Despite life’s many challenges, we can find strength in the Lord. In his sermon last weekend, Pastor Bobby Chaw shared how.
“Like the wilderness, life’s challenges can be cruel and relentless. Yet, we do not need to despair or resign to defeat, because leaning on our Beloved, we will rise from the wilderness,” said City Harvest Church’s executive pastor Bobby Chaw at the start of his sermon, quoting Song of Songs 8:5.
Last weekend (26 and 27 November), he taught on the importance of leaning on God for strength, especially during difficult times. Reiterating what he preached in his last sermon, the pastor explained that to “lean” means to surrender, to be joined, and to take delight in the Lord.
He drew the church’s attention to the word “strengthening” in Songs of Songs 8:5 (Septuagint), explaining that the believer in the passage derived all her strength from the Lord.
“She is aware of her own weaknesses and limitations. As such, to withstand temptation in the wilderness, to persevere trial, she needs to be strengthened,” he pointed out, adding that she gains this strength by leaning on her Beloved. “If you can learn to lean on the Lord, the Bible promises: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
The Bible teaches that firstly, the Beloved is the Giver of life. According to John 1:3-4, “All things were made through Him, and without Him, nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”
In creation, God, the Giver of life formed all the earth through His words and created man from the dust of the ground, and breathed life into his nostrils (Gen 2).
The Beloved is also the Sustainer of life. Hebrews 1:3 reads, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word…” After giving life to His creation, God did not leave it alone; He is still preserving and sustaining the whole of creation today.
Pastor Bobby reminded the congregation not to worry about what to eat or what to wear because God will sustain them (Isa 46:3-4). “God will sustain you and carry you,” the pastor said. “He will never abandon you halfway because He is the Sustainer of life.”
The Beloved is also the resurrection and the life. “Death has no power over Him,” the pastor preached. “Every failure in life is a form of death, and in this life, we will fail from time to time. But failure is not fatal—no matter how terrible or hopeless your situation may be, leaning on the Beloved, you will rise from the wilderness, because our Beloved, Jesus, is the resurrection and the life.”
He went on to share the testimony of Pauline Or, a member of the Chinese congregation that Pastor Bobby oversees. She was diagnosed with rare acute leukemia in Aug 2020. Her health deteriorated quickly, and she had to undergo chemotherapy while waiting for a bone marrow transplant.
Her lungs were infected during the treatment and she had to be hospitalised. Pastor Bobby baptised her in hospital and prayed that the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead would give life to Pauline. A miracle soon happened, and her cancer markers went down to zero. She managed to get a bone marrow transplant and has now recovered. She started attending services again five months ago and is even able to return to work.
“Jesus is the Giver of life. And today, He is still the Sustainer of life. If you were to fail, He is the resurrection and life,” Pastor Bobby declared.
HOW TO STRENGTHEN YOURSELF IN THE LORD
To teach the church how to abide in God’s overcoming life, Pastor Bobby shared three dimensions where believers should align themselves with the Lord in.
1. In one’s thoughts
Reading Romans 8:5 and 9, Pastor Bobby said, “Your thinking can either bring life or death.”
He added, “The Bible tells us that you can choose to become carnally minded, thinking only about the things that the fallen, sinful self wants—sexual immorality, strife, jealousy, and anger—this way of thinking brings death. Or you can choose to be spiritually minded, thinking about the things of the Spirit. If you do this, the Bible says that you will experience life and peace.”
It is easy to allow one’s thoughts to run wild, especially when one is in crisis. However, the Bible commands believers to take every thought captive and make it obey Christ. “This (action) is intentional and it is active,” the pastor added.
He shared that his wife, Cindy Ng, grew up in an abusive environment and constantly struggled with negative and suicidal thoughts in her youth. After she received Jesus, she learned to renew her mind by actively rejecting the negative thoughts and replacing them with the Word of God. She found herself getting stronger each day, raising up from the wilderness of depression. This is still her daily exercise today—to take every thought captive and make it obey God.
