Soft, but well-spoken, Amos Tan now works in the food and beverage industry during the week. On weekends, he serves on his church’s worship team. But it took this 37-year old quite a while to get here.
At this point in life, married for about two years and the proud owner of a new home, Amos is sitting comfortably. However, his journey in life has been anything but comfortable.
A life is undone
At 19, the Asian Financial Crisis wreaked havoc on his family’s business. They lost everything overnight, including the roof over their heads. The household of five had to hole up in a relative’s flat, all crammed into a single bedroom.
“The restoration both in the soul, spirit, physical and relationally is priceless. Nothing in the world but Christ can give you that.”
Unable to cope with the painful changes, Amos’ life unravelled. He lost interest in his studies, dropped out of Polytechnic and joined the wrong crowd. The party came to an abrupt end when one of his friends almost fell to his death in a drug-induced stupor. That sobered him up but Amos was still bereft of hope, full of questions and angst.
“The frustration is that I did not engineer the problems in my family, but I ended up there. I was frustrated about many things and felt very lousy about myself.”
Seeking a panacea for his pain, Amos turned to religion.
In 2003, he visited Nepal. The planned month-long retreat turned into an unintended two-year stay when he was invited to join the monkhood. At 22, Amos thought he had nothing to lose and it seemed a better option than the aimless life he had left behind in Singapore.
Home and away
However, Amos found himself more confused than ever. He felt that what he was learning was incongruent with his own values and conviction. He recalls, “I felt stupid and regretted it. My mind was broken, and I felt lost.”
Disillusioned and disappointed, he headed back to Singapore.
Back home, there was still a restlessness in him for answers. His younger brother, Gideon, who had since become a Christian, saw his dejection and challenged him, “Why don’t you try Jesus? Didn’t your religion teach about learning the truth from different teachers?”
That thought lingered with Amos and soon after that conversation, he picked up a book on his brother’s bookshelf. The book had a prayer on the last page – a prayer for salvation that started him on his faith journey with God.
Renewed and restored
When Amos opened his heart to Christ, it became a moment forever stamped in his mind. “God began a very miraculous work straight away. I felt the touch of God and was pinned on the floor and couldn’t move for about an hour. In that intimate encounter, He was healing and rewiring my heart. The restoration both in the soul, spirit, physical and relationally, all that is priceless. Nothing in the world, but Christ can give you that.”
It took a while before Amos got his life back together. “The renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2) was very tough because of the disconnect in my mind. It is what psychology terms as a cognitive dissonance – holding two opposing worldviews.
“The journey to seek God will never come to an end because what we know of Him, we only know in part.”
“But it got better, helped by many Holy Spirit moments where I could sometimes hear the audible voice of God. It took me six months to re-enter society and become normal again. I started by watching TV, stopped being a vegetarian, and as my behaviour and habits became more common, I started hanging out in church.”
With his life back on track, he made up for lost time, furthering his studies, did stints in the mission field and establishing a career. However, the typical Singaporean lifestyle and the pursuit of material ideals crept in to weigh down his faith journey, grounding it to a near halt.
Looking back, Amos says, “I got into the Singapore ideal of seeking blessings, and more blessings, until I became uninterested in the Father – the source of blessings. I just pursued what I wanted to do, accumulating assets while keeping God and church a ‘Sunday thing’.”
He got distracted because of the lack of connection with other Christians to keep him on track. Just warming the pews on Sunday is not enough to truly follow God, he concludes.
“I didn’t have a community of people around me. I was a lone ranger. I had thought if your vertical relationship with God is there, the horizontal relationships with people don’t really matter. God doesn’t work like that!”
As someone who was lost, found and taken some detours, Amos knows his faith journey is far from over, “The journey will never come to an end because what we know, we know in part (1 Corinthians 13:12). The more we spend time with the body of Christ, the more facets of God we learn. You will never know God fully.”
5 things Amos learnt on his journey through faiths
1. Pursue the Father’s heart
“We need to pursue the Father’s heart in our dreams and passion. The deep passion that you have, the craft and talent could be actually planted by God himself. And sometimes we allow those dreams to overtake when they become bigger than God. If you want to dance in Carnegie Hall or Boston, I think that is not a problem for God. The problem is that sometimes our hearts get seduced and want to do it in our own way. Pursue the dream, but most of all pursue the Father’s heart.”
2. Time is in His hands
“Some of us also worry about timelines, that we may lose out. We think at 35 years old we have to achieve this and that, but the Kingdom of God doesn’t work that way. Man tries to measure time as a man-made concept. But God made man and rules over everything. Therefore, He can compress and elongate time according to His will.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
3. Understand the true source of love
“There is a prevailing worldview that all religions are the same, in that they all teach to do good. There’s only a partial truth in that. The principles operate differently. Their kindness comes because they want to earn something for this life or the after – it is for their own merit. For Christians, it is because God first loved us, therefore we have the love to give others. The motivation is different.”
4. True peace can only come from God
“Some religions talk about rational peace, which deals only with the mind. So your mind may think in a certain way. But it still doesn’t make your heart settle. The supernatural shalom peace of God truly rests your heart. It is whole – it deals with your body, soul and spirit.”
5. Seek the Truth and you will find it
“Steve Jobs said that when you are looking for passion but don’t find it, don’t settle for that. Similarly, when looking for truth, we also should also not settle until we find it. If God is truth and the word of God is the truth, then a heart that hungers for truth is a heart that will see God.” (Jeremiah 29:13)