If God is Good, Why Do Some Christians Suffer from Terminal Cancer — The True Testimony of the Late Singaporean Aesthetics Doctor, Dr Richard Teo Keng Seng

God is good. But some might scoff, “If God is good, why do some Christians suffer from terminal cancer?”

There are no easy answers to this question, and if you are a believer who does suffer from terminal cancer, you might take some comfort from the true story of the late Dr Richard Teo Keng Seng.

Dr Teo had everything that most Singaporeans could aspire to by the time he was in his 30s — wealth measured in millions of dollars, a thriving aesthetics practice, and sports cars, including a Ferrari 430.

“I’m a typical product of today’s society,” said Dr Teo in a speech in November 2011.

“From young, I’ve always been under the influence and impression that to be happy is to be successful. And to be successful, is to be wealthy. So I led my life according to this motto.”

Despite being born into a poor family, Dr Teo excelled in his studies and was accepted in medical school.

In medical school, he chose the quick way to big bucks — by switching from opthalmology to aesthetics.

The move paid handsomely for him, and in the first year, his cosmetic surgery clinic ‘was raking in millions’.

Dr Teo’s newly-made wealth opened the door to high-society life. He loved dinning at Michelin-rated restaurants and rubbing shoulders with celebrities.

Dr Teo also loved life in the fast lane and, at the pinnacle of his life, owned sports cars like the Honda S2000, Subaru WRX, Nissan GTR and a Ferrari 430

On how he would spend his weekends, Dr Teo said, “Typically, I’d have car club gatherings. I’d take out my track car and go up to Sepang in Malaysia for car racing. It was my life.”

Dr Teo had no time for God although he had been baptised many years earlier. When his friends experienced a personal revival, they advised Dr Teo to return to church with them, but their advice fell on stony ground.

“In my arrogance, I told them, “You know what? You go tell your pastor to change his sermon to 2pm and I will consider coming to church,” said Dr Teo.

In his arrogance, Dr Teo also uttered the following statement to his friends, “If God really wanted me to come back to church, He will give me a sign.”

It was a statement which he later said he would live to rue, because by the end of 3 weeks, he would — without first being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer — find himself back in church.

Said Dr Teo, “My whole world just turned upside down. I couldn’t accept it. I have a hundred relatives on both sides — my mom’s and my dad’s — and not a single one has cancer. To my mind, I have good genes, I’m not supposed to be having this! Some of my relatives are heavy chain smokers. Why am I having lung cancer? I was in denial.”

Dr Teo also fell into deep depression. He searched for answers. There weren’t any… until he heard an “inner voice”.

Said Dr Teo, “There I was lying on the operating table, staring blankly at the ceiling in a cold, quiet operating theatre. Suddenly, I heard an inner voice; it was not coming from the outside; it was inside. This small inner voice was one that I had never felt before. And it said very specifically: “This has to happen to you, at your prime, because it’s the only way you can understand.””

“I said, “Woah, where did that come from?” You know, when you speak to yourself, you’d say [something like] ‘what time should I leave this place?’ [or] ‘where shall I have dinner after this?’. You’d speak from a first person point of view…whereas the voice that came spoke as a third party. It said, “This has to happen to YOU, at YOUR prime, because this is the only way YOU can understand.” At that time, my emotions just overflowed and I broke down and cried alone there.”

Dr Teo did later understand why the ‘small inner voice’ had told him that this was the ‘only way’ he could be made to understand. Explained Dr Teo, “I was just so full of myself that there was no other way I could have turned back to God.”

God continued speaking to him.

Said Dr Teo, “I was in bed one afternoon, struggling and asking God, “Why? Why do I have to go through this suffering? Why do I have to endure this hardship, this struggle? Why me?”

“As I fell asleep, in my dreamy state, a vision came and said ‘Hebrews 12:7-8’.”

“Now, mind you, at this time, I had not read the bible [and] had no clue what’s Hebrews. I don’t even know how many chapters there are. Totally clueless.”

“But it (the vision) said ‘Hebrews 12:7-8’, very specifically.”

“I didn’t think too much of it [and] continued sleeping. After I woke up, and I said [to myself], “What’s there to lose? I’d check it out.” Danny (Dr Teo’s close friend, who had previously advised him to return to church) had bought me a bible; it’s still quite new… So I flipped to the Old Testament. Hebrews to me sounds like something ancient, so it should be in the Old Testament right? So I flipped through the Old Testament. No Hebrews there. I was so disappointed.”

