Where are you headed this year?

As we reach the end of 2018 and the start of another year, it’s a great opportunity to stop and reflect on the past to help refocus and set the tone for the future. This past month has been a time of reflecting and refocusing, particularly as I approach graduation from medical school (as long as I pass my exams!) and starting work as a doctor. I recently prepared a Bible study for the local CMF (Christian Medical Fellowship) student group – although intended for healthcare students, I thought I would share my notes on here as it probably applies to all Christians, whatever their field of study/work.

Where have you been running towards this past year? What have been your personal, professional/academic, relational and spiritual goals? Have you achieved any of them?

Philippians 3:8b-14 tells us that Paul’s goal was to know Christ. To fellowship in his sufferings through identifying with him. To live in the power of his resurrection. To become more like Christ in his death and resurrection. To be one with him.

8b … that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Our identity is first and foremost as a citizen of God’s kingdom (Phil 3:20-21). We must keep reminding ourselves that we are not defined by our work or study, our role in society, our achievements or failures; we must keep focused on eternity. Whatever work we do, let us remember that it is only a temporary role in which we serve the Lord. He has called us to run this race towards the completion of our salvation. It is not a personally-set target that we achieve through our hard work, but we run (note that we must still be active, not passive) towards a heavenward call from God to us, towards His pull of grace.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day busyness of life and lose track of where we’re actually going. When you feel like you’re surrounded by mountains of things to do, or things aren’t going the way you expected, lift your eyes to refocus on Jesus and remember why you’re here – to love and serve the Lord, because He loved us first.

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your[a] life,appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-4

We must daily fix our eyes on Jesus. A daily intentional refocusing at the start of the day. Our hearts are inclined towards self, pride, others’ opinions, achieving good results. We need to make an intentional effort to set our minds and hearts on heaven. To know Christ. To fellowship in his sufferings through identifying with him. To live in the power of his resurrection. To become more like Christ in his death and resurrection. To be one with him.

Were your goals last year in line with your higher calling? Do you need to shift focus or adjust your goals? What targets will you set yourself for the next year? How might you live it out? What might that look like in your day-to-day life at work, home, church etc? The rest of Colossians 3 is a good place to start if you’re stuck for ideas 🙂

I was surprised to find an article posted by Desiring God yesterday that ties in quite well with this post. Check out “When our waiting will be over” by Jon Bloom – it’s about a song that reminds us of the promise of Home we hold on to and stirs up hope in our hearts again.


Stir me to pray

During my time in Zambia, I read a book called ‘Living Faith’ by Helen Roseveare (short biography & podcast). She was a medical missionary to the Congo, and has written several books to encourage and challenge Christians by sharing her experiences. I could write pages on how inspiring she is – but that’s not what this post is about. I wrote my thoughts after each of the three chapters to help me digest what I had read. This series is about how God used this book to work at my heart and teach me a few important lessons.

Prayer is a major part of my relationship with God that I have been struggling with the past year. I know that it should be a natural part of my faith: like breathing, simply talking to God. But when it comes to actually praying, I get stuck. I don’t know what to say or how to pray – what is the ‘right’ way to pray and how to make my prayers more ‘effective’.

The Lord answered my cry asking Him to teach me how to pray. He is opening my eyes to what I need to learn to set me in motion. Helen writes that the purpose of prayer is not primarily to affect situations, but to learn and understand His will and purpose, seeking to bring my life in line with it for its fulfillment. Prayer is the means by which God works through and gives us all we need to live out His perfect plan.

The need for prayer is great, for those who do not believe in Jesus are perishing. We need a concern for the lost to constrain us to pray – this is where I have been lacking and what has stopped me from praying. I asked the Lord to reveal to me when and why I lost this compassion. I used to be so passionate about the lost! … It was because caring is costly. It is painful to feel compassion for those who are perishing, so I unwittingly chose not to feel at all. I must daily ask God to fill my heart with a concern; a compassion like Christ for those who are without Him. I must accept God’s burden, praying in faith that lives will be set free.

Another key thing to remember is that we do not need to understand why or how God uses our prayers to fulfill His plan. I struggle with this – I usually need to understand the mechanism of how things work before putting it into practice. I guess a helpful way to think about it would be like learning to drive. I don’t understand the whole mechanics of the car, but I trust that if I step on the accelerator it will go; if I pull the brake it will stop; if I turn the handle it will change direction; if I change gear it will allow me to change speed. I do not question how or why – I just do my part. Of course, it is not as straightforward as this, but it helps me understand that it is okay to not understand everything.


Once we start praying, we must commit and persevere until it is answered – whether in visible results or a peace of mind. We must put the needs of those we are praying for above our own, particularly if it is urgent. Don’t count the cost, whether that be in sleep, food, energy, time. Continue believing when praying for longer than 10 minutes. Maintain earnestness. This comes from a heart that is willing to care and love, to suffer with them. Prayer can be painful.

