Twenty Eleven: The Making of a Christian Hedonist
Finally, I’m back! For those who prayed for me during my blogging break, I extend my gratitude and appreciation to them.
It has been my practice to reflect on the year that had passed, and blog about it in the present year. Here are the highlights (and lowlights) of my 2011.
My goal in 2011 could be stated this way: To live biblically and theologically to love God and people. Again, to live biblically and theologically.
So in the start of the year, I finished the book Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris (see my review here). Unlike his other books, Harris’ Dug Down is a book on basic theology. Through the book, I became more convinced that theology isn’t merely an academic or intellectual exercise, or something that will stretch our minds. It’s actually a journey towards knowing God. With that in mind, I rightly took on the path of theology.
Harris’ book has so many examples showing how theology can be infused with real life. True enough, theology is practical! Since then, I’ve been learning to apply my theological knowledge to everyday living. For instance, my knowledge that God is sovereign brings comfort to me in times of trouble. Or my knowledge that He is gracious makes me humbled and less complaining. Or my knowledge that He is holy makes me battle the sins in my life more seriously.
In my journey, I became interested reading theology books and joining theological conversations, even heated ones. In fact, I even bumped into the world of Reformed theology, and I’ve been a humble of student of it even up to now. These experiences sharpened my knowledge.
Now, I could say that my journey in theology have greatly helped me in my relationship with the Lord. My greater understanding of Him helped me love Him more and serve Him better.
The past year has been a tough ride for me, academically speaking. I started working on my thesis on January. But in spite of the all-out effort and sleepless nights, in His infinite and unfathomable wisdom, the Lord didn’t allow me to pass the defense. Many times did I fail, and I simply don’t understand.
Admittedly, I complained a lot to God. I was ranting: Shouldn’t He be rewarding my efforts? Or: I don’t deserve this! Or: Why didn’t He just let me pass so everything is settled?
But to my shame, I realized that this is so arrogant. Who am I to talk to God like that? Who am I to question His wisdom?
I was humbled. I learned my lesson. Next time, I’ll trust Him more, even if I don’t understand.
I was also given a lot of speaking opportunities. I got invited by many different groups, including my church’s plant/outreach in the Payatas area, a review center for accounting boards examinees in University Belt (U-Belt), my youth ministry’s district (branch) in Mandaluyong area, and my campus ministry (I really love speaking to my campus group). I even had an opportunity to teach in the Bible studies of my youth ministry, and preach in the Saturday youth service.
These opportunities not only honed my spiritual gift, but also gave me the opportunity to herald the Word of God. In my commitment to expository preaching, I was pursuing the joy of the people I was giving the message of God to. Nehemiah 8:12 tells us that “the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.” Laboring for the people’s joy through preaching them the Word is always worth it.
The year 2011 is so memorable to me because of the friendships the Lord has graciously given me. As a person who is totally clueless in relating with people a few years back, this is definitely a cause for joy and celebration to me.
While I maintained my deep friendships in my campus ministry, I got to develop new (and also deep) ones in other campus areas where my youth ministry is reaching out to.
And not only did I gain friends, but I also gained co-workers for the cause of Christ. Serving with them brings joy to my heart. May I treasure them forever.
Zoy Sauce Etc has Gone “Public”
After overcoming lots of hesitation in the past, I finally signed up for a Facebook account. With this, I quickly seized the opportunity to link my blogs in the social media site. Somehow, my blogsite gained readership.
To be honest, I almost thought of quitting blogging sometime last year. I always thought that no one was reading my blog even in spite of my presence in Facebook.
Yet, God was good to me. Sometimes I would walk down the hall of my church, and someone would approach me and tell me that they’ve been reading my blogs and get blessed by them. A “secret” reader, I thought. This kind of encounter did not happen once, but many times. I believe this is God’s way of encouraging me to continue blogging (Sometimes, or even most of the times, God’s way is humorous). Now inspired, I kept on posting blogs. I even aggressively promoted my site, thinking that the Lord can use it to reach more people for His glory. In other words, Zoy Sauce Etc has gone public.
Since the start of 2011, I became inactive in the campus ministry so that I could focus on my academic responsibilities. While I don’t get to participate in the campus work, preaching/teaching opportunities abound. The Lord is indeed gracious to me.
However, I felt something’s missing. I actually missed being a part of a community or a ministry team. I didn’t consider going back to the campus ministry for I wanted to give opportunities to younger leaders. God made that absolutely clear to me.
So I prayed for a community or ministry to which I will give my life to. And after a long time, the Lord answered my prayers. By December, I found out that there was a young singles group brewing in my church’s plant in Makati city. After many prayers and considerations, I finally joined the group and even transferred to the Makati church. (To read this story in detail, see my blog Master, Mission, and Makati). Now, I’m just excited on what the Lord will do for the young singles ministry in Makati.
The Making of a Christian Hedonist
Towards the end of 2010, I finished John Piper’s Desiring God. It’s theme? God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.
In other words, we give Him the glory most when we value, or treasure, or cherish, or delight, or desire Him above all things. This is what a Christian Hedonist does.
Piper, along with another theological heavyweight, Sam Storms, helped me understand Christian Hedonism. I learned to find joy not from God, but in God, who is supreme above all else. Since then, I’ve been in the pursuit of my happiness and satisfaction in God. Though I sometimes fall short, I do my best to show that I treasure Him above all, and in that way I glorify Him.
So in spite of all the failures and shortcomings I committed in 2011, I want to say that I’m deeply satisfied in God. Indeed last year, a Christian Hedonist was born.
Photos by Jon Medina, Kim Tiu, Tim Chua, and Vijay Navani