Jurong Outreach

"whom we proclaim, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ."

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Jesus Christ the Son of God

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Mark 1:1-3).

Mark begins his gospel account by declaring to his readers whose good news this is. This is the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Who is this Jesus Christ that we should know about Him? What is so remarkable about this Man?

Mark quotes from two an ancient prophecies with regards to his subject matter.

“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isa 40:3).

“Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts” (Mal 3:1).

Mark makes doubly sure his readers are left in no doubt who this JesusChrist, the Son of God, is. The prophet Isaiah said, “Prepare ye the way of the LORD.” The word, LORD, stands for Yahweh, the name of God.

In quoting this prophecy as fulfilled in the one he is writing about, Mark is declaring to his readers that this Jesus Christ is Yahweh Himself!

The prophecy of Malachi reads, “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me.” The messenger whom God would send was to prepare the way for none other than God Himself.

It is Jesus Christ who is the fulfillment of these prophecies.

Critics of the Bible claim that the gospel writers never meant to assert that Jesus is deity. Jehovah’s Witnesses, too, deny the deity of Jesus. Mark wants his readers to know that Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God, not merely in the metaphorical sense of being a holy man, but as God Himself, sharing the divine essence as the Father.

This is an astounding truth. God, who is a Spirit (John 4:24), has become flesh and blood. “No man hath seen God at any time” (1Jo 4:12) but Jesus says, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9).

John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14).

Paul also affirms the divine identity of Jesus Christ.

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Php 2:5-7).

In addressing Jesus Christ as the Son of God, Mark is using a term every Jew will understand to have a deep, profound meaning.

“Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:18).

When we turn to the pages of the gospel accounts—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—let us do so with reverence, for what we do read in them is not the story of a mythical figure or a great man of history.

We are reading about the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He is the One of whom it is written: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3).

He is the One who says of His work: “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).He is the One who says of Himself: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

The deity of Christ is the very foundation truth of the Christian faith. If He were any less than God, then “we are of all men most miserable” (1Co 15:19). Why? Because by His resurrection His divine nature is once for all declared in all creation.

“Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom 1:3-4).

Who is it we read of in the pages of scriptures? It is the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ! It is He of whom the scriptures testify (cf. John 5:39). It is He before whom all creation must bow and pay homage.

“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Php 2:10-11).


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Cleansing the Temple

“And the Jews’passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up (John 2:13-17).”

Jesus’ action has been criticised as overreaction to activities that were at least harmless and at most expedient.

Money-changers provided an important service for worshipers who came from abroad. Those who sold animals made it so much more convenient; worshipers did not have to bring along animals during a time when transportation was nowhere near as efficient and comfortable as today.

So was the Lord being narrow-minded and overly harsh? The text provides us with the answer. The Lord said, “Make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.”

The money-changers and merchants were mostly motivated by profit. They saw there was a need for such services and exploited the situation to make a quick buck. It mattered not to them that the temple was holy ground; that reverence for God must be top priority.

The chief priests who allowed such travesty were even guiltier than the merchants, for they of all people were responsible for keeping the sanctity of the temple. It was quite possible that they lined their pockets either from rent or kickbacks from the merchants.

Such contempt for the holiness and glory of God provoked the Lord into a display of fierce anger. His behaviour would be constituted today as vandalism and hooliganism, and chances are He would be arrested for disturbance of publicpeace.

On no other occasion do the gospel accounts record such violent behaviour from Jesus. The general impression of Jesus (no doubt furthered by images of a long-haired, effeminate, smiling Jesus) is that of a gentle and meek person, a lover of children, helper of the poor and weak but hardly more.

Yes, our Lord Jesus is gentle and meek. He is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep. But we ought not to forget that He is also the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5). The Lord made a whip of cords and drove out the merchants and their animals. He overturned the money changers’ tables and scattered their money.

This wouldn’t be the first time He had observed such activities going on in the temple. Every year since He was twelve he would have followed Joseph to Jerusalem for the annual feasts. He would have witnessed such goings-on for years but remained silent until now.

