On the first weekend of December, Pastor Bobby Chaw reminded the church that Jesus is coming again, and encouraged them to be steadfast in their faith during times of darkness and trouble.
As he opened his sermon on the 2 and 3 December, Bobby Chaw, the executive pastor of City Harvest Church, told the congregation that the season leading up to Christmas is known as Advent. He explained that “advent”—which means “coming” in Latin—is a time of hope filled with eager expectation and anticipation of the arrival of Jesus.
Two thousand years ago, when Jesus first came, people were living in the land of the shadow of death—it was a period of darkness and depression. It is akin to the world today—people are plagued by problems and their personal lives are filled with troubles.
The pastor encouraged the members that no matter how dark their situation may be—whether they are suffering from sudden sickness, financial failure or broken relationships—the good news is that they are in the season of Advent and Jesus is coming to them.
John 14 records Jesus’s farewell message to the disciples as they entered Jerusalem for the last time. Jesus had explained the events that would follow, which was His death as well as their disillusionment, deep shame and fear to come after that. Sensing their distress after his words, Jesus comforted the disciples, telling them “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me.” (John 14:1)
“Jesus’s words of encouragement that night for the disciples of the past is also for us today,” Pastor Bobby declared to the church. Just as the disciples did, Christians today also grapple with anxiety, self-doubt and guilt. But Jesus wants them to trust in God.
LET NOT YOUR HEART BE TROUBLED
The word “troubled” in John 14:1, is the Greek word tarassō, said Pastor Bobby.The Bible recorded three occasions where Jesus, Himself experienced this kind of trouble and unrest.
The first time was at Lazarus’s tomb when Jesus saw the grief of his sisters Martha and Mary. Jesus felt the pain of losing a loved one so much that He groaned in the spirit (John 11:33).
The second time Jesus experienced tarassō was when He was contemplating the suffering of the cross. It was not easy to choose love, forgiveness and obedience in the face of rejection, and Jesus understood because He faced the same intense pain. The third time was when Jesus disclosed that His disciples would betray Him and he was troubled in the spirit, John 13: 21 records.
“Choosing to love, to forgive and to obey God in the face of adversity, rejection, abuse and injustice is not easy. Jesus knows how it feels. The feeling of anguish, shock and horror must have overwhelmed Jesus,” Pastor Bobby reflected. “However, on each occasion, Jesus’ unwavering confidence in God’s loving presence helped and empowered Him to overcome the crisis.”
He urged the congregation to remain steadfast in their faith and focus their eyes on God just like Jesus did.
Pastor Bobby told the story of Lilias Trotter, a gifted artist and writer from England during the Victorian era. She felt a calling from God to minister to the unreached people in Algeria in 1888. It was not an easy task as she faced many challenges, ranging from her heart problems to connecting with the local community that was resistant to her.
Despite the dangers and hardships, Lilias Trotter spent 40 years among the unreached people group, established 30 full-time ministers and became a celebrated heroine among British missionaries. Trotter wrote: “Believe in the darkness what you have seen in the light. Turn full your soul’s vision to Jesus and look at Him, and a strange dimness will come over all that is apart from Him.”
Pastor Bobby encouraged the church to keep their eyes on Jesus and to remain steadfast and faithful whether in good times or bad times. In John 14, Jesus repeatedly assured the disciples that He would come for them (V3, 18).
The pastor went on to share three keys to keeping faith and hope in the midst of darkness.
1. Jesus’s Resurrection
Quoting John 14:18, Pastor Bobby asserted that by his death, Jesus defeated the devil and removed God’s wrath that was against mankind because of their sins. By His resurrection, the church is reconciled with God.
Reading John 14:20, the pastor explained that as Christians focus their life on Jesus, they will have complete union with God and will be transformed by the power of the spirit into His image. As a result of Christ’s resurrection, death holds no terror for the believer. When believers take their last breath on earth, they will instantly be in the presence of the Lord.
As the pastor in charge of the Chinese congregation, Pastor Bobby shared that many of his members there are in their 70s and 80s. Pastor Bobby often encourages them with these words: “We have a few years on Earth together, but we are to be full of hope!” Death holds no terror for them, he declared.
