City Harvest Church saw overflowing crowds at its Candlelight Service last weekend. Pastor Kong Hee delivered a word in season for many.
It has been a year since City Harvest Church moved back into its main hall for physical services, and two years since it first opened its doors again after the pandemic lockdown. The halls were packed to the brim last weekend (17-18 Dec) as CHC held its traditional Candlelight Service. All over social media, churchgoers posted heart-warming photos of families and friends posing with their glowing candles, basking in the familiarity of pre-Covid days.
The congregation was also treated to a song item by CityWorship. The singers gathered around a homely set on stage and sang a rendition of “The Heart of Christmas” against a festive graphic display on the large LED screen. The hall was filled with tangible warmth and joy.
THE TRUTH ABOUT DARK TIMES
Christmas is celebrated all around the world at the end of December every year. Kong Hee, the church’s senior pastor noted that this period is when the longest and darkest nights of the year occur.
“God uses Christmas to remind us that when we go through dark times, He is always near us, working for our good,” he said, as he opened his message.
He told the congregation how his overseas friends love Singapore’s famous Christmas light-up along Orchard Road. He noted that they were not afraid of the dark; instead, they looked forward to nighttime, when they could enjoy the lights and soak in the Christmas atmosphere.
“That is the good news of Christmas—that in your darkest darkness, God is always there with you,” he affirmed.
Everyone goes through dark seasons in their lives. When bad things happen, it is easy to get discouraged and give up on life. Pastor Kong encouraged the church that God “dwells in the thick darkness with you” (1 Ki 8:12) and he assured them that when they invite God into their bad situation, they will eventually walk out of that darkness.
He shared the testimony of Ona Neo, who was just six months old when she was diagnosed with eye cancer. The doctors told her parents that her eyes were beyond hope. They suggested chemotherapy to prevent the cancer from spreading. At that time, the city was under lockdown because of the pandemic, and the pastors could only gather on Zoom to prayer for Baby Ona and her parents.
“When Pastor Eileen prayed, the Holy Spirit came into the ICU, and God did a mighty miracle,” said Pastor Kong. “All the cancer in her eyes was completely destroyed.” Pastor Eileen Toh oversees CHC’s intercessory ministry.
Ona turned 3 in October this year, healthy and healed by the power of God.
“When God comes in, everything changes,” declared Pastor Kong. “He will give you a supernatural strength that you cannot explain, and that will help you to go through the darkness. He will first change things inside you, then in the people and things around you.”
The fact that God dwells with His people indicates that He may not always take them out of the darkness immediately. However, if Christians choose to focus on escaping the darkness, they may become impatient, discouraged and disappointed. Pastor Kong encouraged the church to trust that God always has better things in store for them.
The reason why God does not bring His people out of darkness immediately is that He wants to use it to transform them for their good. “It will make you humbler, and bring you higher into your destiny,” the pastor explained.
John 12:24 teaches that every life is like a seed that has the potential to grow into a tree that provides shade and bears fruit. However, a seed cannot germinate in light. “It will never become what it was created to be,” Pastor Kong taught. “You must plant the seed in the soil, in a dark place, so that what is inside can come alive.”
Similarly, every person is a seed with great potential inside them and this potential can only come alive in a dark place. Pastor Kong added, “Too much of a good thing can hinder growth, too much light can stunt the germination process.” A trouble-free and comfortable life may prevent one from growing.
This “germination process” in a dark and lonely place may be uncomfortable and humbling, but that seed contains the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit, and something beautiful will come forth in that process.
TREASURES OF DARKNESS
Isaiah 45:3 reads, “I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.”
“There are treasures that God wants to give you, but they are only found in dark places,” Pastor Kong preached.
While God never sends hardship to His people, He uses every opportunity to change them and strengthen them. The true riches mentioned in the verse are not possession, power and prestige. “True riches are the eternal things of God, like heavenly joy, inner peace, the anointing and presence of His Spirit. These are things money cannot buy,” he continued.
An unforgiving person becomes bitter and can never move on in life, and one can only learn to forgive when they are offended. In a place of injustice and hurt, God gives them the strength to learn forbearance. In times of delay, one learns patience. The more they persevere, the stronger their spiritual muscles become.
In dark places, a believer tends to pray more and draw closer to God. He re-evaluates his lives and starts to appreciate his family more; he realise who his real friends are. “One of the greatest treasures in life is having loyal friends,” the pastor added.
When one goes through dark times often enough, they find themselves complaining less about little things. They do not get offended or shocked easily, “because they have developed a backbone of steel,” the pastor taught.
He shared his testimony of how God came through for him when he discovered a tumour in the back of his throat. His doctor told him the tumour could be cancerous and had to be removed. To his own surprise, Pastor Kong was not anxious or worried as he imagined he would be. He knew that God is in control. The tumour turned out to be benign.
In conclusion, Pastor Kong reiterated that constantly good times cannot bring out the best in a person. It takes hardship and suffering for a person to grow in the fruits of the Spirit and to develop that “backbone of steel”. In those moments, when one learns to lean upon God, one develops an unshakable confidence in Jesus.
The service ended with the traditional lighting of candles. As Pastor Kong lit the first candle and passed the flame from one to another, “O Holy Night” was sung. The familiarity of the light saturating the hall and people turning to their friends and families for photographs served as a reminder that dark times will surely pass, and God can be counted on to bring His light into our lives.