Wisdom – More than a Word

When you think of a ‘wise person’, who typically comes to mind? Some may suggest ancient philosophers such as Socrates or Confucius, or perhaps influential figures, like Gandhi or Mother Teresa. All the people I’ve mentioned are known to have given wise advice on life, and many look up to them. However, what exactly does it mean to be ‘wise’? More specifically, what defines wisdom?

Wisdom vs Knowledge

Okay, side tangent here. A common misconception about wisdom is that having knowledge is the same as having wisdom. Although it doesn’t necessarily mean that someone who is knowledgeable can’t be wise and vice versa, it is important to point out that there is a difference between the two. Knowledge refers to information or skills that we acquire over time, whether that be through learning or experience. On the other hand, wisdom refers to an understanding of life and the ability to make the “best” decision.

However, as humans, we have our limits when it comes to wisdom. 

What is wisdom?

Cambridge dictionary defines wisdom as “the ability to use your knowledge and experience to make good decisions and judgements.” However, as humans we have a limit to our knowledge – any extent of knowledge we have would always be restricted to our mortal self. The greatest human wisdom can never fully reach the divine completeness of true wisdom, sourcing from God Himself.  As John Piper says, “The greatest human wisdom — with all its factual knowledge, and all its situational insight, and all its necessary resolve — will sometimes be thwarted in achieving its intended, righteous goals, because only God has the power to guarantee the success of his wisdom.” God’s wisdom is beyond our understanding. (Romans 11:33)

Rich in wisdom

The reason that gaining wisdom is important, especially as believers, is that it is the path by which we can gain true and lasting happiness. As Proverbs 3:13 says, “Happy is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gets understanding.” Proverbs 24:13-14 also gives this advice,”My son, oeat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste.Know that wisdom is such to your soul; If you find it, there will be a future,and your hope will not be cut off.”

So, how can we receive godly wisdom?

Wisdom starts with humility. It starts with recognising that, as humans, our wisdom is nothing compared to God who is wise. When you humble yourself before His Word, He will instruct you. However, we need to remember that wisdom is not simply an instant transformation. God will give if you ask. Although knowledge is an important and vital part of life, we need to remember that wisdom is not necessarily a product of such. Rather it is a daily, lifelong process of growth. 

The Reality of Sin

What is sin? If you search it up, Google defines sin as “an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law.” A transgression is basically an act that goes against a rule or law. But what law do we follow? Who defines what’s “right” and “wrong”?

Before we go into what or who our standard of righteousness is, let’s go back a bit and discuss why we sin in the first place? What does being “sinful” mean? 

We all know the well-known story revealed to us through Genesis, where Adam and Eve, the first humans God created, sinned against God by eating the fruit He specifically told them not to. The consequences are that they are banished out of the Garden of Eden,  and because humans have fallen into this wickedness called sin, the once intimate relationship with God is lost. As humans, we are born with a sinful nature. Sin is a condition or state that we are all stuck in. Our hearts have been tainted, and we have turned away from God. 

So back to the question. What defines as “right”? Since we humans are sinful, we cannot decide for ourselves (Proverbs 3:7). So who is our standard of holiness? 

God is holy. When I say “holy”, I don’t mean it in a light-hearted way. God is the definition of holiness – and because God is holy and righteous, He hates evil. 

Not only because God is holy and righteous that He hates evil, but because He is good and loving, and a good God will hate evil. Once we truly understand the seriousness and danger of sin, then we will realize the helplessness of us sinful humans.

Because what’s the point of asking for salvation from God when you don’t know the reason why you need salvation? 

Dig a little deeper

A few years ago, my dad and I were in the backyard, where we spotted some roots slightly pushing above the surface. Apparently, these roots were the remains of a tree that had beencut down before we moved in. On the surface, the roots looked pretty small and flimsy; however when we pulled them up, there was a good amount of root revealed, much larger than I had expected. 

And I guess it’s a bit like that with sin. 

We all know the “obvious” sins that we should avoid. However, the more dangerous sins are the ones that we do without realising. They slowly build up until it’s too late, and before we know it, we have fallen into the spiralling hole of temptation and have become slaves to sin. As Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” As sinners, our rightful and just punishment is death. And thisreality is truly terrifying. 

Hope 

But that’s not the end of the story. Because we are born with a sinful desire, it’s impossible for us to be perfect. But there was one human who lived a perfect life. Galatians 2:16 tells us that we can be justified before God through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross as our spotless and pure sacrifice, instead of facing God’s wrath. 

