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"It is 'Time' to handle power and it is in our 'Power' to handle time"

   
Tan Sri (Dr) Francis Yeoh giving his speech at the Pre-Easter dinner to the leaders and elders of the leading churches in Malaysia, at The Ritz Carlton Hotel in Kuala Lumpur.

YTL Community News, April 1, 2010

Introduction

In his book, The Brief History of Time, Professor Stephen Hawking writes that if we could find the answer as to why we and the universe exist, “it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason, for then we should know the mind of God”

I pray Professor Hawking would allow himself to read 1 Corinthians 2 v 6-16 and be enlightened. He would find that the Apostle Paul already taught us this invaluable truth – that believers could know the secret wisdom of God, because His Holy Spirit dwells in us and that we can have the mind of Christ.

“A wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

“However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.”

“The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.  We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.”

And wisdom the Holy Spirit imparts to us as God’s children that even the rulers of all ages have not understood them!
For this Easter Celebration, the Holy Spirit prompted me to share this message with you, and this I share with full humility. “It is ‘Time’ to handle power righteously and it is in our ‘Power’ to handle time well.”

We are all aware that our Lord’s wisdom is boundless. This boundless wisdom is revealed through the scriptures. For this evening, I am humbled to have been given this particular insight into the significance of God’s wisdom in creating two mediums to display His glory. He created us human beings, as well as the medium of ‘time’. Like an artist uses a canvass for his artistic expression, the Lord uses us and time to reveal Himself to us.

But of course, we study the Word of God to ponder its meaning and application. But the Word remains a dead letter until the Holy Spirit breathes life into it. Just as Paul said to Timothy: “Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this” (2 Timothy 2 v 7), we shall ponder this evening and the Lord will enlighten us.

“It is ‘Time’ to handle power”

Everyday, we hear of the word ‘power’ mentioned. More often than not, we hear of its abuse.

In both the Old and New Testament, there are more stories and lessons on how to handle power. God teaches us not to take this matter lightly. Because ‘power’ is always more than just means to an end or to get things done. The Bible teaches us how intricately linked is power to the reality of ruler-ship or control.

Creation, wealth and power

Humans were created in God’s image. We were subsequently given stewardship over His wealth, including power associated with the stewardship. God said, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1 v 28). God did so that we may reflect His Glory in everything.

However, humans disobeyed God and fell tragically short of His Glory. In the process, we became slaves to sin, but also we had the power God granted us at creation, stolen from us by the devil. In other words, the devil was ‘empowered’ on this earth by our fall or by default. Hence, why he is the ‘prince’ of this world.

This is of course extremely good reason why we must never be careless with power. Or we may find ourselves dabbling in the devil’s domain. We only need to see what evil is perpetrated daily in this world in pursuit of power.

Praise the Lord that as Christians, our sins have been forgiven on account of Jesus’ death on the cross. The power of the cross broke the chains of sin that bound us and released us from the grip of the devil. We have freedom in Christ and He is our King alone. No longer do we fall under the devil’s power or authority, nor do we fear him.

But sadly, we Christians often find ourselves dabbling in the devil’s domain – consciously or subconsciously. Like the world, many Christians seem to have the same cravings for power. If not, we certainly appear inept and clumsy in handling power.

Wealth is Power

Power is invariably associated with money and wealth. Kings of old secured political allegiances and alliances with their wealth. Rulers paid for armies to die for their vanity.

For individuals, wealth is equally attractive because it is means to do what we want. Wealth is desirable because it gives the power to be independent, self-sufficient, comfortable and to control one’s destiny.

The problem is when we do have wealth, we may start to think we don’t need God. Like King Nebuchadnezzar who said, "Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?" (Daniel 4 v 30).

My point is we love wealth because of the power it accords. 

You could understand why our Lord Jesus was unequivocal in our handling of money. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “We cannot serve God and Mammon at the same time” (Matthew 6 v 24).  Because, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6 v 21).

Jesus understood that our allegiance and devotion to God, is at the centre of how we handle money and wealth and ultimately, power! It all boils down to whether we want God to be in full control of our lives. Or we rather have control of our own lives.

Lucifer’s Fall and the Love of Money

Even Paul gave stern warning to Timothy, “For the love of Money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6 v 10).

Norm Franz, a Biblical economist, makes the compelling argument that Lucifer’s original sin is precisely his lust for money and material possessions.

