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Dear COA Family,

Last Sunday, we learnt that God himself is the one who leads us into the wilderness – a difficult experience or season in our lives. This is a difficult concept to grasp because we all naturally tend to want to avoid such times or want to get out of them as soon as possible. I know this because in many of pastoral visits, almost everyone would request for prayers for immediate deliverance or healing.

Yet there are prolonged periods of trials that God allows us to go through.

God similarly led Israel through the wilderness for forty years and Jesus too went into the wilderness for forty days of testing.

The purpose – to ready the Israelites to live well and prosper in the Promised Land and for Jesus to be prepared for a more fruitful time of ministry. (See Deut 8 and Mark 1.)

God always has a better and higher purpose for our suffering and testing – which is to grow us for the greater blessings that he has prepared for us. He does not desire that we remain in our current state but works to grow us in maturity. He longs for us to be able to take solid food and not just drink milk.

One way we can grow is to mature in our desires.

During CNY, many families and organisations have Lo Hei. It is a Chinese custom of calling down blessings while tossing yu sheng to symbolise the outpouring of good fortune for the year ahead. Many churches participate in this as well.

Yet I have often heard Christians calling “Huat ah” enthusiastically which means becoming wealthy. At one event, I corrected an elderly woman by saying, “Well, God’s blessings of spiritual growth is important for us as well”, to which she replied, “What’s wrong with having both?” This is quite a typical response.

I believe that the Lord wants us to desire after him, his kingdom and his righteousness above all else this year. Prosperity is good but it has its dangers as well. We may become too obsessed with it. The Apostle Paul warns against having a strong desire to get rich because those who pursue wealth may wander from the faith and pierce themselves with many griefs (1 Tim 6:9-10).

And one way God protects us from such dangers is to lead us into the wilderness. There we realise what is most important in our lives and discover the faithfulness of God in providing for us all that we need. This is so that we can seek him above all else. So God’s wilderness experience for us is not be shunned but embraced.

May the year ahead be a blessed one of encountering Jesus and growing in him in a greater way!

Revd Ian