Two powerful sermons were preached last weekend at the third multiple-service weekend of this season, both unveiling the purpose of difficulties in a Christian’s life.
Last weekend (29-30 July) at City Harvest Church marked the third in a series of multiple-service weekends. The two preachers—Pastor Wu Yuzhuang and Pastor Lin Junxian—each preached about how going through inevitable pain in life is not in vain, but serves as an opportunity for God to do something great in a believer’s life.
PASTOR WU YUZHUANG: WALKING THROUGH THE VALLEY WITH THE SHEPHERD
The Kidron Valley, also known as the Valley of the Shadow of Death, is situated at the east of Jerusalem, in between Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives. It is a place where the ancient poor buried their dead.
Pastor Wu Yuzhuang began his sermon by stating that life is a mixture of pleasure and pain, success and failure, and victory and defeat.
“If you have never been through rainy days and thunderstorms, then you will be dried up and have no depth. It takes good and bad days to make a mature person,” he continued, before highlighting four important facts about valleys.
Firstly, valleys are inevitable. Quoting John 16:33, Pastor Zhuang told the church that regardless of a person’s background, they are bound to face valleys in life. In fact, a mountaintop experience is often followed by a valley-low experience.
Secondly, valleys are unpredictable. “Disaster followed disaster, the whole land lies in ruins in an instant, my tents are destroyed, my shelter in a moment” Jeremiah 4:20 reads. Valleys cannot be planned or scheduled, and sometimes good days can turn into bad days.
Thirdly, valleys are temporary. There is an expiration date on every valley and one will eventually walk out of it. The valley is not a dead end but a tunnel: it is dark and scary at the beginning, but bright when one reaches the end. “Perseverance always outlasts persecution, so hang on there!” Pastor Zhuang encouraged the church.
Finally, valleys are purposeful. God has a reason for each valley. Reading 1 Peter 1:6-7, Pastor Zhuang taught that while trials come in many forms and bring about grief, God uses them to produce faith in the believer’s life.
Faith is not built on the mountaintop experiences but in the valley lows, the difficult situations in life. Just like how muscles are built in the gym by lifting weights, “muscles” of faith are developed in the valleys.
To become more like Jesus, believers have to follow Jesus into the valleys He went through. He went through times of loneliness, was tempted to be frustrated, was unfairly treated—believers will go through these same things. Pastor Zhuang preached that God wants to use these valleys to transform His people by building their faith and moulding their character.
Preaching out of Psalm 23:4-5, Pastor Zhuang shared three points on the things one can do in the dark valleys of life.
1. Refuse to be afraid
The psalmist David wrote “I will fear no evil”. In David’s life, he went through different valleys, but one of the most significant ones was when he came face-to-face with Goliath in the valley of Elah. Goliath was huge and intimidating, coming down to the mountains to threaten the Israelite army (1 Sam 17:2).
“There is a Goliath in every valley, and its aim is to keep you in the valley, ensuring that you stay behind your lines,” Pastor Zhuang preached. The Israelite army was terrified of Goliath, unprepared for the fight and only ready for flight. Despite hearing the threats of Goliath, fire and passion stirred up in David’s heart (1 Sam 17:26).
The army and David were in the same valley, looking at a common enemy. The Israelite army was terrified and wanted to retreat, while David was upset and faced Goliath with confidence. They saw the same thing but had a different perspective and hence drew a different conclusion (1 Sam 17:45-46).
David knew that he had a covenant with God, and his outlook was based on who He is and how capable He is. This prompted Pastor Zhuang to ask the church, “Who is fighting for you and who is battling with you?” God has provided a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Tim 1:7) so that no weapon formed shall prosper (Isa 54:17).
2. Refuse to be discouraged
David used the words “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” which means he was making steps calmly and deliberately through the valley, without any fear.
Pastor Zhuang explained that discouragement is a decision. When one allows negative thoughts to enter their mind, they can slip into discouragement or even depression.
When one is looking at the shadow, they focus on the darkness and forget that it takes light to cast a shadow. The good news is that believers can choose to focus on the light that is Jesus, and not the shadow.
The late evangelist Corrie Ten Boom said, “If you look at the world, you will be distressed, if you look within, you will be depressed, but when you look at Jesus, you will be at rest.”
3. Seek God’s presence
David acknowledged that he was not afraid because “You are with me”. He knew that God was with him every moment in the valley. God never promises His children that they will never walk through a valley but He promises them that they will not do it alone (Isa 43:2). Pastor Zhuang urged the church not to fear, for God is omnipresent—He is walking with them through their valley.
The pastor went on to note that David changed from using a third-person pronoun to a second-person pronoun in that same verse. “He wasn’t talking about God anymore, he was talking to God directly,” the pastor said, adding that it is in the valleys of life where one develops an intimate relationship with God.
