In less than a week, the Chinese Community all over the world will be celebrating Lunar New Year. With this, under the Chinese Zodiac, the snake will have to slither aside, making way for the horse to gallop in. While Christians do not associate with Zodiac signs, yet, everywhere we go, we are told of the coming year of the horse.
One of the most popular idioms we see posted everywhere is that of 《马到功成》, which literally means, ‘Success upon the arrival of the horse’. It is used to wish someone success – right from the beginning (in the start of a business; the start of a new year; etc). Basically, it means wishing someone achieving success at a very quick time.
Interestingly, I read a story behind this idiom, which actually throws up something insightful. This story tells us about a village peasant who lived during the Tang Dynasty. At the tender age of twenty years old, he had already mastered eighteen different military skills. Apparently, his heart’s desire was to enrol into the army to serve his country. However, worried for his safety, his parents advised him against it. Roughly transliterated, his reply to his parents were:
“Right at this moment, our country needs people to get rid of the barbarians from the borders. Your son has already mastered various military skills1, which builds my wisdom and courage. If a war arises, 马到成功.
This story tells us the reality that the confidence of the village peasant did not lie in flimsy hope, but one that is rested on having prepared himself for the task, having had taken pains to master the various military skills, and in the course of doing so, building wisdom and courage.
What lesson can we draw from here? Day by day, we are confronted with all kinds of situations, requiring us to make decisions that will reveal either our spiritual poverty or depth, which means on the one hand, failure and the other, success. Spiritual victories cannot rest on flimsy hope, but anchored on the rock of our faith. Being in tune with God is key to what it means to be led by God.
In his Sojourner’s Scrapbook, Kenneth Wong asserts, ‘The simple key to a victorious and abundant life in Christ is a strong devotional life. Everything about a man’s spiritual stature can be reduced to the state of his daily devotions.’ As we go through the rigours of disciplined daily devotion with God, we deepen – day after day, our spiritual roots, so that even as we face the incessant onslaught of that which seeks to derail our spiritual well-being, we are able to overcome with swift victories.
Elder Richard Lai
1 Just to ensure that my understanding of this story is correct, I sent the above to three PRC friends. One of them helpfully suggested that the 18 different military skills can be likened to the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit. As we allow the fruit of the spirit to grow in our lives, it will be that which achieve spiritual victories.