The FISHERS Magazine (Issue 215)
At the beginning of 2015, my husband and I promised our grandchildren a trip to Disneyland, Hong Kong. They were very excited about it for several reasons. First, their father often told them stories of the fun he had at Disneyland, Los Angeles, when he was a child. Now they longed to visit Disneyland themselves. Second, they had never been to Hong Kong, a place where I was born and grew up. Finally the long awaited trip materialised and the excitement began.
Since there were eight of us travelling, it was difficult to secure seats at the same section of the plane for all of us. My husband was given a window seat all by himself, my son and his wife with the baby were at the tail section of the plane. I ended up sitting with the three older children at the middle section. I sat between the two boys aged five and eight so that I could help them at meal time and operate the electronic game sets during the flight.
After three hours into the journey, sitting in one position all this while, Luke the younger boy was obviously quite bored. I tried to engage him in conversation to break the boredom.
“Luke, you know, grandma was born in Hong Kong and grew up there. When I was a teenager, I often went hiking with my siblings and friends during weekends. We liked to hike around Kowloon Hill and even climbed nearly up to the top of Lion Rock, a high mountain with the shape of a lion's head at its summit.”
“What's so interesting about hiking?” Being raised in a place as flat as Singapore, he had no idea of the thrill we had when we conquered the heights of the mountains and peeped through the bushes to admire the valleys below. What a breath-taking sight we had from the top.
“We had many adventures walking in the woods. On one of our many expeditions, while we were walking through the thicket, my younger brother suddenly dashed forward and shouted 'Run, run, I saw a lion!' We all started running after him without trying to find out if there really was a lion around. Finally the oldest boy in the group went back to the woods to investigate and came back to tell us that it was only a cow's back he saw and not a lion's! We could never forget that episode.”
He gave me an inquisitive look and said, “If Hong Kong is such an interesting place to live in, why did you settle in Singapore?”
I answered, “I came to Singapore to marry your grandfather.”
“Why didn't you marry someone in Hong Kong so that you can continue to stay there?”
Before I could give him a lesson on the providential sovereignty of God, his older sister Rebekah, 11, came up with a very simple and logical answer, “Luke, you don't understand. If grandma didn't come to Singapore to marry grandpa, there would not be a daddy for us and if there were no daddy, there would not be the four of us!”
I marvelled at her quick and logical answer because the reality behind that simple statement is in fact incomprehensibly complex. Statistically speaking, the probability of me marrying a young man from Hong Kong was far greater than me marrying someone from Singapore. Had I not gone to Canada, I would never have met the young man who is now my husband, Luke's grandfather. Any slightest alteration in our family history would have resulted in the non-existence of this little fellow sitting next to me in the plane to Hong Kong. God has to be the One who orchestrated every event in men's lives to cause things to happen the way they did. Nothing happened by chance.
In the early 1900s, when most women in China were denied an education, God sent my mother from Hong Kong to Shanghai to study English Literature in the university and while she was there, she met my father who was also an English Literature major. Had they not met at Shanghai, there would not be a Dixie either. Each of our existence is extraordinary and there is nothing ordinary or insignificant to our stories. In fact, every big or small event that we encounter in life has numerous stories behind its occurrence. God is working sovereignly every moment in our lives to direct our paths and shape our characters, though we may not be aware of it. If we realise the providential sovereignty of God in the lives of men we will not lack amazement and wonder each day, knowing that God takes special care in designing and directing each life. We are all wonderfully and marvellously ordained, created, and sustained by Him.
When the apostle Paul was at Athens, the religious centre of Greece where virtually every form of deity known to man could be worshipped, he found an altar with this inscription: 'To the Unknown God' (Acts 17:23). The Athenians were supernaturalists who believed in supernatural powers that intervened in the course of the world. They acknowledged the existence of someone beyond their ability to understand, who had made all things. This provided an opportunity for Paul to introduce to them the Creator-God who could be known, and who is sovereign over everything.
Paul began his message by saying, “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24). Paul viewed Athens as a city of lost humanity, all doomed to a Christless eternity because of rampant pagan idolatry. The Athenians built many elaborate temples for their gods to dwell in, but Paul introduced to them a very different God who created all things including themselves. How could such a mighty Being be confined to time and space, to live in a temple built by human hands?