Ezekiel Chapter 28 tells the story of Lucifer, the chief of all angels. Lucifer was in Eden and was involved in an abundance of business and trade that was being transacted in the Kingdom of Heaven. However, he became vain and proud. Soon, he decided to make up his own business rules and indulged in unrighteous trade.


The Lord said of Lucifer, “You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned” (Ezekiel 28 v 13-16).

Or as Norm Franz puts it, “Lucifer’s abundant trade produced the root sin of lust to obtain wealth faster than righteous trading would allow.” Fiddling in not so many words!

And so, Lucifer was expelled from the Kingdom of Heaven and he is now ‘devil’ on this earth.

Let us think for a minute. Wouldn’t the chief of all angels be doing pretty well for himself – economically and in terms of his prominence? After all, he was involved in abundance of trade. But why did Lucifer want more?

Was God not generous to him? God made him “the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.” “Lucifer was even in Eden, and every precious stone adorned him” (Ezekiel 28 v 12). God probably gave him an economy where he was the CEO, CFO and COO.

But Lucifer lusted. Why? I could only imagine because he wanted all that God had. May be ultimately, he became corrupt because he wanted to amass wealth quickly, so that he could supersede God. So that he could be God.

Isn’t this quite like how Adam and Eve fell in the first place? We read in Genesis 1 that God gave men ruler-ship or authority over everything He created. Every living creature, every seed bearing plant, etc. (v 28-31).

Wasn’t God generous enough to Adam and Eve? Yet the devil tempted them to think otherwise. He led them to believe God was stingy and kept the best tree to Himself. But ultimately, they were tempted by the false promise that they would be like God if they ate the fruit.

The love of money is the ‘root’ of all evil. And the ‘evil’ itself is trying to be God! Not just to be like God but to replace God! To consciously and subconsciously do without Him.

Dishonest Scales and Weights

But let me also draw your attention to this whole truth about ‘Dishonest Scales & Weights’.

When we choose not to have God fully in control of our lives, we invariably look to substitutes. The world worships mammon. Very naturally, it would adopt the lust of money as an ideology and turn it into a political economic system – enveloped by power and pride.

C.S. Lewis accurately described this as an addiction to the “sweet poison of the false infinite”. We allow substitute sacreds, or false infinites, to fill the vacuum of our disenchanted world.

This wealth and power is more intoxicating than alcohol, more addictive than drugs! It also has a momentum of its own, that leads to corruption. Like Lucifer, we would go towards the extent of dishonesty to feed our insatiable appetite for more of everything. And very quickly too! Why? Because the devil knows he has not got eternity in his control!

Look at the financial markets that crumbled less than two years ago. As Christians, we should not have been  surprised or caught unaware by how banking, debt financing, loans and borrowing, stocks and shares, even insurance, were predominantly predicated on the ‘unfair trade’ as described in Ezekiel.

Our world markets were heavily distorted and manipulated. Governments, financial institutions, banks and lending agencies, rating agencies were fiddling non-stop with loans, debts, savings and money supplies. They were fiddling!!!

As such, global wealth was ‘dishonestly’ multiplied in a system without the backing of real tangible substance. This is the debauchery of currencies that God warned us against.

Do you know how close we were to an economic Armageddon? If not by the grace of God, we could have awakened to our bank accounts being wiped out, our stocks and shares greatly devalued, our savings made pointless, and millions losing their hard earned wealth if not livelihoods.

These financial fiddlers didn’t think they could ‘cheat the system’ and not cause its eventual collapse. It scares me that many were genuinely shocked by how bad things became. The fiddlers ended being fiddled by themselves!

My dear friends, are we Christians as guilty as the rest of the world in putting such prominence on wealth and ultimately, power? In fact, are we active perpetrators of this global economy predicated on dishonesty?

Are we honest in our conduct in the market place? Do we use ‘Dishonest Scales & Weights’ to cheat others, so that we could get rich quick?

Den of thieves

Let me also ask this painful question. Are our churches part of this evil system? Have we dragged our churches into it?

In fact, do we have ‘Dishonest Scales & Weights’ within our churches?

We read in the Gospels that Jesus kicked up a major fuss in the temple and called it a den of thieves? But have we ever wondered why when Jesus overturned the tables of money changers and the benches of those selling doves, the crowds did not gang up to have Jesus beaten up? Was Jesus not causing a disturbance in church? I would argue that the crowds were probably glad that Jesus did what He did.

