QnA Hard Times
By Rev Timothy Tow

One of Your Sheep Writes to Pastor

I’m writing in such a manner because the idea just came to mind. As you know, life
is hard these days. Being one of your sheep, may I request that you would speak
more on how Christians ought to deal with life’s difficulties.

You know making it to each Lord’s Day after a harrowing week at work is like a
miracle. Then the next day is back to another day at the battle –field.

Pastor, I’m sure many of us would be most grateful if you could speak a word of
encouragement from God’s Word on how to handle stress, pressures of work
deadlines, wicked people that take advantage of others, uncertainties, etc.

The people outside are very different from those we meet in church. Please kindly
provide messages that would energise us to face difficulties. Many young and new
Christians would surely learn and benefit from it. Thanks.
God bless, — Lifer of BPC

Reply to One of My Sheep

Thank you very much for your letter to remind me of the hard times in which
we live. “Stress, pressures of work, deadlines, wicked people that take
advantage of others, uncertainties. People outside are very different from those
we meet in Church.” These are like flood waters rising higher and higher to
drown you, yet you have kept yourself afloat by attending Church each Lord’s
Day. I must congratulate you for this.

In times like these, with reduced CPF and paycut, and increased amounts of
work, it is natural to feel stressed and pressurised. But Christians can face any
circumstance because the Lord is with us. Who could say he is more pressurised
than the Apostle Paul? Read the catalogue of trials and ordeals that he went
through in II Corinthians 11: 24-30: “Of the Jews five times received I
forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I
suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings
often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine
own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the
wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and
painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold
and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon
me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is
offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things 
Which concern mine infirmities.” What is Paul’s secret in overcoming these
stresses? In Philippians 4:12, he says, “I know both how to be abased, and I
know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be
full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” Thus, he can enjoy a
good meal when invited out to dinner and he can take it when he becomes
penniless. Such a situation he experienced when he first came to Corinth. Did he
now blame God for poverty? No, he worked with his hands, a tentmaker by
attaching himself with Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:1-3). In Philippians 4:13
Paul concludes, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
And he further testifies in Acts 20:33-35, “I have coveted no man’s silver, or
gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto
my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things,
how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words
of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Why do we become over-stressed? Perhaps we have tried to do a five-talent
man’s job when we are given two or one talent. I’ve known of a Lifer who was
paying monthly for a second house which he bought for investment. When the
economic crisis fell on S.E. Asia, July 1997, he had a hard time servicing his
housing loan. This is just one example. I have known of another Lifer couple.
Both husband and wife bought a bungalow house. They told me they had to
forgo their lunch to help keep up with the monthly payments. What is wrong
with staying in a modest three-room HDB flat? As Christians, we should be
content with whatever talent we receive from the Lord’s provision. We should
never try to keep up with our neighbours, the Tans and the Lims. “But godliness
with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world and it is
certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be
therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare,
and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and
perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted
after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many
sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:6-10).

Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures
upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through
and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor
rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal…Therefore I
say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall
drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat,
and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither
do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are
ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit
unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the
field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you,
That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore,
if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into
the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take
no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we
be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father
knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and
his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:19-20, 25-33).

The heart attitude determines whether we conquer or are conquered by our circumstances.
There is a saying from Bunyan, “He that is down need fear no fall, He that is low, no
pride.” Jesus our Lord, gave us not only His life-blood but His riches in all good things for
us. “ For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your
sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. ( 2 Corinthians 8:9).

Outsiders are wicked people that take advantage of us. That was what I experienced when I
left school and went to work. Even among colleagues.

How shall we face those who are sharks, and in the Bible they are called wolves? “Behold,
I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and
harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16). To live among wolves, we must be wise and alert,
but we don’t adopt worldly tactics. We are harmless as doves. God will protect us. Thus,
the Apostle Paul who says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”
was kept from all the wolfish wiles of the Jews. By his appeal to Caesar he was given a
royal ship to take him all the way to Rome, which fulfilled his holy ambition. “Surely the
wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain” (Psalm 76:10).

Although we are pressurised from all sides, by our unkind bosses, by overload of work, by
wicked men, even among colleagues in office or factory to take advantage of us, we must
thank God for His sustaining grace. The greatest of all is life, a healthy and strong body, a
good wife and filial children. Above all, the saving of our soul. “Count your blessings,
name them one by one.”

– – T.T