Why? Quite likely it was because His time was not yet come. Now that He had begun His public ministry, the time was ripe for Him to declare His arrival and defend the honour of His Father.

The temple of the Lord must be kept holy, free from pollution. Love of money had corrupted the chief priests, merchants and money-changers. Now, the question we ought to ask ourselves is this: how are we keeping our body, the temple of the Holy Spirit?

“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1Co 6:19-20).

Consider our motives when we assemble on the Lord’s Day. David wrote: “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD” (Psa 122:1). Do we assemble with gladness to worship the Father, or are we chained to all the worries and affairs of this life, unable and unwilling to let them go?

Do we summon our bodies to the place of assembly but leave our hearts and minds far off, wherever they may wander? One simple thought experiment may reveal more about us than we care to admit.

How do you like it if a loved one keeps getting interrupted by phone calls and text messages during the time you are together? He pays more attention to his phone than to you. His mind is elsewhere but present with you. It seems he prefers to be someplace else, with someone else. He cannot wait for the time with you to be over so he can attend to whatever else he has in mind.

You might be forgiven for thinking that such a person is unworthy of your time and friendship. But then, are you treating your heavenly Father in the same contemptuous way?

Do we carry in our hearts any secret, unrepentant, unconfessed sin? Is there resentment we harbour against someone, or perhaps we have sinned against another but have yet to make restitution? The Lord says:

“Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Mat 5:23-24).

The Lord Jesus is fiercely jealous of His Father’s honour. So should we be, who are called the children of God. “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:26).

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Opposing The Usurper

Self is the great usurper of God’s place within our hearts. When the self becomes an idol, it becomes an obstacle between God and us.

The Lord is clear in His demands that all who would be His followers—no exception—must deny self, take up the cross daily, and follow Him (cf. Luke 9:23-26). There can be no misunderstanding; we are meant to put to death all selfishness.

Opposing the self from once again usurping God’s place is a work we must engage in for the remainder of our lives here on this plane of existence. Self will not die quite so easily; it refuses to roll over and play dead. It will persistently fight to be our god.

Humanism is the philosophy that puts Man at the center. Self-worship is the final objective of this ungodly philosophy. It denies God His rightful place as sovereign and the sole authority.

Of course, humanism employs respectable and harmless sounding jargon. It promises much but delivers little. Creeping its way into the church, it coaxes Christians to talk about their ‘achievements’ for God; to talk about what makes us proud that we have done in His name.

Talking about ‘achievements for God’ in humble tones is no less boasting in light of what the Lord says.

“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty'” (Luke 17:7-10 ESV).

With self at the centre, not only does our relationship with God suffers as a result but our relationships with our fellow-man suffer as well. Selfishness is more than a vice; it is a manifestation of the sin of usurping the Lord’s place.

Think about a marriage. When both spouses are selfish and cares only about his/her own interests, will the marriage be happy? It is hard to imagine that it will be blissful and fulfilling.

The Bible speaks of the opposing attitude to selfishness. Paul says: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Php 2:3-4).

Jesus our Lord demonstrates to us the very spirit of selflessness.

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Php 2:5-8).

When we are added to the Lord’s body, we have in fact declared that all idols—the greatest of which is the self—are now dead to us and no longer own us. We are the Lord’s, and to His sovereignty only do we bow in submission.



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Motivation to Do Right

In almost everything we do, we do it out of motivation. We might not be aware of it all the time, but motivation is there at the back of our actions. Take for example, the sensation of hunger motivates us to eat, and thirst motivates us to drink.

What about snacking? Oftentimes when we snack, it is not out of hunger but more of pleasure. In fact, pleasure and pain are widely recognised as the two prime motivations. Now let’s consider our motivation to do right.

In the final week of His ministry here, the Lord publicly condemned the Pharisees and scribes for their hypocrisy. Among the harsh words used by the Lord, He said to them:

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Mat 23:14-15).

What evangelistic zeal these scribes and Pharisees displayed! They would travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte. Thatputs us in an embarrassing spot, doesn’t it? Why, we might not go over to our next door neighbour to invite him/her to church.

