“If we stress, God will rest; but if we rest, God will work on our behalf,” says CHC’s senior pastor, Kong Hee as he taught his church on entering into the rest of God.
“If we trust in God and believe in the finished work of Christ, we will be able to find rest in Him,” says Kong Hee, senior pastor of City Harvest Church as he opened his message on the weekend of Apr 30 and May 1.
Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Rest is a very big topic in the Bible, Kong said. The first chapters of Genesis showed God resting on the seventh day after He finished creating the universe. The New Testament speaks of the rest of God from the Gospels right up to the final chapters of Revelation. Even the first few verses of the well-loved Psalms 23 are also about rest.
What exactly does it mean to rest in Jesus Christ?
“Rest is a confidence, a peace, a great belief that everything is already prepared, provided and promised for us,” said Kong, “so one will not worry or be fearful of the future.”
Rest is the greatest expression of faith. Referring to a series of messages he preached earlier in the year, Kong said that when a person has done all that he can—confessed, prayed and meditated—what is left to do is to rest in the Lord and trust that Jesus Christ had finished His work on the Cross.
Hebrews 3 is a story on how the Israelites did not enter into the rest of God because their hearts were hardened. It starts in Hebrews 3:7-8, which says, “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness’.”
The word “confidence” in Greek is parrhesia, which means all outspokenness. It was repeated three times, in Hebrews 3:6, 3:14 and 10:35, that one should hold fast and not cast away one’s confidence.
God had given Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the children of Israel a promise that He would bring them out of slavery and into the Promised Land. They did not have to do anything except to love the Lord with all of their hearts and trust in His words.
“God told them to not worry and to just rest! Because how can they have a relationship with God if they don’t trust Him, right?” asked the senior pastor.
However, the hopes and dreams of three million Israelites were shattered when the 10 spies returned with a bad report that the Promised Land was filled with giants and the Israelites described themselves as “grasshoppers”. Kong stressed that one must be very careful about the words he hears and warned the congregation not to be like the Israelites, whom, having heard about the obstacles, forgot about the promises of God.
“They simply couldn’t believe that God had already done everything for them,” Kong noted. “They focused on the problem and they panicked.”
Because the children of Israel could not believe God, they could not enter His rest. As a result, they went round and round the wilderness for 40 years. Kong urged the congregation not to stay in unbelief but instead, to trust in the finished work of Christ.
Kong went on to share a healing testimony from a Malaysian pastor. An Indonesian girl, Adeline, suffered from liver failure at birth. Eight months after she went through a liver transplant, her body rejected the new liver. She was brought to Singapore and admitted to Mount Elizabeth Hospital, but even the doctors there could not do much for her. The Malaysian pastor happened to be visiting Singapore and was having a meal at a food court at Orchard Road when a family member of Adeline’s came up to him and said, “I have never met you before, but I sensed the Holy Spirit wants me to come to talk to you. Are you a pastor?” He was taken by surprise, and said that he was indeed a pastor. Upon her request, he went to pray for Adeline.
At the hospital, the Holy Spirit told him to ask Adeline who had been visiting her every night the past few nights. Adeline replied, “Every night when everyone is asleep, there is a very tall uncle with beautiful long hair that comes to my room and plays with me. He is very kind with loving eyes. Last night He came and said ‘My name is Jesus. Adeline, don’t worry. You are going to get well.’” With that, the pastor laid hands on her and prayed. Three days later, Adeline was totally healed and discharged. Today, Adeline is 6 years old and she is totally healed and healthy. With this testimony, Kong reiterated, “We have to rest in God, what He will do what He has promised.”
Quoting Hebrews 3:12, Kong cautioned the congregation not to have an evil heart of unbelief concerning the finished work of Jesus Christ.
“When we can’t believe that what Jesus has done is enough, we start to panic and look to other people and other ways to get what we need,” he said, “To God, this is evil because we can’t trust that what He says in His word is true.”
Kong stressed that the real fight is the fight of faith in the believer’s heart and mind. He urged the congregation to practise what is said in Hebrews 3:13: “but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today’, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”
He gave the example of how he himself was blessed when he asked his friends to preach to him the Word of God. “When we are going through hard times, we must mix with people who know the Word and have the spirit of faith,” he advised.
In Hebrews 4:4, which quotes Genesis 2:1-3, it says that God rested on the seventh day because He was finished with His work.
Kong emphasised that God rested not because He was tired, but because His work was finished! He highlighted the fact that Adam, being created only at the end of the sixth day, went on to demonstrate that God did not let man show up until everything was prepared for man.
“God did that on purpose; the very first day for Adam was the day of God’s rest,” Kong said, concluding that man was created to enter into God’s rest.
