Serving the Lord in Our Generation

by Dr Bobby Sng

 The topic you gave me for tonight is “Serving the Lord in Our Generation”. Really the meat of this evening’s service was the three testimonies that were given just now. I am really touched by what our brothers are saying concerning how the Lord has dealt with them and is using them be it as a student, someone stationed overseas or in Dalian, China. Truly, the Lord wants all of us to be serve Him in our generation wherever He has placed us in.

I was also asked to speak from some experiences what the Lord has been teaching me concerning serving the Lord. It is now over 45 years since I graduated from the university. I must say that there are some precious lessons concerning what it means to serve the Lord. The first thing that I have learnt is that:

1. We serve the Lord as whoever we are

There are times when we think we may not be particularly gifted or as significant as another person. No matter how lowly or humble we think of ourselves, God has always got a purpose for us.

I recall the testimony of my grandaunt in 1940 when I remember how she would pray daily for us while we were still in school. I think it was in 1950 when one morning, she turned to me and said: “I have been praying for you very much and I believe that God wants to use you”. I still remember the tremendous shock I had that God could use me. Yes, God can use a missionary or a preacher but I was still a simple student studying in Anglo-Chinese School. How can the Lord use me? And for years I struggled with it. On the one hand, there was this godly lady telling me that the Lord wants to use me. Now I would like to believe it as true, yet in my heart, I realised that I was not particularly gifted in any way so why would God want to use me.

I struggled with this until one day, I came across this passage in my Quiet Time when the Lord suddenly spoke to me. He spoke through the passage when Jesus was preparing Himself to enter into Jerusalem in what we know today as the triumphant entry. He sent two of his disciples to go to a village to bring out a young donkey. The thought that came to me then was that if the Lord Jesus has a need for a dumb animal, how much more He has a need for someone that He came into the world to die for. That thought came to me that no matter how insignificant I may think I am, Jesus has a purpose for my life. What the purpose is, I may not be sure at that point in time. Nonetheless, the Lord has need of me. All through history, the great things about what the Lord has been doing and the ways He has been using are very simple, sometimes insignificant, sometimes very ordinary men and women as a channel by which He brings His blessings to many of them.

Last year, my wife and I received an invitation from the pastor of a Tanjong Malim Methodist Church, a Chinese-speaking church in Malaysia. You may wonder why that church would invite us. The reason is that they were going to dedicate the church to the Lord’s use. It so happened that I pastored a small church in the Cameron Highlands in the 1950s and my family’s domestic maid was this young girl, who had only finished her primary education in Chinese. But because of the difficulties of her family, she and the other children had to leave home to look for jobs. She came to look after one of our children. After we left the Highlands in 1969, she had to leave. She went down to Rawang, where there was a Bible school under the Overseas Missionary Fellowship. This school brought Bible knowledge to people with primary education to teach the village folks. Over the weekends, she and the other students studying in school went down to neighbouring village to spread the gospel.

After some years, a number of the young people were converted and they began to organise themselves into a little church and she decided to respond to the Lord’s call. So in 1977, she became their first
full-time pastor to this small village church. Over the years, the church grew. Hundreds of young people came to know Jesus as a result of the work of the church. Today, Reverend/Pastor Chin is the longest serving Methodist pastor ever in the same locality in Malaysia. She has been serving them from 1977 to 2007.

The church has expanded by leaps and bounds so now it needs new premises. So when that day came, many of the old members of the church, who went to the city for education, returned from near and far, some even from East Malaysia. There were church leaders, the Bishop, the Methodist Superintendent that all came together in recognition for the good work this lady pastor has done. Over 400 to 500 people met together for this dedication.

So why did I tell you this story? Who was she? She was just a little girl with primary education at the time we knew her. Truly, we serve a God that will never fail us. We might be insignificant in the eyes of the world, she may not have much education or gifts but because her heart was set on serving the Lord, the Lord honored that dedication and saw to it that she became a channel of blessing to that village and now beyond that village. One thing I have learnt over the years is that we serve God wherever we are.