2. In one’s words
Moving on to his second point, Pastor Bobby taught that life and death are in the power of the tongue (Prov 18:21)—it can either build people up or tear them down. He then shared that Jesus Himself chose to speak life (Jn 6:63).
“What kind of words do you speak?” the pastor challenged the congregation. “Are they words of hope or despair? Are they words of forgiveness or resentment, words that heal, or words that hurt?”
Hebrews 10:23 (NIV) read: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Here, the word “profess” is the word “homologia” in Greek, meaning “to speak the same way”. In other words, believers should speak the same way as the Bible does about who God is, even if their circumstances appear to be contrary to the promises of God.
Pastor Bobby then shared the story of Job, who lost his whole household and all his possessions in a single day. The Bible recorded that Satan told God that if He were to take away everything Job had, Job would surely curse Him.
“Satan was probably right because in the natural, when we go through terrible trials and painful sufferings, we would instinctively want to complain and murmur,” Pastor Bobby noted. However, Job held on firmly to the hope that he professed (Job 2:9-10, Job 1:21, Job 13:15, and Job 19:25) despite having everything taken away from him (Job 1:11).
“In spite of his terrible circumstances, Job agreed with God and accepted as true that God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good,” the pastor said.
He then shared his own experience of professing God’s promises through a trial. His son Ryan was only 3 when he was diagnosed a rare immune system disorder. The doctors told Pastor Bobby and Cindy that there was no known cause or cure—the only thing they could do was to give him painkillers and wait for the body to recover on its own.
However, in this process, there is a high risk of kidney failure and damage to Ryan’s vital organs. Despite this hopeless situation, Pastor Bobby and Cindy decided to pray and profess the promises of God. In just three days, Ryan suddenly recovered and was discharged from the hospital.
3. In one’s actions
“Deeds you practice can either bring life or death,” said Pastor Bobby as he read from Romans 8:13 (NIV). “They can either give you strength or make you fail.
In John 4:6, John recorded that Jesus was tired and hungry when He sat down by a well. When the disciples went to buy food, Jesus met a Samaritan woman whom He spoke to, and she eventually brought a revival in her entire town. In John 4:31-34 (NIV), when the disciples returned, Jesus told them that His food is to do God’s will.
“Doing the will of the Father brings nourishment, strength, and life,” Pastor Bobby explained. Quoting John 5:19, the pastor added that the more believers do what Jesus did, the more they will be transformed into His likeness. “His life becomes our life, His supernatural strength becomes our strength,” he taught.
To know what Jesus did, Pastor Bobby encouraged the church to read the Bible. He showed the church in Luke 4 alone, it showed that Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit (Lk 4:1), and resisted Satan’s temptation (Lk 4:6-13) using the Scriptures. “Likewise, we must know the word of God—regularly study the Word, meditate on the Word, memorise Scripture and apply the Scriptures,” the pastor taught.
Jesus also preached the gospel (Lk 4:14-41), and practice silence and solitude (Lk 4:42)—these are also the things that a Christian must do. “Whatever Jesus practised, you must make it your practice,” said Pastor Bobby. “When you do so, you imbibe in His life and strength.”
He then shared about an elderly member from the Chinese congregation, Looi Mui Mui who passed away recently. At her funeral, Pastor Bobby learned that Mui Mui had been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer two years ago, but God sustained her life for the next 18 months.
Until she breathed her last, Mui Mui was always full of joy and peace, memorising and reciting Scripture throughout the day even though she was illiterate. Every time she was hospitalised, she would go around the ward sharing the love of Jesus with other patients and praying for them.
“In spite of all her afflictions, Mui Mui refused to let her thoughts, her words or her actions be limited by cancer. Rather, she chose to think God’s thoughts, speak God’s words, and she did what Jesus would do in the hospital ward,” he said.
To conclude his sermon, Pastor Bobby emphasised the importance of aligning with God in thoughts, words and actions. The service ended with a prayer for church members who needed to fix their minds on the things of the Spirit, and for those who needed healing in the body.