God wanted undistracted fellowship and sweet communion with mankind, and He still desires the same today. Jeremiah 17 says when one comes to meet God, he must put aside his burdens. Likewise, when one is in church, he must focus on God; entering His gates with thanksgiving, coming into His courts with praise, and that is when one comes right in and enters into God’s rest.
What God the Father did at creation, Jesus the Son did at redemption. At the end of the sixth day, God said “it is finished”. At the end of the sixth hour at Calvary, Jesus said “It is finished!”
Jesus left this for His believers: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 28:11).
Kong went on to address something that may cause confusion to Christians: should believers work or not?
The preacher emphasized that work is a good thing, and Jesus Himself said God is working even until now. The Bible says “faith without works is dead”. Kong further explained, “Work is the only way we develop our gifts, the only way for our potential to come forth, the only way we can serve one another and the only way to add value to society. Anyone who is able to work should work.”
Kong reminded the congregation that while Adam was created to rest, God still gave him work to do.
“In fact, God gave him a job before He gave him a wife. Got job, got wife. No job, no wife,” Kong said, drawing laughter from the crowd.
God is not against work. What God is against, is toil. Toil destroys the rest of God, and is a result of sin and disobedience. God said to Adam in Genesis 3:17, because he sinned, he will toil in the ground. The moment man fell into sin, work became toil. Sin breaks the rest of God.
Toil is defined as “hard, exhausting, continuous labour marked by strife, struggle, weariness and pain.” Work is useful because it gives pleasure–it has hope and gives hope; but toil is useless because it results in pain, frustration and hopelessness.
The Bible talks about “good success” and “bad success”. Jesus said in Matthew 16:26 “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” The congregation was cautioned to not become rich at the expense of their commitment to Christ and to His Kingdom.
Reading Matthew 6:28, Kong said that the word “toil” in Greek is kopiao, which means “over-worked to the extent of being physically fatigued and emotionally weary”. Kong illustrated this with a story of how his Christian friend works so hard in a demanding industry that he encountered asthma attacks and nervous breakdowns.
“If we stress, God will rest and back off; but if we rest, God will work on our behalf. While we rest, God is working for us,” encouraged Kong.
Kong repeated Matthew 11:28, explaining, “To rest does not mean inactivity or to have an excuse to be lazy or sloppy, or to lose that spirit of excellence; but rather, to work in rest. While we are working and excelling, we are trusting in God’s promises. We will work hard but not overwork. We will let God fight the battle for us.”
He reminded the church that they should work in such a way that they have time and energy to serve Jesus, because serving Jesus should never be burdensome. It will challenge them but it will develop strength in them and will not crush them. When they serve, they can find joy, pleasure and fulfilment.
Kong shared his testimony about his struggles in the first two years of building CHC. He had no salary from the church but he still had to pay rent and other commitments. So he gave tuition to students as possible to earn a living, and cycled everywhere to save on bus fare. In between tuition sessions, he went back to the church to work, to pray and to counsel. He was working 90 hours every week. When he and Sun Ho got married, life and ministry were hard–until one day, he learned the principle of sowing and reaping. With that, he and Ho decided to focus on pastoring and he no longer tutored or hunted for extra income and business opportunities. Instead of struggling, they started thriving. They were also no longer in debt, because they trusted in God.
“When we toil to be successful, we lose our consecration and have no time for God. Life will eventually become hard,” Kong said.
Bringing the message to a close, Kong read Hebrews 4:11, “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience” and pointed out that the whole of the Old and New Testaments urge believers to make every effort to be diligent to enter into the rest of God.
He then illustrated what “entering into God’s rest” looks like. “Although we know what Jesus has done, Satan tells us otherwise everyday. Therefore we have to cast out every wrong thought and replace it with the Word of God.” Being diligent to enter His rest is done by watching over one’s mouth and thoughts, meditating on the Word of God and guarding what one hears.
Zerus Lin, 34, a senior realtor, said that Kong’s message on rest emphasised the truth that Jesus is the Prince of peace. “The message reminded me that the kingdom of God is the dominance of peace just as Jesus is the Prince of peace. Rest is the confidence in God, a state of peace.”
Ginny Ang, 20, a student, says, “My biggest takeaway is that everything we do really needs to be done in faith, even rest! For example, it takes a lot of faith to be at rest and let God do the work. The learning point for me is to trust God and not to insist on doing so much for myself to the point where I am burnt out and start to dislike doing His work.”
“I think it is really a word in season because I am really tired,” said Kimberly Chan, 20, a student. “It made me understand that there is a difference between ‘work’ and ‘toil’, which I have never thought in such a way before. It made me realize what a “good” kind of work is, and what is otherwise. Of course, the greatest thing about it is the truth that man is made to enter into God’s rest. This really reminded me that indeed where He is, is where I want to be; not to be apart from Him, but with Him, in His rest, because that is so necessary or else I really cannot go on sustaining myself.”