Accelerating the Gospel: How technology enables us to create Kingdom foretastes like never before

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase: “Accelerating the Gospel”?

Do you think of rockets launching satellites into space to broadcast the Bible to the ends of the earth–and the far reaches of the known universe?

Or do you think of a map of the world being progressively covered with decisions for Christ?

Over 2000 years ago, the King of the Universe, Jesus Christ, triumphantly entered his capital city, Jerusalem, to cleanse his Temple of corruption. It was supposed to be a house of prayer for all nations, but it had become a den of greedy robbers where people were neglected, manipulated, used and abused. He would soon lay down His life to rescue His beloved Creation from the deathly corruption of sin, which had rendered it fit only for destruction. His authority was challenged by those in power and he was soon crucified by His subjects for claiming to be their Lord and God. He was buried and rose again from the dead three days later.

His new, transformed body showed humankind His royal vision for their eternal future and indicated that the restoration of all things was near. The King ascended to heaven and was exalted to the place of supreme authority over all Creation. He promised that at the right time, He would return to make all things new by dissolving the corrupted creation and replacing it with a renewed, righteous and glorious world that is nothing less than heaven on earth.

Everyone who disobeys the King and rejects His good purpose for them will be cast out of the new creation. Everyone who trusts and obeys Him will be forgiven of their sins and receive a beautiful inheritance in this new Creation where they will joyfully live forever–unleashed to their fullest potential, reflecting their Creator’s glory in full splendor. In the present time they will receive a downpayment on their inheritance through the permanent presence of the King’s Spirit to empower and direct their lives.

In light of this promise, the Apostle Peter wrote:

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:11-13)

Did you catch that? According to this text, Peter specifically mentioned “hastening the coming of the day of God”–in other words, accelerating the Gospel.

Accelerating the timeline for when the King will return to give His people their inheritance and restore all things to their beautiful intended design. Mark records that the King said to his disciples: “And the gospel must first be preached to all nations” (Mark 13:10) before He would return. Jesus Christ commands this because he wants people from every nation to be saved and to inherit his Kingdom. This implies that in order to “Accelerate the Gospel”, we must help unprecedented numbers of people experience the joy of believing in and obeying God so that they will one day become rulers of and heirs of God’s new creation.

I believe this happens in two ways.

The first is focused on getting the message of God’s Kingdom to every person on earth. Last week some of you heard from Dave Hackett about how the internet has been a game-changer for global missions by exponentially increasing the scale at which the message of the Gospel can be shared, especially among the unreached. Today I want to talk about the second way and its implications for the local church. The second way is delivering the experience of God’s Kingdom to every person on earth. When the message is proclaimed and accompanied by an experience that confirms the incredible future promised by God, we have what I refer to as a “Kingdom Foretaste”.

Truth and Grace.

Words and Deeds.

The Gospel Message and the Gospel Experience.

In the high tech industry we often talk about user-centered or human-centered design: beginning with people (instead of technology) and working backwards to design experiences that fit with their desires, values, needs and traditions. We create prototype products, sometimes as simple as pen and paper drawings, to validate our ideas with people. We show it to them and observe them using it in order to ensure that it solves their problems, is easy to learn and makes them happy. We iterate through many ideas, gathering feedback, making adjustments and trying again until we converge on an elegant user experience that delights people and helps them.

The Gospel Experience

Now I want to ask you to take a moment and think about a few questions:

What is the most amazing, delightful, life-changing product, service or experience you can think of? What kind of user experience would you want to design for others? And perhaps more importantly, what would God-centered design look like? What kind of experience does He want to deliver to people?

I believe that the ultimate user experience is the love of God. There is nothing more satisfying or delightful than to know the vast riches of God’s love for you. It heals wounds no hands or words can touch. It produces overflowing joy that never grows old. It brings peace that overcomes the darkest of fears and washes away all anxiety. It is a mouthwatering foretaste of the glory of God’s kingdom. Nothing can compare with it.

I came to this conviction following a childhood of relentless achievement and striving to impress others. The only way I knew to affirm my worth was to earn people’s admiration and affection by exceeding their expectations. Exhausted from living this way, I found myself in a double of life of outward excellence and inward emptiness. I turned to things like games and pornography to dull the pain and satisfy my craving to be loved, but ended up in a cycle of guilt, shame and worthlessness instead.

Then, amidst my helplessness, I experienced the power of God.

