Millenials

I don’t live my life for just myself, because if I lived it just for myself, to what avail would that be? Living for myself to an end is vanity, as my life is only so small and so short relative to eternity. Life is only worth living if I lived it for God. If it means submitting to His will, then it is worth it to put my rights at the backseat.

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I do not take fondly to being called a “millennial”, although it is a fact that I am one. “Millennial” is the label that has been plastered upon my generation, and every individual that has been born into it. This word itself brings cringes from the bundle of nerves in my sacrum. It describes a generation of people born within the last few decades and the first few years following the recent millennium, hence the name. The word annoys me because of the underlying notion of entitlement that comes with it.

Entitlement is a feeling that one is deserving of privileges, of rights, of being treated a certain way. If I were to be honest, I could not wash my hands to it. I can name (many) instances that I caught myself feeling entitled to something. Days when I was mad that I wasn’t being picked up on time, times that I felt that I didn’t have to do a certain task because I held a special position, when I felt that a teacher was being unfair because they weren’t teaching me a certain way or that I was being treated harshly. You name it, I’m probably guilty of it.

I don’t feel that anything is wrong with wanting something that is rightfully yours. There is merit in knowing what is due you and fighting for it. It can be expected, it is just, even the Bible supports it. What justice would there be if nobody asserted their rights? But I believe the problems arise when our goals, our vision, our purpose and God’s purpose for our lives, is dethroned by our ego fighting for what we so desperately believe we deserve.

Being in medical school has helped me to slowly realize this for myself. I am not perfect, and I still have so much leveling up to do as far as humility is concerned. But God has used medical school to teach me that my life is not about myself. If I want to live my life for him, I have to stop expecting good things to come my way, that I (most of the time) have to work hard if I want to get what I want, and that I am to put the interests of others before my own.

Myself being in my third year of medical school, I can attest that it has not been a smooth journey. Being consistently tested not just for knowledge but also for endurance, perseverance, and diligence tempts one to deviate from the ideals that one lives by. When a lecturer disrespects your class and imposes unfair standards, it is very easy to grumble, and to stray to an attitude of rebellion and discontent, rather than turn to acceptable methods of grievance. When things get tedious and monotonous, one is tempted to be disrespectful, give a halfhearted effort, and complain that the lecturers “do not know how to teach”. With this attitude, when one’s world comes crashing apart, one would ultimately resort to self-gratifying behaviors–food, alcohol, friends, video games, series, you name it–forgetting turn to God in prayer.

When you have an attitude of entitlement, God is no longer your god. Instead, you make yourself the captain of your own ship, sending yourself wherever you want to go. You become your own ‘god’, a scary place to go.

The title of ‘god’ comes with a very demanding job description. It means managing reality itself (or whatever it is you are the ‘god’ of) around the clock, 86,400 seconds a day, 365 days a year. It means upholding truth, and bestowing justice upon all your creation. I myself have a hard time managing my own schedule as a medical student, let alone the universe and everything in it. When I realize this, I remember that in all of history, there has only been ONE who has ever been able to fit the job description.

I don’t live my life for just myself, because if I lived it just for myself, to what avail would that be? Living for myself to an end is vanity, as my life is only so small and so short relative to eternity. Life is only worth living if I lived it for God. If it means submitting to His will, then it is worth it to put my rights at the backseat.

Because of who I am, I deserve nothing. But God, through His love and mercy, has given me all that I need. My purpose and destiny is secure in His purpose.

I deserve nothing, but He has given me everything.

Look to the Stars

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.

When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

– Philippians 2:3-8, NLT

Last Friday night, I was on my way to d-group when I found myself looking up at the vast evening sky. The night was dark, and quiet, and despite the usual pollution that masks the lights of Pasig City, I was able to catch a glimpse of the stars. I recall my grade school days, back when I was just a humble boy scout, pedantically looking at the stars and mapping them out (or trying my best to map them out) on a tiny sheet of paper.

It was here that I recalled the promise that God gave Abraham, when he took him out to gaze upon the evening sky.

He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

– Genesis 15:5, NIV

In the old times, it was a great honor for a man to have a child. Abraham, though he was old and aged at the time of this promise, had no children of his own. Yet it was at this very moment that Abraham was being given such a grand promise, that his lineage would be in the multitudes.

The stars in the sky, we will never fully know the exact number. But based on what we know, there are estimated to be as many as 10 to the 24th power; at least that is what we can deduce from the observable universe. And yet, this many descendants was what was promised by God to Abraham.

Now Abraham could have thought two things, when he was told this. He could have either told himself, “God has promised me so much, it’s all for me!” Or he could have said, “Who am I, that You have all of this in store for me?”

