In a world where anxiety and depression afflict many, the peace of God is what is needed. Pastor Bobby Chaw taught the church two practical steps to experience the peace of God in his sermon last weekend.
Philippians 4:5-6 gives Christians the assurance of peace even in times of turbulence. “The reason we can experience peace and not be anxious is because of verse five—’The Lord is near’,” Bobby Chaw, City Harvest Church’s executive pastor taught as he began his sermon on April 23 and 24.
“This peace that the Bible talks about is not the absence of conflict and turmoil,” he explained, illustrating his point with a painting of an angry storm in the mountains, within which a tiny bird is calmly sitting in its nest in a bush. Peace does not mean there is no noise, trouble or hard work; peace is to be in the midst of all calamity and still be calm.
This is the kind of peace Paul experienced and demonstrated in Philippians 4—as the apostle was writing the epistle, he was arrested and threatened with death. Instead of complaining, he encouraged the Philippian church members to fill their hearts and minds with the peace of God.
Such peace is found in the presence of the Holy Spirit. “Peace is who He is, and where the presence of the Spirit is, there is peace,” Pastor Bobby taught.
If God is omnipresent, why then do some Christians lack peace? The problem is that they are not aware and conscious of His abiding presence, explained the pastor.
ABIDING IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD
Christian author CS Lewis once wrote, “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with him. He walks everywhere incognito. And the incognito is not always hard to penetrate. The real labour is to remember, to attend…in fact to come awake. Still more, to remain awake.”
“The problem is that very often, when we first accepted Christ, we sensed His presence, but we did not remain awake [to that presence],” the pastor detailed. He illustrated his point with the story of Jesus travelling in the boat with His disciples through a storm, and they were afraid because Jesus was asleep (Lk 8:24). Pastor Bobby explained that the disciples were so focused on the wind and waves they forgot that God was right there with them in the boat.
“Are you like the disciples?” he asked. “A sudden storm comes upon you—it could be a crisis in your marriage, at work, in your career—and you feel as though God is absent, [He has] fallen asleep. And you question where God is, not realising that He is very near.”
He added, “If only you would become aware of His presence, His peace will envelop you and calm every storm in your life.”
Pastor Bobby told the church that he recently had surgery to remove a cyst from his body. Before the operation started, the nurse discovered that he had a resting heart rate of 48 beats per minute—this is low, compared to the average of 60 to 100 bpm. Pastor Bobby attributed this to his regular exercise, and the peace in his heart. He went through the procedure on local anaesthesia, which meant he was awake throughout. “I was a little nervous, but I was conscious of the presence of God with me,” he reported, adding that he meditated on Psalm 73 throughout the surgery. The nurses later told him that the highest his heartbeat went up to was a little over 50 bpm, which was still lower than that of an average person. “Because I was in peace and Peace was in me,” he declared.
With this, Pastor Bobby shared two practical steps to experiencing the peace of God.
1. Put On The Mind Of The Spirit
Romans 8:5-6 (BSB) reads, “Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh; but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. The mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace.”
“The phrase to ‘set your mind’ is in the present active tense,” Pastor Bobby pointed out. “This means that the action is in the present—choosing to put on the same mind as the Holy Spirit is a daily present action. It is not something you do once in the past.”
The mind of the Holy Spirit is expressed in the written Bible (2 Tim 3:16). “When you read, meditate, and memorise the Scripture, you’re literally putting on the mind of the Spirit, aligning your thoughts to His,” he elaborated.
Reading Psalms 1:1-2, Pastor Bobby further explained that when believers choose to meditate on the word of God daily, instead of following the ways of the ungodly, they will experience life and peace.
He shared the testimony of Jeremy, a member of CHC’s Chinese service. At 18, he started taking drugs, and over the next 35 years, he was imprisoned seven times. He tried to quit drugs many times but could not, and that drove him into severe depression.
In 2016, he attempted suicide but was rescued by the doctors. In the hospital, he met a pastor who told him that he could change if he chose to walk with Jesus. After he was discharged from the hospital, Jeremy went to New Charis Mission halfway house and started focusing his mind on God’s Word. Soon, he found the life and peace of God filling his heart and mind. By the power of the Holy Spirit, he was set free from drug addiction.
Jeremy also found the courage to seek reconciliation with his family. Above that, God also gave him a beautiful woman whom he married last year, at the age of 58.
Pastor Bobby encouraged experiencing internal turmoil and frustration to put on the mind of the Spirit. “Remember, give attention and be awake to His Word. When you are in trouble, don’t focus on the trouble, focus on the Scripture,” he preached. He went on to give the church examples of how they can apply scriptures like Isaiah 63 and Psalms 27 to their own situation.
2. In Every Situation, Pray
Reading Philippians 4:6, Pastor Bobby told the church that prayer is the place of exchange. “You give God your anxieties, worries and fears. In exchange, you receive Jehovah Shalom into your every situation,” he elaborated.
Going back to the story of Jesus and His disciples in the storm, Pastor Bobby related that Jesus responded to the disciples’ cries immediately and rebuked the storm. “Can you see? He always responds to our cry,” he said. Reading Psalms 91:15, he went on to teach that for Jesus to respond, “you must call out to Him—pray!”
He explained that the word “call” in Psalms 91:15 is made up of three Hebrew letters. The first letter is the back of a man’s head, the second is the side view of a man’s head, and the last letter is the head of an ox which signifies the strength of God.
“To call upon the Lord means, instead of looking at yourself and your own strength, turn and look to the one who has the power to carry your burden,” the pastor taught. “Prayer is turning from yourself, from the situation that so easily captures your attention, to become conscious of God and to unite yourself with Him”
Pastor Bobby shared another testimony, this time of Anna, a single mother living in a two-room flat with her two children. A few years ago, she met a man called Rupert and got married. Her desire ws to move into a four-room flat so that everyone in the family could have their own space. However, their income was not high, and they did not have much savings.
Based on their natural circumstances, it was almost impossible to buy a new flat, yet Anna chose to pray and meditate on Psalm 23. God answered their prayer in an amazing way: they purchased a brand new four-room BTO flat in the location they wanted, and because of the high resale prices, Anna sold her two-room flat at a good price. The sales proceeds, together with their savings and government grants, paid off the entire cost of their flat—the couple did not need to take a housing loan.
“What Anna did was to exchange her anxiety for the peace of God in prayer. And God exceeds expectations, transcends understanding, transcends circumstances, He is the Almighty One,” Pastor Bobby declared.
In closing, Pastor Bobby shared a practical tip on praying. Many Christians, although willing, do not start praying because they do not know how to express themselves. “When you pray to God, it’s a conversation, you must learn the language and the skills,” Pastor Bobby explained. One way to do so is to consult the Bible. The pastor finds that the Psalmists expressed their innermost thoughts very well and these often aligned with his own emotions. While he was learning to pray in Mandarin, he memorised the words from Psalms and used them in his personal prayers.
At the end of the service, the pastor encouraged the church to give God attention by putting on the mind of the Spirit and by praying. He also prayed for those going through a crisis who need to feel the peace of God.