Saturday, October 8, 2011

Faith in Challenging Times

This was the sermon I preached in August. It's a summary by our church writing team. We are preaching through a series on Faith in Challenging Times because of what the church is going through right now. To those not in the know, just type this on google: "dumc"
Faith in Challenging Times Series II
Esther’s Response (Esther 4:1-16)
By Pastor Chris Kam (Preached on 27/28 August)
The audio sermon can be found here.

We are living in very exciting times. We are at a tipping point, and how we respond to challenges and circumstances will determine whether we turn out to be a better person or a bitter person. We obtain this wisdom from the Word of God, which shows us how to respond to the things of the world. Instead of relying on our limited human wisdom, we can rely on God’s wisdom.

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfilment of the ages has come. (1 Corinthians 10:11)

1. God is at work

Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. (Esther 4:15-16)

God is at work in our lives even if we cannot see Him at work. When faced with a crisis, Esther and Mordecai turned to God first. They relied on God instead of using their human wisdom to solve the problem. They fasted for three days. We should emulate Esther and Mordecai by turning to God when we are confronted with a crisis. This is what we must do as God’s people.

A thorough study of the book of Esther will lead to the realisation of several missing words from the book. The words “God, worship, prayer and sacrifice” cannot be found in the book of Esther. The writer of the book of Esther deliberately omitted those words, so that we would recognise the fact that God is still in control, even in the most insignificant times of our lives. God’s sovereign rule is assumed at every point. The writer wants us to know that God was right in the midst of the lives of Esther and Mordecai while the entire drama was unfolding.

There are no coincidences in life. That is why the word ‘luck’ is not found in a Christian’s vocabulary. Someone once defined ‘coincidence’ as a miracle in which God chooses to remain anonymous. Sir William Temple says, “When I pray, coincidences happen. But when I don’t pray, coincidences do not happen.”

God may be invisible, and we cannot see Him, but He is invincible. He is present in every scene and movement of our days. Philip Yancey in his book “Disappointment with God” states the fact that humans can only see about 30% of the spectrum of light. The human eye cannot see ultraviolet light, unlike honeybees and homing pigeons, which can detect ultraviolet light. Although we are bombarded with ultraviolet light from the sun, we cannot see it. Philip Yancey adds that similarly, although we cannot see certain things in the spiritual realm, it does not mean that they are not there. Although we cannot physically see God, by faith we know that He is here. We, as Christians, walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthian 5:7). Never doubt the presence and activity of God, especially in the midst of crisis. God is present, even though we cannot see Him.

Two books which influenced the life of Pastor Chris during his university years were “Know What to Believe” and “Know Why You Believe” by Paul E. Little. Pastor Chris suggested another title to complete the series, which is “Know Who You Believe”. Knowing who we believe is very important. We cannot just know about God, we need to know God for who He really is. We need to know God, for if we do not, we do not know that He is at work in our lives.
(Note: A DUMC member wrote to me and pointed out that this book has already been written by Paul E. Little! I was out of touch.)

For example: If you were to stand on the Federal Highway and attempt to stop oncoming cars by raising your hand, do you think they will stop for you? No, instead the motorists would sound the horn at you, wind down the window and probably shout obscenities at you. However, if you were to change put on a police uniform, what do you think would happen when you stand on the highway and put your hand up? The cars would surely stop for you. This is because of what the uniform represents: it represents the authority of the King. It is not about you or even what you are wearing, it is about what the uniform represents.

In the same way, we Christians represent the King of kings and the Lord of lords. We are children of the living God. We are dressed in the royal robes of righteousness of Jesus Christ. We have the authority of the King. The problem is: many of us do not know this King. Therefore, we are not able to appropriate His authority. A policeman who does not know his authority will not get anything done, because he is unable to give commands. As children of God, do we know our God-given authority? Do we know this God that we represent?

Knowing who God is will help us understand who we are and our authority in Him. This will enable us to respond to circumstances in our lives in the right and appropriate way. Our response is a reflection of our theology. Theology is the study of God. It is basically a study of who God is.

Three Basic Attributes of God
  • God’s OmnipresenceGod is everywhere at all times
The Webster dictionary defines omnipresence as: ‘Present everywhere at the same time, unbounded or universal presence.’ In other words, God is not limited to an altar, a church, or a geographical place. God is everywhere. He is not confined by time. He was there in our past, and He is right now in our present, and He will surely be there in our future. That is why God has promised us, “I will never leave you, and I will never forsake you.”
  • God’s Omniscience- God is all-knowing
The Webster’s dictionary defines omniscience as the quality of knowing all things at once. Unlike us, God does not have to learn. We need to accumulate knowledge, but He does not. God even knows our thoughts. He knows how we feel, and He knows our needs and desires. He knows the hearts of all the six billion people in this world. When we come for prayer at the altar to seek God and uplift our needs to Him, He already knows our needs, and prayer just releases what God has already decided you need to get.

God knows what we are going to say even before we say it. He knows our thoughts even before we think it. God knows all our ways as He knew us even before we were born. There are no secrets before the Almighty God, so we do not have to hide from Him.
  • God’s OmnipotenceGod is all-powerful
The Webster’s dictionary describes omnipotence as ‘almighty power, infinite and unlimited power.’ Genesis 1: 1 says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” In the first chapter of the book of John, it says that through Jesus, all things were made. God is so powerful! He created the heavens and the earth, what problem in our lives could be more difficult than that?