Out of the blue, a friend from middle school contacted me on AOL instant messenger sharing his struggles with addiction and how God set him free. He did not know what I was going through, but God used his vulnerability to give me hope and that evening I began to experience a season of grace and freedom like I had never known before.

This grace enabled me to come clean with my family and prepared me to understand how Jesus’ death in my place and resurrection had the power to transform my life.

Though I heard the message growing up, it was at a conference later that year when I finally experienced the truth that in spite of all I had done wrong, all I failed to do, all expectations I failed to meet and all the filth accumulated in my life God accepted me, loved me and gave his Son to die for me. I did not need to win his approval or impress him, but was simply and completely loved by him as demonstrated on the Cross and attested to by His Spirit.

This realization transformed my exhausted drivenness into immensely productive contentment. It healed my soul so that I no longer medicated pain with porn. It moved my heart to ceaseless praise. My self-absorbed personality turned outward in genuine love and generosity. This experience and others like it have led me to conclude that the knowledge of God’s love in Jesus Christ is the central need of all people. It is the most miraculous, revolutionary, life-changing “product” there is and it is one we need continually.

Friends, if any of you have not experienced the love of Christ, I invite you to believe him when he says that he loves you and died for you, to put your hope in him when he says he will bless you with an unimaginably rich and beautiful inheritance and to obey him by loving him with all your heart and loving your neighbor as yourself. Ask, and you will receive, it is his good pleasure to pour out his love into your heart, so that you may taste and see for yourself that the Lord is good.

The Role of Technology

So how can technology enable the local church to help people experience foretastes of God’s Kingdom like never before? How can it help churches deliver life transforming experiences of God’s grace?

For the sake of time, I can only give one example today, but I hope it is illustrative enough to let your imagination run wild with Kingdom foretaste ideas afterwards.

I once was visiting the Chicago area with my family to help my sister move for Medical School. While there, we visited Willow Creek Community Church. It had a beautiful campus and the building was so large it reminded me of a fancy airport terminal.

There were fountains in the lobby and escalators to upper balconies. We parked in section C7 and arrived just in time for the prelude music to begin.

I was surprised to find a booth with a box of wireless earpieces and a sign that read, “Live Interpretation”. I walked up to the Koreans manning the booth and asked if they had either Chinese or Indonesian interpretation for my grandma. One of them explained that they only had Chinese translation for the Saturday night service, but that they had Korean and Spanish for the 11:15 service that morning. Even though it didn’t work out, I was delighted to find a church that had the multilingual vision of God’s kingdom on their hearts.

After this, my family went into the sanctuary and sat in the middle of the main level to the left of the stage. It was enormous and beautiful. The seats were comfortable and there were two large screens to the right and the left of the stage which made it easy to see what was going on. The acoustics were perfect–the drum and bass lines of the prelude were punchy, but not ear-shattering. Voices were clear and sounded as if they came from a few feet right in front you.

At precisely 11:15, the lights dimmed and the worship team switched to the opening song: “Glory to God Forever” by Fee. The worship leader began singing the song while strumming on her acoustic guitar and the congregation rose and sang along. She had with her two backup singers, a drummer, bassist and pianist. The music was of professional quality, but not flashy or showy–it was designed to help people feel the praise rising up to our Creator.

Now despite all of this excellence, I would not quite characterize it as a kingdom foretaste–not yet anyway. It wasn’t until a few moments into the first worship song that something caught my eye.

I glanced up to my left and saw a bunch of arms awkwardly flailing and waving in the balcony. I turned my head around to get a better look.

And then my heart melted and tears filled my eyes.

It was a large group of deaf believers worshiping God with an interpreter standing before them and translating everything going on in the service. It was so beautiful to see that my heart rose in praise to God who loves the deaf, and not only them, but also the poor, the blind, the lame, the cripple, the weak, the broken and uses his power to do good to them and to bless and include them in his Kingdom.

In that moment I had a foretaste of the Kingdom of God and the fruit of the Gospel.

In Revelation 7, the Apostle John describes God’s vision of the future:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” (Revelation 7:9-12)

The Scriptures say that people from every tribe, tongue and nation will worship God before his throne together. Since local churches are gatherings where people get a taste of what heaven will be like, shouldn’t they reflect that future to the degree possible?

Now there is one way I think my Kingdom foretaste experience at Willow Creek could have been taken to another level: What if the deaf, Korean and Spanish speakers were not only worshiping with me but on stage telling of the glories of God?

