Rob brought this short exhortation before the notices on Sunday 22nd February 2009 in response to a personal tragedy that has obviously deeply affected City Church International. I was profoundly moved by it but I found it such an important message to transcribe. I'm sure Rob gets accused of preaching a "health, wealth and prosperity" gospel of triumphalism in which suffering is rejected. Nothing could be further from the truth. When suffering and trial comes along - this prophetic exhortation is a strong reminder that Rob is more than confident to face tragedy head on and to lift his people's heads to the risen and ruling Jesus Christ.
Because suffering and trial affects us all whether we like it or not (usually not). But there is a glorious hope throughout this! We don't have to go to the excesses of "health, wealth and prosperity" teachers who claim that suffering equals a complete lack of 'faith'. But neither do we have to go the rather foolish excesses of the "Together for the Gospel" four who claim;
"We further deny that any teaching that offers health and wealth as God's assured promises in this life can be considered a true Gospel".
I think anyone who hears the care and compassion and love in his voice will find their hearts warmed by a caring father's breaking heart. Rob isn't some distant "Christian celebrity" using Hong Kong as a platform to further his status. You listen to this message and you will hear his heart breaking for these people that he clearly loves.
So here is the 20 minutes of what he said;
"Well - well done to the worship team for once again just leading us in and well done as a congregation for not being conservative or formalistic or cautious in your expression of love for Jesus. The Bible is full of a culture of extravagant expression and the nature of God is of extravagance. I really need your faith and help over the next few minutes before Glenda gives the announcements - I want to speak some "faith" things but I really need your support and I need your faith expressions all the way through! I would rather have "please be quiet!" than you just sit there and listen quietly while I say these things. This is very important.
We need these times to see them as defining opportunities that can be defining moments or watershed times - crisis that can often precipate or catalyse greater advancement of the Kingdom of heaven depending on how the people of God respond to tragedy and respond to things they don't understand.
I have been a pastor for over 30 years now and it is still amazingly mysterious to me how some human beings can face the most terrible grief and pain and cry their tears and then move forward almost with a greater sense of confidence on their face.
It is almost like the departure of their loved one created a slip-stream of glory that enveloped them with a concious awareness of that celestial realm of safety and glory that their loved one had gone to.
And Paul the apostle writes that they never referred to someone in Christ dying. Not once! Both Jesus and Paul said that they fell asleep. If you are in Christ you have already died and He said; "Those who believe in Me shall never perish". You have already died with Christ - you died with Him on that Cross and died to the old life and died to the law and was raised with Jesus and are seated with Him - you are alive!
So the Christian in Christ does not die! Ever again! You fall asleep and you just shift conciousness from the planet earth into the heavenly realm - the glory realm!
So he writes to the Thessalonian church that is suffering from losses of loved ones and he says; "Do not grieve as the world does". He didn't say; "Don't grieve". Grieving is a very important part and process anytime you lose anything! Especially a loved one. The world grieves without hope. Unbelief grieves without hope. That grief is then contaminated by tormented by demonic powers that will snap people's minds and move them into morbidity and psychological breakdown that is destructive.
The grieving with hope is painful but redemptive and brings you through a process where you have greater confidence and greater strength in life because death is not a fear to you!
I have been at the bedside of a number of dear ones come near to exiting this planet and there is always glory! I watched my own dad go that way and you are left with wonder at the glory of God! And you look at that body and you know that is just the earth suit - they have departed! And there is a grieving afterwards because there is a temporary recognition of the abscence of that person. Only temporary! There is a heavenly hope that we all will see that precious baby in our eternal future! There is a grieving as well because maybe that person who fell asleep in Christ didn't fulfill all their hopes and their desires and all their dreams and aspirations! And you grieve that was not given opportunity to be fulfilled! But if you have this hope and grieve with hope then there is a guarantee that heaven will give everything that didn't have an opportunity to fulfill on this earth - heaven will more than compensate and fully satisfy and fulfill in eternity!
So heaven is not some glib excuse or silly cliche to dismiss or surpress grieving. But heaven is this hope that everything we have been robbed of on earth will be fully satisfied in eternity and in the realms of heaven's glory! Heaven is real!
This is not to say it was God's will to take that little baby. I promise you with all the venom and anger and strength of my hatred of that demonic lie that God kills. There is a song that says "God gives and God takes away". That is Old Covenant and a statement out of Job's mouth. Jesus never taught that! God did not take that baby! God did not take her but He received her! God didn't contribute or cause the situation at all!
There is a robbing and a stealing there! Yet in it all God's victory prevails because of heaven's hope and because of the Cross! Jesus Christ is Perfect Theology! And He proved beyond doubt or debate the revelation that His Father's will is to bring life and power and to heal and restore and do miracles!
It is a blasphemous deception to credit God with Satan's works! That is a deception that much of the church has come under!
There are only job descriptions in the Bible - Jesus and the Devil's! Both are in John 10:10. "I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly". Satan's job description is to rob, to kill and to destroy. Wherever you see death - life that has been ended early then that does not fit Jesus job description but whereever you see healing, miracles, abundance of blessing then that is Jesus in operation! God didn't cause this or contribute to this! It is the fallen state of the cosmos reaching back to Eden's betrayal through Adam that there is frustration in our mortal planet.
But we will never stop contending to conduct more of the beauty of heaven's influence into this earth! For Jesus still means what He means; "Father Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!". They are not killing babies in heaven! The Father didn't do it!
