The last thing I had expected when I met the boss of a para-church organisation one day in November 2013, was to be offered a job.
A then-colleague of mine had introduced me to Christopher Tan from Our Daily Bread Ministries—which publishes the well-known daily devotional of the same name—at lunch. Up till then, I was expecting to talk about how I could volunteer my services as an editor, something I had been trying to do with a few Christian organisations. Having had a number of years of experience writing and editing in The Straits Times, I felt I should use the skills and experience God has blessed me with for His Kingdom.
To my surprise, Christopher cut straight to the chase. He said; “Join us full time.”
I had to stop myself from falling out of my chair. It was the last thing I had expected. Yet it was something I had always dreamed about—a writing or editing job that involves working on Christian material. Now, Christopher was suggesting I join his team as an editor, to work on devotionals, books and other materials they published. It was a rare opportunity to use my experience, skills and talent for God, while still enjoying the security of a “normal” job.
I had never considered becoming a “full-time ministry worker”, partly because I wasn’t ready to sacrifice career and pay, and partly because I had never seen myself as having a specific calling. (I still don’t.) It was a surprise that I was being offered a job in a Christian organisation.
“What? Me, called? No way!”
At first, I turned it down flat. It didn’t make sense to go “full-time” then. My job was going well—even better than I had ever expected—and I had just been given generous opportunities. I wasn’t prepared for sacrifices in career and pay, which moving to Our Daily Bread would require. Sure, I had never hankered after a high salary and a successful career. But now that things were going well, it was hard to give up the security and promise of a bright career, and to take a pay cut. My wife, Samantha, and I felt that it was the wrong time to make a career change. Maybe in the far future, maybe if God gives a clear sign—but not now.
As the days and weeks passed, however, the thought kept nagging me. Wasn’t this what I always dreamed of? Wasn’t this unusual opportunity being offered to me on a platter? Wasn’t this a sign? What was I waiting for?
But then I thought: Was I being called?
New Lessons about Calling
If I could be sure that God was calling me to this job, I thought, I would have no qualms about switching over. But what if He meant me to stay in the “secular” world? That might explain why things were going well. Was I being “tempted” by this offer, or was it for real? I seemed to be receiving mixed signals. What if I heard God wrongly, and made the wrong decision? What if I gave up everything, only to find that it was not in line with His plan? Trusting God to take care of me was one thing; I couldn’t trust myself to hear properly.
Seeking answers to all these what-ifs, I prayed to God for some sign. But none came. I felt no prompting, nor any clear sign that I should move. So I sought the advice of several people, including my mentor Louis and his wife Angeline, Revd John Lin, Revd Freddy Lim, and several full-time ministry workers.
It was in their responses and advice, that I learnt much about what it meant to be “called”. Not everyone who goes full-time receives a direct instruction from God to do so. Some make that step in faith, believing that the only calling they need to worry about—and obey—is Jesus’ commandment to make disciples. Likewise, some may feel that they are “called” to stay in their secular workplace to share the Gospel. I was reminded that our calling to be Jesus’ witnesses is a universal one, and that few people receive a specific, direct calling from God, like Paul or Moses. Someone pointed out to me, “If you hear that kind of calling, it’s usually to suffer for His sake.”
I wanted God to give me a specific sign and a direct order before making any move, like a loud voice from heaven saying “GO”. But now, I was learning that God often wants to give us the freedom—and wisdom—to choose. One of those I sought advice from asked me to think about what I personally wanted to do, and assured me that God wants us to serve Him joyfully, and He would, therefore, “work with us” in His plans. Another reminded me that it was good enough that I was thinking so hard about it, and not making a decision impulsively. “Our God is a loving and creative God. Don’t lock Him in,” he said. “If you seek to do His will, whatever you choose, God will take what you offer and work with it.”
I was also reminded that when we choose to serve God (whether in a full-time ministry or anywhere else), we are to do it in a spirit of obedience, not sacrifice. That is, we are to serve with the attitude that we are merely doing what God wants us to do – and not focus on how great we are in giving up something for God. It was a good reminder to focus on God, not on myself.
As my wife and I continued to pray over it and talk about it, the discomfort we had about making such a jump gave way to a peace and assurance. Admittedly, it was not so much a peace that came miraculously, but one that came from knowing that we had done “our part”, and that God would take care of the rest. We had done all we could—think about it, pray over it, spoken to wise men about it—so it would not be an impulsive decision to move to Our Daily Bread Ministries. Therefore, we reasoned, God would make it work. One of the men I asked for advice even told us simply, “Don’t think too much, just do it. The more you think, the more confused you get.”
My prayer then became a simple one: “God, I think I’m going to do it. It’s in Your hands now. If it’s the wrong decision, please stop me now!”
We gave it a few weeks, waiting for God to show us if I was making the wrong move. But no warning came, and we continued to feel a peace and reassurance that it would be okay. In August 2014, some nine months after that fateful lunch, I finally tendered my resignation.
God continued to encourage me through this period, giving us peace and blessing me with a good relationship with my bosses that allowed me to leave on friendly terms.
Today, working at One Daily Bread Ministries as an editor, I look back on those nine months with much gratitude for how God had blessed and led me, giving me the choice and time to come to this decision. I can see how He had planned everything for me in advance, yet allowed me to come to this point in my own time and way. I had been seeking a clear sign and a loud voice, but what God gave instead was the counsel of wise men, time to decide, and peace.
Author: Mr. Leslie Koh (Leslie spent more than 15 years in The Straits Times, working variously as a reporter, sub-editor and copyeditor. He joined Our Daily Bread Ministries in 2015, where he now edits books, online articles and other Christian material. He is an avid marathoner. He and his wife, Samantha worship at the 9 am Sunday Service.)
First published in The Courier, July 2015.