In his Chinese New Year message, Pastor Bobby Chaw shares a lively study of how God is joy and how He rejoices in us always.
Welcoming both congregations of City Harvest Church’s English and Chinese services, executive pastor Bobby Chaw began his sermon by pointing out the rich tradition that is Chinese New Year. It is not just a holiday season for the Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean communities, but a tradition filled with customs and stories of faith tied to the Bible. He pointed out that the Chinese and Jews share a parallel history that started 4500 years ago.
Pastor Bobby delved into the parallels between the Jewish New Year that began on the night of the Passover and the Chinese New Year. He compared the spirit of death who came to destroy the firstborn children in Egypt (Exo 12:23) with the legendary Chinese monster “Nian” who would hunt down people and livestock during the Lunar New Year. The Chinese reunion meal shares a similar significance to the Jewish Passover feast (Exo 12:8).
“When we celebrate Chinese New Year, we are literally putting faith into action,” asserted Pastor Bobby. He elaborated, saying the Chinese word “喜” means joy. The character is made up of two Chinese words—”drum” and “mouth” or “voice”.
“This means that we are to make music, sing, and shout for joy. It is a picture of celebration,” the pastor said, inciting a loud cheer from the congregation.
THE JOY OF THE LORD
The word “喜” is the most spoken word during Chinese New Year. Applying it in a Biblical context, Pastor Bobby spoke of how the Bible places much importance on music, singing and laughter.
In the book of Exodus 15:1-2, the Israelites celebrated with music and song, even after all the suffering they had endured. The pastor noted the Israelites’ unusual behavior as most people equate joy with prosperity and pleasure. “But having the joy of the Lord doesn’t mean everything is pleasant. The Bible commands us to rejoice in the Lord always (Phil 4:4),” he said.
This joy, said Pastor Bobby, applies especially to those who are stressed out over giving red packets or fending off numerous questions from relatives this season.
Pastor Bobby reminded the church that joy is not determined by their outward circumstances but by their confidence in God. He went onto say that joy is so critical because the Bible tells us that joy is linked to new life. He drew examples from the Book of Luke.
In Luke 1:13-14, the angel told Zechariah that “many will rejoice at his birth.” He was referring to the birth of John the Baptist. When Jesus was born, the angel said the same thing in Luke 2:10. “And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
“Every Chinese New Year, we are declaring that new life has come when we say ‘恭喜恭喜’ (congratulations),” the pastor said. He encouraged the church to sing to the Lord and rejoice, putting faith into action.
HOW DO WE EXPERIENCE JOY?
The answer is found in Psalm 16:11 the pastor said. “Joy happens when God is present. In His presence is fullness of joy. You may be caught in a depressed economy, you may be caught in the middle of a war but when God shows up, in His presence is fullness of joy because joy is who He is. God is always and completely happy.”
The Greek word for “blessed” is makarios, which means happy. The pastor noted that this is a important revelation because many see God as an demanding God. Christians often have the image of an angry God, especially when He is looking at them.
“God is always a happy God, regardless of what you do,” Pastor Bobby assured the church. He quoted Proverbs 3:12 which reads, “For the Lord disciplines those He loves, just as a father disciplines the son in whom he delights.”
Reading Nehemiah 8:10, Pastor Bobby reminded the church that the joy of the Lord is their strength. He painted a picture of God cheering them on in their race of faith.
Concluding his sermon, he quoted CHC’s senior pastor, Kong Hee, who once said that the most important time to rejoice in the Lord is when a person least feel like rejoicing.
“It is easy to rejoice and sing when things are going well,” said Pastor Bobby, ” but when you are in the midst of a great trial, in grief and sickness, facing painful temptations and setbacks, that’s when your rejoicing comes precious.”
He encouraged the church to find strength in the Lord who is smiling at them, clapping for them and cheering them on.