Why Christians suffer persecution if Christ victoriously rose from the dead and what we can do about it.

This is a manuscript from a brief missions presentation given at Indonesian Presbyterian Church.

Brothers and sisters, as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, I want to draw your attention to the sufferings of His Body, his people, which continue until today. We’ve heard of the killing and persecution of Christians in Iraq, Syria, Libya and most recently Kenya. Many have lost their homes, possessions, livelihoods and loved ones because of the violence of groups like ISIS.

Today, I want to ask two questions: “If Jesus Christ victoriously rose from the dead, why are His people suffering like this?” And “What does our Lord want us to do about it?”

To answer the first question, I want to read from Revelation 12
where the Apostle John writes of the heavenly warfare which comes upon the earth:

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

So we see that one reason why followers of Jesus face persecution is that they have a wrathful and powerful Enemy. Satan knows his time is short and seeks to cause as much harm as possible. His power has been utterly broken because he can no longer condemn followers of Jesus to hell–they are forever completely safe and guaranteed to inherit the Kingdom of God through faith in Jesus. But on earth, the spiritual warfare rages on as John writes in verse 17: “Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.”

Jesus himself said to his disciples in John 15:

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.

But Jesus Christ has not left his followers without help. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And here we discover a deeper answer to the question of why followers of Jesus experience suffering and persecution: this is what it takes to experience the overwhelming, overcoming Resurrection power of Jesus Christ.

This is what it takes to see the breadth and wonder of the unfailing love of Jesus Christ, which overcomes every obstacle–be it failure, loss, death, persecution, hardship, famine, and every other suffering whether great or small–this is what it takes to experience the power of the love of God in Jesus Christ to turn everything for the good of those who love Him. His love and Resurrection power reverses every evil done to His people and turns it for good so that they become more than conquerors through it. And brothers and sisters, this unfailing love of Christ unleashes us to fulfill God’s mission. Suffering and persecution is what it takes for the gospel to reach the nations.

When Christians bear witness that Christ is risen from the dead accompanied by forgiving enemies, continuing to pray for their persecutors and loving one another to the point of laying down their lives, then the world will know that Jesus Christ was sent by the Father to be the Savior of the world, the Judge of all Creation and the King of the Universe. Suffering and persecution is what it takes to make disciples of every nation and to hasten the return of our Lord.

So brothers and sisters, what shall we do?
First let us suffer with them. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:

But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

We are one Body in Christ.

If our brothers and sisters in the Middle East are hurting, we all hurt with them.

Second, let us love and pray for our enemies.

Third, let us give to help relieve the sufferings of our brothers and sisters.

Thank you and may we all experience the overflowing power of Christ’s resurrection day after day after day until he returns.


Links (not endorsements) to possible ways to help:


Di dalam Bahasa Indonesia:

Saudara-saudara, menjelang perayaan kebangkitan Tuhan kita Yesus Kristus, saya ingin menarik perhatian Anda kepada penderitaan Tubuh-Nya, umat-Nya, yang berlanjut sampai hari ini. Kita telah mendengar tentang pembunuhan dan penganiayaan orang Kristen di Irak, Suriah, Libya dan yang terbaru Kenya. Banyak yang kehilangan rumah mereka, harta benda, mata pencaharian dan orang yang dicintai karena kekerasan ISIS.

Hari ini, saya ingin mengajukan dua pertanyaan: “Kalau Yesus Kristus bangkit dari mati, mengapa umatNya menderita seperti ini?” Dan “Apa yang Tuhan ingin kita lakukan mengahadapi kenyataan ini?”

Untuk menjawab pertanyaan pertama, saya ingin membaca dari Wahyu 12
di mana Rasul Yohanes menulis tentang perang surgawi yang di lanjutkan ke bumi:

Maka timbullah peperangan di sorga. Mikhael dan malaikat-malaikatnya berperang melawan naga itu, dan naga itu dibantu oleh malaikat-malaikatnya, tetapi mereka tidak dapat bertahan; mereka tidak mendapat tempat lagi di sorga. Dan naga besar itu, si ular tua, yang disebut Iblis atau Satan, yang menyesatkan seluruh dunia, dilemparkan ke bawah; ia dilemparkan ke bumi, bersama-sama dengan malaikat-malaikatnya. Dan aku mendengar suara yang nyaring di sorga berkata: “Sekarang telah tiba keselamatan dan kuasa dan pemerintahan Allah kita, dan kekuasaan Dia yang diurapi-Nya, karena telah dilemparkan ke bawah pendakwa saudara-saudara kita, yang mendakwa mereka siang dan malam di hadapan Allah kita. Dan mereka mengalahkan dia oleh darah Anak Domba, dan oleh perkataan kesaksian mereka. Karena mereka tidak mengasihi nyawa mereka sampai ke dalam maut. Karena itu bersukacitalah, hai sorga dan hai kamu sekalian yang diam di dalamnya, celakalah kamu, hai bumi dan laut! karena Iblis telah turun kepadamu, dalam geramnya yang dahsyat, karena ia tahu, bahwa waktunya sudah singkat.”

