Hi readers! After a 2-week break over Chinese New Year – eating all the food there is to offer and spending all the time we had with our families, all of us are finally back in church! Now it might have been the re-opening weekend for our church, but it is also only our second weekend here in our New Home! If you do not understand what I’m talking about or have not been keeping up with the happenings of Heart of God Church, check out this previous post of mine. If you are on the same page as me (or have just returned from reading that post), let’s get into what I’m going to be talking about today.
What I’m going to be writing about today is basically the message preached by Pastor How over this re-opening weekend. After an emotional testimony was shared by one of the leaders in our church, Pastor How encourages her and takes the stage – the stage some of us now call “Cross Stage 2.0”. Haha, you got to come check it out for yourself. But anyway, he begins his message with the word “humility”. It was a weekend when many people are going to come to God, be it for the first or not. That didn’t matter. What mattered was they did. However for them to do that, they got to first be humble.
Because it is not our strength that will bring us to God, but our humility. And in that case, humility becomes our strength. Many people would need just that to believe in God and His power that can change their lives. But I know for sure that there are some who needs more. Maybe a little evidence? Maybe a personal encounter? Well to me, Imaginarium isn’t just a place, it’s a story. In fact, it’s God’s story. I know I’ve said this before, but the very existence of our New Home is an evidence of God’s faithfulness and a memorial that glorifies Him.
As I stepped into this place for the first few times, I couldn’t help but be reminded again and again of the journey that God has brought us through. If not for Him, we will really not be who we are today. So if anyone asks me, “How do you know God is real?” I will bring them to this place, show them around and tell them, “Because I see Him here – at every corner, in every person, in every life.”
So really, if you have never stepped into our church before, come and see it for yourself. Let it be an inspiration for you; we had such humble beginnings. If God could do for us what He did all these years, then He can do anything for anyone who has faith – including you. Pastor How used the scripture in Mark 9:17-27 (NLT) to illustrate this.
“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” – Mark 9:23 (NLT)
In these verses, we find a man coming to Jesus for help because an evil spirit has possessed his son. To cut the long story short, Jesus successfully cast it out. The boy also regained consciousness and recovered. But within this story lies a few interesting things that we can learn from. Firstly, note what the desperate father says to Jesus in verse 24.
The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” – Mark 9:24 (NLT)
Sounds paradoxical, doesn’t it? You must be wondering whether this father believes or not. But the thing is, sometimes we do this ourselves too. Sometimes, we find ourselves having a conflict between our mind and our heart, just like the father! Maybe you’re a Christian, maybe you’re not. But you can definitely relate to being in a situation whereby your heart wants to believe in something, be it for a miracle or a breakthrough, while at the same time your mind is full of doubts about it. Well you know what? Christianity is that kind of faith; the kind where at times, our hearts and minds go into a conflict, where we experience a little of what the man in verse 24 had – unbelief.
What is unbelief? It is a lack of faith or trust, most commonly appearing in the form of doubts. For example, you may have heard that Jesus can heal, that He wants to have a relationship with you, that He can change your life for the better. But because you’ve never personally experienced those things before, you find it hard to believe in them. And as a result, you may not believe in Jesus too. Fortunately, that is normal. Let me repeat myself. It is totally normal to oscillate between faith and doubt, even as Christians! One thing you must know is that our God is doubt-tolerant. He will not release His wrath & curses upon you just because you have some doubts. It’s not Him.
That is why sometimes Christianity is called the Fight of Faith! We constantly fight doubts in our own mind. Even the Bible contains multiple examples of this fight. You see, the Bible is not propaganda. It doesn’t exaggerate the good and cover up the bad; it tells us both and everything in between. In it we see the victories & the defeats, the good men & the fallen men. In the same way, our Christianity is not a “bed of roses”. We find ourselves at the mountaintops where believing is easy, and we also find ourselves in the valleys where having faith is difficult.
If you have your Bible with you, just look at the Book of Psalms. It is an emotional and spiritual journey of a man, consisting of both the nice and not-so-nice parts. Flip to chapter 23 and you’ll see the faith, the joy and the praises. Flip one chapter back to 22 and you’ll see the struggles, the frustrations, the pain. Just a chapter apart, and the contrast so huge. So once again I must say, it’s normal. Some days we’re at chapter 22, some days we’re at 23. For the man in Mark 9:24, he was swinging between these two. What’s most important was that he was honest with God about his feelings. We should do the same.
But while it’s okay to have a little unbelief in us, disbelief is a realm we should never step into. Disbelief is when a person decides NOT to believe. It is very different from unbelief, because regardless of evidences, people of disbelief have already made up their minds. They don’t listen to explanations, they only think about arguments. The Bible describes this as a very dangerous hardening of the heart.
“That is why the Holy Spirit says, “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts…” – Hebrews 3:7-8 (NLT)
Never harden your heart, reader. Big problems arise for those who do so because they have already closed & locked up the doors to their minds and their hearts. Even if good things are presented to them, they see it as bad. When testimonies and stories of changed lives are shared, they see it as a scam. When churches are mentioned, they immediately think they’re all bad. Indeed, a quote from Stuart Chase could not be more true.
“For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.” – Stuart Chase
What is faith? It is believing in something even though there may not be a physical proof of it yet. That’s called faith! If we need proof to believe in Jesus Christ, then it’s no longer faith anymore. I can tell you, I have never seen Jesus physically before. I’ve never heard His audible voice. Haha but you know what? My life has been changed by Him since I believed in Him. I have had many of my prayers answered. I have felt His love and His presence. And I’m not alone. Sometimes, you just got to believe first before you see.
If you harden your heart, you will go from unbelief to disbelief. Just think of two of Jesus’ disciples for a minute. Peter had unbelief and so did Judas, but both of them had witnessed the works & miracles of Jesus in the flesh. One of them repented and became one of the greatest apostles ever. The other one betrayed Jesus and committed suicide. You know which of them moved into disbelief. Unbelief is fine. Disbelief is not. Unbelief says that “I want to believe but I can’t!” Disbelief says that “I simply do not want to believe.” They are very different.
“If we deny him, he will deny us. If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful…” – 2 Timothy 2:12-13 (NLT)
Today as you are reading this, you might be a believer, a non-believer, or an ex-believer. But one thing you must know is that there is a difference between denying God, and losing faith. Denying Jesus is a very serious thing, but I don’t think any of you reading this would deny Jesus in disbelief and hate Him. Even if today, you’re no longer going to church or hanging out with your friends whom you met in church, I’m sure that deep down in your heart, you still believe in Jesus. You just simply went through a season when you were unfaithful. But just like the verse above says, even if we are faithless, God remains faithful. It’s just who He is.
So come back to Jesus. He loves us regardless of all the sins we might have committed. Look at some of the great men in the Bible, they all had their past! Abraham slept with his maid, but now we call him the father of faith. Moses had anger issues, so much so that he killed a man; but we now know him as the one who parted the red sea. Noah was a drunkard, but we know of him as the one who built the ark. Told you the Bible wasn’t propaganda, right? David committed adultery and many more atrocities that broke at least 4 of the 10 commandments. Now we call him the man after God’s own heart. Peter denied being affiliated with Jesus, but as previously mentioned, moved on to becoming one of the greatest apostles ever. What does that mean?
It means that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. And it is only possible because of the love & the power of God that we can have in our lives when we believe in Him. We are all not perfect. But with the power of the blood of Jesus Christ in our lives, we can be redeemed and have a future, just like the saints in the Bible. All we got to do is to be humble, put away all the pride that we have and come back to Jesus.
Let me end this post with one last analogy by Pastor How. If you’re driving towards a certain destination today and you find yourself making a wrong turn somewhere, what would you do? Would you get all frustrated and beat yourself up against the steering wheel for making such a mistake? Would you stop the car, get out and give up driving? Or would you keep on driving in the wrong direction? No. You make a U-turn. It might cause a little bit of delay, but at least you turn around and rectify that wrong turn. In the same way, most of us will not have a perfect path to our spiritual destination in God. What matters is when we make a “wrong turn”, we repent and turn around to go back on track. If you need to, make that U-turn today.
p.s. Pastor Tan Seow How & Pastor Cecilia Chan, more affectionately known as Pastor How & Pastor Lia are the senior pastors of Heart of God Church – my spiritual home.