Pray for those who are sick, for God’s healing hand. Lord give me the faith to believe! Do not be discouraged by those who are not healed – simply accept His sovereignty and move on. ‘Our task was to obey and serve to the limit of our God-given ability, trusting Him with the outcome’. Our obedience to the urge of the Spirit to pray, even if specific needs are unknown, may be the channel through which God wants to act on their behalf, for He knows their exact needs. Prayer can be powerful.

When we pray, God may not answer in the ways we anticipate, nor at the time we expect. But when we pray with a heart willing to be available to Him, seeking His will and acting in obedience, He will work out His perfect, pleasing plan. Prayer will turn into praise.

Stir me, oh stir me Lord, till prayer is pain, till prayer is power, till prayer turns into praise. Stir me, till heart and will and mind, yea all is wholly Thine to use through all the days. Stir till I learn to pray exceedingly. Stir till I learn to wait expectantly.

Stir me to go

During my time in Zambia, I read a book called ‘Living Faith’ by Helen Roseveare (short biography & podcast). She was a medical missionary to the Congo, and has written several books to encourage and challenge Christians by sharing her experiences. I could write pages on how inspiring she is – but that’s not what this post is about. I wrote my thoughts after each of the three chapters to help me digest what I had read. This series is about how God used this book to work at my heart and teach me a few important lessons.

Just before I began reading this chapter, someone suggested to me that I consider medical mission in the farming villages and rural islands of Korea. Out of curiosity, I searched what the medical needs of these communities might be. They seem to be a mostly elderly population with local access to basic healthcare, but often unable to reach better services until too late. The needs in Korea will likely increase, with a growing population of refugees, foreign workers, and their families. Unification of the two Korea’s will create an even greater population requiring both practical and spiritual help. All this stirred my heart, but I refused to be moved by it. I prayed, “Lord, do not stir me”. I was afraid of being called to Korea – I did not want it.

As I started this chapter, I was afraid I would be pushed into a corner, forced to submit; but the Lord is good and kind and gentle. The chapter was not an urgent call for missionaries, but of how God guides us in life. I was comforted by the fact that often God only asks us to follow Him one step at a time. The ultimate location of where God wants us to be is usually not as important as it seems. We tend to over-complicate this journey of following God’s plan for our lives; when in reality, it is much simpler.

Helen Roseveare challenges us that we must: a) be 100% certain that He has a complete plan, and b) be 100% available to God for whatever that plan might involve. Seek grace to obey Him, as revealed in His word, and He shall guide us. One example she gave was of a boy being called to a people he did not want to go to. She counselled him to simply hold it in his heart and thank the Lord for wanting him in His service. She comforted him saying that when it comes to, God will help him love the work and the people he will serve. What great grace and comfort! He does not push us beyond what we can take. We must simply obey in faith, as He reveals to us His will, one step at a time.

Rejoice in the Lord, always

“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice.” Philippians 4:4

What is joy? And how do we keep it despite circumstances and feelings?

Joy is one of the things that sets a Christian apart from the rest of the world. Paul commands (note imperative, meaning not optional) the Philippians to rejoice always. It’s easy to say, but how do we actually do it? During the ups and downs of my faith journey, I am most filled with joy when I have had an intimate experience of God, a divine revelation of Himself. But all too soon this fades away and I find myself having lost the joy of the Lord to the mundane-ness of my everyday life. Not that I don’t love Him or believe in Him anymore, but just joyless, unexcited.

Over the Christmas holidays, my church had a winter retreat around the theme ‘Rejoice’. How perfectly timed it was, since this was exactly what had been bothering me for the past few months. We studied the book of Philippians, focusing solely on this theme – I would encourage you to try the same, as it was such a great blessing!

Rejoicing is a choice

Joy is not just an emotion. It’s different to happiness, and it’s not dependent on fun either. I guess it’s not dissimilar to love, in the sense that it is a choice we make on a daily basis. It being a choice is very significant. I can choose to rejoice. I don’t have to be affected by circumstances or emotions when it comes to rejoicing. Meaning I have the ability to rejoice all the time. Praise God!

Rejoice in the Lord

The reason we can choose to rejoice in all circumstances, is because our joy does not come from things that change. Paul says to rejoice in the Lord. Rejoice in who He is. Rejoice in His unchanging love. Rejoice in His gift of salvation. Rejoice in the hope we have of eternity, because of all He has done. Rejoice in the Lord who does not change – He is our solid Rock, our Anchor, our Foundation – this is the reason our joy does not change!

Rejoicing is a battle

There are things that help us keep our joy, and things that take away our joy. I strongly recommend you read through Philippians and write a list of what these things might be. Some things that increase our joy include being content (4:11-12), interceding for each other (1:19), and proclaiming Christ (1:18).

