Suffering Makes Me A Better Bible Teacher: Sim Kay Tee
Sim Kay Tee discovers how pain and suffering help him in the stewardship of his gifts.
Displayed on a birthday banner prepared by his family, 1 Timothy 4:13 sets the tone for Sim Kay Tee’s use of his ministry gifts.
When his wife was battling late-stage cancer, Sim Kay Tee prayed for the tumour to recede. But it didn’t happen, and he couldn’t help but wonder why God didn’t heal her.
Yet, it was such difficult and painful times, says the longtime Bible teacher and Our Daily Bread theological reviewer, that have made him a more effective preacher and teacher. Every struggle, he says, has helped him to connect better with people and share biblical applications that resonate deeply in their lives.
“We can learn our giftedness academically and intellectually,” he says of his God-given gift of teaching, “but it’s our bad life experiences that tempers its practice. Now the giftedness comes with compassion.”
Indeed, the experience of suffering has helped Kay Tee approach Scripture with a lot more sensitivity and consideration of the human condition. For Kay Tee—who helps to ensure that Our Daily Bread Ministries’ resources are doctrinally accurate and reliable, and also contributes regularly to the Insights column of Our Daily Bread—it has changed his view not only of theology, but also of how theology makes a difference in people’s lives.
“It’s a transformation that can be gained only through crisis,” he says.
In his lifelong study of the Bible, Kay Tee has come to see up close how Romans 8:28 summarises the Christian life: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
When “all things work together”, he says, we should not be surprised that these things would also include pain and suffering, as his own life experiences have shown him. “God used the difficult parts and the challenging times to shape me, and to make me more like His son Jesus Christ.”
In fact, Kay Tee believes that it is the experience of such painful times that has helped him to mature over the past 50 years and progress in his ministry.
Together with his colleagues from the English Content Development Team, Sim Kay Tee (left) develops resources for readers.
Discovering His Gifts and Ministry
Now 63, Kay Tee is father to three adult children and grandfather to a lively 3-year-old girl. He came to the faith at the age of 13; in his younger days, he was actively involved in Singapore Youth for Christ clubs. He worked as a quantity surveyor for several years before going into full-time pastoral ministry when he was 32 years old.
As he grew in his faith and ministry skills, Kay Tee discovered a special interest in teaching the Bible. He spent 9 years pastoring a Brethren church before joining Our Daily Bread Ministries—known then as RBC Ministries—in late 1999.
“I felt that God wanted me to do this Bible ministry, not only to use my gift, which I believe is teaching, but also to make sure that I can grow in my spiritual gift, which is what Our Daily Bread Ministries has afforded me in the past 20 years,” he says.
Over the past 20 years, Kay Tee has put his gift to faithful use. Apart from teaching the Bible and preaching at churches and in Bible schools across various cities, he has organised Bible conferences and also co-developed a series of booklets called the Discovery Series Bible Study, which many churches and small groups used to discuss biblical and topical issues.
Sim Kay Tee (right) speaking at a Bible college in East Asia.
Today, while he continues to teach and preach, Kay Tee’s key role in the ministry is reviewing Our Daily Bread devotionals, Discovery Series booklets, and articles for doctrinal accuracy before they get published.
What keeps him going? Kay Tee points to 1 Timothy 4:13-14, which sets the tone for his life: “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift.”
He says: “Paul wrote to his protege telling him to continue to teach the Word. This gives me the impetus, till Christ comes again, to teach His Word through writing and preaching.”
Sim Kay Tee (front row, centre) with students from Theological Seminary of Eastern Indonesia.
Learning to Follow Jesus
One of the ways Kay Tee has been making use of his spiritual gifts is in writing books. In fact, his first two books are based on the valuable lessons he has learnt in life.
His first title, Journey Through Ruth, was published in 2019 and looks at God’s hand in our lives and how we can be faithful in the choices we make in life. His next book, on Jesus’ last week on earth, will be out in March 2021. Titled Footprints on Calvary Road, the book challenges readers to reflect on the journey that Jesus took to the cross.
This is something that strikes Kay Tee personally.
Describing Jesus as “a man on a mission”, he observes how Jesus stuck to His mission right to the end. “Jesus knew that He was heading towards the cross. Despite knowing what it entailed, He still embraced the journey into Jerusalem,” he says. And, he also realised, even though Jesus had already fulfilled His destiny by going to the cross, He continued to carry out His mission on the cross.
When All Things Work Together
In writing these two books, Kay Tee has drawn on his personal experience of suffering, which has shaped his ministry of teaching and preaching.
In saying this, however, he stresses that it does not mean that we should intentionally seek out trouble. But as he has observed, for many believers, pain and suffering encapsulate the journey of discipleship.
“Those painful times are the times that I see God’s hand the most. I experienced His comfort. And I get clarity of my own life and my mission,” he says. “I think He used those challenging times to point me to specific directions and ministries. So I’m thankful for those times. Without those times, I might still be wondering what to do with my life.”
Now, having a clearer picture of what he believes God wants him to do in his remaining years, Kay Tee is determined to use his gifts faithfully as he follows Jesus to the end.
“Jesus’ footprints lead us up to a hill called Calvary,” he notes. “It is an execution ground. If I’m to really follow Jesus, it should not surprise me that I end up at an execution ground. It is not where I want to be but if I want to follow Jesus, then that’s probably where I will end up—at the cross of Jesus.”