Jadi kita melihat salah satu alasan mengapa para pengikut Yesus menghadapi penganiayaan adalah Musuh yang kejam dan jahat. Setan tahu waktu dia singkat dan berusaha untuk merusak sebanyak mungkin. Sesungguhnya kuasanya sudah di patahkan karena dia tidak bisa lagi mengutuk pengikut Yesus ke neraka–mereka selamanya selamat, dijamin untuk mewarisi Kerajaan Allah karena iman di dalam Yesus. Tapi di bumi, peperangan rohani terus berlangsung seperti Yohanes tulis dalam ayat 17: “Maka marahlah naga itu kepada perempuan itu, lalu pergi memerangi keturunannya yang lain, yang menuruti hukum-hukum Allah dan memiliki kesaksian Yesus.”

Yesus sendiri berkata kepada murid-murid-Nya dalam Yohanes 15:

Sekiranya kamu dari dunia, tentulah dunia mengasihi kamu sebagai miliknya. Tetapi karena kamu bukan dari dunia, melainkan Aku telah memilih kamu dari dunia, sebab itulah dunia membenci kamu. Ingatlah apa yang telah Kukatakan kepadamu: Seorang hamba tidaklah lebih tinggi dari pada tuannya. Jikalau mereka telah menganiaya Aku, mereka juga akan menganiaya kamu; jikalau mereka telah menuruti firman-Ku, mereka juga akan menuruti perkataanmu.

Tetapi Yesus Kristus tidak meninggalkan pengikutnya tanpa bantuan.
Rasul Paulus menulis dalam Roma 8:

Kita tahu sekarang, bahwa Allah turut bekerja dalam segala sesuatu untuk mendatangkan kebaikan bagi mereka yang mengasihi Dia, yaitu bagi mereka yang terpanggil sesuai dengan rencana Allah. Sebab semua orang yang dipilih-Nya dari semula, mereka juga ditentukan-Nya dari semula untuk menjadi serupa dengan gambaran Anak-Nya, supaya Ia, Anak-Nya itu, menjadi yang sulung di antara banyak saudara. Dan mereka yang ditentukan-Nya dari semula, mereka itu juga dipanggil-Nya. Dan mereka yang dipanggil-Nya, mereka itu juga dibenarkan-Nya. Dan mereka yang dibenarkan-Nya, mereka itu juga dimuliakan-Nya. Sebab itu apakah yang akan kita katakan tentang semuanya itu? Jika Allah di pihak kita, siapakah yang akan melawan kita? Ia, yang tidak menyayangkan Anak-Nya sendiri, tetapi yang menyerahkan-Nya bagi kita semua, bagaimanakah mungkin Ia tidak mengaruniakan segala sesuatu kepada kita bersama-sama dengan Dia? Siapakah yang akan menggugat orang-orang pilihan Allah? Allah, yang membenarkan mereka? Siapakah yang akan menghukum mereka? Kristus Yesus, yang telah mati? Bahkan lebih lagi: yang telah bangkit, yang juga duduk di sebelah kanan Allah, yang malah menjadi Pembela bagi kita? Siapakah yang akan memisahkan kita dari kasih Kristus? Penindasan atau kesesakan atau penganiayaan, atau kelaparan atau ketelanjangan, atau bahaya, atau pedang? Seperti ada tertulis: “Oleh karena Engkau kami ada dalam bahaya maut sepanjang hari, kami telah dianggap sebagai domba-domba sembelihan. ” Tetapi dalam semuanya itu kita lebih dari pada orang-orang yang menang, oleh Dia yang telah mengasihi kita. Sebab aku yakin, bahwa baik maut, maupun hidup, baik malaikat-malaikat, maupun pemerintah-pemerintah, baik yang ada sekarang, maupun yang akan datang, atau kuasa-kuasa, baik yang di atas, maupun yang di bawah, ataupun sesuatu makhluk lain, tidak akan dapat memisahkan kita dari kasih Allah, yang ada dalam Kristus Yesus, Tuhan kita.

