How to Activate Your Faith

From "Altared", Claire & Eli
From “Altared”, Claire & Eli

“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:17 (NIV)

It’s easy to fall into that category of not doing anything. Of spitting out that catchphrase “I’m waiting on God.” Or that category of doing something crazy and saying, “I’m not waiting on God anymore.”

Perhaps you’re in the midst of a major life circumstance. Simple ones are easy – daily routine tasks that require no more than five seconds for us to decide. But there are the big ones that leave you staring into space, baffled on your next steps. These usually concern our career (or lack of), or relationships (or lack of), or family, or health, or finances. We’re more careful with these life challenges (or we should be) as the consequences could have a lasting impact on our life.

So how do you strike that balance between waiting and doing something? Of moving along with God and not moving behind him or before him? How do you navigate your way around these circumstances, from inaction to action?

1. Wait on God and be still.

Yes, this would still be the first step. Let me clarify this as this seems like the opposite of moving into action. Waiting and being still often conjures up images of not doing anything at all. Of just sitting around and waiting for an outside force to drop something good on our lap. But we’re also reactive people with a mix of hazy emotions and easily malleable by all the noise of people, things and influences around us. All of these easily confuse us and pushes us to do things that on hindsight were already veering us on the wrong track.

Thus, we need the silence. We need to re-focus our sights on what’s important and what’s real. And it’s in the silence and calmness that we can reconnect with our Creator to know His purposes for us.

Waiting on God is not simply sitting around. It means we need to pick up our bibles and align our life with His word. The psalmist recorded, “Be still and know that I am God.” All around him were troubles, of the earth giving way, of oceans roaring and mountains trembling. That’s a pretty scary sight. I would be anxious inside too. So it starts by calming ourselves and acknowledging that we have a BIG God out there.

2. Let wisdom guide your action.

After relating to us the connection between Faith and Action, James continues in the next chapter to tell us about Two Kinds of Wisdom. Our actions will stem from our perspectives and understanding. The wrong kind of wisdom is from our natural human inclinations. It is selfish and earthly, and only makes us do crazy things that mess us up even further.

The right kind of wisdom comes from God. It is “pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere”.

Ask yourself, will this new job or venture make me into a better person? Will it develop my skills and character? Will starting or continuing in this relationship be what’s best for the other person? Am I doing this to honor God, or only for myself or the money?

3. Just do something.

We may fall into the trap of not doing anything, paralyzed in fear that we may do the wrong thing. Or we may be faced with two good choices (good for you!) and we don’t know which one aligns with God. But we also need to know that God is sovereign and even at this very moment, He is leading us. So just go out and do something.

And while we may make the wrong choices (and we will make a few of them), know that He is a merciful and gracious God, who can redeem those circumstances and veer us on the right track. After all, it’s in making bad decisions that we learn how to make the right ones, don’t we?

So be still before God, seek His wisdom and just do something!

Remember, Faith always moves us into action.

“But someone may say, “You have faith, and I have actions.” Show me your faith without any actions, and I will show you my faith by my actions.” James 2:18 (ISV)

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Impatient and Restless

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It takes over in bouts and cycles. One minute, singleness is a season I’m thankful to be in – enjoying and embracing it like no other. But the next, I get restless. I think of the man I’m praying for and God’s perfect timing. Will he ever come? Is marriage a gift God will ever give to me?

I thought I had gained triumph and victory over this season. Being content and joyful in my present circumstances. And yet, random daily things reveal the impatience hiding in the inner recesses of my heart.

This is the yoke of singleness. 

It goes through peaks and valleys, through joys and struggles unique to it. Just like any other season. Just as in marriage. Just as in life.

 

Paul – The Single Man

Not even Paul was immune to it. In his letter to the church in Corinth, he talked of the hardships and sufferings he went through in preaching the Gospel. And this –

“Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin,and I do not inwardly burn?” (2 Corinthians 11:29)

This is as real as it gets for Paul in his single state. He struggled just as any of us do. He went through times of weakness, of loneliness, of burning inside.

But he pressed on.

Did he ever thought of giving up? Of leaving this for another life? Of coming home instead to a warm meal and soft bed, to a wife he can share his life with?

Perhaps. We don’t know.

But we do know that he continued to fight the good fight of faith. Perhaps he thought of these things, yes. But perhaps he also thought that none of these compared to the greatness of God’s mission for him. That what this life has to offer paled in comparison to seeing God’s glory in the midst of his suffering.

And just like Paul, I will fight the good fight of faith.

When my heart feels weak and restless, I will look to Jesus. It’s not a yoke of singleness or of marriage. There’s only one yoke that all of us share – the yoke of Christ. And He promised that His yoke is easy and His burden, light.

