As the church crossed into the new year, Pastor Aries Zulkarnain shared some wisdom with the congregation on how to lay a foundation for continued success in the Lord.
Last weekend (31 Dec 2022 – 1 Jan 2023) marked the start of a new year. Aries Zulkarnain, City Harvest Church’s executive pastor dished out some words of wisdom to guide the church in laying the right foundation for 2023.
He first brought the congregation’s attention to Joshua 5, an account of how Joshua led the children of Israel to cross over into the Promised Land. “This scenario is similar to where we are today, at the cusp between 2022 and 2023,” the pastor said. Using these Scriptures, he taught an important lesson on how Christians can prepare themselves for the coming year.
Starting from V1 to 3, Pastor Aries noted that God gave an unconventional command to the children of Israel. He explained that at this point in the story, God had just done a miracle and it was the perfect time for the children of Israel to attack their enemies. However, God instructed Joshua to circumcise all the male soldiers, rendering them unfit for battle.
A Bible commentary written by J Hampton Keathley III reads, “Looking at conditions from our own perspectives of hurry or feeling the pressure to perform and achieve accomplishments, often to please others or our own egos, we are too often in a hurry to get the show on the road. In God’s economy and plan, there are spiritual values, priorities, and principles that are far more vital than victories or our ability to destroy enemies. To be victorious or successful from God’s standpoint, certain things are essential to be established first, before we attack the various fortresses of life in His strength and according to His principles.”
In asking the Israelites to pause in the battle and circumcise their male soldiers, God was essentially getting them to lay the foundation for success. “Foundation is essential for future and sustainable success because God does not just want you to have success in just one area; He wants us to experience success continuously in all areas in our lives,” the pastor shared.
With this, he shared three foundations one has to establish to experience continuous success.
1. God wants us to be established in His identity
Reading from Joshua 5:4-5, Pastor Aries noted that while those who came out of Egypt had been circumcised, they had all died in the wilderness. The new generation of male soldiers was born in the wilderness and had not been circumcised.
Circumcision was the symbol of God’s covenant with the Israelites—that they were now His covenant people and were no longer slaves. In Joshua 5:9, God said to Joshua, “This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.”
“It is important for us to step into the new year rooted and firmly established in our identity in God,” the pastor preached. “You are God’s beloved, His covenant people. That means God loves you despite all your failures in life, all the mistakes and the setbacks. His love for you is not dependent on your performance.”
He went on to explain that as God’s covenant people, each Christian has a purpose in life. “For every pain you go through, there is a purpose. You and I can therefore be courageous and confident to step into the new year despite the uncertainty in this world,” he encouraged the church.
God wants His children to have sustainable victory; and to do that, they have to change their mindset and identify themselves as God’s children. “You cannot live in freedom in the Promised Land if your mind is still enslaved in Egypt. Otherwise, as soon as you encounter problems in the Promised Land, you will look back and think that living as a slave is better than living in God’s freedom,” he explained.
In the new year, most people would go about doing the same activities they did in 2022. However, if they approach the same activity with a different mindset, they will experience the blessing of God. “As we enter the new year, God wants us to be set free from the reproach of 2022—the mistakes you made, the failures you experienced,” the pastor said. “The things that happened don’t define us; they won’t have a grip on our future. As long as you are a child of God, His beloved, and His covenant people, no weapon formed against you shall prosper.”
A Christian rooted in his identity in Christ is a stable person, not easily moved or depressed. Jesus is the perfect example. He was mocked at and eventually punished for a crime He did not commit. In the face of the looming danger, Jesus remained calm and did not feel the need to defend Himself (Lk 23:9). Jesus already knew from the Scriptures that this was in God’s plan all along.
Pastor Aries encouraged the church to find their security in God so that even when they go through challenges, they can remain steadfast, knowing that God can use the bad things that happen in their lives for His glory.
2. God wants us to be in partnership with Him
In Joshua 5:11-12, God stopped His supernatural provision for them when they entered the Promised Land. Pastor Aries explained that this was because God wanted them to understand the principle of success. “Success comes when you’re willing to put in your best to work alongside Him,” he explained.
He encouraged the church, “The important thing is that you cannot be lazy and think that all the blessings in 2023 will drop from the sky. God wants you to apply the principle of sowing and reaping. When you work alongside God, no matter how small those seeds are, God will always give you a great harvest.”
It is natural for one to see few resources in their hands and complain that they do not have enough to be successful. The pastor encouraged the church to sow the little they have because no seed is insignificant in the eyes of God. He will do a miracle and multiply every seed sown in faith.
He shared the testimony of his member Maybeline Tan, whose father was diagnosed with stage four cancer. Even though the situation was bleak, Maybelline trusted God and sowed her mustard seed faith by praying unceasingly. She attended the online Early Morning Prayer Meeting and submitted her prayer request. God did a miracle, and her dad was healed.
Proverbs 13:4 reads, “The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; But the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.” Thus, it is important to be diligent and work hard alongside God.
3. God wants us to encounter Him daily
In Joshua 5:13-15, Joshua met with the Commander of the Army of the Lord outside Jericho. He asked the Man if he was for him or against him; and the Man replied, “Neither.”
Pastor Aries remarked that this is the same thing many would say to the Lord—they would pray for God to be on their side and destroy those who are on the other side. “However, the question should not be ‘Is God for me or against me?’ The question should be, ‘Am I on God’s side?’” the pastor offered.
Before one can conquer any territory, one must first be conquered by the Lord. One of the criteria for success is to be willing to surrender oneself completely to God and trust Him fully. “You must be willing to surrender your life completely to Him, no questions asked. If that is what the Lord is asking you to do, you must be willing to do it even though you do not know how or why,” he preached.
In closing, Pastor Aries highlighted the fact that God’s method of defeating Jericho is unconventional, yet it showed that the way to victory is always according to God’s ways.
“Every victory in our life is always given to us and not earned by us,” the pastor taught. “We walk alongside God because it pleases Him. Faith without works is dead. Yet victory or not, it all depends on God. You need to completely surrender to God and fully trust in Him for eventual victory.”
He ended the service by leading the church in worship, giving glory to God for all that has happened in 2022—both the good and the bad.