Pastors are continually open to public evaluation. Preach nine good messages and one blooper, and some people will remember only the message that bombed. Walk past a deacon without acknowledging him, and you might rankle his feelings. And if a disgruntled church member begins some gossip, a little leaven could leaven the whole lump.

We’re also under pressure because few members of the congregation know the demands of our schedules. One pastor asked his deacons to outline how they thought he spent his time. Although he was working a seventy-hour week, they had difficulty coming up with a forty-four week. We’ve all laughed at the child who says to the pastor’s kid, “My dad isn’t like yours – he works for a living.” But it hurts just the same.

Such perceptions, whether true or false, can wield awesome authority over us. If we are self-conscious, always wondering how well we are liked, we’ll soon be slaves to the pulse of our popularity. We will do everything with an eye on our ratings.

At that point, we’ll lose our authority to minister. “The fear of man bringeth a snare” (Proverbs 29:25). We’ll desire to remain neutral in disputes, trying earnestly to agree with everyone. We will not administer church discipline for fear of criticism. We’ll back away from any unpopular stand, even when it’s right. Many pastors are intimidated by confrontation.

I’m not saying we should be insensitive. We’ve all met the pastor/leader who takes pride in “not caring what anyone thinks” and callously disregards the feelings of others. I’m talking about a lack of boldness even in matters that are clear in the Scriptures.

When we’re overly sensitive to what others think, we’ll also live with guilt – the nagging feeling that we could being doing more. Since by definition our work is never finished, we then carry it home with us. My wife would tell you that sometimes I’m not at home even when I’m physically present. I’m preoccupied with the pressures of the day and the ones I’ll face tomorrow.

In the process, our faith is eroded. Christ directed this question to the Pharisees: “How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” (John 5:44). The desire for human praise and the faith to minister cancel each other – seek the one and the other eludes you.

Our Lord was free from men’s opinions about Him. Though He cared what they thought because He knew that their eternal destiny depended on whether they believed in Him, His actions were never calculated to gain their praise. The will of the Father was all that mattered. If the Father was pleased, the Son was pleased. That was why He was just as content when washing the disciples’ feet as He was when preaching the Sermon on the Mount.

I’ve known pastors who were like that – surrendered, secure, and free from actions motivated by a desire for human praise. They felt no need to prove themselves or be in the limelight. No grudging admissions about other people’s successes – just freedom and joy in the work of the Lord.

What characteristic could we expect if we were brought to such a place of surrender?

We would not let people push us into their mold. We all live with the tension between what we are and what others want us to be. We’d like to fulfill the exalted expectations that many people have for us, but we can’t. If we know ourselves realistically, both our strengths and weaknesses, we’ll not think that we are God’s gift to every human need.

Christ faced this tension, too. After He fed the multitude, the crowd sought to crown Him king. But He went off by Himself, refusing to consider the offer, even though He knew that this was a disappointment to His followers. His miracles generated expectations He simply could not fulfill at the time, for it was not yet time.

Yet before His death He could say He had finished the Father’s work, though hundreds of people were still sick and thousands more had not believed on Him. But the pressure of those needs did not blur His vision to please only the Father.

H is for Hong Hao’s Happiness

I want to thank God for guiding me through my teenage years and now, as a man in his twenties, I would like to praise the Lord for what He has done for me. Of course, there are too many things that happened in the past 20 years to thank God for, so I would like to highlight some of the spiritual milestones in my life and the people who helped me grow in faith.

Thank God most importantly for His salvation and keeping me in the faith.

Thank God:

For Aunty Dorcas who invited me to a camp where I first heard the Gospel preached to me, and for her stedfastness in bringing me the Gospel and nurturing me in the faith after I trusted the Lord.

For Shomerim, the fellowship group that helped keep me in the faith when I couldn’t go for the Sunday worship serivce, and while I was drawn away by the world. In particular, it was Amos, Caleb, Alan and Nick who had Bible study with me in the western part of Singapore to build me up in the faith. Also, I’m grateful for Ernest, Desmond and Nick, who, in recent years, have become my close companions, listening to my endless complaints/whining and aided my growth in the Lord.

For the Church camp in year 2006; the  topic was “Life in the Spirit”. Hearing the messages preached by Dr Tow convicted my heart to live for the Lord.

For the 2008 Kemaman mission trip, my first mission trip, where I saw the importance of reaching out and following God’s command of spreading the Gospel.

For Ebenezer, the fellowship group that helps me grow in faith and allows me to serve God. For its members, whose endless zeal for the Lord encouraged me to strive on and serve God better.

For all those who took care of me while I was young and not so young, those who gave me rides back home, those who offered me advice about life, those who texted me and encouraged me when I was down and far from the Lord, those who set up godly examples for me to follow, those who laboured with me in serving God and for those who prayed for me.

I thank God for blessing me so abundantly when I was a teenager. Looking back, there are certainly many things I regretted doing, and also not doing ~ “but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13b-14

If my life on earth is threescore and ten, then I’ll have 50 more years to come. I pray that I can serve the Lord better in this remaining 50 years and glorify Him till He comes.

Thankful to God,
Brother Honghao