Three City Harvest Church pastors brought different but equally challenging messages to the congregation two weekends ago.
By Josephine Sitorus, Eleanor Tan and Ashleigh Chew
Three things that a person needs to have a fulfilling life: the Holy Spirit, dreams and the practice of gratitude. These comprised the subject matters preached on April 10 and 11, during CHC’s multiple services weekend.
ARIES ZULKARNAIN: PRACTICING GRATITUDE
At the first service, Aries Zulkarnain, the executive pastor of CHC, taught the church to practice gratitude. He drew from two stories in the Bible, starting with Deuteronomy 8:11-18, where Moses spoke to the Israelites as they were on the verge of stepping into the Promised Land.
“Moses knew that life in the wilderness would be different from life in the Promised Land,” Zulkarnain explained the reason for this meeting held by Moses. After entering the Promised Land, the lives of the Israelites would be changed drastically.
“In the wilderness, they had to depend on the miraculous grace of God, but when they stepped into the Promised Land, they had to depend on the practical grace of God,” said the preacher.
Moses knew that the moment they stepped into the Promised Land, there would be danger: they would have a tendency to forget God. This was why Moses kept reminding the people: Don’t forget God.
Zulkarnain then went on to the main point of his message, “Don’t forget to thank God for all the blessings that you will receive or have received in this life. Today, I’m not just talking to you about an attitude of gratitude, because gratitude doesn’t come to us naturally. To be a grateful person, you need to practice gratefulness.”
He continued by sharing the famous story of Jesus healing the 10 lepers from Luke 17:11-19. Ten lepers approached Jesus for healing, but were told to go to the temple and show themselves to the priests. On the way to the temple, the lepers noticed that the disease had left them and they were healed.
Zulkarnain explained that many people went to Jesus expecting an instant miracle, but were told to go to the church.
“Like the lepers, they walked to the church and slowly, their miracle started to happen: their debts were cleared, their relationship restored, they were healed!” he said.
“But many people stopped there. To these people, the miracle was the end of it all. But if you don’t practice gratitude, your miracle will never be complete.”
All 10 lepers were overjoyed when they were healed, but only one returned to thank Jesus. In Luke 17:17 (MSG), Jesus asked: “Were not ten healed? Where are the nine?”
Why did the one person return to thank Jesus when his friends did not? Zulkarnain explained that the one who came back understood that it was God who did the miracle. “It happens to us Christians as well. When we apply God’s principles, work hard and finally get our miracles, we think we did it through our own effort. We no longer think it is a miracle from God, we think it is a self-made miracle.”
Zulkarnain then highlighted the fact that Jesus was standing at the exact same place waiting for the lepers to come back to thank Him. “Likewise, Jesus is waiting for us to come and thank Him. Every service is a chance for us to come to church and give our gratitude to Him,” he said.
The executive pastor ended his message with this: “When the leper came back to say thank you, he didn’t expect it, but Jesus gave him even more. The leper experienced the fullness of the blessings of God in his life. When you come back to glorify Jesus, He always has something more for you.”
WU YUZHUANG: LIVING YOUR DREAMS
At the next service, Wu Yuzhuang, a division pastor in CHC, shared with the congregation five things concerning the importance of having dreams in one’s life.
- Your dream is what distinguishes you from another person
Joseph from the Old Testament was one who liked to share his dreams with his brothers; that was what differentiated him from them. He did this so much so that his brothers called him a dreamer. (Genesis 37:19)
2. No-one is ever too young or too old to dream dreams
3. Dreamers should hang out with dreamers
“Dreamers encourage each other and stir each other up when they hang out together,” said Wu. “When they hear stories of how God fulfilled a person’s dream, they immediately think: If God can do it through them, or for them, God can do it for me.” He added that dreamers encourage one another to do great things for the kingdom for God.
4. Your dream should be connected to a spiritual purpose
Genesis 37:5-7 tells the story of how Joseph was despised by his brothers, after he shared his dream in which bundles of grain belonging to his brothers bowed to his own bundle. Wu explains that this was a prophetic vision of the harvest field bowing down to Jesus, confessing Him as the King of kings, and the Lord of lords.
The pastor then asked the congregation if their reasons for wanting success in their field of study and work was solely for their own ego and fame.
“If you want God to bless your dream,” he says, “it has to be connected to a spiritual purpose. Matthew 5:16 says, ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.'”
5. Your dream will motivate you
Wu emphasized that dreams give people the energy and the power they need to live their lives. Studies have shown that people who retire early live a shorter life than their counterparts who continue working.
“Three years after retirement, their health begins to decline, because there is nothing that excites them anymore,” explained Wu, “There is no challenge they have to overcome.”
Reading from Proverbs 29:18 which says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish”, Wu warned that without dreams, everything becomes a drag, and life becomes difficult.
He then shared three reasons why people lose their dreams. The first was present circumstances (a busy life), the second was delay and the third was false evidence.
“Sometimes we give up easily because of delays. But some delays are divine. Sometimes God put a pause to your dream to protect you, so don’t give up too soon,” Wu encouraged the congregation.
