Tommy Chen graduated from the Fine Art Department in Malaysian Institute of Art in 1990, where he focused on koi fish painting and would normally incorporate Feng Shui elements into his paintings. Nevertheless, when he accepted and submitted to the Lord Jesus Christ, he began painting unto the Lord. This is a testimony written by Tommy Chen.
Tommy Chen with his painting
I was amazed to find out that the speaker at a FGB meeting, brother Tan Take Huat had accepted Christ on the same date that I did. Initially, I thought choosing one’s God was like answering a multiple choice question, and I decided to choose Jesus Christ. However, shortly after, God spoke to me through a Bible verse ( John 15:16 ) that it is He who chose me. Crying, I thanked God that it was He who chose me.
16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
Before Christ, I was purposeless, a nobody. My artist career for drawing 'Koi Fish' had taken me to greater heights, where I became self-centered and very arrogant. Nevertheless, this scenario only lasted for a decade. In year 2000, my business failed. I went into depression and was at a complete lost in my life.
My sister shared with me about Jesus Christ. She told me that God loves me, and that He will save me, give me a hope and purpose in my life (Jer 29:11). Hence, I decided to accept, follow, and submit to Jesus Christ as my Lord in year 2001. And during my walk with Christ for the first three years, I had indeed experienced His tender love and seen many miracles in my own life that made me want to share His Love with my friends and clients.
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
The Lord gave me a vision of a candle that was abandoned in a drawer, which was never lighted before. He said to me, “Now, you are lighted up to shine. I will light up your life so that people will see Jesus Christ through you." Later, I found a verse in the Bible that we are to be the light of the world, and the salt of the earth.
I was also greatly touched by the words of Mother Theresa who said, “I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.” One day, while driving in a very bad traffic to a prayer meeting in DUMC, the Holy Spirit spoke to me, “My child, you are a brush, I will dip you into My Color of Life and use you to paint colors into people’s lives.” I then prayed, “Lord, give me wisdom. I will use God's Words for sharing in my paintings.” Before I became a Christian, the Lord commissioned brother Jason Tan (the FGB Jaya One Chapter host and president) to ask me paint for him a koi fish painting, with a Bible verse inside (Mark 10:8). That was a seed planted in my life, as it was my first time incorporating Scripture into my painting.
Under my old method of selling, I named my paintings 'Prelude – The Fresh Water Series.' My main incentives for painting then were just for money and self-glorification. I used to stress on 'Feng Shui' elements to get customers to buy my paintings. I had heard from my Senior Pastor’s teaching that 'Feng Shui' was related to the occult. So, I asked him what I should do. He said, “We are all sinners, seek the Master’s will. Pray and let God show you the way.”
In year 2003, praying while painting, I heard God ask me, “My child, do you find joy in painting? Put away the 'Feng Shui' elements, seek My Father’s face.” I meditated on the word 'water,' which I had always used. A word came to me, “Don’t call it fresh water, call it Living Water." I was only about a one-year Christian then. Sharing this with my Senior Pastor Dr Daniel Ho, I told him how the Lord had revealed to me a verse from Nehemiah 8:10— The joy of the Lord is your strength— and He would like me to use this verse for my new series of koi fish painting.
One of the painting by Tommy Chen
From then on, I began to put God’s Word into my paintings to be displayed in the marketplace. Once, I was dued to show a painting to a particular collector who was a rich man but had no real purpose in life. The painting was worth RM4,000 but I told the Lord that as my purpose now was to spread the Gospel, I would accept whatever price the man offered with thanksgiving. The man later offered me the price for the koi fish painting at RM2,500. Although most artists normally would never allow such huge discounts, I accepted it as a commitment to the Lord. If you seek to hear God’s voice, He will guide you.
I installed the painting for the man and asked if I could pray a blessing for the painting and for him. I prayed, “I worship You, Lord, with this painting. It is for your glory. I stand in the gap even for this man. Holy Spirit come and fill this place.” Amazingly, the man started crying and I told him, “Brother, your tears are tears of joy not sadness.” Being a young Christian, I was already happy and I thought that I had done my job though looking back, I realized I missed a great opportunity to lead this man to Christ.
Tommy Chen with his painting
Come year 2007, the Lord spoke to me again saying, “My child, I had given you blessings and an abundant life. Title the name of your next series as 'Abundant Life.'" So, I obeyed and continue to use 'The Abundant Life Series' for all my paintings since year 2007 until now.
From year 2009 to 2011, I was working for a landscape sculpture company, and I had begun to share the Gospel in the office although my boss did not like me bringing my religious activities there. He saw me praying for customers and I began to face persecution from him. At that time, Psalm 45:10 spoke to me, “Be still and know that I am God.” I learned that being still was not only literally being still but have a submissive posture towards the Master, to hear His gentle voice. When we don’t pray and seek God, we drift far from His Presence. But God is the same yesterday, today and forever more. He will not leave us.
