It’s foolish to wear yourself out with work. (Ecclesiastes 10:15, explained by Pastor Rick Warren)

Pastor Rick Warren is a Christian writer that I respect a lot. I read his groundbreaking and life changing book “The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?” when I was a teenager. It is one of my favorite Christian books, along with Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis.


In this week’s sermon “You’re Not God—Stop Acting Like It!“, Pastor Rick comes up with another gem. It seems God Himself is a proponent of work-life balance. The problem of overworking is especially prevalent in East Asia, where it even flows down to the student level.

It is quite common that the average student in Singapore has less than 8 hours of sleep. In fact, it can be argued that it is almost “impossible” to have 8 hours of sleep, one will have to sleep at 10pm and wake up at 6am, and virtually no teenager sleeps so early at 10pm.

The human body is designed to mix work with rest, overworking is not only unhealthy, it is counterproductive as well. It may be quite possible to obtain temporary success by overworking, but the health effects may catch up sooner or later.

Related post: Good night’s sleep adds up to better exam results – especially in maths


The sermon by Pastor Rick Warren:

“Only someone too stupid to find his way home would wear himself out with work.”

Ecclesiastes 10:15 (GNT)

You’re not God. You don’t have all the answers. You can’t do everything. If you’re struggling to find balance in your life, those admissions can transform everything. 

The Bible says, “Only someone too stupid to find his way home would wear himself out with work” (Ecclesiastes 10:15 GNT).

It’s foolish to wear yourself out with work. Do you realize that when you overwork, you’re playing God? It’s a way of saying that it all depends on you, that everything will crash down if you don’t keep the world spinning.

That’s just not true! You’re not the general manager of the universe. The universe will not fall apart if you take time to rest, if you take time to balance your life. God has it under control.

Often we do this to ourselves because we’re trying to please everyone. Learn this lesson today: You can’t please everyone. Even God can’t please everyone! One person wants it to rain. Another one wants it to be sunny. It’s absurd to try doing what even God can’t do.

When you live for the expectations of others, you pile a ton of “shoulds” on your shoulders. You may think, “I should work more hours,” “I should be as active as all the other parents,” or “I should volunteer for this project.” But realize this: No one is forcing you to do those things. Overworking is your choice. You choose to take on the extra work or not to take it on. And you choose the consequences that come with your choice.

When you deny your humanity and try to do it all, you’re robbing God of his glory. The Bible declares this in 2 Corinthians 4:7: “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (NIV).

Paul reminds us that we’re human beings. We’re feeble and fragile. Jars of clay break easily. If you drop them, they shatter. Clay pots have to be handled appropriately and with care. If not, they’ll be destroyed.

But the good news is that through our feebleness, the power and glory of God shine through. Your humanity isn’t something to hide. Instead, you can celebrate the power of God working through your limitations.

So admit it: You’re human. Thank God for that!

Seeking The Overarching Purpose Of Your Life – Homily by Archbishop William Goh (26 July 2020)

A quote from the video that I find meaningful:

Those of you who are doing a job or a career, whatever it is, and you find yourself so drained instead of being energised by what you are doing, it has become a drudgery, this is not your life. This is not your vocation. In fact, you are destroying yourself. You will be making a living, but you will never live.

— Archbishop William Goh (At around 3:46 of the video.)

Bible and Chinese history (Su Dongpo & Ecclesiastes)

Quite rare to read an excellent article in the Daily Bread (daily biblical stories) with links to Chinese history. I really enjoyed reading this article by Poh Fang Chia. This clearly shows that Christianity is compatible with Chinese culture.

The poem by Su Dongpo referenced is 《水调歌头·明月几时有》, namely the most famous lines:

人有悲欢离合,月有阴晴圆缺,此事古难全。但愿人长久,千里共婵娟。

The entire poem is much longer, but most people just refer to these 5 lines. The classic song that encapsulates this poem is the one sung by Teresa Teng:

Source: Our Daily Bread (July 15 2020)

Su Dongpo (also known as Su Shi) was one of China’s greatest poets and essayists. While in exile and gazing upon a full moon, he wrote a poem to describe how much he missed his brother. “We rejoice and grieve, gather and leave, while the moon waxes and wanes. Since times of old, nothing remains perfect,” he writes. “May our loved ones live long, beholding this beautiful scene together though thousands of miles apart.”

