We watched some old family videos over Christmas. One of the very first clips was of a little me singing “Jesus Loves Me”. A few sections later, I was singing it again, this time to my younger sister in the cot. Later on, I sang it while was she crawling on the floor. I recorded a variation of it for our wedding and, after seeing how many times I had been recorded singing this song, I realise I sing it often. I realise that my heart has hidden those words “Jesus loves me” deep within my soul, and it is from this knowledge of love that my joy abounds continuously. As I have grown and matured, I have continued to come to Jesus with this mindset of being His beloved daughter. He loves how I lean on Him, but He has also been teaching me to grow up in Him, and to grow more in His character. My foundation is well-set in Him, and He wants to show me some new things.
“Therefore, leaving the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God…” [Hebrews 6:1]
Now, as I have taken my first steps into the world of full-time work, Jesus has been showing me various avenues of worshipping and glorifying Him – situations I have not really thought much about in the past. He has been giving me more to steward, and with these greater responsibilities, I have had to rethink my views on pride, testimony and hiddenness – is there more to the picture than what I thought I knew? Of course! Let me explain more.
My writing and music are two things I dedicated to the Lord from a young age, and He has been taking me through journeying of growing in these gifts. In the beginning, the things I wrote Him, and the music I composed to Him were hidden in my “secret place” – I did not share them with others. Some testimonies I did, but many of my most intimate moments with the Lord, I kept between the two of us. Slowly, through the years, I found that what I experienced with God in that “secret place” began to spill out into other aspects of my life. Two years ago, with a little kick-start from my Dad, I decided to start this weekly blog, and to publish bits and pieces of my music. I was very apprehensive at first because I still wasn’t quite sure what God had in store for all this. Sharing with friends after you have already seen a need is one thing, but when I started my blog, I needed to listen to what God wanted to say, not always knowing in advance the specific situations or people He might be thinking of. Well, Jesus knows all that I am thinking and pondering so, as I sought Him out, He encouraged me and gave words to write, revelations to share, and testimonies to declare. I still had my “secret place” – some things went in my journal, others were to share through the blog or through music.
I realise more and more how much people see our lives, and I am doubly aware of it now that I have published my first eBook, “An Internship with Jesus”. We are living testimonies, a light to the world, and yet, there is still that beautiful aspect of being hidden in Christ, awaiting an eternal reward. I love the encouragement and fruit I get to see now, but I really want to store up for my treasure in heaven! I am so aware that as I share and do more things, I might see pride more often, and I don’t want pride, I want humility! At the same time, I do not want to be so frightened of pride, that I avoid everything. God has given us power to overcome all things, and He has equipped us for every good work. I want to be a warrior who boldly proclaims His Name, and I want to make full use of everything He has given me to steward on this earth! So, how can I do all this in humility?
I have come to consider a few questions:
- What is pride and boasting?
- If we are to share all good things with others, can we still have that place of hiddenness?
- What is the secret place?
- How can we use the tools we have been given on earth to glorify God?
Pride and Boasting
There are many things we could say about pride and boasting, but I want to concentrate on one aspect here – the attitude of pride and boasting. Pride is not being successful at what you do, it is not acknowledging the blessings God has given you, and it is not having a public ministry. You can do all those things with pride, but you can also do all those things with humility. Pride and boasting is an attitude. The following passage, from James 3:13-18 compares earthly and heavenly wisdom which guide our lives:
“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
Let’s break this passage down into three sections.
(v.13) “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.”
- The meekness of wisdom is shown through good conduct. It is shown in the workings of faith. We demonstrate the type of wisdom by which we live, in the testimony of how we live.
(v.14-16) “But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.”
- Envy and self-seeking are specifically named as evidences of earthly wisdom, a way of living which is not pleasing to God. I believe envy and self-seeking are also related to the attitude of pride. We are envious when regard ourselves as more important, and pursue our own interests above other things. It is not wrong to look after ourselves and in fact, we should look after ourselves. However, it is when we seek to place ourselves above others and above God as an idol that we are self-seeking and prideful. Remember, God made us all in His image, and He loves every one of us. He says that if we know Him, we should love one another. 1 John 4:20 says, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not have love for his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” We all struggle with sin – I struggle with sin, but God gives us power to overcome and He has a reward for us as overcomers. There is a song that says, “Change my heart Oh God, make it ever true. Change my heart oh God, may I be like You.” May that be our prayer – that God would change our hearts to be more like His heart.
(v.17-18) “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
- In order for God to change our heart, we must allow Him to. James describes the wisdom from above, God’s wisdom, to be “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” It is first pure, because God is pure. His wisdom will direct actions which honour His holiness. As such, it will give us an attitude of being peacemakers, a heart submitted to Him, and a life which bears good fruits. If God’s wisdom is in us, if our heart desires Him, we must bear good fruits because these fruits are seeded in our heart, and we have Christ as King and Saviour in our heart.
So then, pride and boasting come from an attitude that honours self above the will of God. A life of humility boldly declares God’s glory and fully submits to Him. When we do things in humility, we give all our talents, skills and opportunities to God, to obey Him, and to use these gifts according to His desires – for purity, mercy, good fruits and peace.
