Sunday, February 21, 2010

Giving Thanks

It had been a long day. It was about 8:45 p.m.

I was waiting with Jeshua at the bus stop. We'd been talking when my bus came to a halt in front of us. As I boarded the bus I was still talking to Jeshua. And as I headed toward the back of the bus I gave Jesh a call just to finish that discussion.

As I sat there I contemplated my day. I gave thanks. I spoke to God. It had been a satisfying day. Running around and doing stuff and talking to people. Teaching my kids in the morning. Working on the NS Book Project. Such joy in doing things for God.

A man in a white top and black pants boarded the bus. A bus ticket inspector. Nothing out of the ordinary, really. I'd been seeing them around ever since I was in primary school. He made his way down the aisle, checking EZ link cards, as they always do.

My bible was still open on my lap as I handed him my card. I was reading from Ezra this evening. It's something I've grown to love. Using transport time to read God's word and pray. (Of course, I try to read only when the bus stops, if not my eyes will start to hurt).

The gentleman was visibly tired from a day's work when he took my card. He tapped my card.
Frowned. Tapped again.

"Mr. Foong," he began.

Goodness. I'd forgotten to tap my card. I'd been too engrossed discussing stuff with Jesh.

And so he showed me from his machine that I'd not tapped the card, explained to me the PTC (Public Transport Council) Act and told me that I needed to pay a S$20 fine. So I did.

Well, I sat there in my seat in silence for a moment. There was a sinking feeling in my heart. I felt sad. I felt sad for many reasons all at the same time. I felt sad that it was my fault that I had to pay a fine, even though it wasn't intentional. I felt sad and a tinge of disappointment that God had let this happen even though I'd been busy serving Him and honouring Him, these last few weeks especially.

A few thoughts came into my mind in quick succession.

"Why does this have to happen? I've been so pressured the last couple of days doing Biz Law and all. This morning it was hard just to wake up and go to church. It's been a long day. This is like the last straw."

I realised that the thought wasn't from God. I took it captive. Pushed it aside.

"Look I've been serving God so faithfully. I've been doing my best to honour Him these last few weeks. Why does God let this happen? I mean, if He does this when I'm in a season of not walking closely with Him, it'd make sense. But why now? Don't I deserve God's best as I give Him mine?"

I paused. This one really hit home. But I knew it wasn't from God either. Same thing. I took it captive.

I opened my bible again. A quick recap for verses I needed to see again. I knew them by heart. But I just needed to literally see them again.

Romans 8:28.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."
1 Thessalonians 5:18.

"give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

I began to pray. "Lord thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. It hurts that you allowed this to happen. It's unintentional but I had to pay a fine. The loss of 20 bucks does not pain me so much as the fact that I had to pay a fine. Lord, your word says to thank you. So I'm thanking you. Thank you Lord, thank you Lord, thank you Lord. Lord, your word says that this will work for my good. Lord, just what are you teaching me in this?"

As I sat there praying and meditating on God's word, and even as I got off the bus eventually, still meditating on His word, God was teaching me lessons. Allow me to share them with you.

1) It's only a small matter. If I don't accept this from God now, if I don't begin to praise God and lift up thanksgiving to Him in such small an issue, how would I praise God when He brings me through darker valleys? Job fell down to the ground in worship to God when his children and possessions were taken away from him. I need to worship and thank God in the midst of this fine, even if it hurts. For in a man's walk with God, God will definitely allow difficulties, trials and all this sort of thing to happen, for our training and our good.

2) "A man's own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the Lord" - Proverbs 19:3. So often we make mistakes on our own accord. It is inconsequential whether it is intentional. We turn around and become angry with God. We question why He allowed us to make that mistake at all. "Well, why didn't He prevent it from happening?", we often cry out. Look, I'd made a mistake in not tapping my card. Would it be right for me now to turn around now and be angry with God? No. I needed to give thanks.

Very often we also blame the system. I could begin a very negative train of thought for example, thinking that I've been a loyal customer of SBS since primary school days. That I've always paid my bus fare and perhaps that I might conceivably forget to tap my card one out of a thousand rides. What moral right would SBS have to fine me for forgetting to tap my card? Couldn't they just have gotten me to tap and pay the price? This is unfair! They're earning so much and yet they want more.

Well, I believe that one thing God reminded me of is that we really shouldn't complain or argue (ref. Philippians 2:14-15). We are not to vent frustrations on "the system" and get angry. Granted, it may be unfair at times. Yet all we are required to do is to wait upon God in quietness and trust.

Many seek an audience with a ruler, but it is from the Lord that man gets justice. -Proverbs 29:26
3)We don't deserve anything. Could I have said that I have served God faithfully and then I deserve to not have such things happen to me? It might make sense at first. Why should a good man suffer? Then again, am I really a righteous person?

The answer is yes, I am a righteous person. But that is right where the argument begins to flounder! You see, that righteousness is from God. It comes by faith and is by God's grace. I cannot say that "Lord I have been righteous and so I deserve such and such." Then how might God possibly respond?

"Child, you are righteous. But only because of the blood of My Son on the cross. You deserved to die, but now you are saved."

And then what might I possibly be able to say? It becomes very clear indeed; Christ died for my sins. What do I deserve? I deserve to be separated from God. Yet by His blood I am saved. Could I raise a brazen face up to God and say, "Look God! I don't deserve this!"

No. I could not. I have no say. I did not pay the price. Jesus Christ did. I belong to God and it is not for me to complain. I have nothing to bring before God to show that I deserve His favour, except His only begotten Son.

4)Throughout the past few weeks, (in particular after what Uncle Tony said in church about our possessions being God's possessions) I've been telling God regarding my money: "Lord, this is your money, all of it. Use it as you like." Of course, I've also prayed for blessing and all. Well, this twenty dollars fine. That was God's money wasn't that? Should I feel unhappy that I'd lost it? It was God's money. God did not allow my money to be taken away by a fine. He allowed His money to be taken away by a fine. How could I complain? God is sovereign over my whole life and rules over every single thing. I am His. My everything is His.

Ah, Romans 8:28. So what good grew out of this? Well, I think I grew wiser. I think I'll be more careful in tapping my card, even though it's so rare not to tap my card. I have so much practice doing it, I wryly note.

And if you have learnt something from this post. Well, I guess that it has worked out for your good as well, that God allowed this to happen to me.

Below: A couple of snapshots of Optimus Prime, who I brought along to CM for part of my lesson. I believe he suffered great indignity at the lunch table, where Andrea and Zhang Pei put him through an ardous routine of ballet dancing and decorations with a plastic Chrysanthemum flower. He can take being manhandled. He can take long drawn violent battles with the Decepticons. But ballet and girly stuff? Tough on him.
He's undergoing counselling right now. Deeply troubled. Andrea, Zhang Pei, look what you've done.

Andrea... Zhang Pei... You touch me again and I'll blast you to pieces... Grrrr... Zhang Wei and Clara Ying. Don't you laugh either. This is so not funny.

Okay... Think happy thoughts, think happy thoughts. Transform into vehicle mode and think happy thoughts. Relax on Tai Yong's bed. Ahhhh... Now don't think bout the flower... Relaxxxxx....

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