We Live to Do Meaningful Things
I-Ju Fang—Taipei, Taiwan
"You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit…” (Jn 15:16)
Every believer in the true church has been chosen by God, and His will for us is to manifest His image and bear fruit for His glory. I would like to share with you my journey of faith, and how I came to have a deeper understanding of God through my experiences in life and my service to Him.
EARLY YEARS IN TAIWAN
I was baptized into the True Jesus Church together with my mother when I was young. I grew up in the church, attending Religious Education (RE) classes and enjoying church life. However, my father was not a believer and would sometimes object to our participation in church activities. I always wished that he would accept Christ, but he stubbornly refused even to set foot in church.
The years passed, and I graduated from a local university and started my career as a full-time junior high school teacher, teaching music. As music was not generally considered to be a core subject, my students usually did not to pay attention in class. I would sometimes think: Do I have to teach like this for the next twenty-five years? I began contemplating going overseas to further my education. However, I was worried about my proficiency in English and whether I would be accepted by any university.
When I shared my aspiration with a church sister, she encouraged me to fast and pray. I decided to take her advice. Despite initial apprehension that fasting would impact on my ability to teach, I found that it did not. In fact, fasting prayer proved to be very effective.
STUDIES IN THE US
By God’s grace, my application to the American University in Washington DC was accepted. With this, the next stage of my life began. But the timing was not ideal. Asia was facing a financial crisis, and my tuition fees increased by thirty per cent in a matter of months. Adjusting to a new life in the US, while shouldering the financial burden, became disheartening. One day, while travelling to attend church services in Philadelphia, a three-hour bus ride away, I thought to myself: Didn’t I fast and pray? Why am I facing so many obstacles? What does God want me to do?
That Sabbath service revived my faith. But on the journey home, it dawned on me that I would still have to confront the obstacles. I thought of how I had always lived at home with my family in Taiwan; this was the first time I was living away from home. As I was thinking of this, some birds flying onto a tree caught my eyes, and Matthew 6, where Jesus tells us not to worry, came to mind. I thought, if God could prepare food for the birds, would He not care for His most precious creation—man?
I was reminded that we need to seek His kingdom and His righteousness first, and He will take care of our needs in life. God opened my heart to understand that there was a reason for me to study abroad, and that I might be able to do something for Him. In the midst of difficulties, God gave me the strength and motivation to study. Indeed, two years later, I completed my tertiary education abroad and returned to Taiwan.
WORKING IN TAIWAN
In Taiwan, I became involved in a number of church duties: I served in the RE and music departments, was involved in college fellowship evangelism, and assisted in the church website, as part of literary ministry. However, I still asked myself: What can I do for God? At this time, I was looking for a job, and my criteria was that I must be able to keep the Sabbath and continue my church work. With this in mind, I prayed to God for guidance.
I found my first job as an administrator in a music graduate school. Two years later, in 2003, with God’s help, I was appointed as a professor. That same year, I also served as a counselor and a hymnal leader in a college students’ spiritual convocation for the first time. During the convocation, I prayed that God would add to my faith and my strength so that I could balance my work and church duties. On the last day, during the prayer following Holy Communion, I heard a voice saying, “No matter what happens, it is from God. He will guide you.”
MY FATHER’S LONG JOURNEY
On my way home that day, I received a call: my parents had been involved in an accident. Shocked by the news, I prayed all the way home. As I was praying, the earlier prayer came to mind: All of this is from God. I was comforted.
When I reached the hospital, I discovered that my father had sustained serious injuries to his right leg after his motorbike was hit by a car. The doctor suggested an amputation, but my father refused. My mother’s injuries were not as serious.
As part of his recovery journey, my father was treated at six different hospitals. He needed skin and tissue grafts, and his leg bone was severely fractured. Sometimes the grafts failed, and the doctors had to repeat the procedures. For two years, the hospital became our second home. Nevertheless, God granted us peace throughout this period.