“For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. [Galatians 6:3-4]
Testimony, Hiddenness and the Secret Place
There are a number of passages which speak about the power of sharing testimonies, and also, the reward of having a secret place with God.
- [Galatians 6:6] – “Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.”
- [Revelation 12:11] – “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and that they did not love their lives to the death.”
- [1 Peter 3:15-16] – “But sanctify the Lord God in our hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.”
- [1 Chronicles 16:8-9] – “Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works!”
- The example of Paul sharing his experiences and testimony with various churches and brethren
- The Psalms of David, recording some of his greatest victories of faith and also, the depth of his greatest sufferings
What we learn about TESTIMONY:
- Testimony is powerful and its declaration is used to overcome the enemy (Satan)
- We should remember and guard our testimonies – not to foolishly “throw our pearls to pigs” [Matthew 7:6], but rather, to speak in wisdom by the Holy Spirit [1 Corinthians 2:12]
- We are called to witness but declaring and giving thanks to God – making known His deeds amongst people.
- We are also called to prepare – to be ready to defend our faith, and part of this includes knowing and recognising the testimony of Christ in our lives.
- Testimonies, like that of Paul and David, encourage others and help to build up the church. We learn from one another and sharpen each other as iron sharpens iron.
THE SECRET PLACE
- [Matthew 6:3-4] – “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”
- [Matthew 6:6] – “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
- [Psalm 27:5] – “For in the time of trouble, He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.”
- [Psalm 91:1] – “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”
What we learn about THE SECRET PLACE:
- The secret place is found in the pavilion and tabernacle of God – in the place of worshipping God and standing in His presence
- The secret place is a place of fearing God – where His opinion matters over that of anyone else’s
- The secret place is important, a place of intimacy between us, individually, and God. These are hidden moments with God that carry a heavenly reward.
From these passages, I see that sharing testimony and having a secret place can occur in tandem. Testimony, both sharing our own experiences, and declaring what God has done, is beneficial as we rebuke the Devil and encourage others. The secret place is an intimate dwelling place with God. Part of this involves us living lives of constant worship to God, but it also includes specific times and moments spent alone with Him.
Using tools on earth to glorify God
This is something I am learning more and more as I understand how faith, and practical service fit together. One thing I felt God would show me, and know He is now doing, is how we can be fully devoted to Him in considering the practical elements of life – eg. In the business and paperwork of running a church, in preparing worship sets, in studying, in working, in organising invoices and payments and emails. Faith and these practical elements of life complement each other beautifully.
THE EXAMPLE OF CAREER
One of the more notable examples of this struggle in my life, is the fact that I am a doctor. It is part of my credentials that I have obtained a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, and that my title, therefore, is “Dr”. Yet, I seem reluctant to use these credentials. When I wrote my book “An internship with Jesus”, I initially didn’t want to put an “About Me” section. When I did eventually include it, I didn’t mention I was a doctor. Given the nature of the book, and as others gave feedback, I decided I ought to publish it under Dr. Kristen Dang, and to include my credentials as part of the “About Me” section. Part of my reluctance there, was that I disliked the “Oh, you’re a doctor!” response which some people hype up. At the same time, I do not want to despise the opportunities God has given me in medicine, and I do not want to despise the testimony he has given me in the six years I studied for my degree. It is something God and I are still working through and something I hope I will continue to understand more – how I can glorify God as a doctor!
At my church, I play second keys, and serve as an usher. I had done neither of these two things before I came to this church and I quickly discovered the purpose behind what we were doing in these roles. As part of the worship team, we were not simply drawing people into worship because we were worshipping, but we were intentionally drawing them into worship God. As such, we needed to be aware of the congregation – not just to pray over them, but to truly declare God’s word over them, not just to sing, but to sing over them, not just to be on stage, but to lead them. The gestures and open posture of the team towards the congregation suddenly had meaning once I understood this purpose. When I started ushering, I had no idea what ushers did apart from show people to their seats and serve communion. However, I got an orientation and someone explained to me that the role of ushering was to minimise distraction so people could focus on God. That also was a revelatory moment for me and it changed how I did all sorts of ministry, not just ushering! When I first started my blog, I used to post things and not tell anyone. I would just quietly pray in my room that God would tell whoever needed to read it Himself – maybe He could do it in a dream, or vision or something supernatural like that if they really needed to hear that word. Some wiser people suggested that perhaps part of working with God in this was to actually post the blog intentionally. Now I post it on my facebook page and also know where the stats button is. When I was younger, I never used to read the news and was somewhat ignorant of what was going on in the world. I later realised that it was important to be aware of these things so that I could be prepared and effective in my life with God – to pray for things, recognise patterns of human nature, and learn God’s will in all things.
“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil, Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” [Ephesians 5:15-16]
In all of this, as we work effectively with the tools God has provided in earth, we remember one thing – to fear God, not man. The purpose of all these things is glorify God, not to glorify man or to glorify ourselves. It comes back to attitude and purpose. Will we live to serve God, or to serve the earth?