‘Back’ from College!

By Danny Chua

By the Lord’s kindness and some unbelievable support from my wife, Charis (and other family members), I’ve managed to complete my (formal) theological studies last month – thank you, Jesus! As I was looking back on the 5-year long journey*, I realize it has been a long journey. If I could sum up what the point of the last 5 years was, it would probably come down to these 2 verses that were read aloud during an Old Testament module on the book of Isaiah:

Thus says the Lord:
“Heaven is my throne,
    and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
    and what is the place of my rest?
All these things my hand has made,
    and so all these things came to be,
declares the Lord.
But this is the one to whom I will look:
    he who is humble and contrite in spirit
    and trembles at my word
. (Isaiah 66:1-2)

In the spirit of #GettingReal – and I hope this is a gospel posture we never ‘move away from’ – I must confess that these are rather scary words. To be honest, over the course of my time in theological college, it was a constant struggle and wrestle to grow into a child of God who “trembles at His word.” 

To be clear, that was my genuine desire and it was 100% an immense privilege to be supported by my church family and many brothers and sisters in Christ to study God’s word 24/7! And indeed, college, especially full-time studying with all the joys of daily fellowship with other Jesus-seeking saints, was a wonderful time. I’ll always remember the precious moments we had with faculty and fellow students, communing with our Heavenly Father, fellowshipping over meals, praying over real heartaches or faith struggles, and watching the Lord transform our slow and stubborn hearts day by day into Christlikeness. 

With my batchmates at ETC Asia

Nonetheless, there was the danger or occupational hazard – as is the case with paid Gospel ministry work – to merely study the Scriptures that testify about Jesus but refuse to go to Him daily for true life and joyous relationship with the Father (John 5:39-40). With the wrong posture and mentality, some of my classmates and I would find ourselves simply working to check off a box, complete an assignment or meet a deadline. 

What was it that helped us the most in this unending and sometimes unconscious challenge? There were a few factors but I think it came down mainly to one: seeing the gospel and the life of Jesus modelled incarnate-ly in our lecturers / the college faculty. Whether it was during my part-time studies at the Biblical Graduate School Of Theology or full-time studies at Evangelical Theological College of Asia, I’m honestly very glad to say that each person who taught me was ultimately a sinner in need of the Savior, and that they reflected that in their interactions with me. 

I heard much about the passion many of my lecturers had to do the work of ministry or build the Lord’s house (Isa. 66:1) as it were – and those intentions arose from a heartfelt desire and love for Christ, no doubt. At the same time, I can remember ever so often, the lecturers’ confession of their pride, self- reliance, gospel-forgetfulness, anything that got in the way of first sitting at Jesus’ feet to “tremble at His word.” How easily our zeal becomes plagued with the ‘old life’ built on human talent, trying hard enough, organisational efficiency and man-orchestrated fruit!

Thankfully, I saw in my lecturers and many brothers and sisters at college that only one thing or one Person had helped them repent of the ever so sneakily creeping in man-centered ministry mindsets that reek of the world’s wisdom. It was returning daily, weekly in study and communion and prayer to the only One who ever trembled at the Lord’s word. One who actually lowered Himself in humble and contrite spirit. One whose fearful obedience of His Father drove Him to bid his heavenly throne farewell. One who entered what is His earthly footstool, into the ruins of earthly sinners  to raise up a house of God – His church. In this Jesus, I was reminded time and again, I saw true, heart-moving reason to tremble and marvel at God’s word. 

Please pray that that this will always remain my heart’s posture before the Lord Jesus, in joyous trembling and awesome love for His word. 

What’s next? Well, I’m ‘back’ to local church ministry (though I’ve never really left) but that’s another conversation for another time… 

With the fellow ZB graduands and church family at the BGST ceremony in 2022

*Sincere thanks to brother Quek Tze-Ming and his friends and colleagues at the BGST. They saw me through my graduate diploma during those painful, COVID years from 2019-2022 before I completed my Masters of Divinity at ETC Asia as a full-time student from 2022-2024.  

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