In the book of Acts, one of the signs that the Kingdom of God had come was that the Holy Spirit was poured out and the people were proclaiming and hearing the gospel and the glories of God in their native language.

I wanted to invent something that could deliver more of that Kingdom foretaste.

I also had historical reasons for wanting to make it easier to create amazing multilingual experiences. I grew up in and continue to be a member of Indonesian Presbyterian Church.

In the early days everything would be in Indonesian. Since we had very few English-only speakers, we would simply have an interpreter sit in the back with a microphone and transmitter, whispering in English during the service so that people who needed it could put on a headset and understand what was going on. That’s how we dealt with the language barrier.

Later when the English speaking population grew, we would sing bilingual worship songs and have an interpreter stand by the preacher. The Speaker would speak, pause. The interpreter would speak, pause. Back and forth, back and forth.

Now you can imagine for someone bilingual, this can get pretty boring because you’re hearing the same message twice. And for monolinguals, this is difficult because you’re hearing a sentence in one language and then you need to wait 7 seconds or so until you get the next bit of communication. Not to mention that the service could double in length.

Eventually the English-speaking congregation grew to the point where we made a separate English service with its own leaders and worship team. It seemed like a conventional and pragmatic solution, but I felt like we lost something along the way. Instead of being one church we sort of became two churches that met in the same building, segregated by language and to a lesser degree, generation. We lost a foretaste of the Kingdom of God.

To address this, I invented the application I’m using for this talk. I’m calling it SPF.IO for now, which stands for Synchronous Presentation Framework and you can read more about it at www.spf.io. It lets me prepare my message in one language, translate it into multiple languages and deliver subtitles in real time to create a seamless multilingual experience. The subtitles can be shown on screen or on people’s mobile devices.

With further preparation, I can deliver multilingual slides and audio to mobile devices as well–so instead of handing out wireless headsets, people can get a personalized experience on their phone. And if I need to support completely ad-hoc communication, there is a way for an interpreter to provide live captioning. This technology enables churches to have joint worship services where everyone can enjoy a personalized experience in their native language. Yes, it requires thoughtful preparation, but the technology makes it simple and seamless.

A Demonstration

Now as an example of this, I’d like to read you a letter I wrote to the Church on behalf of Technologists. I’m going to read it in Bahasa Indonesia and you can follow along in English. (Watch the demo)

Kepada Gereja,

Kami mengasihi Anda, tetapi terkadang kami merasa bahwa Anda tidak mengerti kami.

Kami adalah pembangun, penjelajah, penemu.

Kami suka membuat hal-hal yang menakjubkan dan membagikannya kepada dunia. Kami suka melihat masa depan dan membuatnya menjadi kenyataan untuk dialami oleh orang lain. Kami suka menciptakan yang mustahil. Kami suka membuat orang kagum dengan menggunakan saat yang ajaib di mana hal yang kami buat memenuhi kebutuhan mereka dengan tepat.

Saat di mana mimpi menjadi kenyataan.

Kami tidak keberatan untuk bekerja keras, memakai banyak waktu, mencoba dan gagal dan mencoba lagi, karena kami ingin melihat ide kami menjadi nyata dan membantu banyak orang. Kami suka berbicara dan bekerja dengan orang-orang lain yang memiliki kesukaan yang sama.

Kami tidak keberatan membantu orang dewasa belajar bagaimana cara menggunakan iPhone mereka, cara menggunakan proyektor, ataupun cara membuat situs web yang indah – hanya saja kami dapat melakukan jauh lebih banyak dari itu.

Kami sebetulnya sama seperti orang lain.

Kami mau menghubungkan iman kami dengan kegemaran kami. Kami ingin menggunakan karunia kami untuk memajukan Injil dan Kerajaan Allah. Kami ingin melakukan hal yang kami sukai demi tujuan yang bermakna.

Hal ini sulit ditemukan di tempat kerja sekuler dan sangat sulit untuk dilakukan sendiri. Dapatkah Gereja menjadi tempat untuk itu?

Dapatkah Gereja menjadi tempat untuk mengembangkan karunia teknis kami?

Dapatkah Gereja memberi kesempatan bagi kami untuk membuat gambaran, bereksperimen, mencoba dan gagal dan mencoba lagi untuk membangun sesuatu demi memberitakan Injil?

Dapatkah Gereja membuat komunitas yang kami ingini? Akankah Gereja membantu kami untuk membantunya?

