Reflections on how I learn to live life with faith.
2014. Wow, what a year. Another year full of hardship. Another year full of sacrifices. Another year full of wonders. Another year full of opportunities. And, another year full of learning.
Reflecting on how 2014 was for me, I could probably sum it in this word – HOPE. As I googled the definition of Hope, Hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen. Hope is a feeling of trust. Hope is a feeling of what you want will turn out for the best. A popular acronym for H.O.P.E. means – Hold on, pain ends. For this end-of-year/start-of-year reflection, I will be dividing my blog post according to the definitions of Hope that I have mentioned above.
There are a lot of desires that I have expected to happen for 2014, which did happen. On the top of my head, I can say that some of them are: Spending more time at home where my parents can see me more and be able to have more time with them; Be able to go to church with my parents; Buy a car which I can use for work, for school, and for ministry; Excel in my academics… all of which, by God’s grace, happened. Oh, I’ve always desired to watch a musical theatre production, which also came true around my birthday! Hmm.. that’s another story, which I am more than willing to share in the next couple of blog posts (Watch this space).
Anyway, I guess one of the highlights of hope — desiring something to happen that did happen were the several mission activities that I have gone to on January of 2014. The beginning of 2014 for me was ecstatic! I was with my family enjoying our holidays in the Philippines. Around this time last year, there was a random plan for my brothers, my cousins, and Paul (claiming to be a ‘Bainalo’) to come to an enclosed area in our province and reach out to the kids living in the slums. Furthermore, during my birthday this year, I’ve decided to spend it with the abandoned elders living in a convent. Lastly, I was able to come and visit the kids in a Christian orphanage in Cebu and play with the kids. If there was something that I was passionate about back in my high school years in the Philippines, that would be mission work.
Backstory: My old school in the Philippines is run by nuns who are called – Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. All throughout my elementary and high school life in Manila, we were taught to live a simple life – the Franciscan way of living. The Franciscan way of living is modelled after, Francis of Assisi. Francis of Assisi, aka, St. Francis, came from a privileged family and initially wanted to be a knight. Being a rich man, he lived a sinful life. Until a time came when he saw a leper, at that time were outsiders of the community, and kissed the hand of the leper. Upon praying, he claimed to have heard God telling him to repair his church. He abandoned all his wealth to live a simple life, attempting to rebuild God’s church. According to historical accounts, his father thought his son was getting mad as Francis got rid of all his possessions, he even stripped off his clothes in front of the public and going to the freezing woods (while singing). Francis preached even if he was not a priest or educated about the Christian faith. He preached on returning to God and obedience to the church.
The Bible states that if we love God, we are to love others as we love ourselves. We are to put others before our own. I had such great hope at the time that giving back, is such an awesome way to serve others. Others in that point, is not a family member, a relative, a friend, or a church mate, but a stranger.
Personally, I have seen and practiced serving throughout my Christian life but most of them are within the confinement of the church that I used to go to, and the church’s youth ministry. I have nothing against that, but service should not be confined only within the church. Serving people who are already saved deprives other people outside the church who are in need of saving. Jesus did not serve only those who are following Him. Jesus served everyone, particularly the outsiders. And if we notice, those whom Jesus served who are outsiders, were the ones who had the fire to spread the good news to a great crowd. Hence, I believe, that if we put an important priority to serve outside of the confinement of our comfort zone, we are able to touch them with the Word of God — and empower them to share the Word of God to others.
And so, when I was in Philippines, serving the kids in the slums and the elders in the convent, was such a great opportunity. Teaching them how to pray, and knowing how their relationship with God is. Feeding is one of the important thing that I have learned in evangelism. Feeding has two components – physical feeding and spiritual feeding. In most of the outreach activities and charitable groups, physical feeding has always been a part of their service. But what sets mission work apart from charitable work, is that mission work incorporates the Word of God as an integral component of service.
Why is spiritual food important? Here’s my analogy: A phrase states,
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Now, it’s one way to give people physical feeding to feed them for a day. Others can argue that teaching them livelihood will enable them to feed themselves for a lifetime. It is partly true, however, in my opinion, not really. “Teach a man to fish” for me is, to teach a man how to feed himself for a lifetime — lifetime which means eternal life. Teaching a livelihood is essentially, physical feeding. But teaching spiritual feeding is something a man can feed himself with for a lifetime.
As we read along John 6, Jesus said that He is the bread of life. Jesus declared it multiple times in the same chapter – 6:35; 41; 48; 51 repeating its importance. Jesus informed us not to work for food that spoils, but for food that endures eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him, God the Father has placed his seal of approval (v. 27). One can question this by saying “Aren’t we working to provide food for our table?” Let us not forget that we have a God who provides (v. 32). But we must change our perspective in labour. I believe that, Jesus wants us to accept him in our lives (v. 29), and fill our spiritual life with Jesus, and we should see our work as our service for God. Because physical food is temporary, we are to invest on something that is eternal – Jesus.
The bread of life, is the only one that is heaven-sent and gives life to the world (v.33). No other life can provide such eternal satisfaction to us. As Jesus claimed, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (v. 35). And these people who have come to believe Jesus, are the ones who shall have eternal life, will not die, and will be raised up by Jesus at the last day, no one can take them away from Him (v. 39-40, 44, 47, 50).
In saying this, when we do mission work… Is praying for them enough? or Is teaching them how to pray better? Is providing them the Word enough? or Is teaching them how to read the Word better? Let us empower each other, particularly those who are outside of our reach, or our comfort zones. Let us share the powerful bread of life, which came down from heaven, to give up his will and his flesh, to serve us — to give life to us, eternal life — Jesus. Halleluia!
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” – John 6:51
Happy New Year! God bless!