It is so easy for us to get caught up in selfishness and think that we are the hero of the story, the center of the galaxy, the focus of the universe. We can go out of our way to receive what we think we deserve, to get the things we want, to turn the world into our footstool. It’s all about me!

It seems completely logical when we live our life, with our own ends in mind. We have to survive, we have to provide, we have to see to it that we can see to live tomorrow. But we can realize that living for ourselves is meaningless. There will soon come a day when we will eat the dust of death, and each of us will ultimately lose everything we accumulate on earth. Sooner or later. When life is about “living for me,” life is meaningless.

Look to the stars. Earth is just a speck in this solar system, which is just a smudge in this galaxy called the Milky Way. Just one of thousands of other galaxies in our night sky. Compared to the rest of our universe, you are insignificant.

And yet, compared to God, our universe is insignificant. He created everything from the biggest and brightest star to the smallest ant. But because of His love for us all, He has called for to be partners in His almighty plan. All the meaninglessness of life is ultimately lost when we respond to this call. When we choose to live day-by-day in accordance with His word.

It takes a special kind of humility to see that life is only worth living when you live it for God. And it brings a special kind of fulfillment to live it for God and God alone.

 

Alcohol, The Good Things In Life, And The Holy Spirit

A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God…

– Ecclesiastes 2:24, NIV

So today, my Bible reading was from the last two chapters of Proverbs, 30 and 31. Besides the account of the wife of noble character, the readings were generally very troubling and depressing. It’s often a slight discomfort for me, whenever I come across Bible verses about the bleakness and frailty of life. Hevel. In my readings, I came across a couple of verses:

Alcohol is for the dying, and wine for those in bitter distress.
Let them drink to forget their poverty and remember their troubles no more.

– Proverbs 31:6-7, NLT

I was curious and intrigued, as per the meaning of these verses. The bible in itself does not put a blanket statement saying that drinking in all its forms is a bad thing. Jesus himself drank alcohol. A lot of people tend to get this wrong. But in the context of this verse, it seems to portray alcohol as an adjuvant treatment or a supplementary medication that people can use as they go through certain phases of distress and discontent in their lives. I was reminded of what Paul told Timothy. I gained the impression that the practice of drinking could be acceptable, maybe even beneficial, as one could take from the context of both Old and New Testament.

Then afterwards, I went to Sunday service, where a guest speaker Dr. Harold Sala visited to share the word with our church. He spoke very fervently and very openly today about the topic of being filled with the Holy Spirit. About how we can only make an impact as followers of Christ if we accept and live by his empowering gift of the Holy Spirit. This is not just some privilege that is reserved for the highest members of the church hierarchy–His Spirit is someone that Jesus gives freely to us all, so that we can go forth and share His love with all! Then, he spoke again on the topic of wine and alcohol, referencing it in a verse:

Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life.
Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit

– Ephesians 5:18, NLT

It hit me, that this is what my reading earlier today meant. Alcohol, or anything at all in this world that is good, is not bad in itself. Alcohol has a place in our lives. Work, fun, even life itself, has a place in our lives. (Life has a place in life… Lifeception wew) Things, however, can and will go bad when we make these little good things become the center of our lives. They are hevel, meaningless, and it is pointless to make our life revolve around these. God is gracious and gives us a wiser option–to live life by the Holy Spirit.

What the Bible tells us is that we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices for the fire of the Holy Spirit to burn up completely. Dr Sala said that failing to do so would be like writing a deal and selling your entire house to a buyer, but still stowing away your stuff in the attic. The buyer would be annoyed, to say the least. Likewise, if we are to give ourselves up to the Holy Spirit, we are to give up everything. Not just our sins, though that’s very important, as we are instructed to confess our sins to God and allow him to cleanse us from our sins. But yielding to the Holy Spirit means everything–our food, our drink, our calling, the way we handle our relationships–everything. As living sacrifices, being burned up completely is scary, and we have a natural tendency to crawl off the altar. We must make an effort to tell God everyday, “I want to live for your will, lead me where you want me to go.”

Turning away from idolatry means to seek God’s kingdom first and foremost, before all else. Because though all the good things in this life are not bad in the themselves, they are all temporary. Hevel. Meaningless. Everything of this world is destined to die. To find true meaning in life means to live something that is far greater than the temporary nature of the things in this world. It means to live completely for God. And in living for God, we can live for a purpose.

So grab a bottle of beer. Eat your favorite burger, and enjoy spending time with the people you love. But if you are a Bible-believing, Christ-saved, redeemed-by-grace, Spirit-filled person, then remember what–Who–you live for, before all else.

