I remember when I was younger, when I was still in University. As a guy, 90% the time we think about is how to impress girls. What to wear. What to say. How to act. In fact, my friend and I bought this eBook on how to get the girl of our dreams. It is all about how to act like the alpha male in the room. The book gives every detail from what to say, what to wear, what flowers to get, how to play her emotional side to win her heart. We have to dress to impress. Of course, neither of us got our dream girls (or any girls).
Our world is like that. We live to impress others. We build up our CVs or resumes to impress our next potential boss. That’s how the world looks at us. They look at your credentials. Even within the Christian circles we sometimes act like that. Which seminary he goes to and what degree he got. He didn’t have a Masters of Divinity? Clearly he cannot be a pastor. How big is his church? How many people attending?
A few nights ago, I woke up with this thought. I realized that when God looks at us, he doesn’t look at what we accomplish. Our credentials mean nothing to Him. The world looks at our credentials and evaluate how good we are. We look at our accomplishments and see whether we are doing good. For God, He looks at our heart and our obedience to His calling. God looks for our closeness to Him. Union with Christ is way more important than work for Christ. In fact, work itself without union always lead to pride.
It reminds me of the Rich Young Ruler. In the disciples’ (and the world’s) eyes, he is one that God should favor. After all why not? He follows all the commandments. He kept every single one of them. He dressed to impress. But Jesus told him to give up one thing he cannot part with. His possessions.
God is looking for those who are willing to abandon all to follow Him. Like Matthew, the tax collector, when the Lord told him to come, he left and go.
As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.Matthew 9:9 (NKJV)
I had a similar experiences with the Rich Young Ruler when I was in Singapore before we came to Uganda. I told Wai Jia (many times) that I will miss Singapore because everything is so efficient and comfortable. I have to give up a lot! In Uganda, I will have no air condition, no mobile internet, and no fast food. You would think that I learned this lesson when I left Canada to Singapore. It was a lesson I needed to re-learn. It wasn’t easy. Some people think it is. But it isn’t. But easy or difficult shouldn’t make a difference. The end of the day is whether I obey to Him or not.
So Samuel said:
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.1 Samuel 15:22 (NKJV)
Imagine how silly it would be if I choose not to go to Uganda, given that the Lord opened many many doors for us. Imagine how silly it would be if we told everyone, ‘well we decide to stay in Singapore because Cliff cannot miss his fast food.’ It does sound silly.
I believe that there are many in the church like the Rich Younger Ruler. There are those who are great at serving the Lord. They might volunteer in many ministries, tithe regularly and attend every prayer meeting. But their heart is far from God. They love their things so much that they do not want to give it up. So they ‘bargain’ with God through sacrifice.
The irony is that when God has our heart, the sacrifice will come freely, gladly and with joy. Someone who is filled with the Holy Spirit and a disciple will give and help without reservation.
We are now six weeks into Uganda. What I never expected is the peace we have here. Yesterday, my friend asked me if I am lonely in Uganda. To be honest, no. I feel so joyful and peaceful. Are there challenges? Of course. But Wai Jia and I know that we are here because God sent us. We are here because we are laboring for His Kingdom. So we labor and we sweat (much like our morning exercise!) but we do it with joy knowing that we are obedient to Him. We know what we invest in His Kingdom no one can take it away! Right now, it is silly to think of those apprehension feelings I had back in Singapore. Had I known how I feel in Uganda right now, I would ask God to send us here faster!
At the end of the day, it is our heart, our connection with Jesus and obeying to Him that all it matters. With that, we will flowing out with streams of living water. Everything else is just a show to soothe our ego and show a fading world our credentials.