20 Jan GS Letter Jan 2020
Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his.
He changes times and seasons; He deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.
(Daniel 2:20-21, NIV)
The above verses from the book of Daniel have been guiding me as the year 2019 ended and I entered the new year of 2020. Volatile situations were prevalent in many places. Governments and leaders changed abruptly. There were anxieties and uncertainties in the global economy. Increasing ambiguity in social and moral standards also did not cease. Amid the chaos, I find solace and encouragement from the above verses, not only knowing that God is sovereign and in control, but He also promises to grant “wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning”.
In Hebrew, the word “the discerning” is בִּינָה (binah), which literally means “men of understanding or those who know understanding”. The English word “discern” comes from an old Latin word, discernere (dis: “off, away” and cernere: “sift, separate, distinguish”). Hence, if I may combine both descriptions, to discern is to be able to comprehend what is obscure and examine something thoroughly so as to sift that which is most important, right or true. As a Christian, the reference of our comprehension and examination should come from God alone, like what Henri Nouwen writes on discernment:
Our God is a God who cares, heals, guides, directs, challenges, confronts, corrects. To discern means first of all to listen to God, to pay attention to God’s active presence, and to obey God’s prompting, direction, leadings, and guidance. (Henri J.M. Nouwen, Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life)
I believe discernment is a virtue that is lacking now. Our digital era is flooded with information, knowledge and know-hows. However, without discernment, we can be easily drowned and overwhelmed by all this information and knowledge, without being able to utilise them as intended. Therefore, one key aspect that FES would like to exercise this year is the ability to discern.
As communicated earlier, using agricultural terms, if 2019 was the year of fallow in which we listened, then this year is the year of plough, which will be marked by our considerable discerning efforts.
Last year, we listened extensively to many stakeholders of our ministry – students, staff, council, graduates, and local churches. In 2020, we would like to follow it up by discussing the outcome of our listening exercises, and discerning what God is calling FES to do in the next decade. To carry out the above, we plan to have a gathering of FES Council, together with staff workers and student leaders, likely in April/May.
Kindly support us in prayer. I really hope that our discerning efforts will not just be a mere exercise of following tradition or an allotted schedule. Instead, our desire is to “listen to God, to pay attention, and to obey His leadings”. When we do that, I believe we can look forward to living out what William Carey famously said: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”
Let me end this letter and begin the journey of FES ministry this year, with a prayer inspired from Daniel 2:21: “Lord, grant us wisdom and knowledge that you have promised to give to anyone who is discerning, as we will strive to carry it out this year!”
In His grace,