Friends and Foes

Friends.

I may not have had many of them, or many true ones when I was in school. For me, it was easier to turn on Steam or Battle.net and face off with “friends” on TF2 and WC3. It didn’t help that my surname was Yong, and based on the alphabet my register number, my seat was always the farthest away from everyone.

Sometimes, I wondered if I could just fit in (the real world) – have that clique that I could always go to in the canteen. To never have to worry that I would have to walk around school alone. At first, I found that camaraderie in Scouting. Man… The things we did, and the time we spent together.

It felt as if I didn’t choose them, but they chose me. While that’s pretty true, and I thank God for them, we started to drift away as we grew older. Scouting is now but a faint, nostalgic memory. As I’ve started working… I’ve had my share of working with people all around… And I understand what Pastor How meant when he taught us when we were younger: some people are friendly, but they are not friends. You know, like an air stewardess? They smile at you and serve you your lunch, but they’re not going to recognise you on the streets and give you a friendly high-five.

Too many a time I’ve stuck around with the wrong group that drifted me further away from God and what I really want to do. It’s hard to describe how hard it is to want to be part of something fun and exciting. So why the need to decide to have the right friends? Why do we choose to live a good life, rather than have all the fun in the world? Why is it while I was having all the fun in the world, I felt I was walking away from God? Couldn’t I keep my values while having fun? Well…

1 Corinthians 15:33 Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”

What, evil company? My friends are not evil…

Here’s the same verse in another version (NLT), that might be easier for us to swallow.

33 Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for “bad company corrupts good character.”

Say what? Well the previous verse before 33 said this… “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” 

Isn’t that what most of us wish? To be happy and enjoy our lives before we die?

Not always…and it’s never easy trying to stay away from old friends that you’ve shared many memories with… But a choice has to be made between having good character and sticking around bad company. Do not be fooled, it doesn’t say good character saves the bad company. It says bad company corrupts good character. Seen my share of friends who stuck to the wrong people too. Tough choice huh…

Pastor Tan Seow How shared in a Checklist for a Great Life when dealing with complicated relationships:

Don’t cut what you can untie
– Complicated relationships are like a knot
– When you cut it you can never put it back together
– Don’t untie what you should cut
– If God says cut don’t be sentimental
– Think of  Lot’s brother and Potiphar’s wife
– A lot of times we are too sentimental and too nostalgic
– To live well you need to live wisely
– Wisdom is hearing from God and knowing which are the ones to cut
– And which are the ones to untie

After many years, I’ve learnt that what I need more than fun. What I’ve really been searching for, are not just friends, but family.

Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.

Friends are very different from family. There’s little obligation to stick it out with you when things go south. But when it comes to family, they’re with you through thick and thin. In Heart of God Church… I’ve found more than friends. I’ve found family.

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Mr Iscariot?

As a young Christian, one of the things I was very intrigued by when reading the gospels was about Judas and the betrayal. I wondered… What went through his mind? Why did he choose to do it? Questions like these often make me feel a deep sonder.

I had the chance to ask this question to Pastor Tan Seow How once. I asked, why did Judas betray Jesus for 30 silver coins? Was it a significant amount of money? If he had been Jesus’ treasurer, didn’t he have access to much more money? (Something along those lines). 

The answer that came back to me was simple enough. It blew my mind, but also got me thinking about the circumstances I’m in at times.

Sometimes when we are given a responsibility, it is not because we are good at it, but because we are bad at it…God is giving us a chance to change.

When we’re stuck in a rut, or facing the same test and challenge again and again, it could mean we aren’t doing it the way we’re supposed it. You could be stuck doing something that isn’t exactly your favourite thing. But… Each opportunity is a chance to change and do better, and also to seek repentance.

How is it that repentance is a big part of the lives of our heroes of Faith – to turn away from what is wrong, and seek to do what is right – while we are more accustomed to raise our fists to vindicate ourselves? It’s time for a change in perspectives.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Keep on keeping on.