How can this be?

Because Jesus carries it for us. Let Him.

Celebrating Your Singleness

seasons

Dear Sister-in-Waiting,

I know.

I know it’s hard. I know the days can drag on. I know about all those lonely nights.

I’ve been there.

And I wish it wouldn’t be this hard. But there are days when your heart literally hurts, especially after meeting a promising young man, only for it to turn sour and find out he’s not the one for you.

I know.

And I know you’re tired of people telling you,

“It’s going to happen soon.”

“He’s coming for you.”

“Just be patient and wait.”

So I’m not going to tell you those. Because honestly, I don’t know.

I don’t know if it is going to happen soon.

I don’t know where he is.

And I don’t know how long you’ll have to wait.

So maybe you pray even harder. Read even more. And they tell you,

“Wait on God.”

“Jesus is your Husband.”

“Prepare for your marriage.”

All good advice. But it’s been a year. Or two. Or five. And hope is not what it used to be. It’s dwindling a little.

But I will tell you this:

This season too shall pass.

That I know.

I have been where you are. I read. I prayed. I met new friends. Potentials even. I was expectant. I had high hopes.

I guarded my heart. Took captive of my thoughts. Tried to think only of what was pure, noble and right. But I couldn’t. I thought of marriage. A lot. I thought of potential husbands. A lot.

But, nothing.

And then it hurt. And hurt some more.

But you wake up one day, and you’re ok. Literally, ok.

No longer panicky, no longer anxious. I had peace.

I trusted Jesus. I trusted God. If it is His will, it will happen. He wants this to happen more than I do.

So yes, it will pass. And you will enjoy your singleness like never before. You will see with new eyes, feel with a new heart. You will crave for God just as when you met Him as your First Love. You will want to know Him more, serve Him as He has called you to.

This season is a gift from God. No husband to care for. No kids to run after. Your time is your own. You can focus on your passion for singing. Take up painting. Watch your favorite episode of Friends. Go on road trips.

This is your life. It doesn’t start after marriage. Marriage does not define you. THIS IS YOUR LIFE.

And it’s great to be alive.

So it’s ok. Just hang on to God. With every bit of your might.

Because, my dear Sister-in-Waiting, this too shall pass. And what’s around the corner is worth waiting for.

Taking that proverbial leap of faith

Today is my last day of the year here in the province.

I still remember that day my father talked to me. It was exactly five days before Christmas. He asked to talk to me at 4. I wondered what it could be. But I tried to think nothing of it.

By 4 I went to his unit. He was eating an orange. He gave me money. “Just a little something to buy gifts.” I was elated. I thought, hey whadyaknow, I got cash. Cool! Little did I know. And then he went on to talk about the situation of the business in the province.

Our manager quit. We need someone out there. We’ve been sending people but it hasn’t been working out. Yadda yadda yadda. Yawn.

“I want you to head our division over there.”

Huh?

“You mean I have to live there?” Anxiety was creeping in.

“Why, do you have to be here? This is business.”

Oh the curse that plagues Chinese families. Duty. Filial piety. More than that God’s word kept ringing in my head. Hupotasso – submit to your authority. Honor your father and mother – this is the first commandment with a promise. I knew that this was from God. Obedience.

The next day my ticket was booked. By the second day of the new year, I started my new role as region head of our exporting business.

I knew that God wanted me here. For reasons I may never know. Perhaps to get me alone with Him. To help me unlearn things that were hindering me in my walk with Him. To expand my borders, take me out of my comfort zone. To reach out to people here, serve in His ministry here. It could be all these or none of it. Only He knows.

But one thing for sure, He revealed a very precious truth to me here – how much He loves me.

Before I left Manila, I met up with a church friend. She asked me why I am hanging on to God. I said, because it’s the only thing that makes sense to me. For her, because she knows how much God loves her.

It was all still head knowledge for me. After walking with him for over a year, serving in church, leading a group, attending various bible studies. So I prayed, Lord, make me feel your Love.

Now I can say this. God loves me. He has been faithful to me even in the smallest of details.

A lot of times in the course of operations here, I can only say, Buti na lang (Good thing!). Good thing the Lord provided. Saved yet again! If not, it would have been a huge problem for me. He did say, do not worry (Matthew 6:25).

He provided a family for me here – my Sunday family (see previous post Windows) and my church family. He knew I needed support.

He got me to do new things – drive (driving in Manila scares me), regularly attend gym (yoga!), take voice lessons (I’ve wanted to do this for a looooong time. I love to sing!).