2. We serve the Lord with whatever we have

The incident that always comes to my mind is that of Moses. He was born and brought up in Pharaoh’s court by the Princess, in the midst of all the splendour as everything was provided until one day when he killed an Egyptian who mistreated his fellow Jews. Because of this, he had to flee for his life for the next 40 years like a fugitive, running away for the Egyptian authorities, hiding and serving as a shepherd. Remember in those days, shepherds were not honourable positions. In fact, it was an occupation reserved only for the women. After 40 years of living such a humble insignificant life, one day, the Lord called him in a burning bush to send him back to Egypt to take His people out. Straightaway, Moses rejected and reacted to the call. He said: “Who am I” as he has been so humbled by the Lord that he felt he could never do anything for the Lord anymore. He gave many excuses like “I am not eloquent, how can I talk and argue with these wise men in Egypt. The people will question me as to who has sent me and by what authority I came under.” He gave so many excuses and in Exodus 4:2, the Lord asked him what was in his hands because what he had in his hand was a shepherd’s rod.

A shepherd looked after the sheep so he had a shepherd’s rod. The Lord told him to cast the rod to the ground and he did it and the rod became a serpent. The Lord said to him to take it up and it became a staff once again. Up to that point in time, the rod has always been known as Moses’ rod. But when you look at various passages, it is always been referred to as the staff of God. In other words, he may only have the rod in his hand, something very common, something not very special, something all other shepherds have but he was willing to surrender what he had to the Lord and so it became the staff of God and with that, he went into Egypt and challenged all the false prophets of Pharaoh and with his rod, he was able to part the Red Sea and the rod became God’s mighty channel of blessings and he overcame obstacle after obstacle. “What is in your hand?”, the Lord is asking you today.

This reminds me of another incident in New Testament how he Lord Jesus, after speaking to a multitude by the sea of Galilee where towards the end of the day, people were hungry and tired and Jesus told the disciples to get some food and to feed them. The disciples replied that they did not have very much and asked how they were to find enough food to feed the 5,000 people. Of course, Andrew took the five loaves and two fishes from the little boy, yet what are these five loaves and two fishes when you have to feed 5,000 people? But when you place these foods into the hands of the almighty God, He can multiply and use them to feed the multitude that was there on that day. We serve the Lord with whatever we have.

I have been in the Bible Society for a good 10 years. In 1999, the Bible Society was preparing to celebrate the ushering in of the new millennium as all other nations, and we thought we should do something too. I remember at one executive committee meeting, our General Secretary, Lee Soo Ann suggested that we should have a handwritten Bible by getting church members to hand copy every verse in the Bible to remind ourselves not to take the Bible for granted. Many of us now have four to five Bibles, yet there was a time when Bibles were hard to come by as they were all hand copied. So it was a reminder that the Bible was very precious. Thank God many people volunteered and we were able to complete the project and to have a handwritten Bible with both Old and the New Testament with every verse in it. Then, we decided to have an exhibition to invite the people to see the Bible. But the other members expressed that people would not just come to see the Bible. So, the exhibition expanded to paintings, crafts etc.

I remember Lee Soo Ann looked at me and said: “Bobby, what do you have? Do you have a hobby, do you have something to put together with this handwritten Bible to make it a more complete exhibition.” I replied sheepishly and without conviction: “ Yes, stamps of the life of Jesus from the New and Old Testament.” Without much consideration, he agreed and said to go ahead using my stamp collection to depict the life of Jesus. I suddenly realised I was caught and so agreed to put together the stamps for the exhibition. The exhibition was sponsored by the Singapore Philatelic Museum as they heard about it and wanted to sponsor it.

Over the next six months, 21,000 people came to see the exhibition and it was so successful that we decided to produce a book, as many people who wanted to see the exhibition did not come. So we decided to put together a book, using stamps to depict the life of Jesus from the Old and New Testament. The book has the stories of the Old and New Testament told through stamps.

One day, there was a China State delegation and they were representatives from the State Cultural, Religious Publishing House. They came to the Bible House as they were interested to see what kind of publications we have. They saw the book and flipped through it. They said that there were thousands of stamp collectors in China and asked for permission to re-publish the book in and for China. Of course, we were only too glad. After all, from the beginning, this is what we wanted that the book would step into China. We not only gave them permission but we also waived all royalties, gave them the plates and made a donation so that the paper quality would be similar with what we used here. Over the years, they have published thousands of these books and have sold many times more than what we have sold or could sell. Two years ago, the Minister in charge of Religion came to Singapore and came to visit the Bible House. We arranged a dinner and I sat next to him. He said: “You must be the one that the stamp books are from. Did you know that we are now distributing God’s Word throughout China on your behalf?” In my heart of hearts, I could not thank God more!

