What JOB understood
RIGHT after the 13th general election, a Christian brother told me he had never fasted and prayed so much in his life before. "Now that the results are out," he said, "I don't feel like talking to God anymore!"
We may laugh or sympathise with such a remark, but this outburst probably reflects the inner state of the hearts and minds of most Christians, particularly in urban areas. These feelings may stem from both disappointment and grave concern at the same time, over the affairs and future of our nation.
In this season, many perceive our nation to be in a state of uncertainty. The UMNO General Assembly and internal party elections are due by the end of the year and politically, the ruling coalition needs to consolidate its position in the light of their most narrow margin of victory. The government needs to convince the rakyat that it is a government for all people. Only time will tell whether it is successful.
Post-election, the government is already facing challenges to its authority and credibility. There are legal challenges in the election court for alleged fraud and electoral manipulation. In Parliament, a one-sided bill, the Administration of the Religion of Islam (Federal Territories) Bill 2013, drew public outcry when it was introduced. It has since been withdrawn, but the issue of converting a child to Islam by one parent is far from over, since other States have similar laws.
The nation is in a transitory state. But in the midst of this transition, one is reminded of Job's declaration in the midst of his suffering, and when God spoke to him out of the whirlwind:
"I know that you can do all things
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted" (Job 42:2).
Job reminds the church in no uncertain terms of the sovereignty of God. God can do all things, including establishing the government of the day and bringing it down tomorrow.
But the emphatic point in Job's declaration is that behind God's sovereignty, there are the mysterious purposes of God. Purposes known only to God and though hidden from mortals, will definitely be fulfilled. Such is the awesome and great God that we worship. And as we behold this majestic God, we are to be assured and confident to go forth in the mandate that Christ has given the church - that Christians are to be His witnesses in times such as these.
The church therefore needs to be encouraged and strengthened. This will require stronger churches helping the weaker ones, including the rural and Bumiputera churches, in areas of discipleship that leads to robust social witness.
The church also needs leaders who are dynamic and effective. Leaders need to put in place a holistic leadership development and nurturing programme for younger, emerging leaders by identifying a talent pool and providing opportunities for learning, exposure and development.
Constant and consistent engagement within the public sphere on public life issues is also of upmost importance during this season. Maintaining and preserving the freedom of religion not only for Christians but for other religious minorities is essential and critical in order for evangelism, church growth and church planting to flourish.
And finally, the church needs to mobilise her members for nation-building by addressing issues that are bringing ill and contempt to Malaysian society. Corruption, national polarisation and political hegemony - these require the church to pursue an agenda for national reconciliation, truth, justice and righteousness. And she must do so with boldness, courage and with all wisdom. For this to materialise, churches should not only pray but release their resources, their talented and gifted men and women to contribute positively and to be seen impacting these issues.
Let us do all this bearing in mind what Job has declared, that God has a purpose for the church and this nation, and that no purpose of His may ever be thwarted!