God knows what He is doing. I love the words of Oswald Chambers, Let Him have His way. Yes Lord, have Your way with me.

I doubt that this will be the last of “pruning” seasons that God has set for me. He wants to pour me out like wine that He may use me. All of life He prunes us ’til we reunite with Him in eternity.

This has been my 2014. I have declared it my Year of Faith.

God, can 2015 be my Year of Love?

That one night in Shanghai

There’s this one night in Shanghai, that for awhile when I thought about it, sent chills down my spine. He was handsome, tall and surprisingly funny.

I was late for dinner. It was a casual night with two of his friends. When I sat down to join them, he informed me that one of his friends only spoke Chinese. Sure, I can hack that. So we chitchatted, codeswitching every now and then. Til finally he told me that his friend can actually understand us in English and Filipino! I was mortified! I squeezed his knee so hard. He paid for my dinner as a sorry gesture.

We talked while walking. And if my signals were spot on, I believe he flirted with me a few times. At the club, we danced for awhile. He grabbed my hands while dancing but I felt weird so I dropped it. The night went on and we danced with other people.

After awhile, I stood at the side just watching the crowd. He came by my side and asked if I was ok. I lightly leaned my head on his shoulder and said I was tired. And with the sudden gush of the crowds, we were squeezed tightly. I took his hand around my waist and he held me. We were wrapped in an embrace. It’s that typical scene when your heart feels like it’s about to burst and you’d like nothing more than to pause this moment forever.

I must have played that scene in my mind a thousand times.

I saw him briefly the next day. We talked on the phone a few times. Texted a few. But that was it. I flew back to Manila and he remained in Shanghai. Six months after, as destiny would have it, I saw him again in Manila, in church, serendipitously sitting at the same row I was.

He already has a girlfriend, I learned at dinner before the church activity he invited me to. I almost dropped the chopsticks in my hand.

“For how long now?”

“Six months.”

You do the math.

I was crushed. Heart shattering into a million pieces.

I asked God, why? WHY?! Why even bring him back to my life now?!

This story doesn’t completely have a sad ending.

When I got back to Manila, I wanted to join a bible study class because he was doing it. One of the phrases I commonly use, I heard him say: Where the Lord leads, I will follow. I was surprised to meet a man who had the humility to know that he needed God. I thought, here’s a man I could respect. That’s when I knew I wanted a godly husband for myself.

I believe God used him to water the seed in me. Not for the purposes of introducing me to my future mate but to lead me to Him.

That one night impacted me for eternity. It does have a happy ending. My heart broke but Christ picked up the pieces…every last one of them.

Godly/feminine

OK. I was going for something reminiscent of Crazy/Beautiful, but godly and feminine are not exactly opposite each other. Women ARE created to be feminine, that is by God’s design.

Whoa. That was a bit hard for me to swallow. I’m not exactly sure I’d call myself feminine. Having said that I am praying on marriage, it raises the question of how I am preparing myself for this ministry. Am I growing in godly femininity?

I went out on this blind date with a guy my sister’s fiance introduced me to. It was a double date as my sister and her fiance were also there. It was a bit awkward but I believe less awkward than just having the two of us and the chance of having nothing to talk about at all.

He was nice, really nice. The kind of nice carried with boyish innocence that was actually quite endearing. He made effort to start conversations which was a plus. But here’s the clincher. As we were walking towards the car, he asked for my number. As he was jotting down my digits on his phone, I teasingly asked him, “Do you even know my name?” He paused dead blank. I then yelled out to my sister’s fiance, “But he doesn’t even know my name!”

Needless to say, he didn’t have a need for my number after all. My friend said that I may have embarrassed him, even calling out an audience to witness his booboo. To my defense, I thought it was weird for him to sit through dinner with me and not know my name. He could have discreetly pulled his friend aside and asked for my name. But he didn’t.

Then again, I remember this article I read on how to honor your husband. One of the things NOT to do, as cited in the article, was to point out the guy’s mistake in public. Sure he’s not my husband, but it’s a way to honor a brother in Christ (not sure if he’s a believer though) or someone as well. I could have just graciously, and with a “gentle and quiet spirit”, told him my name.

In real humanly prideful fashion, I again wanted to justify my actions. I was just joking! Am I not allowed to joke now?! Am I supposed to just throw away my witty sense of humor in favor of femininity? But that would be like stripping away who I am! Who would I be then?!

“You are a child of God,” the voice said. My sense of humor is not a product of who I am in Him. It is a defense mechanism (think: Chandler Bing). Can you imagine Kate Middleton, Princess Diana or Grace Kelly – women who epitomize femininity – yelling out to embarrass someone publicly?