His poem carries themes found in the book of Ecclesiastes. The author, known as the Teacher (1:1), observed that there’s “a time to weep and a time to laugh . . . a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing” (3:4-5). By pairing two contrasting activities, the Teacher, like Su Dongpo, seems to suggest that all good things must inevitably come to an end.

As Su Dongpo saw the waxing and waning of the moon as another sign that nothing remains perfect, the Teacher also saw in creation God’s providential ordering of the world He’d made. God oversees the course of events, and “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (v. 11).

Life may be unpredictable and sometimes filled with painful separations, but we can take heart that everything takes place under God’s gaze. We can enjoy life and treasure the moments—the good and the bad—for our loving God is with us.

By Poh Fang Chia

REFLECT & PRAY
Thank You, loving Father, for watching over all seasons of my life. Help me to trust in You and enjoy the life You’ve given me.

What are some things you’re afraid to try because of life’s unpredictability? How can you lean on Jesus as you step forward in courage to forge new friendships and deepen relationships?

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT
The book of Ecclesiastes is a book for a postmodern world. The “Preacher,” whom many believe was Solomon, speaks of the frustrations and disappointments of life. Two key phrases in the book are “everything is meaningless” (1:1) and “under the sun” (v. 3). The phrase “everything is meaningless” speaks of life lived on human terms and according to the values of this world, which is described by the phrase “under the sun.” In the end, the Preacher says that the answer to this meaninglessness is to look beyond this world and “remember your Creator” (12:1), who is the only source of true meaning in this life.

To learn more about the book of Ecclesiastes, visit The Bible Project, Old Testament Series. Bill Crowder

Original source: https://odb.org/2020/07/15/treasure-the-moments

Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis

This is one of my favorite Christian books. The Imitation of Christ is a Christian devotional book by Thomas à Kempis, first composed in Latin (as De Imitatione Christi) ca. 1418–1427. (Wikipedia)

Despite being written centuries ago, many of the words still apply perfectly. Human nature hasn’t changed over thousands of years. I find the book particularly suitable for those facing troubles, depression, or problems in life.

Some Quotes:

  • “When a man desires a thing too much, he at once becomes ill at ease. A proud and avaricious man never rests, whereas he who is poor and humble of heart lives in a world of peace.”
  • “Go where you may, you will find no rest except in humble obedience to the rule of authority. Dreams of happiness expected from change and different places have deceived many.”
  • “So long as we live in this world we cannot escape suffering and temptation.”
  • “If man had but a spark of true charity he would surely sense that all the things of earth are full of vanity!”
  • “Be not troubled about those who are with you or against you, but take care that God be with you in everything you do. Keep your conscience clear and God will protect you, for the malice of man cannot harm one whom God wishes to help.”

Summary

For five hundred years, this gentle book, filled with the spirit of the love of God, has brought understanding and comfort to millions of readers in over fifty languages, and provided them with a source of heart-felt personal prayer. These meditations on the life and teachings of Jesus, written in times even more troubled and dangerous than our own, have become second only to the Bible as a guide and inspiration. It is now available in a modern translation that retains the flavor of the original English translation.

Free Download of Imitation of Christ Book

There is a free download of the book here: https://www.ccel.org/ccel/kempis/imitation.html

There is also a Chinese translation available for free, in HTML format. I did check briefly that the translation seems fine.


For a printed leather bound version, check out the book on Amazon below.

The Imitation of Christ

Motivational Quote: Work can never be completed

The following are some motivational quotes by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, former president of India. The source is from Pinterest. I have also translated some of the quotes into Chinese.

I believe the quotes make perfect sense! Hope you find it motivational and useful as well.


Love your job but don’t love your company, because you may not know when your company stops loving you.

热爱你的工作,但不要爱你的公司,因为你不知道公司何时停止爱你。


Work is a never-ending process. It can never be completed.

工作是一个永无止境的过程。 它永远无法完成。

Interest of a client is important, so is your family.

客户的利益很重要,您的家人也很重要。

If you fall in your life, neither your boss nor client will offer you a helping hand; your family and friends will.