To buy and sell items in the temple for religious sacrifices, worshippers all over needed to exchange their own currencies with temple currencies or temple coins. The money changers were known to provide unfair exchange rates and making indecent profits.

In fact, for the poorer worshippers, there was a double whammy. They had to use the ‘already’ inflated temple currencies to purchase highly priced doves for religious sacrifices. And the poor could only afford to purchase doves for sacrifice.

Could you imagine how angry Jesus was? But why? What’s a little bit of business?

Profiteering in God’s temple at the expense of the worshippers was simply not acceptable and it spelled serious fraud and fiddling! Jesus could also see how easily the devil corrupts the temple with material wealth.

But more so, such dishonesty robs God of His glory. It affected pure and undiluted adoration and worship to God. That is why Jesus was livid. And it all happened at His front yard. Could anything be more insulting and nauseating? 

Of course, let us not forget that behind the scenes were the temple’s religious administrators. They must have been in collusion with the tax collectors and traders to enable the corrupt practices to thrive in the temple. It mirrors the subsequent collusion between the church and state through history. Often with disastrous consequences, both to the Body of Christ and the presentation of the Gospel.

But to imagine that all could get away with such evil before God and in His own house!
Very sadly, we see the same carelessness and abuse over wealth and power in some of our churches today. In top-level ecclesiastical power struggles, in denominational disputes, in others in which the clergy hold all reins of power and refuse to share it with the lay people and young people, in para-church organizations expanding into politics, and even in the pulpit.

This travesty extends beyond the walls of the Church, where Marketplace Christians are no less seduced by short term sinful thinking and practices.

The Scriptures contain such clear warnings about the abuse of power. And the apostle Peter clearly echoed this teaching when he urged church elders to shepherd God’s people, ‘not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock’ (1 Peter 5 v 2-3).


   
Tan Sri (Dr) Francis Yeoh introduces Dutch Ambassador His Excellency Paul Bekkers and wife, to Elder Ang of Full Gospel Assembly.

Handle Power with humility

In their nature, neither wealth nor power are evil. But it is a question of the agenda behind their pursuits. And ultimately, what are they for.

Christian leadership is marked rather by humility and service (Mark 10 v 42ff).

Are Christian leaders in the marketplace and the Church leaders today honestly using power for witness (as in Acts 1 v 8), or power for holiness, or power for humble services?

Or is power in reality a mask for personal ambition, a craving to boost our own ego, to minister to our self-importance, to impress, to dominate or to manipulate?

Like the rulers, wisdom too can be hidden from us. We can all be deep in the web of the devil’s deceit.

Look at our children’s generation today. It is characterised by the need to experience, to feel and to be entertained. Except, the world has taught them in this life, there are almost no boundaries, no moral absolutes, no authority, no consequences.

Who spun this trash to our children? The ‘secular’ media perhaps. But we also did!!! Our children’s generation are picking what we are leaving behind and they are moving on to a higher plateau in their moral degeneracy. Because they also see the church’s hypocrisy, it is almost as if nothing is sacred to them these days.

In the film, Shawshank Redemption, Red the prisoner said of the prison walls, “These walls are funny. First you hate 'em, then you get used to 'em. Enough time passes, you get so dependent on them. That's institutionalised.”

The Bible tells us that what is not of God is of the devil.

This world is the devil’s and we must wake up to that reality. We must wake up to the systematic evil that is wreaking havoc in our lives, our families, our societies and our nations. We must also fight this evil and battle it hard. Otherwise, we find ourselves truly institutionalised by the devil’s schemes.

John Stott is correct when he observed that our church is filled with ambiguity. Because the Body of Christ is work in progress.
• The church is sanctified, yet still sinful and called to be holy.
• The church is enriched, yet still defective, eagerly waiting for the return Christ.
• The church is united (the one and only church of God), yet still unnecessarily divided and called to renounce personality cults.

And like a fragrant flower growing in and out of the smelly mud, there is no perfect church and there never be one till our Christ returns. As Billy Graham often wisely says, “By all means look for the perfect church and when you find it, join it. But remember, when you join it, it ceases to be perfect!”

But the imperfections of the church are no excuses for not being the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

Because Jesus is the message of the Kingdom of God. He is the Good News. Through personal relationship with Him, the kingdom has been made available to all believers. For which He paid the ultimate price – the cross!