“Then I said, “Maybe [it’s in the] New Testament; let’s have a look!”. WOW — New Testament; there’s Hebrew’s!! [And turning to] Hebrews 12:7-8, it said, “Endure hardship as discipline as God is treating you as His children.””

“I said, “WAH!! Where did that come from?” I was getting goose pimples all over my body. I said, “This can’t be, right?” I mean, what’s the chance of somebody who has never read the bible to have a vision of a chapter [and] a specific verse that answers my question directly?”

“So at that point, I was sold [and] said [to God], “YOU WIN! YOU WIN!!””

“From that day onwards, I started believing in my God. And the last time I heard that inner voice was [at] the end of April. And that inner voice — same thing, in the afternoon, as I was sleeping. In a dreamy state, I just heard Him say, “Help others in hardship.””

“It was more like a command, rather than a statement. And that’s when I embarked on this journey [of] helping others in hardship.”

Dr Teo obeyed the command up to the day of his death.  He reached out to numerous individuals, including single mothers, insurance agents, medical students, cancer patients and church members.

Mrs Teo, Dr Teo’s wife, told The New Paper, “He wanted to inspire those facing hardships, that life has more to offer than to be filled with hatred and emptiness”.

Dr Teo was adamant in getting his message across even as he lay sick and dying. According to Mrs Teo, a day before her husband died, his laptop was filled with new sets of photos to be shown to his audience. He had also been working on a new speech.

Dr Teo’s inspiring testimony of God’s dealing with him can be watched in the Youtube link below.

Dr Richard Teo

Dr Richard Teo’s story was featured in the 28 October 2012 edition of The New Paper.

God Allows Disappointments and Setbacks in the Lives of Christians, But Can More than Adequately and Abundantly Make Up for It (A Personal Experience by a Christian in Singapore)

In a previous blog, I shared my personal experience of how God allowed a major setback in my life to break and mold me.

For those of you who have not read my previous post, here’s a quick summary — it had been my greatest desire, even before joining the university, to be selected for the Honours programme after graduation from the Bachelor’s programme. This dream did not materialise, and the dashing of this dream was especially painful for me, because I had assumed (perhaps wrongly) that as long as I had been faithful in serving Him, I could get what my heart longed for.

But God is Faithful! Although I did not get what I longed for, I got what I needed, and that is, a job upon graduation. Indeed, among my peers who had graduated, I was the fastest to receive a job offer!

Above all, I had correctly discerned God’s promise to me. Through a time of prayer, I discerned God telling me that I would not get into the Honour programme, but that He would take care of my employment needs — and both of these have been fulfilled. I rejoice whenever I am able to correctly discern His intentions and plans for my life, because it assures me that I am His, for He (the Lord Jesus Christ) has Himself declared: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27; KJV)?

It has been some 20 years since I graduated from the university. You know what? I have never over the past 20 years ever lacked a job. Sure, I have changed job, but whenever I changed jobs, it was never without securing a position elsewhere first. I was also once retrenched, but as destiny would have it, an ex-boss, who had earlier left my former company to join another company, would offer some of my colleagues and I a similar position in the new company he was at. Consequently, over the past 20 years, I don’t ever recall being out of work for more than a week. Praise the Lord! He is Faithful.

What has been even more inconceivable and wonderful to me is that the present role I am holding is typically filled by people with academic qualifications much higher than me (PhD or MD).

I remember feeling really humbled the first time I stepped into this role. However, over time, I have grown in the job and am able to perform as competently as my colleagues (of course, along the way, I have upgraded my academic qualifications and taken various courses and training to supplement my knowledge and competency).

But 20 years ago, if anyone had asked me whether I would see myself in this job, I would have honestly said, “Impossible — I barely scrapped through my Bachelor’s degree.

But God chuckles when man declares, “Impossible!

The Lord Jesus Christ himself said it: “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27; NIV)

Dear Friend, have you had a major disappointment or setback?

Be strong and take courage! Set your hope fully on the Lord.

He can more than adequately and abundantly make up for your loss. He is able to do what you can never imagine or conceive; He can make a way:

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19, NIV)

Why Does God Allows Disappointments and Setbacks in the Lives of Christians? A Personal Experience by a Christian in Singapore

In a previous blog, I shared my personal experience of learning to hear God’s voice.