如果你在生活上遇到挫折,老板和客户都不会给你帮助;您的家人和朋友会。

Life is not only about work, office and client. There is more to life. You need time to socialize, entertain, relax and exercise. Don’t let life be meaningless.

生活不仅是围绕着工作,办公室和客户。 生命还有更多意义。 您需要时间进行社交,娱乐,放松和锻炼。 不要让生活变得毫无意义。

You did not study hard and struggle in life to become a machine.

你努力学习和奋斗,不是为了成为一台机器。

Motivational: Take it one thing at a time

Source: https://medium.com/mind-cafe/four-habits-of-discipline-my-seal-dad-taught-me-7ed9b13987df

Just saw this article on Medium. Quite motivational and applicable to students and even working adults. There are 4 tips on the original website. We just quote one of the tips here. The Chinese equivalent, would be 千里之行,始于足下, or “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.


Enduring Work Ethic Stems From The Moment

I had an interesting conversation with him about Hell Week (some US SEAL army training week) a few years back.

For those who don’t know — Hell Week is ridiculous. You wake up on a Sunday to gunfire. You then work out until Friday with no sleep. Hell Week is the bottleneck that breaks a lot of talented people. It’s where the top 20% are whittled down to the top 5%.

I remember him saying, “Tuesday morning was the worst.”

It was a bizarre response. Tuesday? Wouldn’t Thursday be the worst? Or Friday morning? Then he explained and it made total sense.

You wake up on a Sunday morning at ~2 AM to gunfire. You run around getting yelled at. You are doing pushups, carrying logs, rolling in the sand. This continues all day, then into the night.

As people are sleeping in their warm beds, you continue exercising, shivering, and getting shouted at.

Monday morning comes. The drills repeat from sun up to sun down with non-stop exercise and physical torture. Then, all through the night, you do it again.

Then, Tuesday morning rolls around. You’ve gone more than two full nights without sleep. You’ve endured intense stress, cold water, and difficult exertion the whole time. By Tuesday morning, you’re more tired than you’ve ever been in your entire life.

That’s when you start to feel sorry for yourself.

“Oh man, it’s only Tuesday. How am I going to get through all of this?”

“If I’m this tired already…and I’m not even halfway through…”

The people that start thinking like this are the ones that quit.

The people who succeed — only look a few minutes in front of them. They don’t worry about Thursday or Friday. They are only focused on each individual exercise. They get through it one thing at a time.

You can apply this to many aspects of your life.

If you are studying for a massive test, take it one page at a time. Working on a huge presentation, one slide at a time.

For example, I swam in college. Our training was very grueling, 5 to 6 miles of swimming a day. Sometimes the coach would put a set on the board that made me think, “You’ve got to be f#$king kidding me. I’m going to die.” I just took it one lap at a time and got through it.

Lower your vision and piecemeal those big hurdles. It reduces the perceived mental weight of the tasks. Take it one thing at a time.

98-Year-Old NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson: ‘If You Like What You’re Doing, You Will Do Well’

Source: http://people.com/human-interest/nasa-katherine-johnson-mathematician-advice-interview/

Despite her age, Johnson isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

“I like to learn,” she says. “That’s an art and a science. I’m always interested in learning something new.”

As a young girl she’d stop by the library on her home way in the evening and would pick up a book.

“I finally persuaded them to let me look at two books,” she recalls. “I could have read more than that in one night if they had let me.”

Johnson’s life was the inspiration for a nonfiction book titled Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, which is now being turned into a major motion picture coming due theaters this December. (Empire star Taraji P. Henson will play Johnson.)

Johnson, who was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2015,  thinks she was able to succeed because she always loved what she did. It’s one piece of advice she has for young girls today.

“Find out what her dream is,” she says, “and work at it because if you like what you’re doing, you will do well.”

Johnson also taught her daughters a few life lessons.

“Don’t accept failure,” says Joylette Goble, who says she has always been in awe of her mother. “If there is a job to be done, you can do it and do it until you finish.”

She adds: “Be aware of people and help them when you can.”

Johnson’s other daughter, Katherine Goble Moore, says her mother has always been her role model.

“I will always be grateful for her,” she says.

Inspirational: How can someone who has underachieved for years change their course and exceed their potential?