But the Gospel of Jesus Christ is more than just being saved. It also includes the Good News that we have been saved to participate in His kingdom mission. To play an important role both in the recovery of this fallen world and its transformation back into His purpose, will and likeness.

“It is our ‘Power’ to deal with Time”

Short term mindset

The reason why Christians and non-Christians alike are at this state of global moral degeneracy, and disillusionment to a great extent, is simply because we do not have the mind of Christ. And the reason why we do not have the mind of Christ is because we think short-term.

We are impatient and cannot wait on God. And so, we must play God and rush things through. That is why we are so addicted to this world, because we cannot think nor accept God’s timing for provisions, for seeing His plans mature in our lives, for His ultimate redemption of this world through the church.

Short-termism is not of God, because God does not hurry. He has no need for it. God is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. He is the Creator of time, He is not bound by it. He is beyond time.


   

Time
 
“The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”

I mentioned at the beginning that God created time as a medium to display His Glory. And what is the ultimate purpose of Time? It is to allow men and women to fully reflect on Him and fully reflect Him. If not now on this earth then one day when the Lord returns to this earth again. For the scriptures say “Be Holy for I am Holy” (1 Peter 1 v 16). That, is why we must understand and handle time well and that is why “the Lord has set eternity in our hearts” (Ecc 3 v 11).

When we understand time and have a healthy perspective of it, we could appreciate how God creates a rich tapestry of circumstances and events with His people.

Time is something like capsules, pockets or mosaics in this ultimate tapestry. And of course, these individual capsules or mosaics reflect the experiences of people and their lives – at various times, places and situations. A collection of them, will begin to show a beautiful tapestry of God’s handiwork and faithfulness.

Needless to say, God is wise in using time to help us appreciate His perfect will and plan for all of us. But in the mean time, we may go through all kinds of seasons, all kinds of trials and tribulations, all kinds of triumphs and victories. And each mosaic ‘moment’ is captured in our memory and thinking, and upon reflection as prompted by the Holy Spirit, we could begin to reflect on the sheer wisdom of God.

Let us be reminded tonight that the Lord waited for the fullness of time to bring forth His perfect will in the birth of important events to which we are eternally grateful. Abraham waited for a long time just for the one child, Isaac, promised by God. The Israelites waited four centuries for deliverance from Egypt. David waited in caves for his promised coronation. Many waited for a long time for the prophecy of Isaiah to come true, “For to us a child is born…The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel, which means God is with us.” (Isaiah 7 v 14)

It is also good to remind ourselves that the Holy Spirit will not remove all disappointment with God, and that is wisdom. Why? Ponder on the very titles given to Him – Intercessor, Helper, Counsellor, Comforter. Those titles alone imply there will be problems in life, but that God will also see us through them.

It is good tonight to be reminded also of what Jesus said in John 15 v 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.” Lately, many people are beginning to understand that the best vintage wines were produced when the grape vines were subjected to environmental stresses. Environmental stresses often produced the best fruits.

But the Lord is ever present with us, for the Holy Spirit, Paul said, is “a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come,” drawing on an earthy metaphor from the financial world. The Spirit reminds us that such disappointments are temporary, a prelude to an eternal life with God.

Parenthood

God showed me a glimpse of the relationship between time and us as parents.

Children create mosaics of memories. When they are young, we nurture them, train them, love them and shower them with affection. And when they grow up, they will leave us and start their own families. But over time, our children may begin to lose that sense of intimacy with us, as they see less of us. And the absence of time together create such vacuum, that some children could feel so little sadness even when we pass away.

In a way, that’s a depiction of a world’s perspective on things. A son needs a father, but when he becomes the father, he does not need his own father. Yet, when his child’s turn to be the parent, he ends up not being needed. That is also the disjointedness that sin has brought to our relationship with God.

Creation feels it is growing up and it doesn’t need its Creator. Christians and non-Christians alike have this tendency to think they have matured, they could go it alone. Scientists, like Stephen Hawking, cannot imagine a world with God, the Great Scientist. The best surgeons work on transplants and intricate surgery and yet cannot accept the Great Physician who could heal without their assistance. Of course, kings, rulers, politicians, economists, philosophers manage the world, yet they cannot accept the presence and the wisdom of the King of the Kings who created human history and brought them into existence.  