Bobby, what do you have? What hobbies do you have? Only stamps? Did you know that stamp collection is a very self-centred hobby? It is a hobby that only you enjoy as you are collecting and putting them in an album and only you are interested in what you are doing. What do you have in your hand, Moses? Only a rod? What do you have in your hand, little boy? Only five loaves and two fishes? What do you have in your hand, Bobby? Only stamps. Yet, when we place all these into the hands of God, then, He can multiply and use them in such a way that we cannot really understand. And in this, we serve the Lord in whatever way and in wherever we have.

3. We serve the Lord wherever He sends us

The Lord sends us to all places. It is the Lord that sends us to the universities and as our brother shared, it is He that sends us to medical or dental school. He is the Lord of the harvest and it is He that sends us into the harvest field. He sends some from Korea here to work and He sends some of us to Dalian and to other places like Africa. God is a sending God and He sends us to many places. He sends us to the private practice or the statutory board to work. Regardless where He sends us, be it overseas or in Singapore, it is the Lord that has placed us there for a purpose.

One of the most challenging personalities in the Bible for me is Philip and his ministry (Acts 6 and 8). The interesting thing about this guy is that you find him placed in different situations. First of all, you find him appearing in the City of Jerusalem and what is he doing there? Serving tables! That is what the Bible says because remember, there were some important questions raised concerning the welfare of the widows. The apostles were too busy preaching and teaching God’s Word that they did not have the time to look into the daily physical needs of their members.

So they decided to appoint seven people who can serve tables. In other words, minister to the material and physical needs of our members. Philip was one of them, who were chosen so that was what he did in Jerusalem – serving tables. He served tables together with Stephen so as to free the hands of the apostles so that they were able to multiply God’s Word even more. What Philip did seemed very mundane, physical and not spiritual. Yet, the next thing we know, he was in Samaria because there was a persecution of the church in Jerusalem. So forced by circumstances, he had to flee to Samaria where he became an evangelist. The Bible says that marvelous work was taking place and conversions, and healings were all happening. So much so that the apostles had to send Peter and John down to confirm what the people were hearing was really happening. Yet, in the midst of the great revival, the angel of God spoke to him to leave the place.

Sometimes, the way God works is strange. In the eyes of people, we may not seem like we are receiving God’s blessings. And sometimes, the Lord removes us for His own purposes and places us in a desert hole that nobody would normally go. What did he do here? He met an Ethiopian eunuch that was going home from Jerusalem to the town in Ethiopia and he was reading the book of Isaiah and Philip went up to the chariot and begun to do one-to-one Bible study with him. No great congregation to preach to, no great hundreds of people to convert, just one-to-one Bible study! The man went back to Ethiopia and if you study the history of the Ethiopian church, it is oftentimes traced back to Philip. Philip did not even have to do follow-up.

Then, the Spirit of God led him to go to Caesarea and there he remained for 20 years. By the end of these 20 years, he started a church so that when Paul went down for his second missionary journey, there was already a church there. The church in Caesarea was not planted by Paul or Peter or any other apostles but by this man, who made his career serving God. That is why I like this man. He was willing to go wherever the Lord sent him. And he was willing to do whatever the Lord wanted him to do, be it a one-to-one Bible study or preaching to hundreds of people or serving tables even though it appeared mundane.

God used this man and many other simple men and women who were willing to do whatever the Lord wanted them to do and wherever the Lord sent them.

Dear friends, even as we come together serving the Lord in our generation, everyone is different. Look at our faces, we are all different. I have a twin brother who looks exactly like me. People sometimes think we are each other. He is also a doctor in Singapore General Hospital and sometimes, doctors would come to me and discuss about patients with me. Sometimes, I just go along and listen until they ask me for my opinion and I will tell them I am not he. I am Bobby Sng. Yet, you know dear friends, even though we are twins, genetically similar with the same DNA, yet we are uniquely different. Thank God, He has made all of us uniquely different and has a very special purpose for each of us. I pray that this re-dedication service will be a means where the Lord will stir our hearts. Whether we are doctors, students, or are already doctors or are presently placed overseas, we serve Him, irrespective of who ever we are, we serve Him wherever we are and we serve Him with whatever we have. May the Lord bless this message into the hearts of each one.

(This talk was given at the CMDF’s Re-dedication Service on 25 January 2008 at the St Andrew’s Cathedral)