In a world where people are often too busy to listen to even their own thoughts, Christians may find they have little energy to meet with God or seek spiritual transformation. In his latest sermon, Pastor Kong Hee delved into the importance of intentional silence and solitude in order to commune with God.
“Spirituality can only be developed in the silence and solitude of God’s presence,” preached Kong Hee, senior pastor of City Harvest Church. “This is how work and ministry become easy and effective. This is the key to the easy yoke and the light burden in Matthew 11.”
Pastor Kong’s message was broadcast during four services over the weekend of May 22 and 23. Continuing his series on the Kingdom of God, Pastor Kong expounded on the importance of having silence and solitude with God, an essential practice that transforms a believer.
He opened with Matthew 11:28-30 where Jesus offers weary and burdened Christians rest. He invites them to take His yoke and learn from Him, for His yoke is easy and the burden is light. Yet, for most believers, this “light burden” is far from what they experience in their daily lives.
THE DANGER OF BEING TOO BUSY FOR GOD
Pastor Kong noted that people are very busy, even in the midst of a pandemic.
“We are being pulled and pushed along by all the busyness of life, and we don’t have time to reflect on our thoughts, speech or behaviour,” he said. Without taking time to reflect, busy Christians tend to simply follow what is expected of them and look for the same rewards as others in the world.
The danger of believers being in such a cycle is that they may miss out on knowing God’s good and perfect will for their lives, said Pastor Kong. In Romans 12:2, the Bible warned believers not to model themselves after the behaviour of the world, but to change their behaviour according to their God-renewed mind. That is the only way to discover the good and perfect will of God.
“Jesus said that if we get too entangled in the ways of this world, we will end up losing our own souls,” reminded the pastor.
SAINT ANTHONY: SILENCE AND SOLITUDE IN THE WILDERNESS
Saint Anthony of Egypt (251-356AD) was the first of the Desert Fathers. When he was 18, he heard a sermon on Matthew 19, when Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell his possessions, give them to the poor and follow Him. Anthony received that as a rhema word from the Holy Spirit. He followed in the footsteps of Jesus and went into the wilderness to live in complete silence and solitude for 20 years.
“At first, it was wonderful and therapeutic to be in the presence of God—singing, worshipping and praying,” Pastor Kong shared. “But soon his sinfulness and wickedness started to surface. He began to face his inner enemies of anger, lust and greed.”
After years of facing his demons, Saint Anthony eventually came out of it victorious. He was only able to do that by surrendering himself unreservedly to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
In that process, the Holy Spirit transformed Saint Anthony totally. When he came out of the desert 20 years later, people were amazed at how healthy and full of the Spirit he was. He went on to live until 106, at a time where the average lifespan was only 30. He was so full of the presence and the power of God that people flocked to him for healing and advice.
“Spirituality can only be developed in the silence and solitude of God’s presence. When our old self is spiritually transformed into Christ’s likeness, real power flows out of us,” the pastor emphasised.
“This is how work and ministry become easy and effective. This is the key to the easy yoke and the light burden.”
THE SLIPPERY SLOPE OF BEING BUSY
Busyness, Pastor Kong reflected, is often a curse. He pointed out that believers, in their sinful nature, are often tempted to go after what their fallen world is after—to be liked, to be praised and to be admired. They equate being busy to being an achiever and having money as a sign of success. This causes them to chase after connections, work, money and friends, but underneath all these busyness are the enemies of a believer’s spiritual life—anger, lust and greed.
Addressing the church body, Pastor Kong highlighted that Christians could become too occupied with activities and end up compromising on their time spent in the presence of God. “Because we’re so addicted to being busy, eventually our spiritual tank becomes empty,” he warned. “When that happens, we have even less energy to meet with God, or to desire spiritual transformation in the presence of God.”
A question often posed to Pastor Kong is: how should one balance success in marriage, career, serving the Lord, while being spiritually hungry and thirsty for God?
“The answer is, you are focusing on the wrong thing,” the pastor said. Referring to Matthew 6:33, he revealed that the key is not to focus on these individual aspects of life but to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, which is the rule of God in their lives and the formation of the character of Jesus in them.
“Then ‘all these things will be added to you’—the happiness you’re looking for in your marriage, the success you need in your career, the fulfilment of your ministry. But first, you need to give attention to the life of the spirit within you,” Pastor Kong taught. “Not the Holy Spirit, but your own inner life, the born-again, divine nature in you.”
