One is never too young to preach, as four finalists of Emerge 2012’s Preaching Challenge Finals prove.
Contributed by Amanda Faith Yun
In the book of Jeremiah, God said to the prophet, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.” Four youth answered their call and preached up a storm in Emerge 2012’s Preaching Challenge Finals.
Emerge is a spiritual youth conference that was born out of the youth culture in City Harvest Church. With its various events and competitions, this youth conference centers on helping youth identify and expanding their strength. The Preaching Challenge is one such competition, aiming to extend a platform to the youth in order to help them prepare and deliver the Word God has placed in their hearts.
On July 21, the four finalists belonging to the tertiary category preached to thousands of young people in the church’s Jurong West premises. Shirley Soon (W466, YK Zone), John Soh (W372, MJ Zone), Felicia Foong (E405, AN Zone) and Enoch Seet (E501, AZ Zone) were selected as finalists after a preliminary round on Jul. 5.
The Title Of My Message Today Is …
With the theme “Faith: Do Not Be Discouraged”, contestants were to present their interpretation of the topic in the form of an original, five-minute sermon that incorporated the bible verse “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
“It’s very interesting; even though the topic is the same, each of us present it from very different perspectives,” said 21-year-old Shirley Soon, a co-curricular activity coordinator at a local school.
“Discouragement is a disease unique to the human species,” announced Soon as she presented her sermon titled, “What To Do When Discouraged.” She shared on how doing two simple things–remaining in fellowship and focusing on the promises of God–made a huge difference in her life.
Using the illustration of a magnifying glass to explain the strength of concentrated power, Soon said, “We walk under sunlight every day, and (usually) nothing happens, but once you use a magnifying glass to bring all the sun rays to focus at one place, that’s when a fire starts. That is the power of focus.”
“When everything seems bleak, remember that He has a promise for you; focus on the promise and vision He has given to you! Nothing can stop you from achieving your destiny!” Soon declared, bringing her message to a close.
“God is with you—don’t give up!” was the opening refrain of 22-year-old John Soh for his sermon titled “Learning From What Gideon Did.” Using the story of Gideon from the book of Judges, he shared the two things Gideon did while he was at the point of severe doubt and fear: to stay committed to God and the people he placed in their lives, and to trust Him for breakthrough.
Illustrating with how people in the world often turned to various forms of release and entertainment when they are feeling down, Soh drew laughs from the congregation as he quipped, “If you are a Christian, go for a Bible, not a Tiger (a brand of beer in Singapore)!”
“The odds were against Gideon! A mere 300 Israelites against 100,000 Midianites–and yet the victory went to Gideon and his 300. God can give you a resounding victory regardless of your trial or circumstance!” Soh attested. “The moment we are broken, the glory of God will shine through us.”
“Go ahead, throw in your towel!” exhorted another contestant, 22-year-old marketing and corporate communications undergraduate Felicia Foong. “Yes! You heard me right! Go ahead and throw in your towel! Because it’s when we are at the end of ourselves that God manifests; when we surrender, God takes over and fights for us!”
Foong’s message centered on how God is a God of miracles, and His will always come to pass regardless of any negative thoughts and sentiments others might think or influence His children with.
Using her personal testimony, Foong shared how God had (on two occasions) helped her achieve what had seemed impossible during two of the toughest semesters of her academic life, it was through His miraculous workings and her willingness to surrender her life to Him that she attained GPAs of 3.87 and 3.93 respectively.
“If God can bring us to it, He will bring us through it! Whatever miracles He has done, He will surely do it again,” Foong avowed at the conclusion of her sermon, advocating that God is not one who performs “one-off” miracles.
Rounding up the session, 25-year-old political science and strategic management undergraduate, Enoch Seet preached on the “Deep Desires Of Youths.” “Every youth’s dream is to live limitless, but more than just breakthroughs and successes, God has a higher purpose for us in our trials.” he said.
Amidst the excitement, cheers, and congratulatory greetings, City News caught up with overall winner Enoch Seet and finalist Shirley Soon to delve behind the scenes of the Preaching Challenge 2012.
What made you interested in taking part in the Preaching Challenge?
Enoch Seet: On top of being called to preach, I also felt that I should take part since it’s the last year that I can participant in Emerge. Also, I believe that the power to speak is the power to transform. (It’s for these two reasons that) I decided to give my best shot and use the opportunity to transform lives.
Shirley Soon: Well, for me, it started at a youth camp last year when I was given the opportunity to share a message to about 200 youths. That experience left me with the inspiration that I could be the mouthpiece of God. I was encouraged by the thought that since I could do it last year, I could do it again. And of course, my cell group leader and my friends encouraged me too.
How did you prepare for the Preaching Challenge? Did you get help from some of your leaders? What were some of the thoughts that went through your mind during your preparation?
SS: Through revelations and prayer; when preparing to preach, I think of preaching to inspire.
ES: I listen to sermons and read the Bible. For the preliminary round, my sermon was inspired by Pastor John Bevere’s message on the vitality of relationships. When he read Ephesians 4:16, the verse just spoke to me–and that was how I wrote the message on our responsibility of building unity.
Basically, preparation for the Preaching Challenge or any sermon can be divided into three points: revelation, anointing, and delivery. Revelation is received from listening to sermons, speaking to your leaders, or reading the Bible. As for anointing, pray for it! And delivery takes practice; practice the message you’re going to preach many times before you deliver it.
Enoch, what’s it like to be the winner of the Preaching Challenge?
ES: Actually, I didn’t think much about winning. I’m just thankful to God for this competition. I think I speak for all of the contestants when I say that winning wasn’t really on our minds. We were focusing more on imparting and transforming the (lives of the) youths who would be under the sound of our voices–we actually met up to help, encourage and strengthen one another; it’s just so crucial especially in the season we are in (as a church). If you want to talk about winning, when they (the youth) win, (that’s when) we win.
Wow, that’s inspirational. Well, we’ve reached the end of our interview. Do you have any last words for our readers? Some words of encouragement you might want to share? How about to youth who are considering taking up next year’s Preaching Challenge?
ES: Just step out in faith and trust God. After all, we learn more by trying things out, and making mistakes—that is when we develop our gifting and touch the lives of others.
SS: Yes! Take part! It’s an opportunity for God to use you and to speak through you! Because when you preach, you will find that it’s not you who’s speaking, but God through you; that’s when you’re speaking on God’s behalf! Who knows, maybe you have the message that makes all the difference in someone’s life. Take that step of faith!