Message Delivered by Timothy Tow over SBC on
12th January 1986

In spite of the recession and a forecast of zero growth this new year of
1986, Singaporeans are a resolute and resilient people. We are told to
develop a more enterprising spirit. So, here we go.

According to a Chinese saying, “Spring is the time to make plans for the
year.” So you young entrepreneurs are studying new ways and means to
revive your business. You are making an inroad into a new country this
year to make back what you’ve lost last year. ASEAN is too limited a
scope for a go-getting Singaporean like you. A new field to cultivate, this
year, is China, where all the people go! So far so good!

While we have the Chinese proverb that teaches us to plan ahead, here’s
another proverb well-known to the English-educated, “Man proposes, God
disposes.” In other words, human plans are good up to a point. There is
one overriding factor in the affairs of men and that is God. In all our
endeavours, do we consider the Almighty? Or do we think ourselves all
powerful and all sufficient?

The Apostle James does not think the way we do. In James 4:13-16, he
says, “Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a
city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas
ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is
even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or
that.But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.

All our planning is good, but, says James, let us not forget God, let us not
neglect to seek His will. Did we pray for guidance? Are our plans in
accordance with the teachings and commandments in the Bible, His Holy
Word? If a servant of God, a pastor or evangelist, a church worker or
missionary, an executive officer of a Christian organisation, serves God in
his own strength and by his own wisdom, with no reference to His Lord
and Saviour Jesus Christ, he is bound to fail. One famous saying of Dr
John Sung, China’s greatest evangelist who brought Pentecost to
Singapore 50 years ago, which I vividly remember, is this, “If a pastor
tries to make money on the side, he will go bankrupt.”

Once there was a young prophet of Judah who was sent on a mission
to the breakaway northern kingdom of Israel. He was instructed to
confront Jeroboam the rebel king. After denouncing him for revolting
against God, the young prophet from Judah is to return another way,
nor should he linger to eat after his mission is accomplished. Now
although this young prophet had done a good job in denouncing the
rebel king Jeroboam, he disobeyed God’s command by sitting down to
eat with an old prophet. For disobeying God by eating with the old
prophet, the young prophet was bitten by a lion. If our plan is clearly
out of line with God’s plan, we are bound to fail, and fail miserably.
Dear Listener, will you reconsider your plan?

The other consideration in James’ observation is the shortness of life.
Our life on earth is likened to a vapour. A Chinese proverb says that
our life is like dew in the morning sun. Job says that our life is like the
wind (Job 7:7). According to Moses, it is like a flood that comes
and goes suddenly. According to King David, it is at most a
handbreadth. Now, even if we stretch our hand span, we can extend it
but by only a few inches. Such is the shortness of life. It is therefore
foolish for you to plan your life, your savings, your property on that
long-term policy as if you are going to live on earth forever!

Another Chinese proverb says, “From time immemorial, for man to live
up to 70 is a rare thing.” Moses says exactly the same, but adds a little
consolation, “and if by reason of strength they be fourscore (80) years,
yet is their strength labour and sorrow, for it is soon cut off and we fly
away.” How up to date is God’s Word! According to the Straits Times
dated Jan 2, 1986, Japan’s women have a highest life expectancy of 79.4
years. For a Singaporean male, the same news chart gives a lifespan of
69.1 years. How old are you this year? Do you not see that there is no
stemming the tide of advancing age? And yet, you are planning this year
to make more and more money. But who will use this money when you
are gone? But I’ll live another 10 years, at least, you retort. How can you
be sure of ten years, when God’s Word says you can’t even be sure of
one year?

Have you heard the story of the rich fool told by our Lord Jesus? This
is recorded in Luke 12. As this rich fool plans in the early morning to
build bigger and higher, like the many high-rise buildings of
Singapore, God said to him in the late morning or early afternoon,
Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee: then whose
shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up

treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Man proposes, God

Dear listener, perhaps you are a Christian, but you have ceased
attending Church for years. Let me tell you, it is a dangerous situation
you are in by staying outside the fold of God’s people, and outside His
will for your life. No wonder all the plans you make, ever since you
left God’s House, have gone wrong. May I urge you to return to Him.
Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while
he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man
his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have
mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.For
my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,
saith the LORD.” (Isa. 55:6-8) Amen.

Editor’s note: This sermon still rings true today. With Singapore going
endemic amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, will history repeat itself?
Will men strike to make more money and make merry? “Eat, drink and
be merry, for tomorrow we die!” May God help us to truly number our
days in wisdom.

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew