In his Christmas message, Pastor Kong Hee explained why God allows His children to go through dark seasons. He encouraged the church that Jesus promised to be with them every step of the way.
The annual Candlelight Service in City Harvest Church, held from 22 to 24 Dec this year, is arguably the most magical time of the year for the church. Families and friends gather as the flame is passed down from the pastors, cascading to light each member’s candle. Candle by candle, the dark hall is lit up, signifying how Jesus came to light up the darkness in the world, 2000 years ago.
Reading from Matthew 4:16, senior pastor Kong Hee noted that the world was a very dark place when Jesus when born. For nearly 400 years, the people lived under the oppression of the Romans, with no prophet of God to bring them messages of hope and deliverance.
December has the longest and darkest nights of the year. “God uses Christmas every year to remind you and me that when we go through dark times, He is always very near to us,” the pastor preached. “That’s the reason why we celebrate Jesus with a Candlelight Service.”
THE LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS
“God the Father is the Father of Light. God the Son is the Light of the world. God the Holy Spirit is the One who brings forth the light,” Pastor Kong reminded the church. “So the message of Christmas is this: ‘Don’t be afraid, I [God] will be the light in the darkness.’”
Every person goes through dark seasons in his life. In those moments, one is often tempted to give up on his visions and dreams. However, the Bible reminds Christians that God is near them in dark times.
In 1 Kings 8:12, King Solomon wrote that God dwells in the thick darkness. Pastor Kong reminded the church that God wants them to invite Him into their difficulties so that He can work for them and in them until they walk out of the darkness victoriously.
The pastor went on to share the testimony of Alison Wee, a member of CHC. The young mother of four was the first runner-up of the Mrs Singapore Chinatown 2022 pageant. Just two weeks before the finals of the beauty pageant, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and was given just three to six months to live.
Alison was invited to CHC’s Candlelight Service by a fellow pageant contestant. At the service, she gave her heart to Jesus, and joined a cell group that became her community of faith. She also joined the Cancer Care Support group, an initiative under the Church Without Walls programme, where she was supported and encouraged by the stories of other cancer survivors.
In January, Alison did a second PET scan following her treatments. The report showed that all the tumours were gone, and her liver, which was covered with countless lesions a few months ago, was clear. Her latest scans taken just last week showed that she is cancer-free and her liver is functioning normally. She was water-baptised this weekend.
Pastor Kong proclaimed, “God is always with you in dark times, and He will give you a supernatural strength that you cannot explain—a grace, power and supernatural abilities that will help you to outlast your problems.”
The fact that God dwells with His people in dark times also means that He does not bring them out of their situation immediately. He urged the congregation not to be disappointed when their prayers are not answered immediately, and to trust in the Lord because He always has something better in store for them.
Reading Isaiah 43:2, Pastor Kong highlighted that God promises He would be with His people in the fire, not that they would never experience fire. “There will be hardships and adversities that we don’t understand,” he said. “God’s promise to His children, ‘I will be with you in the fire, I will be with you in the flood. I will dwell with you in the thick darkness.’”
Why does God not take His children out of the dark seasons immediately? Pastor Kong taught that God wants to use the dark seasons to train a person up, to transform them so that they can fulfil a greater purpose for their lives. God will first change things in them, then in the people and situations around them.
In John 12:24, Jesus likens human life to a seed which has the potential to grow into a big tree that bears fruit. Yet, the potential of the seed can not be released if it remains on the shelf. The seed must first be planted in the soil, in a dark place before the potential on the inside can come to life. Similarly, there are great purpose and destiny hidden within each person that will only come to life in a dark place. Too much light will stunt its growth.
Pastor Kong acknowledged that no one likes to be in a dark place. But He reminded the church that the seed has the resurrection life of the Holy Spirit on the inside. “Over time, something beautiful will blossom,” he said.
TREASURES OF DARKNESS
Isaiah 45:3 reads, “I will give you the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the Lord, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel.”
Pastor Kong noted that there are treasures that God wants to give His children but they can only be found in dark places. While He is not the cause of hardships, God allows them to happen to His children so that they can grow to become more like Jesus.
“Jesus talks about the true riches of heaven—it’s not possession, power and prestige,” the pastor taught. “The genuine wealth is the things that last forever, like the love of God, His heavenly joy, inner peace, His presence and power—all these things are treasures of darkness.”
Only when a person is hurt and offended can they learn to forgive. And the more forgiving a person is, the more loving they are. Only when one is going through a delay can one learn patience and perseverance.
“Your affliction is your spiritual gym to build up your fitness and capacity in the things of God,” the pastor elaborated. “In dark places, you will pray more, you will draw closer to God. You learn to be still and quiet, to listen to His voice and you will press in deeper and deeper into His love, His purity, His power. In the dark places, you will reevaluate your priorities. You begin to realise what’s important.”
There are many things that God wants to do in His people, and they can only happen in the fire of affliction. Once they have gone through hardships, they will no longer be offended by little things.
Pastor Kong illustrated this with the story of CHC member Abbey Samuel. Abbey founded an IT firm that went through many challenges the last seven years. The stress began to take a toll on his mental well-being.
This year, the company finally saw a positive cash flow. However, when Abbey approached the market to raise funds, he faced rejection after rejection. Six months ago, he finally received a breakthrough and was introduced to an interested investor. Then suddenly, his company went through another tough season and came close to shutting down.
That weekend, CHC held a special offering weekend and Abbey felt led to give to God even though his company was threatened with closure. Four weeks later, the investment came through and Abbey’s company was able to continue operations.
After the hardship he went through, Abbey developed a backbone of steel, noted Pastor Kong. He has grown more humble and closer to God. He now appreciates his wife, Rebecca, more.
The pastor added that while good times are comfortable, they will never bring out the best in people. To develop Christlikeness, one must go through dark seasons.
For Pastor Kong, his faith stretched and increased in the past 13 years as he went going through a tough season. He overcame his anger problem and developed an unshakable confidence in God—all this drew him closer to God.
He encouraged those who are going through tough times: “No matter what dark places you’re in tonight, the light of Jesus will shine through.”
Before the service came to a close, Pastor Kong gave an altar call for those who wanted to receive Jesus into their hearts. Hundreds of people received Christ that weekend.
This year, the Christmas weekend also saw 290 church members—young and old—being water-baptised. It was a time of great joy for many families.