That settled it right there. I think humor can still live alongside femininity, as long as it is respectful, light-hearted and sensitive. Meaning there are no casualties.

I’ve always thought of that day when I’d have to submit to my husband and practice that “gentle and quiet spirit”. I was blinded from the fact that I had my chance right there. Now I know. Perhaps a few more lessons (or more more lessons – life is a never ending journey of learning) and I’m well on my way to truly being “a woman after God’s own heart”.

 

This season of waiting on marriage

I’ve recently kicked my prayers into high gear when it comes to marriage. I’ve been hoping and praying for it for years but it’s only now that I’ve come to that place of also trusting God about it.

There are many views when it comes to waiting on God for marriage:

1. Just wait for it. It’ll come. No need to do anything. You don’t find it. It comes when you least expect it.

My problem with this view is it’s passivity. Of course, you pray about it and trust God but you can’t expect Him to just drop it on your lap. There’s His role and there’s my role. It’s just like praying about finding a new job. You can’t expect a call if you haven’t submitted resumes and gone to interviews right? You have to do your part as well and leave everything else to God.

I’m reminded of this story from Eat, Pray, Love. There was a man who’s been praying to God to win the lottery. Everyday he would pray, Lord, Lord please let me win the lottery. Finally, one day God answers him: OK, but buy a ticket first.

Again, I refer to the term ‘stepping out in faith’. I expect and believe that God will hear me and guide me as I meet new guys and start dating.

2. Jesus is your husband. Just focus on Him and it will come.

Of course, this isn’t entirely wrong. Jesus is the groom and the bride is the Church. We ARE His bride. And it’s also true that we must focus all our being on Him – soul, mind, body and strength – til other people become mere shadows in light of who He is. But if we give off that impression to others that we’re in this super holy season of just between Jesus and me, then they might find this intimidating and may not want to disrupt this season for you.

It all boils down to what God is leading you to in this moment – whether to stay still or to move into action.

3. You shouldn’t want to get married, then maybe it’ll come.

This comes as a guilt feeling that wanting it is bad and you should feel content and happy to be single.

Enjoy whatever season you’re in, whether single or married, no doubt about that. But there is such a thing as holy discontent that leaves room for improvement. If our intentions for getting married is pure, that is to honor God and fulfill His will, then wanting marriage is not a bad thing. The danger is wanting it too much. Then it becomes an idol and that’s another thing you’d have to settle in your heart.

Marriage is a good thing. No less God designed it for His enjoyment and ours. But not everyone is called to it. It’s a gift, a blessing as with anything that He entrusts us with. Some are handed the gift of singleness, some with the gift of marriage. It’s all dependent on His will, that which will purify us and prepare us for eternity with Him. And marriage is not a passport to those pearly gates. A personal relationship with Him is, through Christ. Everything else is secondary.

Of naps, mom and faith

I recently took a trip to Singapore with my two sisters. It was a three day trip and we covered a lot of ground in the City of the Merlion. It was three days of walk, walk, walk. It was exhausting. Add in the heat and I literally just melted.

So whenever I get the chance to sit and be still (like during subway rides), I like to close my eyes and re-energize. Take pocket naps!

Problem was, my mom did the exact same thing. Anywhere. Literally. In the car, in church, while texting, while pushing the grocery cart. It was phenomenal.

My sister commented that I was like mom then. I gasped and shrieked in bloody horror. No way!

Then again, the week after at a lunch party of my sister and her fiance, I noticed that mom was quiet – her usual quiet self in the midst of new people. It was a meet-the-family kind of lunch, so we were seated with my sister’s fiance’s family. My auntie was there and she was her usual extroverted self, bouncing off other people’s energy. “Oh, Dal is usually quiet,” she commented at one point.

I saw myself in my mom right there. That’s exactly how I am when flanked with new people in a crowd. I shivered. Am I like mom? Will I turn out to be like mom – quiet, caved in, depressed, self-centered? You can probably smell my fear now.

But I don’t have to end up like mom. As long as I obey God and stay at the center of His perfect will, then I can live the fullness of life in Christ.

What exactly does that mean?

It means doing my part – stepping out in faith to meet new people, practicing warmth and hospitality to everyone I come across, always have kind words, be positive. And trusting God to do His part, lifting everything else up to Him – what to say in the awkward silence, the energy to participate, nice and receptive people around me.

And this is only for social situations. There’s a lot more work in me to remain joyful, patient, compassionate, merciful – to reflect all the fruits of the Spirit.

And I know I’ll never be perfect in this lifetime. Close to the perfection of Christ, perhaps. But someday, someday everything will be awesome in Heaven.