The grass withers and the flowers fade
beneath the breath of the Lord.

And so it is with people.
The grass withers and the flowers fade,
but the word of our God stands forever.

– Isaiah 40:7-8, NLT

Exhumed

exhume
verb (used with object)exhumed, exhuming.
1. to dig (something buried, especially a dead body) out of the earth; disinter.

2. to revive or restore after neglect or a period of forgetting; bring to light:
to exhume a literary reputation; to exhume old letters.

So, I joined my obstetrics professor’s Bible study today at SM Megamall. The topic was leadership, and the reference verse was the parable of the talents. We all know the story, right? What’s amazing about Bible studies is that, whenever we read through God’s word, we realize that we don’t actually know the story. We learn something new each time about ourselves, and more importantly, about God.

So in the account, the three servants were given different amounts of money, respectively. The first and second servants, given 5 and 2 talents respectively, worked hard and doubled their money; the third, given 1 talent, just buried his underground. Their boss celebrated the resourcefulness of the first two, while he fired the third servant and confiscated what he was given.

It should be worth considering that the money that one talent was worth 16 years worth of wages in the setting the parable was narrated.

The first question raised was, “What was the attitude of the first two servants? How did the first two servants approach their master?”

When they received their talents, each of the two took the immediate initiative to work and maximize what they were given. And when they presented to their master, each of them started off by humbly saying, “Master, you gave me…”, acknowledging the source of their talents. They returned their earnings to their master, acknowledging likewise that he was the source of what they were able to produce.

The master was fair and just, and when he received them, he did not respond by saying, “Why did you just earn 2 more? The first servant earned far more than you did!” Instead, he acknowledged each servant for what they were able to produce.

Another question was raised, “Why did the third servant bury his talent underground?” The story says that the servant gave the reason that he was afraid, thinking that his master would get mad at him if he lost what little he was given. He was afraid to take a risk to do what was necessary to make a profit for his master. And as the first two were rewarded for their drive to grow, he was punished for his fear and lack of initiative. He acted out of disrespect, fear, and selfishness.

Wordplay

It’s funny how both ‘humility’ and ‘humiliation’ are derived from the same word that means “earth”. The ones who did not bury their talents were the ones who were most humble. And likewise, the one who buried his talent was the one who was least humble and yet most humiliated.

Humility is acknowledging that what we have isn’t ours to begin with. It’s all God’s.

Are my talents my talents?

I drew several personal insights from reading this parable one more time. The first thing I would like to point out is that for the three, it was not their possession of talents that preceded their being servants. Rather, it was their being servants that preceded their being given talents. They were never instructed to grow something that they already owned. They were given something due to their being servants of the master in the first place.

They were his servants. They initiated. They acknowledged. They glorified.

God blesses us all with gifts and talents in this life. As Christians, we must understand that when we serve Him, it is never out of our own merit that we can please him. We understand that before all else, we are His servants, and hence He blesses us with things that we never truly own ourselves. Because He is our Lord, we are to manage everything in our life with full knowledge that these are not our own, but His resources for us to steward.

A good servant will use all resources towards the interests of their master. Likewise, by merit of Jesus being Lord of our life, we are to manage our blessings bearing in mind His commands for us. At the end of the day, our goal should be to honor Him.

To exhume what I have buried

When God blesses us, he does not tell us, “I want you to copy so-and-so. If you don’t then I will be so disappointed.” He wants us to be fruitful with whatever he gives us. He is faithful to bless us with whatever he knows we are capable of managing, and does not compare us with his other servants.

I am reminded of the disciple Simon-Peter’s jealousy towards the disciple John. A lot of times, we are envious of what God’s other servants are blessed with. More than that, we (I) tend to want so much of “the good things in life”. We demand from God. In wanting them so much, we forget about the good things that God has already given us. We forget that God blesses us with so much, with a jealousy that disrespectfully tells him, “You have not given me everything I need to make a good profit.” We are fearful that what He has given us is inadequate.

Resources, relationships, opportunities, status, these are all things we can want that are not bad in themselves. And it’s bad to ask these from God. But when we obsess too much over what we don’t have, we say that what God gives us is not enough. These things, more than God, become our god.

And in such, we bury our blessings deep

deep

deep

deep

beneath all these fears and anxieties.

Something I need to remind myself everyday, God’s perfection completes my imperfection. I need to remind myself that God is my forever companion whenever I feel lonely. God is my power to accomplish His perfect will, whenever I feel inadequate. And whenever I remember, only then am I able to glorify Him.

I am not perfect. He is.

So I can truly live and move and live life to the fullest, if I can keep this truth to heart: that He is my solace in everything.