Dan di sini kita menemukan jawaban yang lebih dalam atas pertanyaan mengapa pengikut Yesus mengalami penderitaan dan penganiayaan: Inilah apa yang diperlukan untuk mengalami kuasa kebangitkan Yesus Kristus. Inilah apa yang diperlukan untuk melihat betapa luas dan ajaib kasih setia Yesus Kristus, yang mengatasi setiap rintangan–baik itu kegagalan, kehilangan, kematian, penganiayaan, kesulitan, kelaparan, bahkan penderitaan apapun, besar atau kecil–inilah apa yang diperlukan untuk mengalami kuasa kasih Allah dalam Yesus Kristus yang mengubah segala penderitaan untuk mendatangkan kebaikan bagi mereka yang mengasihi Dia. Kasih dan kuasa Kebangkitan Kristus merubah segala kejahatan yang dilakukan kepada umat-Nya menjadi kebaikan bagi mereka sehingga mereka menjadi lebih dari pemenang melalui itu.

Dan saudara-saudari, kasih setia Kristus membebaskan kita untuk memenuhi misi Allah. Penderitaan dan penganiayaan adalah apa yang diperlukan untuk Injil diberitakan kepada seluruh suku bangsa. Ketika orang-orang Kristen bersaksi bahwa Kristus telah bangkit dari antara orang mati disertai dengan hati yang bisa mengampuni musuh-musuhnya, bahkan bedoa untuk orang orang yang menganiaya mereka dan saling mengasihi sampai memberikan nyawanya maka dunia akan tahu bahwa Yesus Kristus diutus oleh Bapa menjadi Juruselamat dunia, Hakim dari semua ciptaan dan Raja Semesta alam. Penderitaan dan penganiayaan adalah apa yang diperlukan untuk memuridkan setiap bangsa dan mempercepat kedatangan Tuhan kita.

Jadi saudara-saudari, apa yang harus kita lakukan? Pertama mari kita menderita bersama mereka. Paulus menulis dalam 1 Korintus 12:

Allah telah menyusun tubuh kita begitu rupa, sehingga kepada anggota-anggota yang tidak mulia diberikan penghormatan khusus, supaya jangan terjadi perpecahan dalam tubuh, tetapi supaya anggota-anggota yang berbeda itu saling memperhatikan. Karena itu jika satu anggota menderita, semua anggota turut menderita; jika satu anggota dihormati, semua anggota turut bersukacita.

Kita adalah satu Tubuh dalam Kristus. Jika saudara-saudari kita di timur tengah sedang menderita, kita juga ikut menderita dengan mereka.

Kedua, mari kita mengasihi dan berdoa untuk musuh-musuh kita.

Dan ketiga, marilah kita menolong saudara-saudara kita yang sedang menderita ini.

Terima kasih dan semoga kita semua mengalami kuasa kebangkitan Kristus hari demi hari sampai Ia kembali.

What I learned from Urbana 2012

urbana_plenaryThe antiphonal hallelujahs crescendoed to blazing lights which I thought would explode from the joyous singing. It was the last night of Urbana and we ushered in the new year with a 16,000 strong multilingual, multicultural worship service. It was incredible.

I attended the missions conference with my sister (who wrote about her experience here) and met friends like MIT Media Lab RA Nate Matias (who posted his track notes here) and speaker Christopher Yuan who led packed sessions on the topic of “A Christian Response to Homosexuality“. The sessions were good (I wept for joy when Ram Sridharan preached the gospel from Luke 15), but I particularly thank God for connecting me with believers who share my passion for technology entrepreneurship for the gospel (direct message me if you’d like to join the group).

Who I Met

Urbana was organized into four tracks: Urban Poverty, Pastoral Leadership, International Students and Business Changing the World. In the business track I got to meet professionals, entrepreneurs and investors who created companies and products that advance the gospel in the marketplace:

I came away refreshed by my conversations with these people and many others. It’s invigorating to be part of a community creating technology and doing business to advance the gospel in word and deed.