What spiritual maturity these scribes and Pharisees displayed! They could make long prayers! Isn’t this a way we gauge a brother’s spiritual maturity, by how long or eloquently he can pray? Have we ever asked: is an acceptable prayer necessarily a long prayer, and is a long prayer necessarily an acceptable prayer?

The problem with the scribes and Pharisees was their motivation. Their starting point was all wrong. They were not doing these things in service and devotion to God, but to self.

Paul points out the motivation of Demas for abandoning the apostle and the work of the Lord. “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica” (2Ti 4:10).

So let’s consider our motivation to do right.Do we reason with ourselves sometimes that we will serve only when we have the opportunity, or when it is convenient for us to do so?

There is so much going on in our lives right now. Making time and opportunity to serve the Lord is getting increasingly more challenging. So much is in competition with God, demanding our time.

Obeying God does not wait for a convenient moment. Remember Felix, the Roman procurator?

“And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee” (Acts 24:24-25).

The word preached by Paul shook Felix; but the latter made the excuse that when he had a more convenient time, he would continue the discussion with Paul. Do we wait for a “convenient season” before we obey the Lord?

Paul writes to the Colossians: “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col 3:9-10 ESV).

It is important for us to know that we may be motivated by zeal, but zeal must be informed by right knowledge. Paul was driven by zeal but without right knowledge. His zeal led him to persecute the church (cf. Acts 26:9-11).

We are new creatures in Christ (cf. 2Co 5:17), and therefore we must be transformed by the renewal of our mind (cf. Rom 12:2).

How do we do that? As Paul says, we are renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator, that is, by the word of the Lord. In the very same context, Paul further says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col 3:17).

Obedience is not a one-time act; it is the definitive lifestyle of the Christian. The Galatians present us a negative example. After obeying the gospel, which Paul preached to them, they were influenced by Judaizers who told them that in addition to the gospel, they had to follow the Mosaic Law.

In a letter filled with tough love, Paul asked them: “You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth” (Gal 5:7)? The Christian life is likened to running a race. As in any long distance race, endurance is indispensable(cf. Heb 12:1-2).

If we lost our motivation to endure, to continue to increase in knowledge, and to keep obeying the will of God, we will become the most miserable of creatures. Remember the children of Israel in the wilderness.

“For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness” (Heb 3:16-17)?

Let us keep the solemn words of the Lord in mind: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).



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The Usurper

We are faced with an ancient problem. The origin of this problem goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden when our common ancestors made the conscious choice to defy the Creator as their God and instead install themselves as their own little gods.

“And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Gen 3:4-6).

Since that day the self has never stopped attempting to usurp God’s rightful place in human lives. Selfishness, self-centredness, conceit—call it by any name, it remains the foremost enemy that robs us of the purpose and meaning of our existence.

We are created by God for a purpose. The wise man puts it in the clearest way possible that anyone of us can understand.

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecc 12:13-14).

Like Adam and Eve, we so often choose to listen to and gratify our desires rather than bow in submission to the will of God. Take sexual immorality, for example. Fornication seems to be more rampant today with Hollywood and the media touting it as ‘normal’ behaviour.

It is impossible to count the number of people engaging in pre-marital sexual behaviour. Does God ever mean for men and women never to enjoy sexual pleasure? Certainly not. But He never means for creatures created in His image to indulge in what He has confined to marriage.

Like some of the children in the famous Stanford marshmallow experiment, so many people are unwilling to delay gratifying their desires till marriage, and choose to place self before God.

A look back at history will reveal that this ancient problem is still very much active today; it does not go extinct with time and improvements in standards of living. In fact, it seems to have become more creative with time in marketing.

Humanism celebrates mankind and places him at the highest places of honour. Countless interviews are being conducted with celebrities (or anyone who fancies himself/herself as one) where they are given almost free rein to talk about themselves.

Books with titles such as Looking Out for Number One (Robert J. Ringer), Awaken the Giant Within (Anthony Robbins), Good to Great (Jim Collins), See You at the Top (Zig Ziglar) and Feeling Good (David D. Burns), The 48 Laws of Power (Robert Greene) etc. are bestsellers.