JESUS CHRIST: THE RELEASE OF POWER
Reading from Luke 2:40, Pastor Kong observed that Jesus paid attention to the life of the spirit within and that He developed it in the silence and solitude of God’s presence.
In Luke 4:1, Jesus was water baptised by John the Baptist and was filled with the Spirit. The Holy Spirit then led Jesus into the wilderness, a place of silence and solitude, to spend time alone with the Father.
“You would think that if you’re full of the Spirit, you’ve got to dive into the business of life, of ministry, in the marketplace, in church,” he said. “Not so with the Holy Spirit—first thing He did was to lead Jesus to a place of silence and solitude.”
Throughout His ministry, Jesus looked for lonely places to spend time alone with God. “Everyone who has spent a prolonged time of silence and solitude in the presence of God will realise that it is a furnace of transformation,” declared the preacher. “Your real self will surface in the presence of God—you’ll start reflecting on life and every repressed thought and inner cravings will rise to the surface.”
Even Jesus, who was complete without sin, was tested. Continuing with Luke 4:3-12, Pastor Kong taught that the first temptation Jesus faced self-desire, to satisfy His body with bread as He had been fasting for 40 days and was extremely hungry. Similarly, anger and greed are also perverse gratifications of the flesh.
The second temptation was self-pride. The devil challenged Jesus to throw Himself down from the temple’s highest point to prove that He was the Son of God. In today’s world, people are constantly tempted to prove to others how talented, successful or anointed they are.
The third temptation was self-ambition—the devil offered Jesus authority over all the kingdoms of the world if He would worship him. However, this was not how God the Father wanted His Kingdom to be established in the world. God’s way for Jesus was the way of the cross. “The Father couldn’t use Jesus as long as He was ambitious; as long as Jesus was living for Himself,” he explained.
“We all want to be successful and achieve something by ourselves. We stay motivated and determined to see our visions and dreams come to pass,” Pastor Kong elaborated. “But do we stop for a moment to ask: Is this what God wants for my life?”
Christians must be wary of buying into the mantra of the world—if you “believe in yourself”, go after what you want and no one can stop you. “Have you stopped to think for a moment, is what you what or God wants for your life?” the pastor reiterated.
“The source of a true vision is not us, it cannot be self-generated, and it is from the Holy Spirit,” the pastor clarified.“A vision is God dreaming in the hearts of His people. It is God putting His impossible dream in the imagination of our hearts and minds.” Only when God gives the vision will He provide the provision of His grace.
Returning to Luke 4:14, Pastor Kong taught that after Jesus fully emptied himself of His self-desires and fully surrendered to God, affirming that He would love and worship God only, Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.
“God gave Jesus the Spirit without limit. For all of us, we have the Holy Spirit, but with limit, and in measures. That is why we need to be filled again and again every day,” the pastor preached. He substantiated this with Mark 9:14-29, where Jesus told the disciples that the power of God is only released through prayer and fasting.
CONFRONTING HIS OWN DEMONS
“God wants to change the world through us. But more than that, He wants to change and transform us.” Pastor Kong shared how he was placed in a mandated time of silence and solitude with the Lord during his time in prison. In that “furnace”, he dealt with difficult thoughts of anger, pride, and ambition.
He shared how alone he felt when facing the prospect of a long jail term and how he felt Satan mocking him for wasting his life. He came face to face with the hard truth of his personal desires and ambitions. He felt hopeless and depressed for many weeks, until the Lord spoke to him one day, calmed him down and reminded him that He would always be there for him.
Pastor Kong had conversation after conversation with God. Each time, God reassured him of his worth. He told the church that in silence and solitude with God, he acknowledged all his sins, faults and brokenness to Him. Things that had always been present in him, but he was too busy to confront them.
“Like a divine archaeologist, God dug out layer by layer,” described Pastor Kong. “He dealt with the dirt and in its place, He sowed seeds of the fruit of the Spirit, and slowly but surely, anger, pride, ambition drained away.”
In closing, he exhorted believers to be real in the presence of God for Him to do a deep work within them—”Don’t be fake in the presence of God”—and that each person is responsible for finding silence and solitude.
“Our spirituality is more important than all our worldly successes and accomplishments,” urged Pastor Kong. “In Matthew 16:26, Jesus said, ‘What good would it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?’ Your soul was created to be yoked to Christ.”