For most, 2020 was a terrible year—COVID-19 happened, families could not reunite, travelling was basically cancelled, the world was brought to its knees. For Pastor Tan Kim Hock, Academic Dean of City Harvest’s School of Theology, there was also the challenge of ill health. But Christians have a gift—no matter how bad things get, God will never leave us or forsake us. In this special feature,Pastor Kim Hock shares his personal reflections from 2020 and one precious revelation he received: that we must all be about “the Father’s business”.
Most of us would agree that the year 2020 has been an unusual year that changed our lives in different ways, due to the worldwide pandemic of COVID19. On a macro view, many nations had been impacted, from family to economy, from politics to education … in fact, all sectors of human societies went through a tumultuous year with great uncertainties and fears. Even as we entered the year 2021, the whole world is still grappling with the effects of this pandemic.
I also went through a “life-transforming” year in 2020, not so much due to the pandemic, but rather a moulding process which the Lord allowed me to experience, one that we called a “valley experience”.
In May 2017, I discovered I had rectal cancer and went through two operations. Thankfully, by the grace of God, the operation was successful and I recovered quickly and went back to work in October 2017. However, I suffered a major relapse in August 2019 as the cancer resurfaced. There were tumours in my liver (technically, it is Stage Four cancer once it spreads), with the largest growth being 5cm in diameter. I wanted to get rid of the cancers as quickly as possible, but against my wishes, I had to go through a longer process of chemotherapy this time before surgery. Once again, by God’s mercy, I responded to the treatment well. So well that I travelled for mission works and holidays 10 times between October 2019 and February 2020. I was very grateful to have visited the USA in February 2020 before the pandemic hit—my wife Lily and I had a great time at a conference, as well as personal leisure time.
So when the pandemic hit and travelling become impossible, I was at ease as I had had enough travelling then. All my overseas trips from March 2020 onwards were cancelled—that was good as I could focus on radiotherapy treatment in May 2020. The operation was a success as the cancer cells were removed, but shortly after that, I went through possibly the darkest and most difficult period in my life.
THE VALLEY EXPERIENCE
For some unknown reason, my bowels were badly affected by the accumulated effects of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Every intake of food, even drinks, caused my stomach to cramp and my abdomen would churn with gas. It grew so bad that I eventually could not sleep or eat properly. My weight dropped from 65kg to 47kg within a short span of a month and a half. My immune system became very weak and I suffered another cancer relapse in the liver in July 2020.
Honestly, I had done everything humanly possible to prevent this. From exercise to health supplements, from scrutinising my diet and keeping to my doctors’ prescriptions, from reading medical articles to researching alternative medication. But nothing worked.
I prayed, confessed, and exercised my faith to receive the promises of healing from the Scriptures. Somehow, what usually worked for me did not seem to be happening this time. Previously, I experienced personal healing and prayed for others to receive healing, so this new experience baffled me. I prayed through the night—because I couldn’t sleep anyway—and pleaded with the Lord for my breakthrough! I knew the Lord was with me, but this time He was silent. It was a terrible time and I even pleaded with God to take me home to Him—the discomfort was so great. God had pulled the brakes on my lifestyle, just like He did a “reset” for the whole world in 2020.
To be honest, when I was fighting cancer, I wasn’t troubled much and went through life as normal. However, this bowel problem stopped me completely. I had to go on medical leave for months because I was just too weak to concentrate on work or ministry, or even serve my family. It was also a difficult time for my wife as she had to take care of the whole household and her JAMs church ministry. In the beginning, I was “upset” with God and “bargained” with Him. I told Him I need to get back to work and ministry to “serve” Him, and I need to be there for my family. But again, the Lord was silent.
After much whining, complaining and bargaining, I finally gave up. Something “died” in me at that moment. I told the Lord I would surrender and yield to Him, regardless of any outcome, whether there was healing or not. Psalm 131 became alive in me at that time; one of the shortest psalms in the Bible became my prayer. I learned to quiet my soul like a weaned child, and trust Him simply in His goodness. For so long, I had been striving and eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, when God simply wants me to eat the tree of life (Gen. 3). For so long, I had battled difficult situations in my own strength, when all Jesus wanted for me was to take His yoke and learn from Him (Matt. 11:28-30).