David did not deny the existence of evil but acknowledged the presence of the Shepherd that provided him with the courage to walk through the valley.
“If you are not willing to go through the valley, you will not receive the anointing, the blessings of life that are on the other side,” Pastor Zhuang explained. He encouraged the church to look for Jesus’s footprint when they are going through a tough season, holding onto Him firmly in the valley and in time, they will receive His blessings when they come out of the valley.
Pastor Zhuang concluded the service by emphasising that each valley is a gateway of elevation (Hosea 2:15), and that although it will be greater with bigger giants in the future, it shall be a point of breakthrough for the congregation.
PASTOR LIN JUNXIAN: HOW TO BEHAVE IN THE POTTER’S HANDS
Pottery is one of the oldest crafts on earth. God used it as an analogy to speak to the prophet Jeremiah.
Pastor Lin Junxian started his sermon by painting a picture of the climate Jeremiah lived in. His predecessor, Isaiah had been sawn into two by King Manasseh—it was not a good time to be a prophet. However, God called him (Jer 1:5) and he was obedient to His call. He witnessed God’s people turning away from Him and falling into the hands of their enemies.
“But in the midst of pain and suffering, he offers God’s promise of deliverance and hope if they turn back to Him,” Pastor Junxian noted.
In Jeremiah 18, God used an image of pottery to show the prophet His relationship with Israel. Explaining the process of how the potter moulds the clay, the pastor highlighted three things in the story. First, God is the Potter who shapes and mould His people into the vessel He desires. Secondly, the believers are the clay and there is hope for them if they are willing to allow God to shape them for His glory. Finally, there is the wheel where the Potter works the clay.
He encouraged the church that despite the mistakes they make in life, God has a firm grip on their lives, and He can shape them to walk in His character and purpose.
Johnny Chin is an ex-drug addict. Despite growing up in a Christian family, Johnny got into bad company and became addicted to drugs. Even at his mother’s deathbed, he was asking her for money to support his drug use.
When she passed away, Johnny realised that he was at the end of himself and needed God. His life was transformed when he finally saw that he could not be the potter of his own soul and surrendered his life to God. God restored his life and today, he is free of drugs and happily married. He holds a diploma in counselling psychology and spends his time mentoring youths at risk.
Pastor Junxian went on to share three things about God that one can see from the relationship between the Potter and His clay.
1. God is constantly working in us
In Jeremiah 18:6, God reminds the prophet that He is the Potter and is still in charge. Without the potter, the clay is unattractive and insignificant. To those who feel the same way about their lives, the pastor encouraged them to get to where the Potter is and allow Him to do His work in them.
He urged the church to remain in the house of God where the Potter is working, to encounter God, cultivate purpose, experience family and make a difference to others.
2. God is constantly working for our good
God was silent when Jesus was hanging on the cross, bearing the world’s sins. Yet, His silence does not mean that God stopped working. He was watching closely because He loves Jesus deeply. However, He knew that Jesus had to be the sacrificial Lamb and that the process must take place for salvation to come to mankind.
God was working—He raised Jesus from the dead on the third day and now, all who call upon the name of Jesus will be saved. The goodness of God came through all the pain and suffering.
Similarly, God is working in the believer’s life even when He is silent. Many times, believers become discouraged and frustrated when things go wrong in life. The pastor encouraged them with Jeremiah 29:11, where God told the Israelites that He is still in charge and would do as He promised.
He reminded the church that no potter sets out to destroy His clay. Even through difficult seasons, they must trust that God is still working for their good (Rom 8:28).
3. God is constantly working to purify us
The potter sometimes finds sand or fine stones while he is working with the clay. He would remove the impurities before starting the shaping process all over again. This is to prevent the clay from deforming or even collapsing later because of the impurities which are points of weakness.
Reading Job 7:17-18, Pastor Junxian noted that God tests His people. Yet He does so not to fail them, but to move them up to the next level. Similarly, God wants to remove hidden character flaws and secret sins in His people to purify them (Jn 23:10).
In the process of refining gold, impurities and other elements are removed. The last element to be separated is silver. “Many times, we settle for the silver in our lives, instead of allowing God to refine us into pure gold,” the pastor preached. He encouraged the church not to give up when things get tough because God has set His heart on them.
Directing the church’s focus to the wheel, Pastor Junxian explained that the wheel is where transformation takes place. It is the daily repentance in a Christian’s life, where the Holy Spirit works.
To repent means to return to God’s perspective and to confess means to say the same thing that God is saying. The pastor taught that when believers can see how God looks at their lives and agree with Him, God’s power will begin to work in their lives.
In closing, Pastor Junxian encouraged the church to trust that God would do a perfect work in their lives if they stay on the Potter’s wheel until Christ is formed in them.