And this truth is what makes Christianity different to other religions. All of Christianity’s principles are based on the fact that Christ has done it before us. 

Of course, that doesn’t mean receiving salvation will suddenly turn you into a “holy” person. In our everyday lives within this sinful world, we will certainly face temptation and fall into sin. And sometimes, there will be times when we don’t know what’s right or wrong. Therefore, when we understand why we need salvation, the more willing we are to ask God for strength to obey His will and for the Holy Spirit to work in us. And the more we obey God, the more we are able to discern the right thing to do.

Romans 6:11 tells us, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” That’s how we, as Christians, still can have hope despite the reality of sin. The closer we get to God and to understanding His character and being transformed by it, the more we will also hate evil. 

One Word at a Time

Life’s pretty repetitive.

 Wake up in the morning, hurry to get dressed and eat breakfast, and then hurry out the door to make your way to school. Growing up in a Christian family, regularly going to church, and reading devotions, whether morning or night, have always been like part of an expected everyday routine – sometimes even seeming like a chore. But then, sometimes, we see people who actually find delight in studying God’s Word for lengths of time and who seem to be more “spiritual” in their faith, although it may seem so hard for us to do. 

So, why is bible study so important?

Quite some time ago, for Bible study, we read the book, Transformed by Truth (by Katherine Forester- I recommend reading it for yourself). The book was about the importance of reading the Bible especially as teens, and how to study the Bible in your personal time in practise. 

The book mentioned that reading the Bible is like visiting a beautiful natural area, like. From inside the car, you can still see and enjoy the spectacular view; however, unless you go out of the car and experience it yourself, you’ll never fully enjoy the view.

And it’s the same with the Bible. The Bible is full of God’s instructions, commands and promises, but if we don’t understand it or meditate on His Word, the Bible becomes mere words on a page. Psalm 119:9 says, “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.”  The Bible gives God’s children instructions to guide us as we live as lights in this temporary world.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 adds, “ All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  that the man of God[a] may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 

The Bible is like a lamp in this dark world full of temptations and snares, it guides us onto the right path. 

Perhaps during a sermon or maybe you saw a quote about God, have you ever wondered whether it aligns with what the Bible says? 

The best way to find out is by actually experiencing the Bible for yourself. Although other sources, such as books and commentaries, are helpful in growing in your faith, it is only by studying and experiencing the Bible yourself that allows you to discover God’s truth for yourself. So, how do we know what is true while reading God’s Word? 

God reveals Himself through the Bible, however our eyes must first be opened.

As Christians, we are told to read the Bible regularly. The Bible is God’s way of communicating to us.  It’s like building a relationship with someone – how can you become closer to someone if you don’t talk to them and get to know them better? 

When we study the Bible, we grow in understanding of His character and promises. Throughout the Bible, we see God, everlasting and almighty, constant and the absolute standard of truth, good and beauty. When we grow in understanding of His character, we are able to truly worship and exalt the glory of God. As John Piper puts it, “The Bible itself shows that our ultimate goal in reading the Bible is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation.”

It’s not easy

Personally, one of the hardest things to overcome when starting to study the Bible is the distractions

Especially as teens, the world tells us “life’s too short – so just enjoy it!”

We’ve got enough text analyzing to do at school,  so why should we study the Bible in our own time? We listen to pastors preaching God’s Word; that should be enough, right? 

The Bible’s not just for pastors, it’s free for us to read and study for ourselves.  We tend to take for granted  the easy access we have to the Bible, with online versions available for free if you don’t have access to a physical Bible. 

Priorities

Of course, it’s not easy. I, myself, admit that I don’t always prioritize studying God’s Word, compared to homework, assessments or my free time. However, by relying on God and having a heart willing to be taught by God, we can grow in our understanding of God’s word and find joy in reading the Bible, despite the world’s temptations.  It doesn’t have to start big, like analyzing a whole book. 

However, that doesn’t mean that it will be easy either, and that you’ll be able to understand the Bible all at once. As you study the Bible, we need to beg for God’s help and, only by relying on God’s strength and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can explore God’s Word for ourselves. 

Eliana (Anju) Tambunan (14) is one of the writers for RE Generation-Z. She strives to share and spread God’s Word and what she has learned from it to other teens. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, drawing, sewing and attempting to bake new recipes.