Moreover, Christ’s resurrection empowers members to serve God in the present moment. In Phil 3:10, Apostle Paul wrote, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection.” The power that conquered death is now available to Christians when they reach out to God.
Pastor Bobby then shared that while recently preaching at Faith Harvest Church in Klang, Malaysia, he visited one of his members Alyssa Chia and her parents. During that visit, he learnt that Alyssa’s mother, who was 80 years old, was a cell group leader and actively taught Bible study weekly. Recently, she had a severe fall and the doctor advised that she needed surgery which might be risky because of her old age.
Instead of focusing on her trouble, Alyssa’s mother chose to focus on Jesus; she prayed fervently day and night for God to heal her. Miraculously, her pain diminished within days and at the second evaluation, her doctor announced that her fracture was only a hairline crack which made surgery unnecessary. Crisis adverted, Alyssa’s mother began testifying at the hospital to the doctors and nurses in English although she was Chinese-speaking. Because of her faith and testament, Alyssa’s father who was a non-believer also came to accept Jesus as his Lord and Saviour.
“His grace is sufficient, and His power is made perfect in our weakness,” Pastor Bobby announced in encouragement to the church.
2. The Holy Spirit
John 14:16 reads, “And I will pray to the Father, and he will give you another helper, that he may abide with you forever. The spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”
“Jesus said when you are troubled, you are not alone, the Holy Spirit is alongside you,” Pastor Bobby said. “His presence is the key to the inner peace and power against a hostile world.”
Romans 8:26 wrote that the Holy Spirit helps believers in their weaknesses and intercedes for them when they do not know how to pray. To illustrate this point, Pastor Bobby shared the testimony of a woman who struggled with grief over the end of a long relationship. After the relationship ended, she began spiralling into hopelessness. She soon found herself contemplating suicide. Just when she was about to harm herself, an Instagram notification sounded on her phone: it was a post by Pastor Bobby’s wife, Cindy, sharing words she had read in a book. The words on the post spoke to the woman deeply and she reached out to Cindy for help.
Through Cindy’s counselling, prayers and support, this woman eventually walked out of her grief and began journaling her thoughts to God. On days when grief threatened to overwhelm her and she was unable to write, she would remember Romans 8:26 and pray in tongues. That would bring her peace. On nights that she suffered from insomnia, she would also pray in tongues until she fell asleep. Day by day, she began to experience healing. She recovered well and eventually started serving in a church ministry again.
“Church, do not be troubled! Because the Holy spirit is here alongside you. He is your Protector, your teacher, your defender. Turn your eyes on Him,” the pastor urged the church.
3. Jesus’s Second Coming
At Jesus’ Second Coming, all things on earth and heaven will be restored fully in Christ. There will be no more sorrow and pain caused by sin and pride.
In this life, many believers experience an internal tug of war—they want to do the will of God but their flesh is weak. They get discouraged and disillusioned when they fail to do God’s will and act in love. They are living in a broken-down world among imperfect people and they experience conflicts and suffering from time to time. Yet amidst such dark shadows, Jesus says that He will come again and He will make all things new.
Pastor Bobby drew an example from Apostle John. In Revelation 22, he heard Jesus say to him three times: “I am coming quickly”. That brought great comfort to John who was at the time an 80-year-old exile, living in prison on the island of Patmos, suffering extreme pain. When John heard Jesus’s reassurance of His Second Coming, it gave him faith and hope.
The pastor then reminded the church that sorrow is temporary and suffering and pain will not last forever. Therefore, they needed to focus on Jesus instead of their pain and suffering.
In conclusion, the pastor urged the church to trust Jesus for deliverance, remembering His resurrection, the Holy Spirit and His Second Coming. They must affix their gaze upon God knowing that one day, their troubles will melt away.
Pastor Bobby shared openly about the grief he feels from the loss of his best friend, Pastor Tan Kim Hock who passed away recently. While enveloped in pain, Pastor Bobby thought about the “cloud of witnesses” that is mentioned in Heb 12:1. The pastor had always thought of this cloud of witnesses as a group of strange faces. But one morning, in his imagination, he saw Pastor Kim Hock’s face among those gathered, cheering him on and telling him that Jesus is coming.
The pastor encouraged those going through tough times to focus on Jesus and to find restoration in Him, and closed the service with a time of prayer for healing.