In his Chinese New Year sermon, Pastor Aries Zulkarnain taught the church two steps to becoming a better person in 2022.
The Year of the Tiger begins tomorrow, and one common greeting you will no doubt hear is Gong Xi Fa Cai. “This literally means ‘I hope you get rich,” said Aries Zulkarnain, City Harvest Church’s executive pastor as he began his sermon last weekend (Jan 29 and 30).
However, while many people perceive a good year as one that is financially prosperous, God sees it differently. “Sometimes, God will allow us to go through seasons of wilderness and lack so that we can grow,” the pastor preached. These seasons of difficulty often result in Christians growing into a better version of themselves.
“I want to remind you that while we wish to have a better year, God is more focused on using this year to make us a better person,” Pastor Aries asserted.
HOW GOD WANTS HIS BELIEVERS TO DO HIS WORK
Eighteen years after Israel returned to Jerusalem after being held captive in Babylon, the nation began to experience prosperity again. In the midst of them rebuilding the nation, God interrupted them and told them in Haggai 1:5-6 to “Consider your ways!”
“Essentially, God was telling the children of Israel not to blindly continue in the path that they had been taking, but to stop for a moment to consider if the path they were on was leading them to the right destination,” Pastor Aries explained.
In v6 and 7, God told the Israelites why they were not living in their full blessing. “The children of Israel were too busy building their houses, career and image externally, they forgot that they also needed to match it with the building of God’s house on the inside of them,” the pastor continued.
When God is living on the inside of a Christian, He will hold everything together on the outside. Conversely, “if the house of God inside you is in ruins, then whatever things you do on the outside will eventually crumble,” he added.
In considering one’s way, Pastor Aries highlighted a question that one should ask oneself: “Am I still following Jesus and His ways?” Following Jesus is not merely being involved in doing God’s work, but to consciously do it His way.
With this, Pastor Aries shared two points on the way God wants His believers to go about doing His work.
1. In Your Busyness, Don’t Forget To Enjoy God
Bringing the congregation back to the Westminster Shorter Catechism which says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever”, Pastor Aries posed this question to those who have been Christians for a long time, “Are you still coming to church simply to enjoy Him? Or are you doing spiritual activities in order for God to bless you?”
To the young people, he asked “Are you still excited and enjoying Jesus?”
The pastor recalled that in the past, a chance at standing on stage to share his testimony to 10 members would make him very happy. But after a while, he began to let things like the number of people in the crowd get to him.
“You become more concerned about numbers than enjoying doing God’s work,” he said. “As you serve Him and follow Him, make sure that you are still enjoying Him.”
Enjoying God is a commandment from God. Psalms 37:3-4 reads, “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Pastor Aries explained that God wants His believers to enjoy doing God’s work and obeying His word.
However, many Christians lose their joy of serving God after time passes. Pastor Aries taught, “Enjoyment can only be sustained through our relationship with Jesus.” The reverse is also true: when a Christian stops enjoying church and time spent worshipping Jesus, he knows that his relationship with Jesus is not intact.
Spiritual activities—reading the Bible, praying, coming to church and serving God in ministry—are supposed to be a means of grace for Christians to enjoy God. Pastor Aries warned the church against allowing these activities to become tools to get blessings from God. When that happens, it is easy for one to lose their joy in God.
Luke 10:39-42 tells the familiar story of Mary and Martha. Many Christians began their ministry like Mary but turned into Martha after a few years: from enjoying Jesus, they become easily irritated and frustrated with God. In the Bible, Jesus told Martha that she had forgotten an important Kingdom truth: that relationship precedes ministry.
“If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus, ministry will be hard going,” Pastor Aries observed. “But if you have a relationship with God, then no matter how hard ministry is, you will enjoy doing it because you are doing it for Jesus.”
In the beginning of the year, Bobby Chaw, CHC’s executive pastor, taught the church four steps to activate their mustard seed faith. Pastor Bobby shared that he had received a vision from the Lord asking him to pray for his Chinese congregation’s members name by name. After doing it for some time, he asked God if He was tired of hearing him pray the same verse repeatedly for different members.
Pastor Aries admitted that he was waiting for Pastor Bobby to share a climactic response from the Lord, such as the promise that He would bless the Chinese service because of Pastor Bobby’s faithfulness and obedience. Instead, Pastor Bobby shared that God revealed the reason for this vision was that He wanted to see Pastor Bobby’s face and hear his voice every day.
Pastor Aries admitted he was disappointed. “Where is the blessing, I asked God. As I begin to think like that, the Holy Spirit convicted me and told me that that is the mindset and the behaviour of Martha.”
Pastor Bobby shared in his sermon that he found intimacy and encountered Jesus as he practised a life of faith. “That means that the four steps of activating his faith were not techniques and methods to get blessings from God,” Pastor Aries pointed out. “Instead, these steps are used by God to bring us closer to Him, to have intimacy and encounters with Him. That is the image of Mary—someone who uses prayer and worship simply to enjoy Jesus.”
One will only be able to enjoy Jesus when he sees Jesus as beautiful, not just useful. When a Christian first receives Christ, he falls in love with Jesus and calls Him beautiful. As time passes, his perspective changes and when his prayers are not answered, he finds it useless to pray.
“In order for you to enjoy God, you must go back on the path to see Jesus as beautiful instead of useful,” the pastor emphasised.
2. In The Pursuit Of Your Desires, Learn To Be Content In God
Reading Philippians 4:10-13, Pastor Aries noted that Apostle Paul was not frustrated with the Philippian church for not sending help because he had learned to be contented with what he had. “Contentment is the power and ability for you not to get disappointed easily,” the pastor elaborated.
Well-known preacher Jeremiah Burroughs compares contentment to rare jewels. He said, “Contentment is not by addition but by subtraction: seeking to add a thing will not bring contentment. Instead, subtracting from your desires until you are satisfied only with Christ brings contentment.”
“When you learn to be contented in God, you’re able to look at life differently,” Pastor Aries taught. The year 2022 may bring different seasons, but the pastor reminded the church that if they learn to be contented in God, there is a blessing in every season. Seasons of prosperity are God’s blessings on display, while seasons of adversity are God’s blessings in disguise. Even seasons of no activity can bring the blessing of resting in God.
In closing, Pastor Aries read 1 Tim 6:6: “Now godliness with contentment is great gain.” Godliness relates to point one where one learns to enjoy God. When one learns to enjoy God and stay contented in Him, “2022 will be a better year for you,” he said.
He ended the service by reminding the church to make Jesus the anchor of their soul, so that as they go through the storms in life, Jesus will bring them safely to the other side of their situation.