Once again I felt His Presence and heard His Voice. With tears, for many nights, I repented before the Lord for all my wrong thoughts, mixed motives, selfish ambition and stubborn pride. I have been a Christian for 31 years and served in full-time ministry for 21 years, but I realised there were many moments when I served out of my personal gain; the needs of the family; the demands of the church ministry and the opinions of others. I had done so many things with a divided heart and devotion, but God the good Father has been lovingly guiding me in spite of all my foolish mistakes. Because He loves me so much, He is lovingly chastening me in His mercy (Heb 12:5-11), and His goodness always lead to repentance (Rom. 2:4).
I came to realise that I cannot serve God for the next 30 years using my previous 30 years of experiences. I must continue look to Jesus, the author and finisher (developer) of our faith if I want to fulfil the will of God (Heb. 12:2). Since God encountered me in that valley moment, my life began to transform by His grace. I received many fresh revelations and understanding, and I was so blessed. I realised the Kingdom of God is way superior to what the world can offer. Daily, I learned to seek Him, rely on Him and dwell in the realm of righteousness, peace and joy in the Spirit (Rom 14:17).
ONE KEY REVELATION
I have many things I wish to share, but in this article, I want to encourage you with one key revelation I received (hopefully there will be more to come in the near future). In Luke 2:41-50, Joseph and Mary “lost” Jesus during the busy feast in Jerusalem. (Busyness is a big problem in our world today, but we leave that for another time.) When they found Him three days later, they did not find a fearful and disillusioned child. In fact, they found Jesus in the Temple, listening and discussing the Scriptures with the teachers of the Law.
What impacted me the most was that, at the age of 12, Jesus was so focused and already about the Father’s business. I realised that for the past 31 years, I had only been occasionally about the Father’s business. In all honesty, many times I have been about my own business: my ministry, my family; and even about the church business. (There’s nothing wrong with taking care of your own needs, or the needs of your family or church. What I am emphasising here is the singular devotion to God in its simplicity.)
I was very much convicted by the Holy Spirit. I wanted my healing so that I could get back to my agenda, family needs and church ministry. What Jesus wanted from me was to “seek FIRST His Kingdom and His righteousness” and trust Him that “all these (other) things will be added to you” (Matt: 6:33). Suddenly, it dawned upon me that this earthly life is really simple. All I need to do is to focus on the “Father’s business”, seek His Kingdom and I will live my life to the fullest, regardless of the surrounding conditions or harsh realities.
I have known these Scriptures all my Christian life and I have even preached on them, but this valley experience helped me to see it so clearly: I don’t have to please everybody. All I need to do is to obey the audience of One and please Him. My soul has begun to prosper and I have learned to find delight in Him, conscious of His righteousness, peace and joy. Now I seek to live in faith, hope and love every single day. I wake up in the morning feeling blessed and grateful each day; and I lay on my bed, knowing that the Father was smiling at me as I slept. What joy unspeakable, peace beyond understanding, and hope glorious! So simple yet so real!
I am not “out of the woods yet” in terms of my health condition, but that doesn’t worry me. I want to keep my life and ministry simple, that is, to do the Father’s business by the grace of Jesus and the power of the Spirit. I want to grow to be more Christ-like, not just in character and the fruit of the Spirit, but also in power and demonstration of the superior Kingdom of God.
I do not say this casually, but 2020 was the best year of my life. My spirit became more connected with the Lord, my soul has been restored and my body is getting stronger by His grace! I wish to share the many blessings of God that have happened to me and my family… in my next article.
In conclusion, just as Pastor Kong said when he shared CHC’s vision in 2021, I pray and desire that all CHC members can be more about “the Father’s Business” and less about their small earthly ambitions. It is all about Kingdom-mindedness, heavenly affection and a crucified will. Honestly, it is not difficult to do God’s will once you realise how much the Father loves you and is “always working all things together for your good.” (Rom 8:28)
I pray that 2021 will indeed be the best year yet of all our lives. Focus on the Father’s business and you will be amazed what He will do for you, your family and ministry! God bless!