‘Not’ realizing there was a promised land
By Mike Teo
Incredibly slim change.
My eleven siblings and I were raised in a hokkien family that worshipped Chinese gods and ancestors. We were not permitted to follow any other religions. I can remember each morning, I would wake up to the smell of incense burning and greeted by the sight of various sizes of idols statues. Our home was like a miniature temple. Growing up in such an environment, the chances of ever hearing the gospel—let alone believing it—seemed incredibly slim.
All my life I lived under the influence of the decisions of my parents, the influence of society and peer pressure. When I was a teenager, I was deeply self-conscious about how people looked at me and what they thought of me. I began shaping my life in a manner that would fit comfortably into their world in order to please them.
When I became a young adult, I was heavily involved in the competitive society, constantly running the long and tedious rat-race. The desire to fit in continued to influence me and I became very self-seeking. In my pursuit of success, I was willing to do whatever it took to achieve the things that most Singaporeans dreamed of and desired. I grew proud in my accomplishments, but I was ignorant of my pride. I thought I was always in the right and I wanted to learn only for self-gain. God was far from my mind. There were several occasions when a few close friends tried to share the Gospel with me but I politely turned them away.
Then disaster struck. A medical crisis struck my son. Things started to fall apart. The next two years were the most difficult of my life. I had to leave my job in order to be with my son who was going through depression. The problem seemed insurmountable. No matter how hard I tried or do, I could not restore peace and harmony back into my family.
Then my sister invited my family to a Teen Youth Camp that was held by “The Fishermen of Christ’ Fellowship” (“FCF”). I was reluctant but I accepted her invitation. It was there that I heard a Christian sermon for the first time. I was both surprised and confused. The speaker mentioned that coming to know God was not simply about behavioural modification or doing more of what was right and less of what was wrong. It was about how God loves us, how He wants us to have sweet communion with Him and have a personal relationship with Him; about changing our hearts from loving ourselves, our sins and the world to loving Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of the world that sinners may be saved and draw close to God once again. I could not comprehend this truth the first time that I heard it. It sounded so unreal, so impossible. Nevertheless, with a self-centred intention, I continued to send my children to FCF for Sunday School Classes and Worship Services so long as it helped with my son’s medical condition.
Sunday after Sunday, after sending our children to FCF, my wife and I would then proceed to do our weekly shopping. I treated it like sending them to one of their week-end recreation classes. My thinking was “my kids are the ones who require extra lessons, not me”. I did not realize that it was me that was truly sick and it was me who needed to be healed.
Then in December 2010, my family was invited to FCF’s Annual Bible Camp in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. It turned out that the camp was a rewarding, inspiring and life-changing experience. I heard sermon after sermon, group sharing, discussions and praying sessions. Initially I felt very uncomfortable in the group sharing and discussions. I was reluctant about sharing my feelings in the discussions and felt very uneasy and awkward in the praying sessions. To me all these activities were weird and unnatural.
As the days went by, listening to the sermons gave me a lot of peace. I began to have an understanding why such group sharing and praying are needed. At the end of the camp, we were gathered together in the hall for the final sharing before breaking of camp. Hymns were sung and words of praises were given to the Lord. It was at this moment, sitting in my chair and listening to brothers and sisters giving their thanks and praises to God that tears suddenly filled my eyes. I cannot describe the feeling. But it was so emotional and so “tear-jerking”. Being prideful, I quickly wiped the tears away and pretended to yawn.
After coming back from the camp, I started to go Sunday Service regularly at FCF. However, due to my stubbornness, pride and busy lifestyle, it took another two years of wrestling with God before I began to attend Sunday School classes. From those lessons, I began to learn how precious God’s Word was and started reading my Bible. One passage that I read that encouraged me was “ be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Rom 12:2
Slowly, God’s Word began to change my heart – a heart that was so deeply rooted in the way I used to live and think. Finally I received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour. I remember laughing to myself the first time I heard of how the Israelites spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness. I thought to myself: how could anyone spend 40 years wandering in the wilderness? But then it struck me that I had been wandering away from God for 40 years as well! I am so thankful that God did not give up on me for the past 40 years but kept drawing me to Him until I understood the truth and importance of the Gospel message.
Now I no longer fix my eyes on this temporary life but in the life to come. I desire to draw close to Him, to develop an intimate relationship with Him. I believe that His grace is sufficient to provide me strength during trials and temptations in the second half of my life, and that His grace is sufficient to heal all the wounds and traumas in my life.
I was baptised on 24 May 2015. I can see how God is working to change me. I realised that I don’t have to do things on my own because God is with me. I’m learning to constantly rely on God for His strength and guidance in dealing with day-to-day challenges and difficulties.
My desire is “one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Phil.3:13,14