Another year ending…

We’re nearly there. Only a few more days until the end of 2021, and we enter the new year of 2022. 

Looking back at this year, 2021 definitely came with unexpected turns, especially with COVID and lockdown. Just like every year, lots of things happened, both good and bad. When reflecting on this year, we should give thanks to God for His blessings and guidance.

Personally, looking back at this year, the first thing that comes to mind is how precious time is. Even if it may not seem like it at the moment, time flies quickly. Things change. We grow older. Especially with this year and lockdown, things don’t always go the way we expect. Life is unpredictable. But despite the uncertainty of the future, let us find comfort in our God, who never changes and is in control. Despite the sufferings we may encounter in our lives, Jesus Christ is the Shepherd that leads us through dark times. 

If we look back at 2021, how have we used our God-given time? How did we spend almost four months stuck at home during lockdown?

I’m sure many of us can relate to having procrastination as a problem in using our time, especially during lockdown, and with everything being online. It’s easy to be distracted by more enjoyable activities such as social media, texting, and games instead of doing our responsibilities such as schoolwork, chores and devotions. If we ask ourselves honestly, “Would you rather spend time on social media or Youtube or read and meditate on God’s Word?”, what would we answer? 

As humans, we are born with a sinful nature — it’s been that way ever since Adam and Eve first sinned in the garden of Eden. It’s painfully obvious that we have a tendency to prefer worldly enjoyments instead of God’s truth that He gives us. However, this is not the end of the story. 

In Psalm 119: 33- 36, the psalmist prays to God, “Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees,

that I may follow it to the end. Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart…Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.”. Without God’s help, we cannot have a willingness, let alone understand His Word, to help us grow in our faith and apply His Word to our hearts. When we truly understand the value of the Bible, we will find joy in God’s Word. 

After a while, our everyday routine of going to school and church every week will become repetitive, and we fall into spiritual sleepiness. This reminds me of my devotion the other day about being spiritually asleep. 

Christ is our Saviour, which means there is something, a “danger” we need saving from — sin. However, do we feel that there is a danger that we need saving from? Or are we spiritually asleep and unaware about the danger of sin?

As soldiers of Christ, we need to be watchful and awake. Christ has defeated sin on the cross, and as Christians, it is our duty not only to distance ourselves from sin but to ‘kill’ it. But as humans, isn’t that impossible?

That’s why we gain strength to kill the deeds of the body from the Holy Spirit — not from our family, friends or even selves. He is the only source of strength that we can depend on in this journey of sanctification. As soldiers of Christ we need to use the whole armour of God, that we can stand firm (Ephesians 6:13). Satan is always awake and ready to tempt us. During our lives on earth, we need to stir ourselves up and be ready so that we do not fall under the Enemy’s temptation. 

Growing in God

Salvation isn’t just about going to heaven instead of hell. Rather, it’s about a growing relationship with God. If we are in Christ, God’s work in us is ongoing. So during this year, how has our relationship with God changed or grown? 

A growing faith only comes from a union with Christ. But first of all, what is faith? 

Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Faith must always have an ‘object’ and that ‘object’ must be true. The Bible tells us that the one and true object of faith is Jesus Christ. 

A sign of a person with growing faith is a spirit of prayer, with a willingness to obey God. Even though as humans, we still sin in our time in the world, true faith drives a person to obey God. As we grow in our faith in God, we should not just read the Word of God as part of a routine. Rather we should learn and meditate on His Word and ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit. It is through learning we can produce fruit.

Looking towards the future

But in the end, what’s the point of it all? The pleasures of this world are temporary, and so is our life on this earth. So what is our purpose?

As is said in Westminster’s shorter catechism, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” How are we using the time God has given us?

Quoting from Dr. Stephen Tong, a Reformed pastor and evangelist, “When we return to the Lord, some will be judged with an empty worthless life. But others will present many fruits. Which one will be you?” May we ask God for His guidance in the upcoming year of 2022.

The Potter’s Handiwork

I’m sure you know what a potter is and what they do. A simple way to put it would be a person who moulds or creates ceramic ware out of clay. And this type of potter is mentioned in the Bible, which God uses as a metaphor for His relationship with His people.

If we go to Jeremiah 18:1-10, God instructs Jeremiah to go to the potter’s house. Some context first. Jeremiah was an Israelite priest who God called in Judah to warn the people of Israel of God’s judgment for breaking their covenant with Him, committing sins such as idolatry.

