Thursday, 25 May 2017

What are You Following?

I have to admit, I love cars, particularly Japanese sports cars. Ever since my friends invited me to cyber cafe for video gaming when I was bare 13 and I got introduced to Need For Speed (Underground 2), my mind has been wandering and envisioning myself driving those bloody fast turbocharged cars. Nissan Skyline GT-R34, Nissan 350Z, Mitsubitshi Lancer Evolution, Subaru Impreza WRX STi, Toyota Supra. The list goes on and on, but you get it. I love fast cars, to the extent I idolised them. Every now and then I might still turn into fan boy mood whenever I see those cars zooming past me.


When you love something, you will go and learn up more about that particular interest. I started learning about those cars, how much power they can potentially squeeze out, and most importantly how much those cars cost in Malaysia. I became the expert of the Stars Classified especially on the second-hand cars prices. To my despair, most of those cars costed more than RM100k. That was 9 years ago in 2008. Obviously some of those cars are way cheaper now at around RM60k-70k but the maintenance cost, road tax and insurance can easily kill your wallet.


That was my motivation! 

I know it sounded shallow now, but that was my motivation of working hard. I suppose it was normal for a young boy who easily gets fascinated by anything cool that shouts attention. I studied hard so that I can earn enough money. Having enough money will grant me the ticket to driving those fast cars. And then what? As I slowly grew up, I thought perhaps driving a fast car can attract beautiful girls because it shouts riches. Totally flawed ideas but those were what I thought. Beautiful models and race queens surrounding the motorsport events did not help a tad bit but worsen my self delusion. I did not have any higher goal. This was held true for the rest of my teenage life. 


Even though I have come to acknowledge the existence of Christ when I was around 13, I did not have a personal relationship with Him. I was too young and immature to comprehend the true value of sacrifice God has done through Jesus. Nevertheless I continued to come to Christian Fellowship meets in school and youth group in Assembly of God church, purely because of the free refreshment and heartwarming music and worship sessions, perhaps pretty girls too at several occasions. I am sure I was not alone in this, but times and times again despite my flawed intention, there was something funny but somewhat comforting about this God who spoke peace and assurance into my situations at different seasons. 

Time and time again when I faced challenges particularly in my studies, He helped me overcome my defeat. Very rarely I give up on a subject, but when I almost did, He showed Himself to me. He proved Himself worthy to be praised. He wiped away my tears and gave me the strength to push through my A2 Level Economics paper when I had just screwed up the subjective part (Paper 4) of the paper one week ago. He gave me a perfect mark for the objective part (Paper 3), that led me to 89 percentile (still an A, one percentile short of A*). 

Mind you, this deliverance was showed to me even before I truly trusted Him. That was in 2012. For some reasons, I found it difficult to give my life to Him. Was it because of my 'logical' thought process? Or perhaps my forgetful nature? Maybe my guilt of past/existing sins and habits? I started coming to Acts Church in 2012 (after a long 4-year hiatus from attending church) and I was placed under a mentor from the same Homes (cell group). However I was not able to open up to him, eventually finding myself contantly discussing issues at surface level. We was never able to get into much depth of issues, what more the root cause and solutions. This mentorship did not work out as intended. 

New Seasons

I went to the UK for further study under sponsorship from my current employer, and started joining Equippers London City. At around the same time, God revealed to Pastor Kenneth the vision to plant Acts London. I was so pumped up to be part of Acts London because when Pastor Kenneth first spoke about Acts London, I was blown away. It seemed to me that God was bringing Acts Church to the UK, just when I was about to start pursuing my study in London. This cannot be a mere coincidence. So I joined Lazarus Takawira, a faithful servant of God who helped planted Acts London into its current establishment now. We had Friday night meet every forthnight at Corus Hotel near Hyde Park. So much favour had been showed to Acts London in its early days, from the searching of venue to gather to discounted rental fee. This continued on until end of December 2012, when the first Sunday service finally started in January 2013. 

Since I was already rooted in Equippers and I had started serving regularly, I decided to continue on. I was water baptised in Equippers Church London, in March 2013. At the time of undergoing water baptise, I was still struggling in many areas but I was finally convinced that God was real. Having seen so many wonders and miracles happening to people around me and some to me, I knew He must be real. So I have accepted Him. But it still does not mean I had a consistent personal intimate relationship with Him. A few times I had wandered away from Him, dwelling in my own personal issues without Him in my life. Those times were the times I felt miserable. 

I only joined Acts in September 2013 as I returned to London from my summer break in Malaysia. We have been told many times to not despise small and humble beginnings, so we pushed on even though we rarely seen growth in the regular attendance. The challenge was real and sometimes it can be discouraging. Devil can come with his lies to destroy our motivation. But our Elders (Martin and Joanne) continued to stay focused in God, lead us well and soldier on through the difficult period. 

