In challenging times, it is not always easy to trust God. Pastor Edmund Tay reminds the church in the past weekend’s message, that God is not a forgetful Hearer. He remembers the prayers of His people and answers them in due time.
As he began his sermon on the weekend of Oct 30 and 31, Edmund Tay, one of the associate pastors of City Harvest Church revealed that he was not good at remembering important dates. The only two birthdates he remembers are his wife, Jiahui’s (a day before his birthday) and his elder daughter, Nicole’s (same birthdate as his).
“But no matter how forgetful man is, we serve a God that always remembers, and He never forgets,” Pastor Edmund continued. He went on to relate the story of Zacharias, Elizabeth and Mary in Luke 1.
This chapter in the Gospel is interesting because it features two miraculous pregnancies—both announced by Angel Gabriel. Prior to this, God had not spoken to His people for 400 years. “When God speaks now, He reminds His people that in spite of the silence, He is a God that remembers them,” the pastor explains.
BELIEVE WITHOUT BITTERNESS
Reading from V5 to V7, Pastor Edmund noted that both Zacharias and his wife, Elizabeth were faithful believers, yet they were barren. However, in spite of their barrenness, the couple was never bitter against God.
“When things don’t go according to plan, do we get bitter and angry against God?” the pastor questioned. “We must know that bitterness is the obstacle to our breakthrough.”
Pastor Edmund shared the story of his member, Annie, who grew up in an abusive family. Her father who was often drunk would beat up his wife and cane Annie. She soon grew bitter against her father, and it affected her physically. She became temperamental and developed eczema all over her body. Her temper issues did not improve even after she got married and was attending church regularly.
One day, the Holy Spirit spoke to her about forgiving her father. She found it very difficult but nevertheless, made the decision to forgive. Immediately, she felt a weight lifted off her heart and over the next few days, her eczema condition improved. Within a month, Annie’s father accepted Jesus and was reconciled with the family.
Going back to the story in Luke, Pastor Edmund suggested that barrenness would have caused Zacharias and Elizabeth a lot of shame in those days. Luke recorded that Elizabeth regarded her barrenness as her disgrace. Yet, through all their disappointment, they chose not to be bitter but trusted God instead.
Pastor Edmund shared that his family also went through a difficult season at the end of 2019. Nadine, his youngest daughter suffered epilepsy and seizures since she was 7. At 11, she was still having seizures despite being on the highest dose of medication allowed for her height and weight. The doctors were concerned and wanted her to be hospitalised for assessment.
On the day Nadine was admitted to the hospital, Nathan, Pastor Edmund’s second child came back from soccer camp with a fever. So Jiahui stayed with Nadine at the hospital, while Pastor Edmund took care of Nathan. Nathan’s fever persisted, and just as Nadine was about to be discharged from the hospital, the doctor found that Nathan had a bacterial infection and had to be hospitalised as well. After spending days in the hospital with Nadine and later Nathan, Jiahui developed a strained back which was later found to be a slipped disc. So she, too, had to be hospitalised.
Three weeks later from this episode, Pastor Edmund received a call notifying him that his father, who had a stroke previously, was in a bad shape and his condition had worsened. He eventually passed away on Christmas Day. Moreover, Nadine’s doctors advised Pastor Edmund and Jiahui to permit her to undergo brain surgery to remove part of the brain that causes the seizures.
“That was definitely not the best way to usher in the new year,” Pastor Edmund reflected. “It would have been easy for us to get angry or bitter with God; because we had been busy serving God, and yet all these happened. But we decided to focus on the positive.”
The Tays held on to Psalm 77:11-12 and chose to meditate on God’s works in their lives. Firstly, Pastor Edmund thanked God that his older children were healthy and doing well. Secondly, all the medical bills were covered under insurance. Thirdly, the doctors had an active plan and solution for Nadine’s condition, despite the risks involved.
Fourthly, even though his father had passed away, Pastor Edmund was thankful that he had received Jesus into his heart as his Lord and Saviour. The pastor even had the privileged of water baptising his father three years ago. Finally, he was thankful that Nadine has been seizure-free ever since the 10-hour brain surgery.
“We may not know how things will work out, but we can choose to not get bitter and to trust God’s heart,” the pastor advised. “Don’t allow bitterness to take root in your heart.”
BELIEVE DESPITE THE DOUBTS
Reading from Luke 1:18, Pastor Edmund noted that Zacharias’ faith wavered when he doubted the news of Elizabeth’s pregnancy.
“It is normal to doubt and doubt is not a sin,” the pastor clarified. “But if you don’t nip it in the bud, doubt can fester into unbelief, which is a sin.” He went on to remind the church that unbelief is making the decision not to believe in the Word and promises of God.
When Abraham was faced with the same situation, “He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief but was strengthened in faith” (Rom 4:20). Similarly, Mary, to whom the angel gave the same shocking news, responded in faith. Pastor Edmund encouraged the church to have Mary’s attitude to respond to God with, “let it be to me according to Your word” (Lk 1:38).
The pastor went on to gamely share a time where doubt filled his mind. This was before COVID-19 struck, Pastor Edmund was leading a prayer meeting when God told him to release a word of knowledge for healing of an injury in someone’s right hand. Pastor Edmund doubted for a moment but decided to be bold to release the word in faith.
In the crowd was a member named Timothy, who had injured his right hand. Although his cast was removed, he was still experiencing pain in his wrist. He could not even clench his fists. When Lee Yi Lun, another associate pastor of CHC, prayed for him, he felt God’s healing touch. When Pastor Yi Lun asked him to test out his healing, he proceeded to do push-ups—something he could not do due to the injury. Timothy did a total of 20 push-ups on stage that day. After experiencing God’s healing power, Timothy, who was not attending church regularly, decided to commit himself to attending Cell Group and service.
“As believers, let us not live in doubt; but let’s have the faith to believe despite the doubt,” Pastor Edmund encouraged the congregation.
BELIEVE FOR DELIVERANCE IN GOD’S TIME
The pastor then went on to share that in Luke 1:13, God told Zacharias that his prayers were heard. For 400 years, God had been silent, but now, He told Zacharias that He had not forgotten His people. The name Zacharias means “the Lord has remembered”.
“God is not a forgetful Hearer, He will accomplish His purposes in His time,” Pastor Edmund urged. He noted that God answered two prayers as a result of John the Baptist’s birth—the first was Zacharias prayer for a son and the second was the nation’s prayer for redemption. Not only did God remember the prayers of the couple, He gave them so much more.
Pastor Edmund reminded the church that God’s plans are always higher, and to trust in Him in spite of what is seen in the natural situation. He cited another example of God answering his prayers.
In April this year, Pastor Edmund’s entire family received a Quarantine Order notice because they were in close contact with someone who contracted COVID-19. In that situation, God answered their prayers. The children had always wanted a staycation—they got to serve their quarantined in a nice hotel—all expenses paid. Pastor Edmund got to spend quality time with Nathan and Nadine during the quarantine. This was something he’d wanted to do for a while now.
The pastor also got to spend time with God, which was another one of his prayers. In that time, he received a revelation for his family. God also reminded Pastor Edmund that God Himself is his reward, and He will be with him for eternity.
In closing, the pastor acknowledged that it is sometimes hard to trust God. “We all have our fears, but let’s come to a place of surrender where we give our fears to Him,” he encouraged.