Paul continued his sermon by telling them that the God he worshipped was not only great and awesome in His creation work, He also has the power to sustain this creation. Paul said, “Nor is He worshipped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25). He is able to provide food and shelter for all the creatures, and to give life and breath and all things to sustain their lives each day. It is ridiculous to think that the creatures have the ability to provide anything to the One who created them, or that the Creator needs to be sustained by His own creation!
The most wonderful truth that Paul explained to them is God's providential sovereignty over all men. “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings” (Acts 17:26). He creates all men through the first couple, Adam and Eve. They all come from one stock and stem. Nothing comes by chance or by a fatuous concourse of atoms.
Since He made all things and by His divine activities, sustains all things, He has every right to ordain the events of all His creation. God determines all things in a person's life - when he should be born and where he is to live. Man's existence in redemptive history is not his choice. He could be born during the time of the patriachal fathers like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or while the Israelites were under Egyptian slavery, or under the rule of King Solomon enjoying the prosperity in his kingdom. He could also be born during the Babylonian exile or during the time of Christ's earthly ministry or at the present church age. No one can decide when he would like to be born and choose his contemporaries. God has 'determined their preappointed times', therefore the dates of their birth and death are all written in His book.
He also determined 'the boundraies of their dwellings'. In God's sovereignty, He places people at certain geographic locations for His own purpose. God is the ordainer of the events in men's lives. He decides the country, the city or even the street that one should live in. In 1985, we went all over Singapore looking for a house to buy. On one occasion, the property agent asked us to bring our cheque book to meet him the next day, at the house we were interested in purchasing, to pay the deposit. We were very excited, thinking that we could finally close a deal and become the proud owner of that house. But when we arrived there at the agreed time the next day, the agent came out from that house and told us that another buyer was willing to pay a little more and he had just signed the contract with the owner. We were not only disappointed but also disgusted at his breach of trust. Not long after that incident we managed to buy the house which we have now been occupying for the past 30 years. Indeed it was God who decided the kind of abode we should have and live in.
What has all this got to tell us? Those who believe in the Creator God need not worry about their present or future, for God is in control of all His creation. According to human history, we know that one kingdom came and it was soon replaced by another one that was more powerful. All we need is to open the Book of Daniel in the Bible and read about how the mighty Babylonian Empire was taken over by the Medo-Persian Empire overnight. Soon the Medo-Persian Empire was replaced by the Greek Empire followed by the Roman Empire. No kingdom on earth will last forever, not even the superpowers of our time. Only God's Kingdom will last forever. Blessed is the man who belongs to this everlasting Kingdom.
God places us at a certain time and place for His divine purpose. Paul explained that to the Athenians, “So that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27). Man's duty is to seek the true God and to serve Him only. We are to serve Him where we have been placed within the fading kingdoms of this world as we go on waiting for the final Kingdom to arrive.
The psalmist said, “My times are in Your hand” (Ps 31:15). Nothing can be more comforting than to know how secure our lives are in the hand of the Almighty God who created us, cares for us, and plans out all things from the beginning to the end of our lives. He knows the end from the beginning. Listen to the words of God through the Prophet Isaiah, “For I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all My purpose'” (Isa 46:9-10).
In the final analysis, it does not really matter where God wanted me to be born, or where He placed me to be trained secularly or spiritually, and where I should live and die. My duty is to serve Him faithfully wherever He has placed me and to be contented with my lot. Many people are dissatisfied with the time and the place they are in. Their shortsightedness allows them to see only the fading kingdom that they are living in and blurs their vision to see the eternal Kingdom that is to come.
I do not expect my grandson Luke to understand the providential sovereignty of God at such a tender age, but one day he will come to know how extraordinary his life is under the creative and gracious hand of his Creator who placed him in our family for us to love, to care and to cherish. It was no accident that I came to Singapore from Hong Kong to marry someone here and to become Luke's grandmother. It is all under God's sovereign plan. Every life is extraordinary because it is under the care of the Creator-God.