#1 Challenge: Long Distance Relationship with an unbeliever

Somehow or rather, I got into a long distance relationship (LDR) with an attractive girl but she was an unbeliever. It was my first relationship. We first met through a mutual friend gathering when I was back in KL for summer break in 2013. We started from being simple chat buddy on Facebook messenger and as time passed by, we got along so well although I was already back in the UK and she was in the States. We proceeded to Skype instead and that was how it all got started. The rainbow and unicorn did not last long. Due to some complication, 3 months later, she decided to end the relationship. 5 hours effort of daily Skyping had gone in vain. Needless to say I was left broken and unforgiving. 

I struggled for the next two months crying frequently to sleep, until Acts UK Getaway 2014 in end of March 2014. Towards the end of Acts UK Getaway, I managed to sit down with Pastor Kenneth and Pastor Sandra, together with Pastor Dave and Kat, and poured out all the stories to them. I thank God that immediately upon walking out of the Camden Hub, I felt a heavy rock being lifted off my shoulder. The next two weeks were filled with an explosion of dreams, many of which were radical dreams, including my dream about her that God had subsequently revealed to me on its interpretation. Never had I felt so close to God before. Radical dreams that I dared not even think of, and would not have thought of with my own inner mind, therefore it must be from God. But they came rushing to me, so overwhelmingly until I had to say "Please stop it, God". I never had crazy dreams anymore thereafter. 

It was the closure of a chapter. God said, "Trust in Me, and I will lead You." 

#2 Challenge: Matched Betting Gone Wrong 

One week before Christmas 2014, I was in my final year of university. I was looking at a passive way of earning income, not because I was lacking in any way but purely out of intention to save even more money. I somehow bumped into this UK based website called "Save the Student" teaching a step-by-step method of risk free strategy to earn money - matched betting. I was delighted to learn the word 'risk-free', just as I had just learnt about hedging strategy in one of my university modules called "Derivatives, Trading and Hedging". This matched betting strategy was analogous to the hedging strategy, and if everything went correctly, I should be able to earn risk free income. 

And I did. 

Matched betting, despite the word betting, was not exactly betting but it revolved around the dark world of betting. It involved betting FOR (on a bookmaker) and AGAINST (on a betting exchange) a particular outcome in a match (commonly football), essentially neutralise the exposure to the outcome of the match. But as part of their marketing strategies, most bookmakers in the UK provided free bet. So matched betting was devised to extract the free bets from the bookmakers - risk free money, upon the first round of qualifying bet to unlock the free bet. 

A simple process of matched betting as follow: 

Everything went well for the first three days. By then I had already accumulated up to £1,000. Then a mistake set in. I pressed a button called "Cash out" before the match even started, unknowingly cancelled one side of the strategy. I was exposed to the risk of losing money, in other word I was betting on one particular outcome. I lost £700 for that match. Losing always felt more painful than winning, despite smaller amount than what I had already accumulated. 

I felt cheated and wanted to recoup my losses. For the next one month, I kept on losing money with some small wins. I taught myself everything I need to know about football from zero - different teams and leagues and star players as well as histories. No matter how much studies, previews and statistics I had since done before proceeding with all the football matches selections, there will always be at least one loss. I have tried many different strategies - accumulator, Asian handicaps etc. I have tried them all, but I still lost. My final loss was £12,000. I wrote an email to Pastor Kenneth as an act of confession. I wanted to quit. Elder Martin subsequently prayed for me. My cell group leaders prayed for me. 

Guess what, I dropped back into the black hole. I was so disobedient and stubborn. Why can't I just stop and accept the loss? My thought at that time: I have saved up this portion by living frugally and now it costed me everything just like that. This is unfair! 

I can't bear but to think God was looking at me in disbelief and disappointment. 

It was March 1st, 2015. Today could be the day God delivers me, I thought. I had been living in hell of fear and insecurity for the past 2 months, without proper sleep every night. This would be my last £2,000. Lose this amount and I am completely done. I told God, "If this is Your will, let me just lose all these and I will accept it."

Instead of bagging on my usual combination of accumulator (up to more than 10 selections) and Asian handicap strategy, I decided to go with only seven selections but with higher risk. Long story short, all selections won and I had recouped £15,000. The moment Ajax scored against PSV Eindhoven at 83rd minute, my last bet on total number of goals (> 2.5 goals) won. My whole world was relieved. I promised God that I will never ever touch anything related to betting. 

The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord. -Job 1:21 
Up until today, I still do not quite understand why God allowed me to go through such traumatic experience. Surely 2-month long of emotional roller-coaster was not a coincidence. God allowed such thing to happen for He would not put a burden so heavy that I cannot bear on me. Nevertheless, I praise God for His deliverance and full financial recovery. 


Conclusion

So what are you following? I have finally found my purpose in life - to follow Jesus. To follow Christ means to be more like Him, to do what He will do, and how He will react to different circumstances. From a boy who had a goal no higher than driving a sports car, He has now seeped into my life. I am still very far from being Christ-like, but every day I aim to become more like Him. That means I should focus less on myself but more on others, because God's heart is always with the people He loves. 

I hope the above testimonies would show you how God has delivered me through different challenging times, and these may encourage you to draw closer to Him. 

Favourite Music! =)