Social media platforms, like Twitter and Instagram, are used as avenues to promote the self. The English language has churned out terms such as ‘self-fulfillment’, ‘self-enhancement’, and ‘self-expression’, etc.

These are signs that the great usurper, Self, is alive and well and active. We live in a world where men and women are preoccupied with the self. Stripped bare of its eye-pleasing marketing, it is no more than narcissism—an inordinate fascination with oneself; vanity.

We may argue that things are not as bleak as painted above; most of us are not at the point where we are so absorbed with self that we become blind to everything and everyone else around us.

We may also argue that paying attention to self is not all that bad. After all, aren’t we to pursue improvements? Besides, it’s not as if we have forgotten or neglected God. We still read the Bible and attend worship every first day of the week. So what seems to be the problem?

Well, what is the essence of idolatry? In other words, what is at the root of idolatry?

Paul says, “Put to death therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col 3:5).

Idolatry is anything which seeks to usurp the place of God in our lives. ‘Anything’ means not only what we generally agree as evil, but even good things can become idolatrous if we are not careful.

With that understanding, let’s ask the question: What is the biggest idol of them all? It is the self. When we regard the self higher than it deserves, it becomes an obstacle between God and us.

We are disciples of Jesus when we follow Him and His word. What does He say to us?

“And he said unto all, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever would save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man profited, if he gain the whole world, and lose or forfeit his own self” (Luke 9:23-25)?

Deny self. Take up the cross daily. Follow Him. Remove self from the throne. Die to self and sin every day. Obey the Master. This is the true description of a disciple.

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Reading and Our Spiritual Growth

The letters of the apostle Paul, besides revealing to us the divine will of God, serve also as windows for us to peek into the apostle’s fascinating life. He comes across to us in his letters as a man of flesh and blood, one with whom we can certainly relate.

One of the snippets we pick up on Paul’s life is his love of reading. Near the end of his life, while he was languishing in a cold dungeon awaiting his possible execution, he wrote to his friend Timothy, giving him instructions and encouragement to continue in the work of the Lord.

He also asked Timothy for some personal favours, among which was this:

“The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments” (2Ti 4:13).

There are speculations as to what these books and parchments were. It is widely agreed that the parchments would include the Hebrew Scriptures, what we today call the ‘Old Testament’.

The books might include secular writings and commentaries of the Scriptures by the rabbis. Paul was not averse to non-Jewish writings and Gentile cultures. In Acts 17 he appealed to a common understanding with his Greek audience when he paraphrased a Greek poet.

“For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:28).

Some might think it strange that Paul would need copies of the Scriptures. He was trained from young in the tradition of the Pharisees and had displayed a remarkable memory in quoting Scriptures both in his preaching and writings.As an apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul was guided by the Spirit.

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26).

Furthermore, books would be quite useless to a man near death.

Here we see Paul, the reader. Anyone who loves to read will easily relatethat when a person is bitten by the reading bug, he/she will remain a reader. Paul was also consistent in his study habits. He never ceased to learn and improve.

The advantages of reading are many. Reading is the best way to gain knowledge. Today we have access to instructional videos, but reading remains the best way to gain knowledge as books are still the preferred vehicles of information.

Reading, when done actively, improves our critical thinking and communication skills. Critical thinking is crucial for Christians because of the myriads of ideas disseminated through books and the media. Better communication skills are a boon not only in our interaction with others but also in sharing the Good News with them.

Attention span seems to have deteriorated ever since the day every household began to own a TV set and later on a computer. Mindless staring into a screen is numbing to the brain. Active reading forces us to engage our attention if we are to benefit from a book.

Reading also allows us to learn at our own pace. As a person who is rather ‘slow’ and finds it hard to keep up with a lecturer, reading not only affords me the advantage of learning at my own pace but also gives me countless hours of pleasure.

Reading has another advantage. It allows us to experience vicariously through others what we probably will not have the opportunity to experience: an adventurous trip, a debate with someone of a different religious persuasion, etc. Reading is truly a learning experience.

