taking time to know God more deeply
Shortly after graduating from university, I felt a burden in my heart to serve God full-time; I believe that was His calling. During that time, I was also challenged by a pastor one Sunday, who preached from a passage in Nehemiah exhorting us to serve the Lord. She prophesied that God had called two persons from our congregation to enter full-time ministry. I was excited when my friend answered the call, and was ready to be the second person to answer God’s specific call. However, the door to full-time service was shut when I could not receive my parents’ blessings as I was financially unstable and had just started out in my first job in a statutory board. Moreover, as I continued to wrestle with the Lord, I felt no peace to go ahead and respond to the call to full-time work. That season of my life left me with many unanswered questions which I chose to surrender to the Lord but I remember God saying to me then that, ‘the Lord who calls you, is faithful’.
Fast-forwarding to more than a decade later, when I was doing extremely well in my secular job, I received a new prompting in my heart to pursue full-time theological studies to study God’s Word in greater depth and be better equipped for lay ministry. At that stage in my life, the stakes were much higher then before, when I was a fresh graduate. I had to give up a cushy job and a stable income, as well as return to school after a long gap of several years. A slew of questions bombarded my mind once again. Yet, there was also an unexplainable sense of peace from the Lord who assured me that He would pave the way. Also, considering that I had worked 14 years in a secular job, which made up 2 cycles of 7, it was time to offer to God two Sabbath-years to study His Word. Moreover, being a cancer survivor since my 20s, the brush with sickness accentuated the reality of mortality, and taught me to see life in the light of eternity. Hence, to set aside 2 years for full-time studies of God’s Word seemed a small but worthwhile endeavor. The final determinant to leave my job for theological studies was when God gave me two signs – full double rainbows stretched across the sky – to remind me of His promises and faithfulness. I saw that as God ‘double-confirming’ His call!
As it turned out, everything went incredibly well. My parents and pastor gave me their blessings and my boss, who happened to be a Christian, was very gracious and encouraging of my decision. My application to Trinity Theological College (TTC) also went through smoothly. Praise the Lord!
Being now in the final semester of the 2-year Master of Theological Studies (MTS) course, I cannot help but marvel at God’s hand in providing, guiding and blessing this stage of my faith journey. I am extremely grateful for the luxury of these 2 years to indulge in theological studies, away from the hustle and bustle of work life in the secular world. I remember what the Warden of St Peter’s Hall prayed for me during the interview. He prayed that ‘grace upon grace’ would be upon me as I entered seminary, giving me a great assurance of God’s sustenance, and indeed, it has been so.
Formal full-time theological education is unlike any of the studies I had previously received. It is not just an academic exercise; neither is it devoid of its rigors. In my first semester, especially, I found it quite a challenge to keep up with the pace and struggled to cope with the complex theological readings and writing of academic papers. Notwithstanding the joys of learning, I quickly discovered that theological studies does throw one into the uncomfortable deep end of having to grapple with different schools of thought and deliberating between the liberal and conservative ends of theological controversies. My mindset and doctrinal positions have indeed been challenged in some ways and the past one and a half years have taught me the importance of reflective contemplation, spiritual discernment and conscientious study of the Word of God, guided by the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. The process of immersing in biblical scholarship has been immensely fascinating and fulfilling. Overall, it has been truly rewarding, leading me to acquire new insights and a better appreciation of Old and New Testament teachings, Systematic Theology, Church History, Pastoral Theology, Mission and Evangelism and Biblical Interpretation, just to name a few of the interesting modules offered. Some Christians today may think of theology as secondary to religious experientialism, I am more inclined to agree with J.I Packer’s view that :
‘All theology, rightly grasped, leads the mind and the heart to doxology. The story of God is about the glory of God. All revelation of the ways of God leads to exultation over the wonders of God.’
Beyond the studies, TTC community life has provided me with a deep sense of belonging, creating a wealth of opportunities to participate in various college activities – these have greatly enriched my life as a student. Most importantly, I have made many precious friends – both within the larger Anglican family and with other beautiful Christians. It is truly wonderful to know that we have others to pray alongside us in our times of need, and to spur us on in our personal walk with the Lord. In addition, the learned faculty members are not only willing to share their knowledge with us, but are also pastoral and caring towards the students. This is certainly a place where ‘iron sharpens iron’ and where friendships are made for eternity. I shall always look back at my TTC journey with heartfelt joy and fond memories.
As the course draws to a speedy end, the question ‘what would I be doing after graduation’ has been asked countless times by well-meaning pastors, family and friends, including myself. The option of entering full-time ministry seems to be a natural path to take, indeed, it could well be so. Yet the option of returning to the educational industry which has been close to my heart also seems to be a plausible possibility. Or, perhaps, there is something else God has in mind for me that has yet to surface. Whichever path comes my way, I am assured that God’s sufficient grace would lead me to where and what He has prepared me for. This chapter of my life has taught me that the anticipation of watching God’s plans unfold in one’s life is in itself to be relished as a journey of blessedness and spiritual preparation. For now, I shall choose to live for the moment, cherish where He has placed me, and continue to seek to live a life worthy of the gospel.
‘..But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.’ (Phil 3:13-14)
Author: Ms. Veronica Wong (Veronica serves in the worship team at the Saturday Service.)
First published in The Courier, April 2014.