Source: https://www.quora.com/How-can-someone-who-has-underachieved-for-years-change-their-course-and-exceed-their-potential

Do check out this very inspirational post on Quora.

Excerpt:

I was about as under achieving as you could get.

Barely graduated from high school. Suspended, arrested, etc.

Luckily I went to an awesome community college and they turned me around.

The full story is here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/2…

Given one of the suggestions, here’s the speech:

Failure is our only option

Have you ever been in one of those moments where you realized that gee, what’s the harm if I take the quick shortcut, who’s going to notice? (of course none of you did anything like that while here at Maryland) Well, I decided to take the opportunity to give myself an edge. As a Silicon Valley tech guy, I decided to use technology and the world to help me prepare for this commencement address. So, I asked people on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Quora to figure out what wise words you should be imparted with and also what they remember from their graduation speakers. You know what most people remember? Nothing! Zilch! Nada!

So knowing this, I realized, I can say anything I want! Although, I’m sure someone will post this on YouTube. But seriously, as I got feedback from around the world and wracked my brain about what to say, one theme began to emerge.

On your day of such great accomplishment, I’d like to talk about something we rarely celebrate: failure. And why we are counting on you to fail. Now bear with me, and you’ll see where I’m going.

We’re all products of failure. You don’t remember it, but your parents definitely do. From the first time you rolled over, to your first steps. These successes were a culmination of failures. Need further proof? Make sure to ask them over dinner to recount your potty training.

The funny thing is you can read all about me in the bio or my LinkedIn profile and you’ll see that I received my Ph.D in Applied Math from here 11 years ago. I’ve worked for the Department of Defense and been to Kazakhstan. But you won’t see all the failures that made up the journey. What you can’t see from my Facebook or LinkedIn page are what’s behind the most important moments of success all the failures.

While growing up in California, to simply say I was bad at Math would have been an understatement. My freshman year of high school, I was kicked out of my algebra class and had to spend the summer retaking it. This (unfortunately) would become my regular paradigm for the next few years. By the time high school graduation came around, two things happened to me.

First, I almost didn’t graduate. For the record, I did actually graduate, but it was only because a very kind administrator took pity on me and changed my failing grade in chemistry to a passing one.

Second, I got a girlfriend. Since I didn’t get into any of the colleges I liked, I opted to go to the local Junior College with her. Do you remember that moment when you first got here and tried to figure out what classes you’re supposed to take? Well, I had a winning strategy. I enrolled in all the same classes my she was taking.

One problem, the first class was Calculus. Wow, did I get my ass kicked that first day. It was then I realized that I wasn’t just stupid; I was really stupid.

As I looked around at everyone else nodding along with the instructor (including my girlfriend), it dawned on me, I hadn’t failed because of the teachers or the material. No, I failed because I didn’t try. I didn’t even put my self in a position to fail.

I was fundamentally afraid of being uncomfortable and having to address the failure that comes with it.

To me it was like when you get to the top of the high dive, walk out the edge, looking down that the clear blue water (you can even see the dark lines at the bottom of the pool) everyone telling you to jump, and then running back down the steps. I couldn’t commit.

So what did I do about my Calculus class? I committed. Instead of dropping out (my usual method), I went straight to the local library and checked out all the high school math books I could find. I then spent the next week going through them. And it was awesome. Suddenly I was failing at a problem, figuring out what I did wrong, and then course correcting. This feeling of being able to iterate was very new to me.

Now, five weeks later that same girlfriend asked me one afternoon why I was spending so much time on my math homework. It was then that I uttered the fateful words that I will never forget:

“I don’t know – It’s not like I’m going to become a math major or something”

Much to my great surprise, I ended up becoming a Math major. (Actually, I think my parents are still surprised). Then the same thing happened when I got here to the University of Maryland for my graduate work. I got my ass kicked by everyone, again. I failed my first graduate class and even got the 2 lowest score on my first Ph.D. qualifying exam. (The lowest score was actually by a guy who didn’t even show up.) I really, reallywanted to quit, but that wouldn’t be the uncomfortable path.

So I stayed in the game by failing, getting back up, and continuing to push forward. It was probably one of the toughest and loneliest years of my life. The next time the qualifiers came around, however, I had the highest scores.

The big take away I have from this is that tenacity and failure go hand in hand. Without both, you can’t move forward.