So in Jeremiah 18, God uses a normal everyday part of daily life to teach Jeremiah, and us, a lesson. 

If we continue to read Jeremiah 18: 3-5, it says,

So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

When Jeremiah sees the potter at work, he sees that the clay seems uncooperative and difficult to work with at first, so the potter shapes the clay into another pot. The chapter continues with, 

Then the word of the Lord came to me.  He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.’

God uses this scenario of a potter at work to teach us of His authority and His judgement which He will bring,  in this case, to Israel. The marred clay represents Israel who turned away from God,  unwilling to be shaped by Him. However, not only does God mention His judgement, the chapter also talks about God’s mercy. God doesn’t ‘need’ to work with the ‘marred’ clay — Israel — God chose to out of his loving mercy. 

So, how does this relate to us? After all, God said this to the Israelites hundreds of years ago. 

As the Potter, God has the right and authority to respond to His people to His will. However, despite that, God still gives us humans free will — the free choice of moral decisions. By looking at the Potter, we can see how God moulds His people to grow in Him and do His will.

Melt me, Mould me

God helps us to grow in Him, even if the road doesn’t seem easy. This reminds me of a little scenario I heard in a podcast a while back. A teacup is made of quality ceramic such as china. But the process to create a functional and beautiful teacup requires a process, such as heating and spinning the clay. And we humans are like that teacup. God may allow suffering to happen in our lives. It’s not easy, especially as we are just lowly humans. I’ve also been angry or doubted God when bad times come, but through this process, God helps us grow. Through suffering, God tests and strengthens our faith, reminding us to be humble as God is in control. We are His creation — we are nothing compared to the Creator. Romans 9:20 says, But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is moulded say to its moulder, “Why have you made me like this?”

Fill me

God gives us all talents and some more than others. The process may be long and hard As God’s people, we know that God’s design is best. In Jeremiah, we can see that the clay is uncooperative, and not easy to work with. Although the context during Isaiah’s time was the Israelites forgetting their God, we also are guilty of sinning and rebelling against God. As humans, we are born with the tendency to sin, and this world is full of temptations. Through this process, God strengthens His children to do His will and be a light for the world.

After we have been melted and moulded, according to the Potter’s design, what next?

Use me

After we have been shaped by God, what do we do? We need to learn to trust in God, knowing that He is the Potter, who knows the best for us. We need to use our gifts and selves for God’s will and plan for us.

I want to end the article with the hymn ‘Spirit of the Living God.’ It was written by David Iverson in 1926. 

Spirit of the Living God, 

Fall afresh on me,

Spirit of the Living God, 

Fall afresh on me.

Break me, melt me, mold me, fill me.

Spirit of the Living God, 

Fall afresh on me.

Are we willing to trust Him to melt and mould us according to His design? How are we using our God-given talents, time and opportunities? May we ask God to give us a heart that is willing to be moulded by Him.

The Five Solas

Introduction

The five solas – Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria. These five solas are what separates the true biblical gospel from other teachings. But before we get into what each of them mean, we need to understand what are the Five Solas? The Five Solas are 5 Latin phrases that sum up the Reformation’s declaration. The word “Sola” in each of the phrases means “alone”, in the context of “grounded”, which we can see from what each of the solas mean.Sola Scriptura means “Scripture Alone”, Sola Fide means “ Faith alone”, Sola Gratia means “Grace alone”, Solus Christus means “Christ alone” and Soli Deo Gloria means “To the glory of God alone”.

The 5 Solas are the foundational beliefs laid down by the Reformers that we firmly hold on to today, because they are what the Bible teaches. During this next month, we’ll go through to explain what each of them means.

Sola Scriptura

The first sola we will go through is “Sola Scriptura”. Sola Scriptura translates to “Scripture Alone”. The Scripture is not man’s words, it is breathed out by God. This means that the Bible alone, God’s Word, is the highest authority in the church. All other authority in the church has to submit to Scripture. God’s Word is essential for the life and growth of a Christians’ life (2 Timothy 3:16). God’s Word is the most valuable thing that anyone can read or hear.

In fact, this is a significant reason why the Reformation was sparked. During Martin Luther’s time, the Catholic Church had the highest place in society in Western Europe. However, not everything they taught was right according to the Bible. One big example was the practice of selling indulgences, saying it will help them get to heaven. However, the Bible tells us that a person is saved by faith, not by one’s deeds. In Ephesians 2:8, the Bible tells us “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” 

So how can we apply “Sola Scriptura” to our spiritual lives? Nowadays, we humans tend to base our judgment on “feelings”. However, we must remember that we, humans, are sinful, so Jesus’ teaching will not always make us “feel good”. We must set our thinking in line with the Bible, and our feelings in line with our thinking.

