Over the weekend of Oct 26 and 27, CHC’s Executive Pastor Aries Zulkarnian preached about true spiritual maturity and how to stay faithful for the long haul, even when God doesn’t seem to be answering our prayers on our terms.
It is an age-old dilemma for those of us who profess to be believers and disciples of Christ—if we serve a God Who is good and Who loves us and can do the impossible, why do we still experience disappointment, pain and unanswered prayers?
Pastor Aries Zulkarnain tackled this difficult topic last weekend, preaching a message titled “Maturity: Balance Is the Key”. The church having celebrated its 30th year a fortnight ago, the pastor noted that 30 is the age of maturity; Jesus was 30 when He entered into ministry and David became king over Israel at the same age.
Jesus says that whoever wants to be His disciples must take up their cross daily. To live the life of faith is oftentimes a scary and unsettling thing—how then do we carry the cross to the finish line? The key to this is balance, says Pastor Aries. Not in the sense that we do everything in moderation, but that we embrace both the spiritual and the earthly. For example, believers must excel in ministry, but they must also excel in their work and studies. While Christians give to God generously, they also need to save for rainy days and plan for their retirement, the pastor reminded the congregation.
The ultimate balancing act is this: a believer must have faith and expect miracles, but his faith must also allow for God to have the final say. “Our faith must be big enough to embrace the mystery of God,” said Pastor Aries.
BALANCE PREVENTS DISAPPOINTMENT
Why is balance so important for a believer? To avoid disillusionment, we must embrace the mystery—and sovereignty—of God, even as we pray and expect God to move on our behalf. If you are going through a crisis, God will help you and turn it around for you. But one must also understand that God also wants us to have the kind of faith that can withstand uncertainty, delays and unanswered prayers. “God develops our faith by allowing us to experience disappointment,” said the preacher.
Pastor Aries pointed out that Jesus set an example for His followers the night before His crucifixion, when He prayed, “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” But Jesus ended His prayer with this: “Nevertheless, not My will but Yours be done.”
The pastor pointed the congregation to Psalm 37: 4-5, which is a favorite with many, “particularly during birthdays,” he quipped. Unpacking the verses, he explained that some Christians mistakenly think that “delighting themselves in the Lord” means to do the expected—attend church and cell group, tithe and give offerings—and God will give them the desires of their heart. But verse 5 exhorts the believer to trust in the Lord to bring the good things to pass.
“Don’t tell God to follow your plan,” said Pastor Aries. “He’s got a better plan for you, but God doesn’t share notes with nobody. He’s going to do it His way. Trust in Him.” When God doesn’t answer us and when our path is unclear and our hearts unsettled, we must resist the temptation to blame God and fall into unbelief.
The pastor proposed, “What if the reason He doesn’t meet your expectation is because He wants to exceed them?”
THE PATH TO MATURITY
Disappointment is God’s way of building a believer’s faith, said Pastor Aries. But the believer must not let disappointment drive him to lose faith. Faith that is tested is able to press in for miracles but at the same time, is surrendered to the sovereignty of God. For the most brilliant theologian cannot fully comprehend God, the pastor pointed out; His ways are higher than ours, His thoughts higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8).
What does maturity look like? Delving into Ephesians 3 and 4, Pastor Aries explained that to be mature is to be fully developed on the inside and outside, within and without, becoming more and more Christ-like. (Eph 4:13, MSG)
The last 10 years have not been the easiest for CHC or for the church members, or in fact, Christians across the world. What believers have experienced is in preparation for the future—the journey ahead is not going to get easier, so Christians must get stronger by maturing in their walk with Christ, the pastor explained.
Pastor Aries quotes theologian Thomas Merton: “Sometimes no explanation is sufficient to account for suffering. The only decent thing is silence…and the sacraments.” When life’s disappointments fail to make sense, all a believer can do is to go down on his knees and position himself to hear from God.
In closing the pastor brought the church back to Ephesians 3, which Pastor Kong Hee had preached out of during the 30th anniversary service. It is when a believer comes into that knowledge as spelled out in Ephesians, that he can comprehend the height, depth, length and width of the love of Christ for him, he will reach the ultimate answer in Eph 3:20, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.”
Referencing author and speaker Nick Vujicic, who was born without arms and legs, Pastor Aries pointed out that if he had been stuck asking God why He didn’t heal him, he would not be the man he is today, with a beautiful wife and four healthy children, and a career inspiring and empowering others. “When Nick embraced the mystery of God, God did exceedingly abundantly more than he could ask or imagine,” the pastor noted.
Every believer needs to go through the process of life and mature into that understanding of God’s immense love for him, and when he is affirmed that God loves him to the very end, he is able to embrace the mystery of God.