Soon after attending the two evening lectures by Brother Paul Hawkins from YWAM (Youth With a Mission) on “Hearing God’s Voice“, I decided to put what I had learnt into practice, and would regularly set aside time to pray. Because I would get distracted at home, I would walk to a nearby playground (which was typically free of children after sunset) during the evening to pray for about an hour. I would not have any specific prayer request other than to ask the Lord to speak to my heart and to reveal Himself to a greater measure to me (“Speak, for your servant is listening.”; 1 Samuel 3:10).

It soon came time to take my final university examinations. Throughout my undergraduate years, I had been consistently praying for God to bless me in my studies, and my greatest hope was to do well enough to be selected for an Honours degree programme, after I graduated from my Bachelors degree programme.

Although I was busy with my studies, I was also involved in various Christian activities. In church, I was a Sunday school teacher. The church that I attended held a bible study class before the main service, and I regularly attended that class, and was also rostered to lead a short session of worship before class started.

In the university, I was the class representative for my Biochemistry class. In addition, I was also studying Microbiology, and the ‘seniors’ in the faculty passed on to me the mantle of being the leader for the faculty’s undergraduate Christian fellowship.

I took on all these extracurricular responsibility with stride, ‘trusting’ that as “I served the Lord, the Lord will grant the desires of my heart” (Have you ever heard this cliche spoken to you by people who want to “motivate” you to serve in a ministry?)

So, I took my final university examinations, and everything seemed well (or so I thought).

Days before the results were announced, I would pray every evening at the playground; I would remind the Lord of my desire to be selected for the Honour programme, as well as to remind Him that I had been faithful in serving Him, in spite of my busy university schedule.

However, as the days got nearer to the date, my heart grew increasingly heavy. I increasingly perceived that something was not going to go according to plan (my plan, that is), and although I was uneasy about that feeling, I continued to “trust” God and to “reason” within myself (“Don’t worry, I’m sure that I will make it to the Honours programme; after all, I am a Christian, and most of my other peers, who are also aiming for the programme, are not.”).

Despite my attempts to “reason” with myself, I could not shake away the growing perception that something was wrong, and finally, on the very day before the results were announced, I said to the Lord while at the playground, “Ok, Lord, please give it to me straight. Am I, or am I not, going to be selected for the Honour programme?”

“You will NOT be selected,”came the immediate and unambigious reply within my heart.

I was stunned, but knew it was the Lord.

“What, it can’t be! I have served You…” I protested and started to cry.

“Trust Me,” came the reply.

Trust You? How do I trust You? This had been my deepest dream even before joining university, and now You have crushed it.

“Trust Me. I will provide for you a job,” I sensed the Lord say to me assuringly, and even while I was sobbing uncontrollably in the semi-darkness, I felt a new peace entering my heart to assure me that everything would be ok.

I am by nature punctual, but the next day, I deliberately reached the university about half an hour later than the scheduled time that the results would be announced.

As I was walking towards my faculty, I could see one of my classmates, who was clearly elated that she had been selected into the Honours programme, but as I approached her, her expression changed and she became more sombre.

“The results are out at the noticeboard,” she said. “Eh… I think you might want to have a look at it.”

I don’t have to,’ I thought to myself. ‘God has already told me.‘ But her attempt to avoid being the bearer of bad news, just confirmed to me that my name was not included on the Honour’s list.

Indeed, although I had passed the examination, and thus effectively graduated from the university, my results were bad; not only did I not make it on the Honours list, I did not even graduate with the title of ‘Merit’.

That evening, when I went back to the playground to pray, it felt like I had experienced a passing storm, and was emotionally too tired to do or say anything, except to try to console myself that the Lord had promised that He would take care of my employment needs.

I pause my story to address this important question: “Why does God allows disappointments and setbacks in the lives of Christian?

I believe it is to break them. In his book ‘The Blessings of Brokenness: Why God Allows Us to Go Through Hard Times‘, Charles Stanley explained it perfectly with his analogy of a wild horse:

I love to go out West and roam around in the wilderness. I like to sleep in a tent when it’s cold and to photograph nature or hunt. I enjoy the solitude and beauty of the mountain wilderness areas of our nation. On most of my wilderness trips, I contact an outfitter who assigns me a horse for the trek. Sometimes I’ve had very gentle horses who, with the slightest movement of the reigns, have known exactly what to do. Such a horse obeys instandly. Sometimes merely a spoken word will do.