Sharing Scripture from Genesis 37:8, Wu elaborated on how Joseph’s brothers sold him and created false evidence to deceive their father Jacob that Joseph was dead. Jacob believed the false evidence and developed complete faith that Joseph had died.
“Jacob lived by sight and not by faith. People who lose their dreams live by sight and not by faith,” said Wu. When Jacob finally received the news that Joseph was alive, Scripture says that “the spirit of Jacob revived”. Although Jacob was numb inside for over 20 years, his spirit was immediately revived when he found out Joseph was alive. In the same way, when one loses their dream, something inside them dies, but when they reclaim and rediscover their dreams, their spirit is revived and they find energy and motivation to live life again.
BOBBY CHAW: HOPE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT
“When we are in trouble, trials and tribulation, the Holy Spirit wants to come with His mighty power to give us hope,” said Bobby Chaw, missions director of CHC, as he opened his message on the power of the Holy Spirit.
Chaw shared that hope is a subject that the apostle Paul spoke a lot on because in those days, the Christians in Rome were under severe persecution. He encouraged them in Romans 15:13 to “abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”.
The same Holy Spirit is working in Christians today, Chaw said. With this, he shared four things the Holy Spirit does.
1. The Holy Spirit helps us in our weaknesses
Chaw explained: “It is not just our physical weaknesses, but when we lack a certain skill or aptitude for a task, the Spirit will help us as well.”
Chaw got two volunteers onstage to demonstrate what “help” is: they had to hold on to a heavy load together. He emphasized the Holy Spirit would not do all the work for the believer but He can sympathize with them and share the burden.
“In fact, Paul says the Holy Spirit wants to dwell in us,” Chaw said. The Bible says in Romans 8:9, “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”
This dwelling is not about geographical location, Chaw explained. It has to do with the relationship the Holy Spirit wants to have with the believers. He wants the believers to have their mind set on the things of the Holy Spirit.
2. The Holy Spirit gives life and power
“Together with Him comes life and power, for the power which raised Jesus from the dead now lives in us,” said Chaw, in reference to Romans 8:11. When Paul wrote about the hardships described in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, it is the Holy Spirit that gives power, as 2 Corinthians 4:7 says, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”
Chaw shared with the church his experience during his very first mission trip, where the Holy Spirit prompted him to ask the congregation if anyone among them needed healing. Nearly everyone in the congregation raised their hands, for they were all aged 70 and above. Overwhelmed, he decided to say a general prayer for healing for the congregation and got ready to leave, but his interpreter stayed on and continued praying. Suddenly, an elderly lady got up and started walking to the front, claiming that her thumb, which she previously could not bend following an accident, had been made well that instant. Chaw learned from that experience that it is indeed not by power or by might, but by the power of the Holy Spirit.
3. The Holy Spirit makes intercession for us
When people face crisis or grief, they often do not know how to pray because they cannot express what they feel on the inside. In times like this, the Holy Spirit helps by making intercession. Chaw reads from Romans 8:26, which says “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”
Chaw shared another personal experience when he went to preach in a country that was closed to the Gospel. The Holy Spirit protected him from the local authorities who would have arrested him for preaching. Through this experience, Chaw shared how he was “saved” by the Holy Spirit who made intercession for him, when neither he nor the people there knew of the danger that was coming against them.
4. The Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit
Quoting Romans 8:16 which says, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”, Chaw explained that the purpose of a witness is to provide trustworthy testimony in order to establish certainty; to give confidence, assurance and security. Without such confidence in God, there can be no relationship and no intimacy with Him; instead, there will be insecurity and fear.
Chaw highlighted that the verse says “bears witness”—the Holy Spirit works in the present and wants to continuously lead and bear witness in his people, to impart a permanent confidence in God.
Cindy Ng, Chaw’s wife, grew up in a family where quarrels and fights were constant. One afternoon, when Cindy was in Secondary Four, she came home only to find that her father had left the family, leaving a letter on the piano in her room. Devastated, she felt that her world collapsed as she was very close to her father. That night, she knelt by her bed to do her quiet time. In the stillness of her room, the Holy Spirit led her to Psalm 27. When she came to verse 10, she broke down and wept. The verse reads, “When my father and my mother forsake me, Then the Lord will take care of me.” The love of God flooded her heart. Immediately, the doubt and despair melted away and she was filled with confidence and assurance in her heart.
“When we are at the lowest point of our lives, walking through the darkest valley, the Holy Spirit wants to bring us to a place of confidence in the Father,” said Chaw.
In conclusion, Chaw summed up what Romans 8: while it is indeed true that hearts may start to doubt and fear in times of persecutions and challenges, but the Holy Spirit comes as the Helper to dwell in the believers with His abiding presence, to give life and power when they are weak.
“When we are at a loss for words, not knowing what to pray, He makes intercession. When we are in despair and in state of hopelessness, the Holy Spirit wants to bear witness with us to impart confidence that Father God cares, for He is for us, He is with us,” Chaw said.
Chaw ended the message with a powerful reminder from Romans 8:38-39: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”