When I "Lost" My Job

Written by: Lemuel Teo (Photo by: Lemuel Teo)

God’s Masterclass on Financial Freedom

My friends know me as a person obsessed with details and precision: the stationery in my pencil case all face the same direction and my friends love tagging me on “OCD-aggravating videos” on Facebook. So when it came to my life goals, I had it all planned out.

After graduating from university, I would find a job with a salary of more than $3200, save as much as I can, and get married within two years. With my (future) wife, we will save enough money to buy one from the resale market. In a few years’ time, with a young child in our new family, maybe we would be financially able to service a car loan. I imagined a life of comfort — a stable job and warm home to return to daily. I guess, for the average Singaporean, these life goals are commonplace.

Even after I found a job, I was riddled with fears about the future, particularly in the area of my finances. As I did my research about paying for a wedding and a HDB flat (including renovations), I was floored by the immense costs involved. It seemed that no amount of saving would allow me to achieve my ideals. How would I pay for everything I wanted?

Some people would say that I am self-entitled and should have lowered my expectations. I began wrestling with the notion of God being my provider. If He was “YHWH Jireh,” would He be able to provide me with these things?

Little did I know, God was only getting started with me. After working for a year, I felt God — through a few divine episodes — call me to a season of working without pay. This felt like a roadblock against everything I had planned for.

Taking such a step early in my career flew in the face of my Singaporean sensibility. Looking around, a few of my peers were receiving pay increments, performance bonuses, and promotions. Yet, I felt God’s desire to destroy my dependence on a monthly pay cheque, thereby preventing me from attaining the stability I was longing for.

I felt exposed because I realised that I was clinging onto the predictability of a monthly income for my own financial security. I felt frustrated — did God really have to do this to me? Yet, deep down, I knew that God was going to teach me a deep lesson on placing my confidence in Him.

Through His leading, I began working at a para-church organisation. Without a salary or financial support from anyone else, God led me to withdraw a specific amount each month from my personal savings for my daily expenditure.

In this journey of stretching faith, I came face-to-face with my fears. I had a deep fear of not being able to afford the lifestyle I wanted. It’s not as if I was fantasising about a lavish way of life; I simply wanted to live like an ordinary Singaporean. I reasoned with God that this season without drawing a salary would definitely delay my plans of settling down. How would I ever have the money for a decent wedding or a modest house?

I also started speculating about what other people would think about me. In my mind, one’s success depended upon his ability to be a contributing member to our society. We have been taught, through countless National Education lessons: “No one owes Singapore a living. We (must) find our own way to survive and prosper…” I felt like I owed it to my parents, my future family, and to Singapore society at large. I could not shake off the thought that I was the “loser who could not hold down a proper job,” despite obtaining a degree from a local university.

When it came to God, I was terribly apprehensive about His willingness to provide for me. Although I knew that He is our Father in heaven who will “give good gifts to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:11 NIV), I questioned the veracity of His promise. Maybe our definitions of “good” are different. Even though I knew that I was more valuable to God than five sparrows or the lilies of the field (Luke 12), I did not dare nor did I want to test God on His capacity to provide everything I need.

As I poured out these fears to God, at times mouthing soundless words with tear-stained cheeks, I realised that I had unknowingly developed a sense of entitlement. I was clutching onto certain rights and was unwilling to let go of them — the right to earn an acceptable salary because I have a bachelor’s degree; the right to own a HDB flat; the right to plan my finances as I deem fit. However, these “rights” that I had so dearly held on to stemmed from a very Singaporean ideal: when it came to attaining my desired way of life, I believed in Singaporean meritocracy more than God’s supremacy.

In this season, God is testing my faith in Him. Loren Cunningham, the founder of Youth With A Mission (an international missions organisation where no one receives a salary), wrote, “The natural tendency of the human heart is always towards independence, away from dependence upon God and others.” As I took steps to move away from financial self-sufficiency, God proved that He is all-sufficient.

Two weeks into my new season, a friend of mine, who did not know about my new situation at all, decided to send me money on a monthly basis. The amount he gave was exactly the same amount God led me to withdraw each month from my personal savings! I was overjoyed! I felt assured of God’s attentiveness to my every need.

In the surfacing of my fears and sense of entitlement, God’s intention was to realign my heart with His. He was teaching me about His abundance. I have learnt that “God shall supply all [my needs] according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NKJV).

I have only just started on this journey of entrusting all of my finances into the loving hands of God, but He has already showed me that He is faithful. When you “(s)eek the Kingdom of God above all else…he will give you everything you need” (Luke 12:31 NLT).

Moved by the generosity of God, and the open-handedness of fellow Christians towards me, I have also been growing in the area of blessing others. God has been challenging me to give even more generously to the poor than when I was receiving a full-time salary. I have since discovered the joy of giving with a happy heart; this has broken the mindset of hoarding my money as mine and has taught me to steward all I have as God’s resource.

Indeed, the “love of money is the root of all…evil” leading to “many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10 NKJV). As God tills the soil of my heart, uprooting the dependency on money, I am growing to trust that God is good and will provide everything I need.

Loren Cunningham summarises this principle, “In our modern world, everybody needs money because most things you do involve money. If you are willing, God will lead you into a lifestyle where everything is done with faith in Him, including how you get and how you use your money.”

LEMUEL loves Hainanese chicken rice, especially the roasted variety. Cycling along the eastern coast of Singapore while watching the sun set rejuvenates his soul. He is dedicated to restoring and building lives to be Godly pillars of strength in their communities. Follow him @lemuelteo.


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