In his powerful sermon last weekend, Pastor Aries Zulkarnain explained how the God of restoration will right past failures by bringing His people into deeper communion with Him.
“In a twinkling of an eye, we are entering the second half of 2022,” said Aries Zulkarnain, said the executive pastor of City Harvest Church as he began his sermon on the weekend of 25 and 26 June. “I want to encourage you today: don’t let the bad things in the first half of 2022 define how the year will end.”
Reading Ecclesiastes 7:8-9, he emphasised that no matter how the year has been, God can still rewrite one’s story to give him an ending he never thought possible. “In order for you to experience a better ending, the verse says ‘patience is better than pride’. You need to learn to be patient, to surrender the failures of the past to God and allow Jesus to do His work inside you,” taught Pastor Aries.
GOD IS IN THE BUSINESS OF REBUILDING AND RESTORATION
God is a specialist in restoring the broken pieces of a person’s life, said the pastor. In line with the church’s focus on the Holy Spirit in recent months, Pastor Aries taught that beyond giving one power to do great works, mighty signs and wonders, the Holy Spirit wants to bring restoration to a believer’s life.
Reading Joel 2:23-25, the pastor explained the prophet Joel was prophesying about the “former and latter rain”, which was the Pentecost. Verse 24 which reads, “The threshing floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil,” was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost.
However, the prophecy did not stop there. V25 continues, “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten…” Pastor Aries compared this verse with Acts 1:8, where God gave His believers the power of the Holy Spirit to remove obstacles and break new grounds, as well as to encounter divine intervention.
“But that is for the now and the future. What about the past?” Pastor Aries questioned. He shared that there are many people who are trapped in the pain of the past—perhaps the hurt of losing loved ones and losing their hard-earned careers and finances during the pandemic.
“The good news is this: the same Holy Spirit that will empower us for the future is the same Holy Spirit who will set us free from the chains of darkness,” Pastor Aries encouraged.
Sharing from Luke 4:18-19, Pastor Aries preached that the Holy Spirit came to give believers freedom from bondage. With that, he shared two kinds of restoration God wants to do in a believer’s life.
1. Restoration Of Lost Years
Going back to Joel 2:25—“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten”— Pastor Aries pointed out that God specifically said that He would restore the years, not the crops.
Crisis may wipe out one’s assets and businesses and one may never recover all he has lost. Yet often the thing that pains a person the most is not the loss of all the things he has accomplished, it is the feeling of having wasted all those years. That is what causes Christians to spiral into doubt, and ask themselves if they heard correctly from God at the start.
In Joel 2:26, God detailed how He would restore the wasted years: “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you; and My people shall never be put to shame.”
“The way God restores the wasted years is by leading us to a deeper communion with Him,” Pastor Aries explained. “In that deeper communion with God, you will discover that He is all you need—He is enough for you. His being and presence will compensate all the feelings of wasted years.”
To better explain this, Pastor Aries gave the example of Abraham in Genesis 22. Abraham had reached the peak of his life. He had accomplished many victories in God and become a rich and powerful man. The ultimate sign of achievement for Abraham, however, was the fulfilment of God’s promise to Him, which was the birth of Isaac.
Just like Abraham, many people hold on to different pinnacles and definitions of achievements that have become a compass in their lives. They worked hard for it and eventually achieved them at a certain age. Yet in Genesis 22, God called Abraham to offer up all that he had achieved as a sacrifice to Him.
Pastor Aries imagined that at this point, when God commanded him to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah, that Abraham probably started doubting himself and wondering if all those years of trusting God was a mistake. Addressing those who might be going through a tough season and doubting themselves and God, Pastor Aries assured them that God would never play games with their lives.
“Little did Abraham know, Mount Moriah was not a place of waste, but a place of promotion,” the pastor preached. Just as Abraham was about to plunge the knife into his son, God provided a ram to be sacrificed in place of Isaac, revealing Himself to be Jehovah Jireh, the God who will provide for Abraham’s needs all the days of his life.
“Genesis 22 was a turning point in Abraham’s life. Today can be your turning point too,” the pastor said as he encouraged the church to learn from Abraham and offer what they have lost on the altar of sacrifice. “Let go and have a deeper communion with God. He wants to reveal to you that He is all that you need.”
In the first half of Abraham’s life, he was focused on getting what he wanted. “But our life is not about getting the greatest thing in life. It is about receiving—receiving Jesus,” Pastor Aries explained. “Sometimes, it takes a crisis, a moment of failure to show us that if we don’t see the vision and purpose God has for our lives, we will remain stuck and not move on in life.”
When a believer stops striving to get what he wants and starts paying attention to God, he will discover that God is Jehovah Jireh and Jesus is all he needs.
2. Restoration of fruitfulness
Reading Joel 2:25, Pastor Aries noted that God is able to bring an increase in fruitfulness, to restore all that was lost in a short period. “Your harvest may miraculously multiply in that one season of harvest!” he encouraged the church.
But many may be so discouraged by their failure and loss that they do not even want to try again. “Don’t be so defeated that you want to give up,” urged the pastor. “When you see your field wiped out, you need to continue to trust God and not give up. Keep planting seeds for your future!”
To illustrate his point, the pastor shared the testimony of a church member, Androni Ginting who serves in CHC’s photography ministry. Growing up on his family’s farm, Ando’s childhood was spent growing vegetables and rearing pigs. He did not receive much education.
One day, a Singaporean visited the town for a mission trip together with her daughter. Ando and the daughter fell in love and eventually got married. That propelled Ando to move to Singapore and eventually attend CHC’s School of Theology. Ando’s lack of qualifications made it hard for him to make a living in Singapore and he had to rely on his mother-in-law.
Finding employment was a challenge but Ando never gave up. He finally found a job as a kitchen cleaner because he was willing to work the graveyard shift. Soon, he clinched another job to clean carpets. Ando saw that as a promotion—any job was better than not working at all.
Ando was a video enthusiast, and when his first child was born, he took it as an opportunity to hone his skills. In the hope of getting a job in video production, he sent his videos to many companies who rejected him due to his lack of credentials. Ando eventually scored an interview with a local production house. The interviewer liked Ando’s work, but there was the issue of Ando’s lack of qualifications. However, when they asked for his highest qualifications, Ando produced his certificate of Theology from SOT. By the grace of God, he got the job and, within a year, was promoted to project manager.
Today, Ando owns his own video production house and lives in his own HDB flat with his wife and two children.
Using Ando’s story, the pastor reiterated, “Don’t give up, because God will never give up on you. It doesn’t matter how you started: Jesus can restore the wasted years. God is your Jehovah Jireh, He is all you need. Even when you hit rock bottom, let go of your ego and pride, and start from the bottom up again.”