What I Learned

Here were some of my key takeaways from the conference:

Faith First: I went not knowing what to expect and left overjoyed by many serendipitous connections. I usually try to figure out the cost/benefit of decisions and think everything through ahead of time, but I’m beginning to accept the wisdom of Proverbs 3:5-6; it seems that Jesus requires us to trust him first and think things through second. Like Abraham who left his homeland for a land God would show him, we must first believe that God is good and in believing we can respond and in responding we can think through where he is calling us to, how to get there, and what to do.

Cherish People: Being task oriented, I tend to view relationships in terms of my goals and responsibilities, but at Urbana I had the pleasure of simply enjoying people: hearing their stories, sharing mine and praying with them. Ram’s message reminded me that all my heart’s desires are met in Christ and that despite everything I’d like to do for God, the real satisfaction is being with Him. I hope this carries over to work where it’s easy to become so task focused that legitimate opportunities to deeply connect with people are neglected.

I’m Not Alone: I formerly felt like no one shared my passion for technology entrepreneurship for the gospel. Being at Urbana changed all that not only by giving me access to likeminded people, but also by renewing the joy of God’s invitation to all people to feast at his table. Instead of wallowing in isolation, I should seek out and cultivate diverse relationships with others since I’m not as different/alone as I might think.

Don’t Resist the Spirit: There were two occasions when I felt the Lord lead me to do something and I resisted. The first was an internal voice telling me to pray for a woman on crutches. I avoided her, walking deeper into the stadium ostensibly looking for my sister, but couldn’t resist. I walked back and asked, “Excuse me, but–could I pray for you?” She replied, “uhh–okay”. I was afraid it would be awkward. But when I asked, “what happened to your leg?” she shared that she had knee surgery and accidentally dislocated it afterwards. When I learned she would be on crutches another 8 months, my awkwardness was washed over with compassion and I joyfully prayed for her healing.

The second case was in the prayer ministry room where a woman next to me started weeping and I felt led to say, “God’s peace be with you, your sins are forgiven in the name of Jesus”. I questioned this inclination thinking, “Who am I to say such things? I don’t know her and what she is going through.” But I realized that God knew and if he wanted me to speak, who was I to resist? So I put my hand on her shoulder, whispered the words, and left the room.

Upon reflection, I’ve probably resisted the Spirit a lot, which may be why I’m reluctant to pray about certain things…I don’t really want to hear an answer. This experience may sound weird to some, but I am simply trying to honestly recount my experience. Testing these inclinations against Scripture, I find no reason to believe they were not from the Holy Spirit.

Don’t Wait for Perfect Motives, Wait for the Lord: During a Bible study session on Peter’s calling, I tweeted: “Feeling unworthy to try great things for God because I can’t handle the pressure of living up to people’s expectations”. Two InterVarsity staff members, Steve and Carrie, prayed with me on separate occasions when I shared my personal tension between being a witness for Christ at work and pursuing a vision of enabling multilingual churches to flourish and become the norm. Maybe I wanted to stay in place out of fear or maybe I wanted to pursue this idea out of selfish ambition. Steve said that I cannot wait for pure motives because we always have mixed motives and can only continually repent of the wrong ones and cultivate the right ones. Carrie reminded me that waiting on the Lord is not passivity, but faithfulness and that I need not rush to decide since the Lord would act in His time.

How About You?

I have reams of notes on what else transpired at the conference and many awesome experiences remain unrecorded, but I hope this taste has been enough to whet your appetite for what God has in store for you this year.

  • Are you procrastinating responding to God by overanalyzing instead of trusting Him?
  • Who can you listen to and love instead of merely transacting dialogue with?
  • Can you join/start a community that will stoke the flames of your passion?
  • In what areas of life are you resisting God’s leading?
  • Is there a desire you need to wait on the Lord for? Is there a God-given desire you need to act on instead of waiting for pure motives?

Business Changing the World at Urbana 2012

urbana2012_topper

This year my sister and I are attending the Urbana Conference put on by InterVarsity. I was initially reluctant to go because I’m no longer a student, but then I learned that they have a “Business Changing the World” track and one seminar in particular which dovetailed with my interests: “High Tech Entrepreneurship 101 for the Mission-Minded” led by Silicon Valley veteran Sonny Vu.

On the Facebook Group for the track, I found links like:

And I learned that one of the big backers of this track are from my own backyard at the Center for Integrity in Business of Seattle Pacific University!

I don’t know what God has in store for me these coming weeks, but I’m already excited to discover that there are many likeminded folks out there and that I’m going to get to meet some of them soon :-).

Interested in Technology Entrepreneurship for the Gospel?
Follow/mention/direct message me on Twitter or leave a comment.

