I remember the day in 2003 all too clearly. Prior to leaving my job and company for fulltime ministry, I did what most would consider a responsible thing to do – I reviewed our family’s finances. Taking our savings and dividing it by monthly expenses, the wave of emotion that overwhelmed me caught me totally by surprise. Fear flooded my heart, my knees went weak and all I could manage was a prayer that whimpered, “Oh God…” Quite immediately, I heard the Lord ask, “Have I not shown you I am faithful?” Although I struggled, I decided that day, that moment, to trust God completely with finances.
Fast forward a few years to 2007, to when Serene was pregnant with Deborah Hope, our 6th child. One afternoon, when I was just thinking about how we would manage with a growing family and one more on the way, fear gripped my heart … again. What followed was a series of questions in my mind, pondering and considering the financial needs of our larger-than-normal family way into the future! Amidst the voices in my head, the Spirit spoke, gently but so assuringly, “One day at a time. One day at a time.” I can’t explain the peace that ensued but it sure brought me back to the right perspective, putting my trust in the Lord again.
Well, it’s 2012, and today, we have seven children. Yes, in total, nine of us in the Lim Tribe. In terms of finances and provision, one would think that there would no longer be any shred of doubt in my heart, having heard so clearly from God and experienced His grace and provision all these years in full time ministry. Well, yes and no. Yes, because we are still trusting in God, holding on to His Word and standing on His unfailing faithfulness. We are so thankful for what we have and how He has blessed us by His grace. Does it mean that I am no longer affected by what goes on around me? I wish that would be so, but truth is, I am still learning and growing in Him. And until I get there eventually, I still struggle and waver every now and then in my journey of faith.
At times, I like to be that proverbial ostrich with my head in the sand. It’s easier that way, I rationalise, if I don’t take too much notice of news reports of inflation and rising costs. After all, I don’t want fear to affect my faith. Sounds nice and spiritual, but this is merely denial and totally unrealistic. The fact is costs have risen across the board and our family needs and expenses have all increased.
The same trolley full of groceries costs more this year than one year ago. Our special diet and health needs require less processed foods and more fresh foods – organic at times. I am also discovering that a growing teenager eats more than growing toddlers, and more often too! Eating out is a luxury so I am thankful that we eat home quite a lot – thanks to Serene’s labour of love in our furnace of a kitchen. Then again, the rates for utilities, like water, electricity and gas, are also climbing.
The younger ones may be more easily occupied by recycled toys and books but new hobbies and activities for the older ones all cost money. How I long for the good old days where kids catch fish in the longkangs and spiders in the bushes. Today, you must pay for artificial longkang fishing. Plus, don’t forget the cost of petrol to drive there.
Grateful as I am to list ACS as my alma mater, my only regret is that I did not take Chinese more seriously, preferring instead to join the league of ACScians who proudly declare our deficiency in the 2nd Language. This simply means that I am unable to save on Chinese tuition fees since I do not have the capability of teaching my own kids – not that my schedule permits it in the first place. Thanks to Singapore’s education policy, we have another figure to consider. It has also just dawned on me that tuition fees for three children is different from that for six. Seven soon?
Still on education – homeschooling more precisely – the question, “Lord, we did hear you correctly to homeschool, did we not?”, pops up a lot more in today’s economic scenario. For one, we lose out on subsidised education and Edusave. Even public transportation is more expensive for our children because they are not issued Student Passes to enjoy student rates. For another, we have to purchase curricula and books on our own, often importing from USA.
Like I said earlier, it’s extremely tempting to just be in denial, to ignore the rising costs and the crazy economy. If I position it really well (ostrich butt sticking out and all), I might even be seen as extremely spiritual and full of faith! Well, I don’t think that’s the right response at all. As a steward of the finances God has blessed us with, we must do our part to be prudent, to spend wisely and to cut unnecessary expenditure. To do that, we should and must evaluate our family’s finances in the context of the economy and determine how to best manage with godly wisdom.
Invariably, the issues of contentment and covetousness will have to be addressed – not just once, but over and over again. When we can afford it, are our wants rationalized and justified as our needs? The line is just so fine and the heart so deceitful. Now that belts have to be tightened, would we remain satisfied or would we grumble and complain? Would we continue to give thanks for what we have and not gripe about what we don’t have or could have?
All said, one thing remains very clear to me. The Lord has called me into fulltime ministry, to serve Him and to serve others. As a servant of God, I am convinced that I have the best Master who loves me and truly knows how to look after me and my family. The Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out grain,” and, “The labourer is worthy of his wages.” (1 Tim 5:18)
In the words of Jesus, we are of more value than the sparrows and the flowers of the field. If God looks after them and provides for them, how much more will He take care of His children? For sure, there is no need to worry at all for my heavenly Father knows our every need. My part is to continue to faithfully serve Him, to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness”; His part is to ensure that “all things are added to me” (Matt 6:33).
The words of the Lord still resound in my heart: “Have I not shown you I am faithful?” and “One day at a time … one day at a time.” Yes, Lord, You have been more than faithful! Even when I have been faithless, You remain totally faithful for You are consistent and unchanging. I will take it one day at a time. As You have seen me through my yesterdays, You will walk with me today, and will also lead me into all my tomorrows.
Amidst rising costs, let faith arise! … “Hey, who left the fan on?”