But we see the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, they are eternally One with each other. Perfectly in union, perfectly intimate and perfectly together. Nothing the Triune God does is in absence of the other. That is the picture of perfect relationship and ultimate closeness. That is what we must pursue in our return to God and our walk with God!

In the story of the prodigal son, the son not only wandered away on his own, but what he missed out was that precious time with his father. We know well that his father missed him and longed for his return.

Just like us, when we live in this world, there is always the probability that we have already wandered away from God. Because our self-sufficiency and independence declare that we don’t quite need Him. Not surprising, this is when we start preoccupying ourselves with all the addictions to the poison of the false infinites, I mentioned earlier.

But there is always that vacuum in our lives when we are not with God. And so when the prodigal returns, when our world returns to God in that sense, that time together with His Father is once again ‘reunited’. In our case, that reuniting is a picture of our constant acknowledgement and utter submission to God Himself in everything we do. That in every moment, we are mindful of Christ! That we are praising Him with our every breath.

The story however has a twist – the unforgiving older brother. The older brother never went away. In fact, he served his dad as faithfully as possible, even when the absence of his younger brother probably put more strain on his work load. But in his time with the father, he could not quite capture his father’s heart. He did not understand his father’s love and compassion. It is almost like they had mosaics of time together, yet they may as well as not having been there.

That is probably the most serious indictment of how Christians are sometimes. We live as if God is not here and now, that the Kingdom of God is not a present reality. And how truly sad!

Jesus said, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracle?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers.’” (Matthew 7 v 22-23).


Conclusion

Power through weakness is the way of the Kingdom of God

God’s apostles and saints of past were filled with the Holy Spirit and therefore were marinated with humility. However, as we have seen, the wisdom of the world values power, not humility.

Hudson Taylor affirmed in the nineteenth century, all God’s giants have been ‘weak’ people.

First, we see power through weakness in the gospel itself, for the weakness of the cross is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1 v 17-25).

Secondly, we see power through weakness in the Corinthian converts, for God had chosen weak people to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1 v 26-31).

Thirdly, we see power through weakness in Paul the evangelist, for “I came to you”, he said, “In weakness and fear” but “with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (1 Corinthians 2 v 1-5).

Thus the evangel, the evangelized and the evangelist all exhibited the same principle. God’s power operates best in human weakness. Weakness is the arena in which God can most effectively manifest his power.

The cross is still to God’s people the power of God and the wisdom of God. It is the power of God because through it God saves those who cannot save themselves. It is the wisdom of God because through it God has not only solved our problem (sin and guilt), but has also solved His own.

Thus on the cross God demonstrated both His justice (Romans 3 v 25) and His love (Romans 5 v 8). And in this double demonstration, the wisdom of God is displayed: His wisdom in the foolishness of the cross, His power in its weakness.

Jesus gave His time to all He loved

It is so dangerous that we could love the concept of God and not God Himself. We could play church and yet have no relationship with God Himself. That eternity is not written on our hearts, because we don’t believe God could write it anyway. But for those of us who understand that we are members of His Kingdom, eternity has indeed begun. And that time is eternity with God and in intimacy.

Does our daily lives reflect the life of Jesus, who often let other people – interruptions – determine his daily schedule? And He drew lasting spiritual lessons from the most ordinary people and also from the most ordinary things; wildflowers, vineyards, sheep, weddings, families. He gave time to all He loved!

Praise our Lord Jesus for all of you coming to this Maundy Thursday gathering. For as with the previous years past, we made time for Him. We pondered on our Lord Jesus, we reflected on His goodness and we have never stopped proclaiming the Good News. We are blessed with His grace to share this message, that at least for this moment in time, we are reminded to handle power righteously and to handle time well.
We are indeed lifted up that at this moment in time, tonight, we are allowed to be a tiny part of God’s tapestry as we reflect of His infinite goodness, of His infinite faithfulness and of His infinite love.

May we in our journey with the Lord succeed in reflecting Him and all His Glory in one moment in time, because we have eternity in our hearts we have hope infinite.

We are eternally grateful to the Holy Spirit for enlightening us through His word.

To God be the glory!

Amen.

Speech by Tan Sri Francis Yeoh at the Pre-Easter dinner to the leaders and elders of the leading churches in Malaysia, at The Ritz Carlton Hotel in Kuala Lumpur.

Thursday, 1 April 2010.


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