Examples of things that make it harder to rejoice include changes in environment (e.g. Paul’s imprisonment), hostile attitudes of other people (e.g. the selfish preachers in 1:17), and ill health or death (e.g. Paul’s potential execution). These things are mostly out of our control, but Paul changes his perspective on these things and chooses to rejoice over them:

  • He rejoiced over his imprisonment because it expanded his ministry to authoritative figures he would not have reached otherwise, and encouraged others to speak the word of God more boldly
  • He rejoiced over the selfish preachers because Christ’s name was still being proclaimed, no matter what their motivation
  • He rejoiced over his potential execution, because his death would bring him to his heavenly home with Christ.


Not all downers are out of our control though – some things we can and would be wise to avoid. Such things include selfish ambition and conceit (2:3), grumbling and dispute (2:14), and setting our minds on earthly things (3:19). This kind of links with things we can do to increase our joy – serving and giving to God (2:17-18 & 4:18) is the opposite of selfish ambition, humility (2:3) does not allow for conceit or dispute, being content protects against grumbling, and proclaiming Christ fixes our eyes on heavenly things instead of earthly things.

There are many others, and they are truly life hacks!

Rely on the Holy Spirit for help

No matter how hard we try, there will be times when the going gets tough. Remember that with all these things, we need God’s help. Rely on the Holy Spirit (2:19) for strength and perseverance in making these small changes to your life, in order to hold on to that joy in Christ.

Meditations on Matthew 23

One word: HYPOCRISY. Jesus hates hypocrisy. It is self-centred protection, trying to please and impress the eyes of people.

What is hypocrisy? It is teaching one thing but not living it out. It is burdening others with the truth, but not burdening yourself – walking the easy road. A lot of pride is entangled in a hypocrite’s heart – the attitude that I am better than those that need to be taught.

How foolish! How revolting! How… me!

Jesus, forgive me for my rotten heart. My proud tongue is keen to teach things that I myself do not strive to live out. My eyes have become haughty. They keep sinning by looking for faults in others, whilst avoiding and refusing to address my own. I have been a Pharisee. I am a hypocrite.

Lord Jesus, I am broken and do not even acknowledge it most of the time. My fear paralyses me. Lord free my spirit from its fears so it can believe. Free my spirit so it can trust you. Heal my messed up heart so it can love you and my neighbours wholly.

I ask you for a sincere heart. Take away this criticising judgemental heart and mind. Renew my thoughts and my heart. Teach me how to love. Open my eyes to the depth of your love for me and for this world. Lord I want to be fully immersed in your love!

If anyone relates to this prayer, know that you are not alone in this struggle! Let us continue fighting against this attitude of pride within ourselves, continue asking the Author of our faith to free us from unhealthy, unholy thinking habits and to teach us daily to walk in His way of love.

Letting go of the things we love a bit too much

Lord You ask me to put down the things that I have become overly attached to, and put You first instead, on the throne of my heart, Your rightful place.

When did I become so attached to all these… ‘things’? I remember a time when I didn’t care for any of these, and yet I must have slowly allowed myself to drift my eyes away from the everlasting fountain Jesus and towards mere objects of short and shallow satisfaction. I sat down and began writing to help me figure out what exactly holds me back from simply surrendering myself completely to Jesus. Here are a few of what I jotted down, maybe you’ll relate to some of them. I don’t mean to quit these things altogether – it’s more of a conscious decision I am making to put Jesus first before these things.

  • Facebook, whatsapp, phone – they offer me a false feeling of connectedness. I let go of this in exchange for true intimacy with Christ and real depth and connection in friendships!
  • Movies, Youtube videos, TV programmes – they offer me vicarious satisfaction by watching other people live out their own lives, fulfilling things I want in my own life. I let go of this to live out my own life to the fullest!
  • Greed for food and clothes: consumerism – perhaps in an attempt to quench a thirst in my soul for Jesus, I turn to quick and easy satisfaction of fleshly desires. I let go of this in exchange for actively seeking and drinking from the everlasting well of water that is Christ!
  • Comfort – this can spiral into laziness and passiveness! Not willing to get out of my own comfort makes it more difficult to obey that small whisper from the Holy Spirit into my heart, especially when He asks me to do something different or step out in faith!

None of these ‘things’ in themselves are wrong or evil. They are just that – ‘things’. Depending on how they are used, they can be of benefit or hindrance. It is when we put them before Jesus and their purpose is no longer for His glory that it starts holding us back in our relationship with Him. If we do find ourselves doing this, no need to panic! Simply repent and ask for His help to always put Him first in everything – then go and start acting on it in faith! It probably won’t be fixed in a moment, and most likely will be difficult to let go of at first, but you can start working on it with the strength that God gives you. Isn’t our God good?!

I’ll end with these amazing verses from Hebrews 12:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”