The Bible is the only source of hope and truth. 

Sola Fide

Sola Fide means “faith alone”. Jesus Christ is our only saviour, and we are saved through faith alone in Him. We are not saved through good works or by our own strength (Galatians 2:6). Faith means accepting Jesus Christ into your heart. It means living a life in the truth.  Just as Martin Luther says, (Sola Fide) is “the article with and by which the church stands.” Without this, we will have no hope for salvation. 

In an excerpt of Martin Luther’s Commentary on Romans (translated by J. Theodore Mueller), Luther writes, “Faith is a divine work in us. It changes us and makes us to be born anew of God (John 1). It kills the old Adam and makes altogether different people, in heart and spirit and mind and powers, and it brings with it the Holy Spirit. Oh, it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith. And so it is impossible for it not to do good works incessantly….Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man would stake his life on it a thousand times. ”

Luther reminds us that good works comes because of faith. Good works cannot buy our salvation. True faith isn’t only for getting into heaven, faith changes our entire current selves. Faith is essential for the lives of Christians and the church, even today.

Sola Gratia

“Sola Gratia” translates to “grace alone”. We are saved by faith alone (sola fide) by God’s grace alone (sola gratia) , not by our own doings or strength. So, what is grace? Grace is God’s undeserved mercy to us, sinners. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us.” We need to understand that nothing we, humans do by our own strength can ever lead us to salvation. Humans are sinful by nature. We can never be “good” enough to be saved. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast.” Sola Gratia is important because it shows how God saved us because of His mercy and grace, not because we did something that makes us worthy to be saved.

So do we truly thank God for His grace? Everything in us is by God’s grace. We can never fully realise and understand how great is God’s grace until we understand what sin truly is and we realise how sinful we humans are. 

Solus Christus

Solus Christus translates to “Christ alone”. Salvation comes through Jesus Christ alone. He is our Lord, Saviour and King. Jesus Christ is the foundation of the Church. 

But why is Jesus Christ our only hope for salvation? Because He is perfect and sinless. In this world, fallen into sin, there is no human that is perfect enough who is able to pay the price. As Romans 3:10 states, As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one”. Only Christ can save us.

We humans do not and can not add to what Jesus has already done on the cross. This means that no sinner is beyond the reach of God’s salvation. No-one’s sin is too great to separate a sinner from God, if they put their faith in Christ for salvation.

By understanding Solus Christus, it helps us to understand the other solas. We receive grace (sola gratia) from the Father through Jesus Christ. We are saved through faith alone, however it is not our faithfulness we are saved by, but the faith in Jesus Christ and what He has done. Jesus Christ is at the centre of the Scripture (Sola Scriptura).

All humans have a God-shaped hole in their heart and only Jesus Christ can fill that hole. (Blaise Pascal) 

Soli Deo Gloria

The last sola we will go through in this series is “Soli Deo Gloria”. Soli Deo Gloria translates to “to the glory of God alone”. God alone is the one to receive the glory for his wonderful works- creation and redemption.  Therefore, we live for God’s glory alone. 

God’s glory is something that is emphasized throughout the Bible, both in the Old Testament and New Testament, from Genesis to Revelation. But why is God’s glory so important? God’s glory is God’s magnificence and purity. We, with our human limitations, cannot express the fullness of God’s glory. 

The Westminster Shorter Catechism summarises what the Bible says about this.  “What is the chief end of man? The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” 

In  1 Corinthians 1:31 it says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” The Bible shows us that the ultimate goal for the works of God is to glorify His name.

God and God alone is the one to receive the glory for His wondrous works.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Eliana (Anju) Tambunan (14) is one of the writers for RE Generation-Z. She strives to share and spread God’s Word and what she has learned from it to other teens. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, drawing, sewing and attempting to bake new recipes.

Wearying Worrying

Worrying. That unpleasant feeling of anxiousness about what is to come. We’ve all experienced it, and we will definitely experience more of it in the future. But the big question is, who should we turn to when we worry?

What the Bible says about worrying

In Luke 12:6-7, it says, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (NIV)

Now a little context here. Sparrows were abundant and small, meaning they were sold pretty cheaply in the Bible times- hence “are not five sparrows sold for two pennies”. 