Kami mengasihi Anda, Gereja, dan karena itulah kami ingin memberikan yang terbaik yang kami miliki kepada Anda:

Kreativitas kami, kemampuan kami, daya temu kami, fokus kami, semangat kami, rasa ingin tahu kami.

Kami ingin Gereja untuk memimpin gerakan perubahan, untuk mengalahkan dunia dalam mencipta, menemukan, dan berinovasi, serta memberikan sumbangsih kepada perkembangan jaman demi kepentingan Injil.

Kami ingin menyumbangkan karunia kami yang unik untuk memberikan gambaran lebih awal tentang Kerajaan Allah yang luar biasa yang dapat dinikmati oleh semua orang.

Gereja terkasih, maukah Anda membantu kami untuk mewujudkan hal ini? Demi kemuliaan Allah dan keselamatan bagi bangsa-bangsa?

Dengan penuh kasih,
Saudara-saudari Anda yang ahli teknologi

 

Can you imagine the potential for this technology to give voice to the voiceless, to members of the Body of Christ from whom we have not really heard? Can you imagine its potential to display the full inclusion of people from every language in the Kingdom who can now speak, listen and worship together?

Can you imagine this being used, not just by an Indonesian technologist, but by an Iraqi brother facing persecution, or a Chinese sister speaking about the Spirit’s work there, or a liberated Indian woman speaking up for her enslaved friends, or an Ethiopian pastor explaining how gospel-centered entrepreneurship is changing lives, or a Vietnamese pastor sharing about the needs of his congregation in a presbytery meeting, or a missionary giving Spanish-language updates from the villages of Colombia or a deaf sister sharing her testimony about Christ to an audience of thousands in her native language?

Taking a page from the Presbyterian Book of Order, this technology helps the Church fulfill its six great ends:

  1. The proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind, by enabling people to receive the message in their native languages.
  2. The shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God, by bringing people together to serve one another in love across the language barrier.
  3. The maintenance of divine worship, by enabling people to participate in weekly worship in their heart language.
  4. The preservation of the truth, by enabling the Body to listen carefully to all of its members.
  5. The promotion of social righteousness, by giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized and including them fully in the life of the Church.
  6. The exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world by showing all nations that Jesus Christ is Lord not only of Israel, but of the entire world.

The unified witness of the local church gathered, in its multilingual, multicultural, intergenerational splendor is a mighty testament to the Gospel message of the supremacy of Christ. It shows the world that these people are not united by race, ethnicity, language, politics, socio-economic status, but by their King Jesus Christ. It shows the world that these people love each other so much that they work through the most insurmountable linguistic and cultural differences that ordinarily divide people in order to serve one another. It can be an awesome thing to behold.

Application

I would like to close with a practical application based on some data Michael Adeney brought to my attention. The Brookings Institute recently released a policy paper titled, “Investing in English Skills: The Limited English Proficient Workforce in U.S. Metropolitan Areas”. In their research, largely based on the 2012 US Census Bureau American Community Survey, they discovered that nearly 1 in 10 or about 19.2 million working age adults are considered limited English proficient, which correlates to 25 to 40 percent less earning power than their English proficient counterparts.

The institute conveniently provided a spreadsheet of demographic segmentations by major American metropolitan areas. Guess how many working age people are considered Limited English proficient in the greater Seattle area?

238,000.

Who will bring foretastes of God’s Kingdom to these people? Who will bring the Gospel to these people? Who will welcome these people whom God loves, people to whom God wants to give His Kingdom? Who will serve and activate these people to use their gifts for the Gospel? What better way to welcome them than to use every reasonable means to communicate in their language?

I’ve heard of and seen some of the good work your church is already doing through the Global Friends ministry and Language Institute among other things. I’d like to invite you to leverage technology like SPF.IO to enhance your ability to reach people in their native language while creating amazing foretastes of God’s Kingdom for your entire congregation.

The message of the Kingdom is Jesus Christ crucified for the sins of the world to bring about a new, restored glorified creation and the experience of the Kingdom is the love of God poured out and overflowing in the hearts of every person in spectacular deeds of grace and truth and excellence.

Let’s do whatever it takes to deliver these Kingdom foretastes, beginning here in Seattle and to the ends of the earth. Let’s invent and adopt technology to accelerate the gospel and in so doing, let’s hasten the return of our beloved King.

Thank you. I’d like to now open the floor for questions.


This talk was given as part of the “Technology and the Word” series at University Presbyterian Church. You can watch part 1 here: Coding in the Dark: The Risks and Rewards of Innovating for the Kingdom.

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.