Saturday, January 4, 2020

The Already and The Not Yet

With the dawn of each new year, we get a step closer to the "not yet" - this world is not our home, but one day it will be. We live out our days in this sad world eagerly awaiting the new heaven and new earth - although Christmas is a reminder that the Kingdom of God is already inaugurated with the coming of Jesus Christ, the start of the new year is a yearning for the eventual consummation (the not yet).

What should our attitude be in this inter-advent period between the first coming of Jesus and the soon second coming? The apostle Paul in Romans 12:12 (ESV) has three precise exhortation:

"Rejoice in hope"
During the holiday season, joy and merry-making marks the atmosphere (and with Chinese New Year around the corner, it will also exude the same feelings too!). Yet, what is the source of our joy? Joy must be fueled with a source that is external to ourselves, a source that causes us to yearn for an eventual delightful outcome. In other words, repeated experiences of joy is rooted in a hope that is secure. That is the reason why Paul could trumpet confidently, "Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say rejoice! (Philippians 4:4) - this despite the fact, he was writing from a prison cell.

When there is a lack of joy, do not ask - "Why am I sad?"- instead, reflect - "Where is my hope?". With each passing year, we who are Christ followers, have hope in that eventual reunion of all reunions in that blessed marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9). My hope is in Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) This gives me reason to rejoice indeed!

"Be patient in tribulation"
One thing is for sure - there will be trouble in 2020. Despite all the well-intention wishes, difficulty and stress will come your way, for sure. The challenge of living in this "already and not yet" period of history is that God does not act according to my timetable and my milestones on how things should work out the way I expect it to work out! In fact, my period of testing and suffering seem to lengthen with each passing year. How can I be patient if I cannot see the light at the end of my tunnel?

When you are impatient, do not ask - "When is God going to fix this?" - instead, reflect - "What is God saying through all this?". It is not figuring out what God is doing but what is He saying. In every tribulation, we exercise patience not by gritting our teeth in a stoic posture but by removing all distractions that clogs up our spiritual ears. "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains" - C.S. Lewis. Do not underestimate the Lord's personal message to you in times of personal pain. He is patiently working out His will in your life (Philippians 2:13) - be patient and allow Him to continue constructing your character to the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29).

"Be constant in prayer"
Prayer is one of those subjects that we talk so much about and yet act so little upon. I find it instructive that Paul here talks about consistency in praying rather than intensity in praying. Personally, I find it easier to attend an all-night prayer meeting (hoping to stock up my spiritual reserves for the year) compared to consistently praying and interceding for 30 minutes each day. Think about it - why does our new year joy fizzle out quickly and we become impatient at the first sign of impending tribulation? - could it be that we have neglected the devotion of prayer?

When the apostles were faced with increased leadership workload of the new church, their leadership decision was not to attend a time management course so that they can do more! On the contrary, they re-committed themselves to the basics and refuse to be distracted (even by worthwhile tasks). Instead of attempting to do more, the apostles wisely appointed seven deacons to take care of the pressing needs of the congregation while "we devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:4).

In your area of responsibilities, do not ask - "What can I do more of?" - instead, reflect - "How and who can I pray more for?" Your public life of ministry is only as strong as the private life of your prayers.

Trust that the exhortation from Paul to "rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation and be constant in prayer" will be a set of helpful watchwords for you as it has been for me.

Thanks for partnering with us in this journey of joy.

Joseph, Debra, Eliza & Eunice.


  1. Thank you. This is so encouraging and timely.
    Praying for your time there...

    1. Hi Meng -Thanks for your prayers. May the Lord continue to reveal more of who He is in the midst of what He has called you to.

  2. 3 points sermon. Preach it.
    The theology is getting into you more and more. I am glad to see the progress you made.

    1. Hi Pastor! I wrote the above as a way to summarize my devotional reading for that day. Never thought of it as a potential sermon 😀