Yet, if God forgets not one small sparrow among many, we have no need to worry or think God doesn’t care about His children, who are worth much more than a sparrow.

Isn’t it comforting to know that there is Someone who knows you better than you do, and that He holds the future?

When we worry, we are taking God’s role into our own hands. We think that it depends on us. But we, with our limited human strength, aren’t strong enough to take matters into our own hands. How can we, created beings, ever do a better job than God, the Creator? We need to trust in God. He is in charge of the future.

A while ago, I stumbled across this verse and it’s stuck with me, especially when I’m fretting over a small problem or event. Matthew 6:27 says, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

And when you think about it, it’s true! Worrying excessively on a certain thing won’t magically solve all your problems. It won’t turn back time. 

The chapter (Matthew 6) goes on to give an example, elaborating that we can turn to God when we worry. “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” 

This passage also addresses a worry that we still experience nowadays—appearance, whether it be clothes, looks or popularity. But the Bible reminds us that we do not have to worry about earthly things (see Matthew 6:25).  By looking at God’s creation, we can see how God cares—even for the “small” things.

So… does that mean we should never worry at all?

No. As humans, we are bound to worry. However, what’s more important is how we deal and respond to worries, and how we develop courage. 

Worrying puts our focus in the wrong direction. As I mentioned earlier, when we worry, we are taking matters into our own hands instead of leaving them to God. So how should we respond?

Read the Bible

Reading the Bible reminds us of God’s promises. It also helps us see God’s providence and active work in and through the lives of the people in the Bible. God’s Word teaches. By meditating on His Word, it gives wisdom and courage. 

Turn to God in prayer

When we worry, turn to God in prayer. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” By remembering and thanking God for what He has done, it reminds us of God’s goodness. God knows our needs and what’s best for His children (see Matthew 6:32). Prayer is not the last resort. 

I want to end the article by sharing a hymn by Civilla Durfee Martin and Charles Hutchinson Gabriel- ‘His Eye Is On The Sparrow’:

Why should I feel discouraged

Why should the shadows come

Why should my heart feel lonely

And long for heaven and home

When Jesus is my portion

A constant friend is He

His eye is on the sparrow

And I know He watches over me

His eye is on the sparrow

And I know He watches me

I sing because I’m happy

I sing because I’m free

His eye is on the sparrow

And I know He watches me 

His eye is on the sparrow

And I know He watches

I know He watches

I know He watches me

Does God Answer Prayer?

Life is disappointing. Sometimes, we can’t control things, and things don’t always go the way we want them to be. Sometimes, even when we pray to God for something, it doesn’t always go the way we want it to be. But does that mean God doesn’t answer prayer?

Blue eyes

This reminds me of a true story I read when I was younger, about the missionary Amy Carmichael (1867-1951). When she was a young child, she longed for blue eyes instead of her own brown eyes. Her mother had taught her that God always answered prayer, and the young girl had thought that if she prayed to God for blue eyes, God would give her blue eyes! 

She woke up the next day and immediately rushed to the mirror. However, to her disappointment, the eyes that were staring back at her were not blue but still brown. Her mother explained to young Amy that sometimes God could also answer “no” to prayer and that God meant for her to have brown eyes.

Many years later, Amy Carmichael was now a young woman with a passion to be a witness for Christ, and she believed that God had called her to be a missionary. She first served in Japan, but because of sickness, she moved to India and became a missionary there. There, she found out about the temple girls and how they were treated. Amy Carmichael found that she had to disguise herself as an Indian to find out about the real “behind the scenes” of what was happening in the temple. Here she realised God had a plan for giving her brown eyes. If she had blue eyes, she might not have been as accepted!

How about us?

Although we may not have the same experience as Amy Carmichael, we can see through her life how God answered her prayer, though not in the way she had first thought. 

In the Bible, God reminds us that He is never too busy nor limited to hear the prayer of His children. We are encouraged to pray, in both good times and bad. We shouldn’t just pray to God during suffering or when we need help. We must also pray to God during good times to give thanks and praise Him, and also to pray for others (see 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). When we pray, God doesn’t “do nothing”. God answers our prayer according to His will. 

When we pray, God answers either with yes, no or wait. When God answers “wait”, we must remember that God’s timing is perfect. God knows more than we do (see 1 John 3:20.) We are limited humans, but we have a limitless God.

