The FISHERS Magazine (Issue 224)

From Self-Fulfilment to Self-Denial


This testimony by Patricia Lai, the daughter of the late Mdm Ivy Tay, was given at Mdm Tay’s wake in June 2017.

My mother was raised in post-war affluence and, being an only child, she was ill-equipped, not having much education and skills, for work. Widowed in her early forties and despite her lack of education and skills, she provided us with a moderately comfortable life. Thus, unsurprisingly, she became convinced that it was her strong will to live and her own hard work that made it possible for her to single-handedly raise her children and run a thriving business. Hence, she felt justified to be proud of her hard-won accomplishments.

Little did she realise that despite all the hard work and accolades she received for contributing to the community through works of charity with religious and social institutions, she was not freed from sin. As far as she was concerned, she had never done anything criminal or socially unacceptable, so she could never see herself as a sinner.

In fact, when I was a youth trying to share with her about God, she was indignant that I should think that God is the Provider of all good things in life. She told me that she did not believe God could ever rain money down on her. She was the one who was resourceful and hardworking in providing for our family.

Meanwhile, by the grace of God, my elder sister and I were saved in the same church and became burdened for our mother's salvation. She never opposed our conversions or baptisms because she believed all religions were the same.

After three decades of praying for her salvation and inviting her to countless church evangelistic meetings where the gospel was preached, she remained obstinate in her stance. She would generally agree with all the preachers on what they preached until they broached the topic of the sin nature in man. She would never acknowledge that she was a sinner. She had always believed that her blessed existence was made possible because she was hardworking, charitable and ‘lucky’ to have reliable friends who helped her carve a successful career. When my siblings and I graduated and became successful in our individual career pursuits or family life, she deemed herself ‘lucky’ as well. Such was the mantra she embraced all through her earthly life until last year.

About a year ago my brother-in-law, who was treating her for chronic diabetes, gave us a bleak prognosis of Mum's medical condition. He told us to be prepared as Mum's health was getting worse as she was suffering from end-stage renal failure. At that moment, I was seized with a terrible fear of having Mum face the prospect of Hell and eternal damnation. Immediately, I spent days pleading with the Lord for His mercies to be showered upon her and for Him to reveal Himself to her in a personal way.

One Sunday in May last year, Mum had a fall at home. She had slipped when she was trying to wear her bedroom slippers unaided. She told me in the aftermath that all she could vividly remember then was someone supporting her as she fell. Hence, she felt no pain even as she went crashing down onto the floor and sustained a huge bump.

Later, I verified with the helper if she had appeared in time to support my mother when she was falling. The helper said that when she heard the sound of her falling, she had rushed to my mother to find her lying flat on the ground. When I arrived at her home, I was amazed that she was sitting upright on the sofa looking quite calm and composed.

Immediately, God put in my heart a strong conviction to speak to her about how God in His grace and mercy had reached out to deliver her from a worse plight. I told her that her ability to survive such a great fall at 84 years of age, was nothing short of marvellous, given her medical condition. I opened the Bible and shared with her how she needed to trust Jesus as her personal Saviour as He had divinely preserved her life. Verses that talked about how we are sinners and that the wages of sin is death, were read to her. She listened but was non-committal. Nevertheless, she did make one comment that God was good to her and was powerful to have protected her when she fell.

She felt insecure after the fall and so I shared with her the attributes of God, reading to her Psalm 23. She was comforted but still would not acknowledge that she was a sinner and needed God to deliver her from her sinful estate.

The next day, my husband, David came and shared the gospel with Mum in her mother tongue, Cantonese. As he shared with Mum using the illustrated book The Story of Hope that covered the main truths of the Gospel, she was surprisingly alert and captivated. She did not indicate any desire to receive Jesus as her personal Saviour until he shared from Luke 23:39-47.

This text speaks of how, when Jesus was crucified on the cross for the sins of man, there were two thieves crucified on either side of Him. As Jesus was dying, one of the thieves felt guilty and was repentant for he believed that Jesus was the Son of God and that he himself was a sinner who needed to be saved by Jesus. So, he placed his faith in Him and was granted the gift of eternal life in Paradise, beyond the grave. Mum was astounded. She could not believe that such a thief who had committed grave sins could go to Heaven just because he had the faith to believe in Jesus as his Saviour at the eleventh hour.

Little did she realise then that God was using this incident in the Bible to convict her that it was not doing good deeds or achieving earthly accolades that would secure one a place in Heaven. There and then, she realised that she could not do anything to save herself from sin and Hell. Not just that, leading a fulfilled life was not all about leading a righteous life based on hard work and good deeds.

All the pride that she had nurtured throughout her life about her being a good person crumbled as she realised that nothing she had done so far could qualify her as being worthy of our Holy God. With that new understanding of her sinful estate and her need to be saved from the penalty of sin which is eternal damnation, she demonstrated her faith in Jesus by wanting to be saved because she knew then that as a sinner, she could only be saved by the grace of God.

My husband and I were overjoyed as the truth of God's Word became clear to Mum. Thereafter, the church full-time staff came to share with her the basic doctrines to verify that she clearly understood what had been shared with her the previous day.

After she was saved, Mum became joyful and would always count her blessings, thanking God for all that He had provided for her thus far. Whenever I shared with her Bible verses or a hymn, she would listen attentively. Subsequently, when I asked her to pray together she would readily put her hands together to pray and feel at peace each time after prayer.

One night, she had trouble sleeping as she was in great pain. She recalled that she could just call on God for help to relieve her of the pain. Immediately, she prayed and asked God to help her and she said that she was amazed at how she could sleep after that as the pain eased off. After God answered her prayers, she told me that God is truly powerful. There were other times when God did not relieve her of her pain and I would tell her that she must trust that God would still protect and provide for her the comfort she needed to cope with her pain. She calmly accepted that too.

What may seem impossible to man is possible with God. I had in the past thought that Mum would never come round to acknowledging that she was a sinner who needed God to save her from eternal damnation. She had been blinded by the pride of her personal achievements in life but God in His mercies had opened her eyes to the truth of His Word and revealed her sinful condition. She knew then that Jesus' death on the cross was the only satisfactory payment for her sins. All her earthly accomplishments amounted to nothing in the light of our holy God.

Although I am sad that God has taken Mum home to be with Him, I am comforted that she, having shed her robe of flesh, is now rejoicing in Heaven with her Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Patricia Lai

- Patricia Lai is a member of The 'Fisherman of Christ' Fellowship.

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