After much persecution and crying out to God, I received another Word from Him, “Cast your nets into the deep sea.” God was telling me to leave my current stable job and go out into the business world with faith. I was fearful and trembling but 2 Corinthians 12:9 strengthened me, “My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I asked to confirm whether it was time to leave, and prayed as I often as I could, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” I was overwhelmed when I came to the verse, “I have kept my faith, it is now time for my departure.”
Now, my boss dabbled in some kind of occult, and he could do certain things. Many staffs who tried to resign inexplicably found themselves withdrawing the resignation letter after a short talk with the boss. I prayed, “Holy Spirit, speak through my tongue." And though my boss tried to convince me for three hours, he finally agreed to accept my resignation.
Once that was over, I asked God, “What next?” Unknown to me, God had already prepared something great for me earlier. Even before we jump off a cliff, God has already prepared the steps for us to walk.
A couple of months earlier in October 2011, a friend of mine and I had put in an application for a two-man art exhibition at one of the prominent art galleries at Mont Kiara. Normally, the standard of invitees was very high, with paintings charging as high as RM100,000 per piece. From an earthly perspective, it was not possible but with God, all things are possible. I asked God for a sign, and He showed me a banner for a golf tournament with the words, “For the glory.” I claimed it for myself exclaiming, “For God’s glory” and we miraculously got the place!
One of Tommy Chen's painting
Now, there was a new problem for the two of us. Although we got the place, we did not have enough art pieces to exhibit. However, we decided that first of all, we would pledge 10 percent of the proceeds to the Lord. Dividing the work between us, we realized that we needed 22 pieces each, and I only had four available. Normally, I can only complete one painting within a month at most. So, 18 pieces of paintings would typically take one and a half year. However, we only had two months and a half left. At that time, I was also involved in the stage design for DUMC Christmas drama production and spent a lot of time on it. I resolved to put God first despite the great urgency of time. To make matters worse, I fell sick but even on a sick day, God gave me the strength to go to church and work on the stage design.
The church work was completed on 16th December 2011 but the exhibition was already dued on 3rd January 2012, and I needed to do my 18 pieces. As was my custom, I closed the door in my room and prayed, crying to the Lord to seek Him. The Lord told me, “0I will empower you,” and I felt heat on my hands. Amazingly, I found myself able to supernaturally complete all those paintings, even ahead of time.
Tommy Chen with his painting
As was customary, I included Scriptures in my paintings and a friend voiced his concern that I was narrowing my market to only Christians. At the exhibition, I laid hands on each of the painting and asked the Holy Spirit to fill this place and release His power and anointing on the 22 paintings on the wall. The exhibition was a great success, and almost 50 percent the paintings were sold. Even more amazing was that some people bought my paintings crying. One lady from Brazil, a poet who was a Catholic came to view my art exhibition. She was crying in the art gallery and she told me that she encountered Jesus Christ in the gallery space, where the Lord spoke to her personally.
Besides painting, I also asked God for many gifts, and the Lord in His grace enabled me at times to exercise the gifts of healing and prophecy. The most amazing of all was the incident when The Lord raised my brother-in-law back to life. Stricken by a rare disease, my brother-in-law had gone through unsuccessful brain operations and in 2005, he was declared clinically dead by the physicians. In great distress, I poured out my grief to God and the Lord led me to John 5:21-26, “Just as the Father raises the dead and makes them alive, so too the Son makes alive anyone he wants. The Father does not judge anyone but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son as they honor the Father. Whoever fails to honor the Son is not honoring the Father who sent him. Yes, indeed! I tell you that whoever hears what I am saying and trusts the One who sent me has eternal life — that is, he will not come up for judgment but has already crossed over from death to life! Yes, indeed! I tell you that there is coming a time — in fact, it’s already here — when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who listen will come to life. For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has given the Son life to have in himself.” Four hours later, the hospital called up my family, saying that it was a miracle,my brother-in-law had come back to life. Hallelujah! Praise be unto the Lord!
Tommy Chen in his Myanmar mission trip in 2012
My life is wonderful in the Lord Jesus Christ. I have learnt something that even if we have everything in life and do not have Jesus, we actually have nothing. Nevertheless, if we have nothing but we have Jesus, we have everything in life. Cry to Jesus for He will hear your cries.
I personally like this verse in 1 Peter 5:7 very much. It tells us, “Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you.” Having a close and deep relationship with God is the most important thing in our lifebecause we will be transformed into being Christ-like as the we spend intimacy with our Master – Jesus Christ!
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