We will enquire from God, we will request from God, we will investigate revelationary realms and Scripture and we will seek God to know how to do this better so that future babies will live their whole lives on this planet! But we will never question the goodness of God because He has already proved irreversibly that truth on an old rugged cross and on a hill called Golgotha.
We will aggressively and passionately pursue more of the Presence and power of God so that we come to a place where our minds are so renewed from the traditions of men and the corrupt wisdom of this age - we will not partner with unbelief which is partnering with the devil - we will contend and pursue until our minds are so renewed that we look at seemingly impossible situations that our minds are in harmony with heaven and our hearts are in harmony with heaven and we can say; "THAT is not the will of God - THIS is the will of God!" and BANG instant healing takes place!
We will never tire or allow ourselves to grow weary of our quest and our pursuit to see the power of God in not partial manifestation - not a 2/10 but a 9/10 or a 10/10 and full manifest power of God healing everyone of sickness and disease! We will weep our tears and hug one another and deal with our sorrow then we will lift our heads and rejoice that we are alive in 2009 by God's appointment to discover the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven that will help us release more miracle power according to what we see in Acts which the early church had so that future, future, future generations will say of us in Hong Kong and CCI that they did not flag or fail or fade in their faith in the face of setbacks but they set their hearts to the heavenly Jerusalem and that they released and unleashed so much of heaven's glory and power into the earth that evil was broken and every manner of sickness and disease was healed by the power of God!
They will say of us that because of what we did that heaven's love and gracious justice rained down on planet earth and heaven's perfect peace and justice kissed a guilty earth in love and earth lifted it's face to heaven and gave thanks for a generation in Hong Kong that did not give up in setbacks and did not allow disappointments to surrender but saw every disappointment as a divine appointment to release more of heaven into the earth! The devil should not pick on us! He should not choose to hurt people in our ranks! He should know better but he's brain-damaged and he will pay seven times for what he has done! We have had two situations - Phil who died of cancer over a year ago and know this little baby before we even met her - that to me is unacceptable!
There was a man and he was commissioned to raise an expedition to climb Mount Everest. The first team he took up failed because the weather closed in. They tried again and they too failed and had to come back. They tried a third time and this time they did more training and exercise and equipped themselves with higher standard equipment to get themselves better placed to succeed. They went up and half the way up there was a terrible avalanche that wiped out most of the team and even the leader was killed in this avalanche. When they came down the survivors went to a banquet in honour of their comrades who died on that mountain.
The leader of the survivors got up at the end of the banquet and stood up to speak with dignity and boldness and he spoke as if Mount Everest was in that room. And he pointed at an imaginary Everest and he said; "Everest - you have defeated us once. Everest you then defeated us a second time. Then even a third time Everest you defeated us by taking the lives of our friends but Everest we will defeat you because you cannot get any bigger! And we CAN!".
Cancer is not getting any bigger, the devil is not getting any bigger, disease is not getting any bigger but we are growing into the measure of the full stature of Christ - we are getting bigger in the power of our God and we will conquer!
I was speaking in London and was doing some training for evangelism to go out and heal the sick and on the third day I heard the Lord say; "They think too much of you and too little of themselves - they think that they are useless and you get everyone healed and that you have never had disappointments or struggles because all they have heard is of the cancers healed and the wheelchair cases that walked. And they think you just lay hands on anything and it happens!". God said; "Tell them of every failure you can remember - all the people that died - all the people I prayed for that got worse". So I went and gave an hours talk on every person that I prayed for and failed.
Then I said; "Okay I want to pray for the sick - who wants to come and be prayed for by a failure?!". They all came and that day Steve was supernaturally healed of a serious back problem. That night we went after a testimony of my failures and Glenda and I prayed for a woman in a wheelchair who said we were wasting our time - the doctors said she was in the last chronic stages of M.E. You will not walk ever again. After fifteen minutes of praying for her she starting feeling divine voltage and heaven's influence and began tingling all over. She could feel feeling coming back in her legs. Within minutes she got up and jogged around the building to people rejoicing!
You cannot get confused about this! God good! Devil bad!
But we need to walk in such humility - everytime someone doesn't get healed don't form a theology to accomodate failure! Don't lower the Word of God down to your bad experience! Trust God to lift your bad experience upto the level of His promises in His good and keep contending! Bill Johnson sees thousands healed but he will equally tell you of thousands that aren't healed. Thousands! Many medically verified! Yet Bill Johnson's own dad died. He said; "I declare Reading a cancer-free zone!". In a short space of time his own dad was diagnosed with cancer and died in four months and it was humiliating to do that in front of his congregation. His own secretary died of cancer. His son is deaf in both ears! To this day they see hundreds of deaf ears healed, cripples walking! But they keep contending!
Because every time you face disappointment, it's another divine appointment to go through that crisis and it is a question of "Do I believe God is good all the time and yes we haven't figured it out how to get everyone healed all the time like Jesus did and the book of Acts did". But we are learning the ways of the Spirit. Most of the church has been taught religious traditions and have not been taught the mysteries of the Kingdom or ways of the Spirit and how to walk in the supernatural. They have not been taught the supernatural! That's why you have got to train Christians who haven't got a clue how the anointing works or how to release this authority! But many in this church DO have a clue how to do this and most in this church are lightning conductors!".