Thanks and happy Christmas Eve!

The Empty Seat

What does this picture bring to mind? Awkward moments seeking the passenger who will cause the least discomfort to you? A chance to finally rest your legs after a crowded commute?

I always look for the empty rows when I get on the bus, but it’s absurd since I know someone is probably going to sit next to me. I guess it signals an unspoken desire to be alone. But the truth is I don’t want to be alone–I’d much rather have a meaningful conversation with someone. Why don’t I take the empty seat and start the conversation?

There was a period in my life when I felt like every conversation had to be directed to the gospel and somehow incorporate Jesus. If He is the most important person in my life, wouldn’t I naturally talk about him most? Just as lovers continually have the name of their beloved on their lips, wouldn’t I want to bring Him up with others? Unfortunately my best intentions caused me much grief, anxiety and guilt. Oh there were glorious times when I got to share about Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and how he saved me and transformed my life. But for every good conversation there were ten more that fell flat and another twenty “opportunities” that I missed and felt guilty about after the fact.

Avoiding the empty seat was my way of avoiding the opportunity to share the gospel and I could thereby avoid the guilty feelings that came from ignoring those opportunities. Everybody cares about something and even if you don’t care about the gospel, I think you can agree that the Seattle bus culture makes it difficult to connect with other passengers on a personal level. It’s even easier to avoid other passengers with the ubiquity of smartphones. Now you can take the empty seat next to someone and still skip the opportunity to connect with them by pulling out your phone and checking e-mail, watching a video, or texting a friend.

I actually like being alone on the bus. Minding my own business and doing my own thing. I don’t want to trouble anyone and don’t want to be troubled myself. But I struggle about my responsibilities towards all the strangers around me. What does God expect of me? Does he expect me to “make the most of every opportunity“? What is an opportunity? Is it someone asking me a question about God? Or is it me sitting next to a stranger on a bus and initiating a conversation? What does it mean for me to “love my neighbor as myself“?

As my chaotic conscience endured these hard questions, my soul has often taken refuge in the sovereignty of God. He alone is capable of saving any person and he alone can give them the gift of faith and it is completely his free choice. But as much of a relief to conscience this reality is, it does not remove the responsibility of being a witness.

When I set out to write this post, I did not have any strong, heartfelt answers to this internal conflict. It has percolated in the back of my mind occasionally, but I didn’t have anything solid worth sharing. So I looked around for some answers in the five texts linked to above.

Colossians 4:5-6 In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he prefaces his exhortation for believers to make the most of every opportunity with a request for prayer so he would have an open door for the gospel. He also does not explicitly command evangelism, but gracious and seasoned speech that give a person knowledge of how to answer everyone.

Mark 12:31 The whole concept of loving one’s neighbor as oneself could be inappropriately stretched to mean telling everyone the gospel the moment they give you a chance to speak since it is “the most loving thing to do”, but if I consider the desires of my own heart, I think most people want to connect deeply and share their heart’s desire and struggle. They want someone to hear them and love them and speak words into their lives that pierce through the superficial safety bubble they’ve setup with insight and care.

Exodus 34:6-7 God’s freedom to have mercy on anyone he pleases is coupled with his abundantly gracious character. Whenever I seek to share the gospel with someone I can be confident that the God on whom their salvation depends is thoroughly good.

Ephesians 2:8-9 I am not so different from everyone else. Once dead in sin; ruled by disobedience.  I once didn’t care much about God or Jesus and one day he blew me away with his glorious grace. If God can save me, he can save anybody. There is truly no one beyond his reach as humanly impossible as it may seem; there is always hope.

Acts 1:7-9 Although these words were to Jesus’ immediate disciples, every statement remains true in our day. The times and seasons are fixed by the Father’s authority. God’s kingdom, the success of the gospel, the victory of the Church are all under his wise control. He didn’t spell it out in detail for the apostles and he doesn’t for us, but he promised them something even better–his own Spirit come upon them so that they would be his witnesses. This is the same Spirit he gave to all believers in Jesus.

This small selection of Scriptures turned out to be a deeper treasure trove than I expected. While writing this, I was surprised at how they dispelled the guilt and anxiety that have often arisen when I’ve had to “take the empty seat” and replaced it with freedom, confidence, and desire (particularly the reflections on Mark 12:31 and Ephesians 2:8-9).

The next step for me is to test it and see how it helps me the next time I’m on the bus. If you have any stories to share about how this helped you, please leave a comment!