In his request to Timothy, Paul was setting an example to his protégé (and to us) that Christians ought to constantly seek to improve ourselves though learning. Unlike the apostles, we do not have the Holy Spirit to teach us all things and to bring all things to remembrance.

We are called to be diligent students of the Bible, and to train to be able to handle it correctly (cf. 2Ti 2:15). Good books are the best supplements to our learning. While none of these books are inspired and therefore infallible, through them we can tap into the writers’ minds and allow them to share with us their thoughts and discoveries.

Reading good books train us to exercise discernment. We cannot accept wholesale anything we read, even from writers reputed to be sound in doctrine. So how do we exercise discernment? Be like the Bereans.

“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).

A Christian who studies the Bible diligently is a Christian who grows. A Christian who also follows Paul’s example and learns constantly from reading good books are better placed than one who deprives himself of the riches of sharing in the learning of others.

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Sowing to Our Character and Destiny

The American philosopher and essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson, purportedly said: “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit; reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”

Whatever the original context of Emerson’s statement, the logic behind it makes good sense. An action is often the fruit of a thought, an idea. We may do many things on autopilot, seemingly without much consideration but these are actions that have become ingrained by practice. We call these actions ‘habits’.

Our habits—of thoughts and behaviour—determine our character. A person who constantly places his self-interests above that of others will develop a character lacking in altruism. It is hard for him to be unselfish or be concerned for the welfare of others.

Ever since the day when our common ancestors, Adam and Eve, violated God’s law by eating the forbidden fruit, man has been experts at playing the blame game. We blame circumstances and other people for ourunhappyexperiences. It is always easier, and even comforting to our pride, to point the finger at someone or something else.

The truth is we are all given limited free will by the God who created us all. It takes a sovereign God to bestow on mortal man a degree of free will. It is impossible for a God who isn’t omnipotent and omniscient to do so.

What we need to remember is that with the limited free will comes responsibility. We are responsible for the thoughts we entertain and the actions borne out of these thoughts. These thoughts and actions mold our character, and we will be called upon to give an account.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2Co 5:10).

Things happen to us beyond our control. It is how we respond to these things that builds our character, one brick at a time. The tragic story of Saul remains a sober reminder for God’s people across time.

Saul, of the tribe of Benjamin, was elected by God to be the first king of Israel. Saul was not a man without qualities. At the very least, he had the physical attributes of a man who draw attention. The Bible says there was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than Saul. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people (1Sa 9:2).

In the early days of his reign he also proved to be a fierce warrior king who united the people against their enemies (1Sa 11).

Yet in other moments of crisis Saul caved in to his fear. He offered burnt sacrifice, which he was not authorized to do, after he ran out of patience waiting for Samuel. For his careless act, Saul was told he would forfeit his kingdom.

“But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee” (1Sa 13:14).

Saul failed to learn his painful lesson. On another occasion he was commanded to destroy utterly all that belonged to the enemy, but for fear of losing his army’s support, he held back from full obedience. The prophet Samuel brought the fearsome judgment of God upon the feckless king.

“And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou. And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent” (1Sa 15:28-29).

We can be quite certain that Saul’s tragic end began with a thought. In the first incident, when his soldiers began to desert him, Saul admitted fear into his mind and entertained the thought that Samuel had failed him.

In the second incident, he considered his circumstances without God in mind. It was God who gave Saul great victory over Amalek yet Saul feared the people more than he did God. He believed his men would turn against him. He should have known that with God by his side, he would have overcome any adversity.

We look back on Saul and shake our heads at his lack of faith, his fear of men more than of God, and his disobedience. We might even feel some sympathy for a man in his position as leader of an army made up of men more loyal to their tribes than to him.

Yet like Saul, we must realise we are ultimately responsible for what becomes of our character. The thoughts we entertain, the decisions we make, no matter how small; how we respond to our circumstances and people around us, all these go a long way toward what we become.

Paul writes, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal 6:7). We either sow to eternal glory in the presence of God or we sow to an eternity of anguish away from His presence.

The counsel of the apostle rings loud and true for us today:

“This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Eph 4:17-18).