When God says “no”, it may seem that God doesn’t listen to our prayer, rather, it is because God knows what’s best for us. I think we will better understand if we see what John Piper says in an interview regarding this topic, when God answers “no” our prayers. In Matthew 7:7–11, Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you…Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” God doesn’t say He will give us whatever we ask for. Rather, He says that He will give “good things” to His children. God knows what’s best for us.

We can’t control everything, and God doesn’t always say “yes” to our prayers. But may we remember that although God may say “no” to our prayer, God knows what’s best for His children. He is a God who is in control.

Eliana (Anju) Tambunan (14) is one of the writers for RE Generation-Z. She strives to share and spread God’s Word and what she has learned from it to other teens. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, drawing, sewing and attempting to bake new recipes.

To Hymn or Not to Hymn

Music and song. It’s everywhere. From the jingle on tv to the school concert, music surrounds us. At church, we sing hymns with the congregation before the pastor preaches God’s Word. But have you ever wondered why we sing hymns?

Music is a gift from God. As Martin Luther puts it, “Music is a fair and lovely gift of God which has often wakened and moved me to the joy of preaching.” In fact, we can find God’s people singing praises to God throughout the whole Bible. Moses and the Israelites sang praises to God after they left Egypt; “I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted.” (Exodus 15:1-2). The book of Psalms is full of songs to God. In the New Testament, Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns to God when they were put in prison. 

What do all these people do in common? They are singing to God with their heart, not half-heartedly singing. In a talk by John Piper about this issue, I found that it is the condition of our heart- how our heart is responding that really matters when we worship God. When we sing hymns to God, we are not singing for ourselves. In a book I am reading by Martyn Loyd Jones, he says: “So often we are in danger of abusing the Scriptures in this way. We use them as mere phrases in that manner, or light-heartedly we sing our hymns, and we feel better for the time being”. We do not sing hymns for ourselves- to “feel good” or as part of a routine every Sunday. Rather, we sing for the glory of God. 

Lyrics matter

When we sing hymns, we also have to remember that it is the lyrics that matter the most. Sure, the song might have good music, but are the lyrics giving the right message? I read an article about the theology and place of music in worship, and it mentions how music is supposed to accompany and reinforce the words. We all know that music is powerful – it can evoke powerful emotions. The music is still important. However, it is not supposed to be more important than the hymn’s lyrics.

Another reason why singing is important is that it helps us remember words – more importantly, God’s Word. In Deuteronomy 31, God uses music to help the Israelites, his chosen people, remember his Word through song. God instructs Moses to teach Israel a song as “many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring” (Deuteronomy 31:21). When Paul and Silas sang hymns in prison, the hymns were hymns that they remembered.

Hymns give encouragement

This leads me to my next point. Singing hymns can encourage Christians in whatever situation they are in. When I was younger, I used to be scared to go to the bathroom at night because of how dark it was. Eventually, I would build up my courage and force myself to walk there. Now, it seems pretty silly, though, at the time, it was pretty scary. As I walked over, I would sing a hymn or the choir song I was singing in my church’s children choir, not always out loud but in my heart. I found that it gave me courage when I sang a hymn, reminding me that God is in control. 

I know that my situation is small compared to the martyrs and persecuted Christians who sing hymns despite being in life-threatening danger, but it is my personal experience on how singing hymns gives courage. 

Hymns are our weapon in our spiritual battle

Last of all, singing hymns is a means of spiritual warfare. I read another article by John Piper, and this time, the article was about ambushing Satan through song. God uses spiritual songs as spiritual weapons against Satan. As William Law says, in his book  A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, “Just as singing is a natural effect of joy in the heart so it has also a natural power of rendering the heart joyful . . . There is nothing that so clears a way for your prayers, nothing that so disperses dullness of heart, nothing that so purifies the soul from poor and little passions, nothing that so opens heaven, or carries your heart so near it, as these songs of praise.” Satan will try to keep a church from becoming a singing church, so we must fight him with song. When we sing hymns, we have two weapons- God’s Word and song, which we must use in our spiritual war.

You see, hymns are more than some words put together with some nice-sounding music. Hymns are a form of worship to God from our hearts and a weapon in our spiritual battle in our life. 

Eliana (Anju) Tambunan (14) is one of the writers for RE Generation-Z. She strives to share and spread God’s Word and what she has learned from it to other teens. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, drawing, sewing and attempting to bake new recipes.

Get new content delivered directly to your inbox.