Our world is undergoing major transitions with geopolitical, economic and social changes. Nationalism and religiosity are on the rise and are dividing strong geopolitical relationships carefully cultivated over many decades after the Second World War. The continued conflicts in the Middle East, Brexit, America first policy have adverse impact on the world economy.
Digital technology is fuelling the Fourth Industrial Revolution, disrupting jobs with new business models as machines become more intelligent, taking over not just the mundane jobs but also knowledge based jobs too. Singapore, as a small country dependant on global free trade, is feeling the effects of this global change with a slowing economy.
It is with this background in mind that our Men’s Ministry had our annual retreat over the Labour Day weekend with the theme of Navigating Life’s Transitions. Rev Dr David Wong was our speaker and he unpacked life-changing lessons from the lives of the Old Testament patriarchs – Abraham, Jacob and Joseph.
Abraham is known as the father of faith with his sacrifice of his only son Isaac at Mount Moriah. Before he got to that high point, Abraham experienced two low points in Egypt and Negev where he lied not once but twice that Sarah was his sister in order to protect this own life (Genesis 12:10-20; 20:1-11). Abraham feared man (Pharaoh and King Abimelech) rather than God. He and his wife had to learn to trust God and His promises over many barren years. Isaac was conceived and born in his old age. His test of faith was to surrender to God’s will and sacrifice Isaac at Moriah. He believed that God was Jehovah Jireh (God sees and provides) and God would raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:19). Abraham understood that in surrendering all, he was able to fulfil God’s promise that his descendants would be a blessing to all the nations.
Jacob encountered God’s divine presence at two places almost two decades apart – Bethel and Peniel. In the first instance, he was running away from the wrath of his older twin brother Esau, from whom he cheated of his birth right and then his father’s blessing. At Bethel, he saw the vision of the heavenly stairway with angels moving up and down, and he heard God’s reassuring words that He would fulfil His promise to his grandfather, Abraham, and his descendants (Genesis 28:10-19). While running away from his scheming father-in-law and on his way to his hometown, Jacob wrestled with God at Peniel and would not let go unless he received divine blessing. His name was changed at Peniel from Jacob (grasper) to Israel (prince of God). Like Jacob, we may need to be wounded before we receive the divine blessing.
Joseph was an insecure young man who grew up in a family of insecure people (Genesis 37). He boasted in his favoured son status and was betrayed by his own brothers and sold as a slave. He grew to become the favoured slave in Potiphar’s household who was later thrown in prison by his master. He was forgotten by someone he helped in prison. Despite being betrayed three times, he was able to reflect in his old age that God allowed evil to happen in his life so that he could be placed in a position to do good for the well-being of God’s people. Joseph’s three seasons of training enabled him to understand that security was found not in his position or possessions but in God and God alone. Ironically, his imprisonment experience enabled him to free himself of his insecurities.
The transitions that Abraham, Jacob and Joseph experienced are not unlike what we face in the 21st century. Most of us have experienced challenges in school, finding a job, retrenchments, getting married, bringing up children, relocating to a new country, separating from or losing a loved one, struggling with serious illness or old age, retirement, etc.
What are the key principles that we can learn in navigating life’s transitions from the lives of the three patriarchs?
1. God takes us out of our comfort zone to encounter Him.
2. Outside our comfort zone, we can be open to change.
3. Outside our comfort zone, we can grow in our faith.
4. Surrendering to God with open hands before we can receive His blessing.
5. Security is found in neither position nor possessions but in God alone.
6. God is present even in the darkest night of our suffering.
What are the transitions that you are going through? Let us not be ruled by our fears and insecurities. Let us not grasp at position, power and possessions, all of which are temporal. Surrender them unto the Lord Almighty and experience His abiding presence of love, peace and joy.
Jim Elliot, the great missionary to the Auca people, understood the principle of surrendering all including his own life for God. His well-known quote is worth remembering: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose”.
May you experience God’s amazing grace as you navigate through your life’s transitions.