God is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. This is the God that is revealed to us in the Bible. The right theology as well as a right understanding of who God is will result in the right response. The wrong theology will result in the wrong response. How we respond will determine whether we become a better person or a bitter person. That is why we are encouraged to read the Bible and study who God is, because knowing who God is will determine our response towards circumstances in life. Whether you are a weak Christian or a strong Christian is determined by the theology which you have. It is about having the right understanding and application of what we know into our hearts. We can rejoice in knowing who God is. If God is for us, who can be against us?

2. God is at work through you

“And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)
“When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16)
  • You are exactly who you are and where you should be -
From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. (Acts 17:26)
God does not make mistakes. God knows who you are, what you are and where you ought to be. When you look in the mirror, do you like what you see? When we cannot accept who we are, it means that we are unhappy with how God has created us. He made us exactly how He wants us to look like.

We should not complain about our nationality and citizenship, because God has put us where we are for a reason. We are Malaysians because God allowed us to be born in Malaysia. We should not complain about the country where we live in, despite all the problems we are facing, because we are exactly where we should be. When our theology is right, we stop asking the question why, but what. Instead of asking, “Why, God? Why did this happen?” we should ask “As a result of what is happening, how should I respond? What is my response?” This is a reflection of our faith and trust in an all-knowing and all-powerful God.
  • You have a purpose bigger than yourself
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

We have one life to live. No matter how long or how short our life span is, we will one day meet our Maker. If we choose to live this life for ourselves and ourselves alone, it is a very sad life indeed. Life is more than “me, myself and I”. We are called to make a difference wherever we are.

The danger comes when we become too comfortable where we are and we refuse to be disturbed and be distressed. We want to live a comfortable life with all our needs provided by God, with a great career, a nice house and nice family. However, if we remain in that comfort zone, rest assured that God will stir us, because our life on earth is just too short. As much as we want the blessings of God, we need to consider the cost of discipleship, which God demands of every one of us.

This is not a call to a life of misery and suffering, but we need to realise that God has a bigger purpose beyond us and our desire for comfort and pleasure. Do we have the eyes to see that? Esther did. She knew God has a plan and purpose bigger than herself, hence her memorable words “If I perish, I perish.”
  • You can make a difference
Esther was hesitant to approach the King at first by exclaiming, “But the King had not summoned me for thirty days. If I were to go and meet the king, I can get killed.” Like Esther, we all make excuses. We make up all sorts of excuses not to serve God and not to be obedient to His commands and calling.

We need to realise that it is not about what we cannot do, but it is the Spirit that lives inside of us, that empowers and enables us to live for Christ and do what He has called us to do. We are not people of excuses, but we are people of opportunities. Do we seek opportunities or run away from them with our excuses? Are we like Peter, who so strongly proclaimed his commitment to follow Jesus but denied Him three times when Jesus was arrested? However, Jesus still loved Peter, and Peter repented and became one of the greatest men in the history of mankind.

A young man courting a young girl says, “I will climb the highest mountain, swim the deepest seas and fight the fiercest wild beasts for you...” But then he texted her on his mobile, saying, “Sorry, but I can’t come tonight. It’s drizzling.” With all the declarations that we make to God, it is when the storms of life occur which reveal the actual condition of our faith in this all-powerful God and our faithfulness to Him.

Every battle in the Old Testament is a supernatural battle. These battles have nothing to do with the Jewish people but everything to do with God. When thousands of Amalekites attacked God’s people, Moses discovered that whenever his hands were raised to God, the Jewish people were winning the battle. When he got tired and his hands went down, they were losing the battle. Therefore, when Moses’ hands were tired, two young men held up his hands. It was a sign of dependence on God. As long as Moses’ hands were lifted, they wiped out thousands of enemies. It was truly a supernatural battle.

It has nothing to do with how good we are but how good God is. It has nothing to do with how big our church is, but how big God is. It is everything to do with God’s glory.

How we should respond

i) Windows of Opportunities for Evangelism
When people enquire about DUMC and what we are going through, we can use this opportunity to share Christ with them. We can display a godly response and maintain a right attitude towards the challenges we are facing, so that when people see the way we react and respond, they will want whatever they see inside of us and be drawn to God.

ii) Windows of Opportunities for Growth
We can grow through challenges and problems in life. Every problem is an opportunity to develop character and build strength.

On 23 March 2008, the church dedicated the Dream Centre to the Lord. Let us remember the dedication of the church and our declaration to God.

You can download the Dream Centre Dedication Creed here:

Let us learn to respond to circumstances and challenges in the right way and have the right theology. This is what we are called to do as God’s people. After all, there are no coincidences! We are in this place and we are going through this for a special purpose and plan which God has for us, for DUMC and for Malaysia. Let us put our faith and trust in this omnipresent, omniscience and omnipotent God whom we serve!

Presented by the Writing Team:
Anthea Tan

** Weekly Reflection **

There are two ways of meeting difficulties.
You alter the difficulties or you alter yourself to meet them.
~Phyllis Bottome~

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