In this day and age it’s easy to think of ourselves as in- vincible, where in the developed world we control our life and it’s all in our grasp if we fight for it. Growing up I stood by the idea that we shape our own fortunes that good things happen to good people who work hard doing the right things.
I had a vague idea of some higher being out there, but thought that was a genie, there to grant all my wishes. In year 8, a good friend of mine invited me to an event called RICE. It was at RICE where I first found out that the wish-granting genie has a name, Jesus and He isn’t there just to grant me wishes but He came to save us from our sins. At the time, though the message resonated with me, I hadn’t really understood it. What is sin and why did Christ have to save me from it?
I decided that sin was just something wicked and evil, something totally extreme and didn’t apply to me be- cause it’s not like I killed anyone or robbed a bank. I’m just an average person who tried to be good! Instead of being grateful that God reached out to us when He didn’t owe us anything, I was arrogant. God is doing everything wrong. Why is He allowing all the good people to suffer? Why does hell exist? Why is He so intent on punishing us? I thought God was just losing it. There are too many people in the world and we’re too complicated for Him to handle so this is why all this injustice is happening. I saw myself as greater than God.
Two years later, God showed me a glimpse of whom He actually is. When my grandpa passed away at the end of year 10 I thought I was mentally prepared since he had been very sick. However, actually standing there at his funeral and seeing his body in the casket changed everything. At the cremation, what I vividly witnessed was the body of my grandfather wheeled into the furnace, what came out was a tiny box of his remains. A life that ended in ashes.
It was the first time in my life that I had come into close contact with death and when I contemplated the magnitude of death, I was petrified. I could not escape it. Nobody could tell me what it would feel like. I had no idea what would be on the other side if anything, and was there any meaning in my life if I am going to die eventually. It was the first time I had come to terms with just how fragile we are, that despite all the
things we can grasp with our two hands, we cannot escape death.
It was with this consuming fear that I turned to the gospel. For the first time, I realised what Jesus was offering us an eternal life. The best part was that I did not have to do anything to receive it because He already paid the price in our place not because we deserved it, but because of His immense love for us.
It was also the first time that I saw my sin. Sin is simply, disobeying God. I saw my arrogance and pride where I believed myself better than God that I could live without Him. I was constantly trying to fill my insecurities with working for success, by paying attention to my appearance, trying to please my friends and parents. What I realised was that all that became a vacuum that consumed me. All these didn’t make me any happier or fulfilled. In- stead I became obsessed. All my happiness and worth depended on being skinner, smarter and cherished by the people around me. I’ve experienced how destructive this can become.
God shows me and continues to remind me that I should stop running away from the only thing that would truly satisfy me – an identity built not on worldly standards but on the love of Christ.
In Psalm 73:26,“my flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and portion forever.”
I am truly blessed to be part of Christ’s church. By church, I don’t mean the four walls surrounding us. I mean the people in it. To my friends, Joyce and Val who continuously invited the reluctant high school Ann into the community, my youth leaders and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who challenged me throughout the years to investigate my faith, I thank God for bringing you guys into my life.
To my friends who graciously took time to come today, even if you just came to see me drowning in a tub, you’ve all shown me the kind of love God has for us. I hope I told you a good story, not about me, but about God. I want to challenge you all, to consider God’s offer.
I can’t promise you that taking up God’s offer would mean a life of no troubles. What it does mean for me is that God is my stronghold, my hiding place, my place of rest and my first love.