‘Wonderkid’ Kong Hee – and the day God spoke to me

Let me say up front that before I tell you my story, this is in no way a judgmental piece. My prayers are with Kong Hee and his family at this time. Time in prison is paying the ultimate price, and Kong is paying it now. So my message here is with no passing of judgment. I can only imagine the turmoil Kong Hee is in right now.

So, on with the story.

About eight or nine years ago, Kong Hee seemingly ‘came from nowhere’ to build his megachurch. Megachurches are normally forged over decades, not in a few short years. The foundations that need to be laid, the land to be purchased and the cost of the building to be erected means that most churches have been operating for years before they have the financial means to attempt to build such a structure.

In Kong Hee’s position, It was probably right place, right time. Asians have a very respecting nature, they are hungry for God, they are diligent and disciplined in attending church, and so the timing was obviously right for a Singaporean megachurch.

Nonetheless, Kong Hee hit it big. And quick. He was young, savvy, massively successful, and he hit the world stage seemingly overnight. I distinctly remember the day I was reading an article about him. He was referred to as a ‘wonderkid’ of Christian ministry, and the article went on to sing his praises. I remember that very night on my prayer walk – which is a nightly ritual for me and our Labrador – asking God why I wasn’t a wonderkid myself?

I was very young when I started in business, I had achieved quite a bit of success, but as God called me into Christian media, it was all uphill. All hard work. I never imagined I’d spend my days in Christian media, but when you offer your life to God, then the plans He has for you start to come into fruition. But in doing His work everything just seemed so long and slow.

Anyway, I never thought any more about it. Life went on, I was working hard, and it was just an off-the-cuff question to God, suitable only because Kong was in the news that day.

However fast-forward four or five years and the news broke about the misappropriation of funds ay his City Harvest Church. This was massive news in Singapore – and globally. And it was at that moment, some years later, that as I heard the news, God immediately spoke to me.

What He said was along the lines of ‘This is why you don’t want to be a wonderkid’. And this is why the Bible clearly states in Zechariah 4:10 “Do not despise these small beginnings…”

God’s Kingdom pretty much works counter-clockwise to the world’s way. In the world it is about overnight success; getting and gaining everything as quickly as you can. Start the business, bring in the banks, or investors, to ensure it is as big as it can be, in the shortest possible time.

But that’s not God’s way, and even as I read that article about Kong Hee, I didn’t really need to question God that night. I already knew that His ways are slow and steady, building deep foundations along the way (Matthew 7:24-27).

So as you go about your days, as you live with dreams and desires not yet fulfilled, rest in the fact that, while things take time, that’s God’s way. He likes our character to be built before the fruit appears. And if you happen to be reading this and you have experienced overnight success, that’s great. It is not wrong to be a wonderkid, or an overnight success, but the risk is that the foundations and character in your life have not had the time to be built simultaneously.

But nine times out of ten, God will take the longer, slower path in our lives to be sure we have solid foundations that can be built on.

So commit your plans to the Lord, and let Him guide your path. Others may climb to the top of the mountain before you, but they can also just as easily descend at the same speed. Remember, life is a marathon, not a sprint, so be in it for the long haul. As my wife often points out to me, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish”.

As a footnote to this story, let me say that Kong was never an overnight success, but just successful at a young age. Kong started City Harvest in May 1989 as an outreach from Bethany Christian Centre (AOG). It became a church in its own right in 1992. By then it had an amazing facility and was reaching thousands of people. City Harvest has had amazing impact for over two decades and I trust it will continue to bear great fruit in the future.

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