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Testimony – From a place of pride

Josiah Ye and his family (parents and younger brother) have been a part of FGA since he was a child.  Josiah serves this church community as a vocalist on the worship team and as a teacher in Sparks ministry. His testimony is one that will resound with many of us who have battled the unnamed idols in our lives. Here is his story. 

 

Significance

When I was younger I was always slightly envious of those who came to church as non-believers. I envied the Damascus Road experience all of them seemed to have gone through; an intimate and transformative experience, coupled with the conscious choice each and every one of them made to follow Jesus. It was a beautiful thing to observe, yet remained elusive to me.

Despite having had the privilege of growing up in this community, I’ve always felt I was missing something these people had. Years of sunday school and youth service had taught me little more than ‘the right answers’ and a set of rules we had to follow.

My social experiences in church had also left me very jaded; my interests and conversations were completely different from most of the people my age, I was always the odd one out socially, never feeling like I really belonged or fit in.

It was in the midst of this that I began my search for significance and meaning. If I wasn’t going to find it it socially, then I was going to find it in achievements. And what better achievement than making the world a better place, and leaving a legacy.

They say that the path to hell is paved with good intentions, and in my search for significance I began to picture the many possible ways I could make the world the better place through my own means. At the end of each scenario, my answer was always the same: I needed more power, and I needed to be in a position of authority.

God wasn’t never in the picture. Unbeknownst to me, significance had become God and pride had taken over.

And what an deceptive animal Pride is. It drove me to want to be better than everyone else, I studied hard for my exams because I needed to do better, because if I were better, perhaps I was more significant, perhaps I could make a bigger difference in the future. I began to try to elevate myself into leadership positions just so I could feel more important.

This stuck with me from secondary education all the way to the first few years of university.

But this year, God brought clarity and focus to my life through a series of events.

Double Crisis

It was my fifth year in my Architecture program and I was nearing the end of my thesis preparation.. As any prudent fresh-grad-to-be would have, I had sent out my resumes hoping to secure a job before I graduated. The only response I got was from the company I had interned at previously, which offered me a position, but at a rate that lower than the industry standard.

So I was in a dilemma; should I take the job, as low as the remuneration was, or should I send out another round of resumes after my thesis was over, which meant competing with the rest of the cohort who would be doing the same.

At this point another company got back to me requesting an interview; this was a company I had never heard of or seriously considered. At this point I was already resigned to accepting the only offer I had, and was on the verge of cancelling the interview, but a voice inside me kept saying, “go for it, even if you fail, it’s a good learning experience.”

So I went for that interview, and during that interview everything just seemed to fall into place; they had specific requirements that they needed met, and I happened to fulfill all of them. And upon hearing that I already had an offer of employment, they offered me a job on the spot. I was completely stunned as I left their office that day, and as I walked out into the late afternoon sun, my heart was filled with another type of warmth, and I just knew I had just received a gift.

But there was more to come.

2 weeks later I did unexpectedly badly for my final thesis presentation. It was so bad I knew that there was a very real possibility of me failing. If I did, not only would it mean repeating the entire year, but my job offer would be rescinded as well. To make matters worse, my results were due at noon the very day I was to start work, which meant that my first day of work could very well be my last.

This uncertainty hounded me for weeks after and I was unable to do anything but wait. I had difficulty thinking about anything else and was living in a state of anxiety and worry.

A Daily Habit

It was around this time in April, that our DE group hit the chapter on Quiet Time. As someone who was taught the importance of Quiet Time the old school way, quiet time to me when I was a young boy was simply a motion we had to go through to appease our mother so we could get her blessing to use the computer.

I guess then it was no surprise that I grew up seeing quiet time as a form of transaction; we ‘spend time’ with God, and in turn, we get his favour and blessing.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that spending time with the Lord daily actually pleased him. Something in me shifted when I began to understand that the God of the universe didn’t just see me as an errant child coming to him every now and then to ask for a favour, but that spending time with an insignificant person such as me actually pleased him.

And so I made a decision. I decided that if spending time with God everyday would make him glad, it would be 20 minutes well spent. So I began a very basic daily routine reading the Daily Bread Devotionals every day, and to make up for my terrible memory I decided to start journaling as well.

The very first week I started, God sent verses of encouragement every time I read. I begin to enjoy these everyday meetings with God, and ended each time feeling a little more joyful and excited. It was an incredible experience and gradually I began to let go of my anxiety and worry to focus on the upcoming Cool Camp preparations.

Work

Cool Camp came and went, and it was an incredible experience for all involved – from the teachers to the volunteers to the children and even the parents, I believe each and every one of them took home a little something special from God that camp.

And now, I was about to enter a new season; one that would likely occupy me for the next 30 years – work. To my great relief, God was merciful and I found out eventually that I was had been given a borderline grade for my thesis, which thankfully meant I still had my job.

The first two months of work was tough but enriching. Architecture was very demanding in both time and mental capacity, and this was an opportunity for me to begin to focus and prioritise what really mattered to me. But the one thing that I wasn’t willing to compromise was my daily meetings with God; on especially trying days, these daily meetings were what got me through.

Wisdom & Direction

As God began to minister to me slowly but surely, I began to ask for wisdom. In a era of post truth and rampant subjectivism I wanted to be able to make right choices that would please and give glory to God.

God honored my request, responded with a verse (Psalms 90: 12) and also began to gradually reveal to me what I needed to do this season. He made me realise that effective change wasn’t the result forcing policies or statues onto people, but that it begins through loving, caring and building deep relationships with others.

This was such a revelation to me I had to take a week to completely realign my thinking. “Now you know what you need to do, so go do it.” God said.

Never having to do it so intentionally before, it was a really really difficult thing to start; it became so evident to me how much pride had seeped into my life; I was so unaware that so much of what I did I treated as a transaction or to appear better/smarter than everyone else. But pride has no place in a healthy relationship and I had to continually assess my heart and every action to determine if I was doing something out of love, or out of a self-serving motive. I had to learn a heart of humility – the key to every successful relationship.

It was a challenge every single day. Some days my mind gets so caught up with whether or I’m truly doing what I do out of that same love that Jesus to die for us, or if I was just going through the motions. What does it even mean to love? Do I need to feel it before I do it?

I found the answers in several books. The Five Love Languages – Gary Chapman for instance. In other books, certain quotes stuck in my mind.

“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. – Philippians 2: 3

So this is where I am today, and I daresay I still have quite a ways to go before I can call myself pride-free. I think the one biggest takeaway I’ve learned along the way, is that God cares more about who you are than what you can do or where you’re positioned. God can use anyone, as long as they are teachable and willing to be led, and real, effective change can only be had when you are willing to humble yourself to accept it.

That’s the only way we can become who we’re meant to be. And the day we all become who God has meant for us to be. Well, I daresay the world will definitely be a better place then.

 

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