I’ve ridden other very independent horses! I could pull on the reins, jerk the reins, kick with my stirups, speak sharply, and nothing happened that I wanted to have happen! These horses supposedly had been broken, but as far as I was concerned they were not broken very well. At times, these independent horses have put me into dangerous positions — lunging forward down a hill, balking through narrow passageways. Believe me, I’d much rather have a gentle, well-broken horse anytime, in any situation.

What happens in the breaking of a horse? Contrary to what many people believe, the horse’s spirit isn’t broken. A well-broken horse remains strong, eager, quick-witted, and aware, and he loves to gallop when given free rein. Rather, it is thoe horse’s independence that is broken. The breaking of a horse results in the horse giving instant obedience to its rider.

When a child of God is broken, God does not destroy his or her spirit. We don’t lose our zest for living when we come to Christ. We don’t lose the force of our personality. Rather, we lose our independence. Our will is brought into submission to the will of the Father so that we can give instant obedience to the one whom we call Saviour and Lord.

Now, we can’t insist on having our way. God doesn’t strip us of our free will either before or after our accepting Jesus as Saviour. We can “do our own thing” no matter what God says to us or how he may direct us. But when we act independently, like an unbroken or partially broken horse, we put ourselves into danger. His desire is that we not experience the consequence of our own willful wandering into sin and the dangers of evil.

Brokeness is the condition whereby our will is brought into full submission to his will so that when he speaks, we put up no argument, make no rationalization, offer no excuses, and register no blame, but instead, instantly obey the leading of the Holy Spirit as he guides us. The end result is one of blessing — it is for our good both now and forever.

I started my job hunt a day or two after the examination results were released, and very shortly after, was called for interviews, and was offered a job at a Japanese manufacturing company. Among my peers who had graduated, I was the fastest to receive a job offer. Praise the Lord! He is Faithful and had kept His promise to me.

 

Preacher, Want to Preach More Effectively? Allow God to Break You First

I hope I don’t come across as being judgmental for saying this, but I think some preachers just try too hard to impress.

Some feign erudition and scholarliness through the liberal use of theological jargon; others try to hold their listener’s attention through jokes or by bringing up topics of “current” (worldly) interest.

Still others try to feign the power of God by hyping up their voice during singing or preaching.

And you know what — most people, I think, see through it.

Preacher, do you desire to serve God more effectively? Here’s how. And no, it’s not some special training you need to attend, nor is it about studying some ‘how to’ book. It is about allowing God to break you.

In his book ‘The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit‘, here’s what Watchman Nee had to say about the subject:

“Many young brothers and sisters know that the gospel is the power of God. But when they preach the gospel, they add in their own cleverness, frivolity, jokes and personal feelings. Others can sense God’s power with them, but at the same time, they also sense the self. The preachers themselves may not feel anything, but the pure ones immediately will sense the presence of mixture. We often are zealous for God’s work outwardly, yet in reality we mix in our own preferences. We often are doing God’s will outwardly, but actually it is only a coincidence that God’s will matches our will. Many so-called wills of God are mixed-up with man’s preferences! Much zeal is mixed up with man’s sentiment! Many stout testimonies for God are mixed up with man’s stubborn disposition!

Our greatest problem is our mixture. Hence, God has to work on us to break our outer man as well as to remove our mixture. God is breaking us step by step so that our outer man will no longer be whole. After our outer man is battered once, ten, twenty times, we will be broken and our hard outer shell before God will be gone.”

“God not only wants to break our outer man, but also to separate it from the inner man. He wants to dismantle our outer man so that our outer man does not become an encumbrance to the inner man.”

And why does God want to break the outer man, you might ask? Because

 ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.’ (Zechariah 4:6)

If we are not broken, we would naturally gravitate towards using our human resources (our strengths, our cleverness, our human knowledge) to fulfil what is really a spiritual work, and therefore, come short of true success.

But after we are broken, we become less self-reliant, and more obedient to Him (“Not my will, Lord, but Yours be done”); we allow Him to do through us, not only what He wants done, but also how He wants to do it.