Written by: Rachel Chai (Photo by: Joseph Koh)
What has God in store for 2018?
The final week of 2016 didn’t seem that long ago, in which I had penned SELAH’s first article of 2017 based on what God had put on my heart. Unbeknown to me, He had also put a life inside of my womb. Here I am, one year on, sprawled on the play-mat with my 4-month-old son, attempting to crystallise my thoughts for 2018 in between naps and feeds.
When I was younger, I developed an end-of-year ritual to seek the heart of God for the new year. The highlight was seeking Him for an anchor verse — one that would sum up my season for the road ahead. In the beginning, this exercise was instrumental in maturing me in my faith journey; however, as the years progressed, I soon dogmatically adhered to this rigid routine of picking a verse for the year, expecting it to yield similar results each time. I was relying more on my man-made routine than on the Holy Spirit to reveal Himself to me.
This realisation eventually compelled me to sit at God’s feet and allow His Spirit to move in any manner and method He wished. This year, in particular, I felt God convict my heart of this: “In 2018, be still.”
This statement was counter-intuitive to everything I initially envisioned for 2018.
After all, many churches across Singapore have been emphasising on how 2018 would be the 40th year since Billy Graham’s prophecy that Singapore would rise up to be the Antioch of Asia. There has been a growing and palpable excitement that this would be the very year where we live out this prophetic word by going forth to claim the nations. Although there is nothing inherently wrong in this belief, I realised that the significance of the number “40” — as represented in His Word — could reveal greater depth on how we can align our hearts in the coming year.
The Bible is replete with occurrences of the number “40.” It is broadly synonymous with a period of preparation or testing, like the 40 years Moses spent in Egypt and the desert respectively before being called to lead the Israelites out of slavery. It could also be representative of one generation, akin to how the Israelites had spent 40 years in the wilderness before a new generation entered the Promised Land. Crossing over into Canaan would have marked the fulfilment of God’s promises held onto by generations of Israelites.
While this was indeed a significant milestone, the Israelites knew that crossing over was merely the first step; from then on, they had to “take possession of the land that [God was giving them] to possess” (Joshua 1:11 ESV). They, however, did not charge full throttle into battle. Instead, Joshua heeded the command of the Lord to appoint one man from each tribe of Israel to “take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan” (Joshua 4:2 ESV) and to circumcise a new generation who “had not been circumcised on the way” (Joshua 5:7 ESV).
In a similar vein that the number “40” is symbolic of one generation, the 40th anniversary of Singapore carrying this prophetic destiny could signify the emergence of a new generation to lay hold of the baton that has been faithfully carried by generations before us.
Bearing this in mind, it is important to reflect on how we begin this new chapter, as it shall set the stage for generations to follow. This is where I feel the deep pertinence of God’s invitation to “be still,” especially among a finicky millennial generation — it keeps our heart’s posture in check and prepares us to contend for the nations. Being still doesn’t signify inactivity — it is the posture we choose to adopt before the Lord.
I believe that the actions taken by the Israelites upon entering Canaan — the taking of twelve memorial stones and the circumcision of a generation — can guide us as a nation as we grow in stewarding our prophetic destiny:
1. To be a generation marked by the fear of the Lord
The twelve memorial stones were taken with the purpose of reminding future generations of how He gathered the Israelites from slavery and established them in a land of their own “that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty [and that they] may fear the Lord…” (Joshua 4:22–24 ESV).
Growing up in an age where technology is at our fingertips, a common struggle faced by young adults today is to be still. Keeping up with our personal social media platforms alone can be exhausting enough to keep us in a state of busyness all day. A culture has insidiously been created where we feel compelled to broadcast our lives and personal exploits on such platforms, gaining validation via our number of followers or likes.
When I first hopped onto the social media bandwagon, I instinctively began to consider whether my posts would earn me praise or disapproval from others, based on the number of likes or comments received. It soon struck me that I was holding myself captive to the opinions of man — I was driven by the fear of man rather than the fear of the Lord. Thereafter, I sought to spend unhurried time in His presence and allow His truths to redeem me from the “fear of man [that] lays a snare” (Proverbs 29:25 ESV).
As we still our hearts before His presence, He searches our hearts and cleanses us from all “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition” (James 3:14 ESV). I believe the call to wait upon the Lord in stillness will liberate a generation from the fear of man and set our hearts to fear the Lord above all else.
2. To be a generation willing to labour in the “hidden”
The decision to circumcise the entire generation could have been perceived as a peculiar manner of preparing for conquest as it confined able-bodied men of war to “[remain] in their places in the camp until they were healed” (Joshua 5:8 ESV).
For the Israelites, it was the circumcision of the new generation that empowered them to contend for their destiny as a nation. Similarly for Singapore, the manner in which we prepare to walk out our prophetic destiny as a mission-sending nation may look entirely different from how we have conceived it to be.
Many societies today measure their successes based on a set of KPIs — Singapore is no exception. It could be natural for us to benchmark Singapore’s “success” of rising up to her Antioch call based on the number of nations we send people to or the number of souls saved. However, I believe God’s yardstick for success is not what can be seen in the public but what we do in the unseen.
As such, contending for our nation’s destiny takes place primarily in the “hidden” where we continue steadfastly in waiting upon the Lord. One of the many lessons I’ve learnt since becoming a parent is that the majority of parenting takes place in the hidden. Just after a month when my son was born, we were advised by the polyclinic to admit him to KKH for a suspected intestinal condition. As a new mother, intimidation gripped my heart as I realised that I had to stay with my son in the baby ward — alone. My night was spent typing out prayer after prayer on my phone, proclaiming peace over my heart and contending for my son’s health. There was a moment where I was about to broadcast these prayers onto social media when I felt the Holy Spirit instructing me to refrain from posting.
At that point, I realised that God was challenging me to continue to labour on in contending — not just for my son’s health but for his destiny — even if it meant that these prayers would only be seen and known by God. I believe that God is issuing an invitation to our generation to discover the fruitfulness of labouring in the hidden. This does not mean that a lesser emphasis is being placed on going forth in bringing the redemption of the gospel to the nations. But I believe God is issuing this reminder to us all — it is not the physical prowess of men but the posture of a nation that God esteems.
Although 2018 is the significant 40th year of Billy Graham’s prophecy, let us not be caught up in the euphoria of fulfilling a prophetic word and lose sight of the One who sent us and the One whom we represent. In the coming year, may Christ remain the desire of our nation even as He awakens the desire of our hearts to contend for the nations.
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