into believing that real success is all about getting the best education, the highest grades, the most prestigious job, and all the perks that come with it, including a hefty savings account and insurance. While these are all good, they are not what define real success in God’s eyes.

To be sure, I looked into God’s blueprint for success – the Bible – and found only 3 passages (there may be more that I might have overlooked) that use the word “successful”. They are Joshua 1:7, 2 Kings 18:7 and 2 Chronicles 20:20. All three passages speak of God’s servants who obeyed His commands and had faith in Him. These were God’s prerequisites for success! And what is success? “And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook.” (2 Kings 18:7 – first part; italics mine)

Knowing for sure that God does not define my success the way I used to and other people do gives me much relief and comfort. To have the Lord with me in all my undertakings already ensures my success! To have Jesus Christ in my life, to know Him, obey Him and trust in Him makes me a successful person. To live a life of active faith despite the struggles and heartaches that befall me along the way pleases the Almighty (Heb. 11:6). Can there be anything more rewarding in this life than pleasing our God? Can we be any more successful?

God gives us all the opportunity to be successful in this life. But we also need to realize that we cannot and should not hold on to our own plans for success as if our lives depended on them. God knows our hearts and if we willingly surrender all our goals and plans for our lives to Him, He will guide our every step so that His eternal goals and plans are accomplished in us. Now that is real success!

In the words of King David, “Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.” (Ps. 40:5)