At the final services of 2012, City Harvest Church pastors Bobby Chaw and Aries Zulkarnain preached, encouraging members to start the new year with faithfulness and Jesus in the center of their lives.
By Dawn Seow
The last services of 2012, on Dec. 29 and 30, marked the first time City Harvest Church’s missions director Bobby Chaw and executive pastor Aries Zulkarnain took to the pulpit during the church’s main service. They presented two short but impactful sermons.
Drawing from the familiar story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, Chaw started his sermon with an interesting question. “Do you think Lazarus came out of the tomb smiling or frowning? After experiencing paradise for four days, relaxing somewhere in heaven, I would think Lazarus was not too happy when he heard Jesus calling him!”
Is it, therefore, more convenient to leave or to stay in a tough situation?
Citing examples of Bible heroes like Job, Abraham, Isaac and Paul, who chose to stay when it was easier to leave, Chaw encouraged the Church not to give up when facing difficult times.
When the promises of God are delayed, Abraham chose to stay and God gave him a son in his old age. When Isaac faced a famine in the land, he chose to stay and God multiplied his possessions right in the midst of the famine. When the Apostle Paul was in prison, possibly facing a life sentence, he chose to stay in faith and went on to write letters to the Philippians, Timothy, and Titus. Without his works, a large portion of the Bible we know today would be missing.
“Lazarus was probably wondering if he should leave or stay, but in the end he decided if Jesus gave the word, it is good enough,” said Chaw.
He went on to explain that the Jews believe that in the seven days after a person dies, his spirit will be hovering around the body for the first three days; but on the fourth day, the body will start to rot and all hope for the person to come back to life is abandoned.
“But on the fourth day, Jesus showed up and brought Lazarus back to life, when it seemed impossible. Jesus specializes in the fourth day!” Chaw proclaimed.
Jesus told Martha in John 11:40 that if she believes she would see the glory of God. “So now the question is, what must she believe?
“One thing we must know is that Jesus is the resurrection and the life–this resurrection power is not just for the last days, but if you believe, Jesus will show up in your dead situation now and bring it back to life!”
When a dead situation is resurrected, John 11:45 happens: “Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him.”
“I begin to understand why bad things happen to good people, why promises are delayed and why famine happens; because when people see Jesus turning your mess into a message, they too will believe in Him.”
JESUS IN THE ORDER OF PRIORITIES
The beginning of the year is the time when goals and priorities are set; and Zulkarnain’s message gave the congregants a new perspective on priorities.
“We at City Harvest know our priorities God first, family second, career or ministry third, and the fourth is usually health. Because of this order, we think that we need to give more time to God and in the end, we find that we don’t have enough time for our family or career,” the pastor said.
Colossians 1:16, however, states, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.“
“Jesus should not just be the in the order of our priorities but He should be the center of our priorities,” Zulkarnain said. “We have an order of service for our worship services every week, but without Jesus in the order, the services will be dry and powerless. If Jesus is the center of the order, even if the order is messed up, Jesus can still turn it around for good. In the same way, we need Jesus in the order of our priorities.”
Using an illustration of sand and rocks in a jar, Zulkarnain demonstrated that if the biggest rocks were not placed in the jar first, the stones and sand would never fit into the jar. “Similarly, if we don’t put Jesus in our lives first, our lives will never fit together properly.”
He went on to list four things, found in Proverbs 3:4-10, that the congregation can do to put Jesus in the center of their lives.
1) Trust God in their difficult circumstances
“Many people like to ask why; but why don’t we stop asking why and ask God ‘What do You want me to do?’” Zulkarnain proffered.
“1 Chronicles 11:8-11 tells us that when we ask God what we have to do, we will find the solutions to our breakthrough.”
2) Listen for God’s voice in their relationship issues
“Listen for means we stop listening to any Tom, Dick and loud-mouthed Harry!” Zulkarnain said, drawing laughter from the congregation. “Spend some time in the beginning of the year praying and mediating upon the Word of God.
“Before you decide anything, decide to be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit.”
The pastor also established that God’s word will come three ways: an impression, a confirmation, and the peace of God.
“And if you still can’t differentiate the voice of God, be like Samuel! He went to Eli his leader when he could not differentiate the voice of God. In 2013, be more connected to your cell group leader and your pastor. Let 2013 be a year of connection, to God and to the people of God,” Zulkarnain encouraged the members.
3) Run to God for their health
James encouraged the Christians, in James 5:14-15, to seek prayers from the Elders of the church when they are sick.
“Run to God for healing, and decide in 2013 to be healthier. If you want to be healthier, the answer is there, run to God … run!” said Zulkarnain to a laughing crowd.
“If you want to be successful, get a health partner to run together with you, so that you can motivate each other.”
4) Honor God with their finances and career
“For your financial life, start the year by tithing,” Zulkarnian advised. “And for your career, decide to work unto the Lord and not unto man.”
He went on to share that comparison is the one sure way to get people stuck in their career. “People feel a lot of injustice happen in the office when they are comparing themselves with another person. You’ll always feel adequate when you compare yourselves with others.
“Many of us compare our struggles with the highlight reel in other people’s life, but comparison will only cause us not to see the goodness of God in our lives.”
Zulkarnain ended his sermon encouraging the members to stop comparing their lives and careers with others and start doing things unto the Lord.