Many brothers and sisters in Christ prayed for us, and often they would ask if they could visit us in the hospital. However, my father would decline. But still, God continued to guide us. During one occasion, when we were praying quietly for my father, he suddenly opened his eyes and said, “Thank you for praying for me.” I took the opportunity to ask him whether he would pray with us. He agreed, although I felt that he was doing so just to please us. He could not accept praying in tongues as he was convinced it was contrived. For this reason, we would pray with him each day in words.
During this time, as I read the Bible daily, I would think how best to pray with my father. I thought of the message in the book of James, that we may have many plans but we do not know what will happen tomorrow. It made me appreciate that if God wills, we can do this or that, but if He does not will, we plan in vain (Jas 4:13–14).
Over time, my concern was not so much over my father’s physical recovery, but rather that he should come to believe in Jesus Christ.
By God’s grace, two years after the accident, my father’s condition improved sufficiently for him to be discharged from hospital.
One morning in 2008, five years after the accident, my father suddenly asked me, “What do you do in church?” I did not know how to answer him at first. Then I explained that we go to church to observe the Sabbath and to listen to sermons. He said, “I want to go with you.” When I heard this, I did not know what to say as it came as a complete surprise. All I could do was to go into a room to offer a prayer of thanksgiving.
From that week, my father started attending Sabbath services. At first, he refused to listen to testimonies or to pray. After listening to sermons, he would sometimes criticize the speakers. On my part, I would turn to the Bible to try to find answers to his questions.
God is wonderful, and the way He calls everyone is different. Although my father objected to certain aspects of the church services, he liked to read the Bible. I gave him a Bible when he was hospitalized, and he finished reading it within two months. When I took a look inside, I could see he had underlined many parts. Amazingly, God enabled him to remember the things he read.
“WE LIVE TO DO MEANINGFUL THINGS”
In the summer of 2009, the International Assembly was recruiting students for the full-time Theological Training Program (TTP). It coincided with a time in my life when I was asking myself: What is the meaning of life?
The TTP was open to both brothers and sisters. On my part, I would need parental consent in order to apply. My mum told me that she had no opinion about the matter, and so I asked my father. After hearing my request, he simply replied: “We live to do meaningful things.”
In September 2009, my father registered for baptism. One church board member approached my mother and me excitedly, saying, “You have prayed so hard for your father and have been encouraging him, and now he’s applied to be baptized!” My mum and I looked at each other. Neither of us had even dared to raise the issue; it was God who had inspired my father.
Two weeks before his baptism, my father received the Holy Spirit. I was thankful to God for this, as my father’s leg injury meant that he could not kneel down to pray. After my father’s baptism, I felt as if my burdens had been lifted. After twenty-five years, it had finally happened! I always thought it would happen eventually—but maybe at the end of his life. God gave us this gift much sooner.
In March 2012, after some administrative issues had been settled, I took the TTP test and passed. After joining the program in the fall of that year, I was able to spend time in prayer, emptying myself and removing the sense of achievement that came from past service to God. It was also during this time that I encountered many trials. However, it was on account of these storms of life that God taught me to rely on Him. Each time I encountered a difficulty, God would reassure me that His grace was sufficient, and that there were brethren praying for me. I would learn something new each day.
Since we belong to God, we need to serve God and put Him first. Although everyone serves in different ways, be it full-time or part-time, the main thing is that we must endure to the end. We should believe that God will provide for our daily needs, and that He cares for us and listens to our prayers. Regardless of what we may encounter, we can be like Paul who was able to rejoice greatly. Although we may face difficulties, we know that God will open a way for us. We can rely on the strength that He gives us.
When I first started my TTP training, many brethren would ask me, “What will you do after you graduate? Are you going to be a preacher? What are your plans for marriage? What about your career?”
Their questions made me reflect on the reasons for joining the TTP. A sister asked me whether God’s calling was clear. In truth, I did not hear a voice telling me what to do. I only know that, with all the mercies that God has bestowed on me, it would certainly be wrong not to repay Him. We must grasp every opportunity to do something that is meaningful in life.