Pastoral Perspectives

Disturb Us, Lord

Our preaching through the book of Daniel has made me think about what believers go through for the sake of their faith. Throughout history, believers have somehow been persecuted and suffered in one way or the other for the sake of their faith. As I look around Singapore, by God’s grace, we have been blessed beyond measure in many ways. We hardly hear of anyone been persecuted for the sake of the gospel (at least not by the authorities) although some were persecuted by their families when they became believers.

Someone recently told me “We have no persecution at all. In fact, we are the ones persecuting others!” We laughed at it but it made me wonder. What is it that consumes us today? What occupies our thoughts and even our prayers? When I ask people how I can pray for them, often the reply has to do with “self”. I think it is not wrong to pray for ourselves in the first place. But when it is only about ourselves and nothing about God’s purpose and mission, I think we have missed something altogether.

A visitor once commented “Singapore is like a hospital; sanitized everywhere and too good to be true”. According to dictionary, sanitized means ‘made more palatable by the removal of elements that are likely to be unacceptable or controversial’. Even as we look at our spiritual life, I wonder if we have sanitized it so much so that we are unable to do anything for our faith. Of course, anything that is not acceptable or controversial in God’s eyes, we ought to ‘sanitize’ it. But are we also sanitizing God will out of our lives? When we follow Christ and obey His commandments, we will not be accepted by the world because we are not of the world (John 17:14). Jesus did not pray that we would be removed from the world. Instead, He prayed that we would be sent into the world as salt and light. As believers, the way we live, the values we uphold, the teachings we follow, the values we teach our children will all be contrary to the ways of the world. As we go about living our lives, I wonder if we have any opportunity to stand up for our faith like Daniel and his friends and many others in the Bible. 

A few years ago, I heard the story of a man who went on a mission trip. A few days into the trip, he started having severe stomach problem and he was eventually hospitalized. He was warded for a few days and couldn’t do all the things the team had planned and hoped for. When he finally came out of the hospital, he realized that God was actually behind all that had happened during the trip. While in the hospital, he was able to start a conversation with a Buddhist nurse and shared the gospel with her. A few more nurses came by and he continued to share the gospel. This person’s testimony left a deep impression in my heart. What should be our response if we are caught in a situation like this? If we are persecuted or go through suffering, how would we respond? Today we hear a lot of stories and testimonies about people being persecuted or suffering for gospel- some more than others.

In the New Testament, we find the early believers going through persecution when the church was just established. Some of them were new believers, merely a few days old or just a few weeks old into their faith. Perhaps we can learn a thing or two from the way Peter and John responded when they were arrested for proclaiming the gospel in front of thousands as recorded for us in Acts 4:1-12

Firstly, they were submissive and co-operated with the authorities knowing that even in persecution, God was opening a door for them to glorify His name. If they were not arrested and brought into the court, they would not have had the opportunity to stand before all the leaders. It is interesting to note how God was setting the stage for them to make His name known. If we have prayed and committed our lives to the Lord, even when we are faced with unpleasant situations (Prison, hospital, house arrest, sicknesses, etc), we can submit to His sovereign will knowing that God might be opening a door for us to glorify His name.

Secondly, they depended on the Holy Spirit. In moments of such uncertainty, I am not sure what I would do. Would I turn my back and ask for an easy way out? Would I renounce my faith? Peter and John were filled with the Holy Spirit and this confirms what scripture says in Luke 12: 11-12 “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” When they were faced even with the threat of death, they depended on the power of the Holy Spirit. If we believe in God and trust His words, then depending on the Holy Spirit to help us should be the default position. We can trust God’s word that the Holy Spirit will enable and teach us what we ought to say.

Thirdly, they boldly declared the gospel. They did not water down the gospel or try to get away. When asked by whose authority or power they did what they did, they boldly declared the mission of Jesus; about his life, death, resurrection, and power that was at work in them. And they shared the gospel with them that salvation is found no one else but in the name of Jesus. They extended salvation to them that they too must be saved and can be saved in Jesus’ name, the one they had just crucified but who raised victoriously! When we are given the opportunity to explain our faith, we can boldly declare the gospel and extend salvation even to those who oppose our Lord Jesus Christ. The threat of death, the cross, and martyrdom keep false believers away.

We may ask why many of us are not suffering for the sake of the gospel? Perhaps our lives and our prayers are too sanitized. John Stott said “The ugly truth is that we tend to avoid suffering by compromise. Our moral standards are often not noticeably higher than the standards of the world. Our lives do not challenge and rebuke unbelievers by their integrity or purity or love. The world sees in us nothing to hate.”

If we are living very sanitized lives, I pray that the Lord will disturb us and wake us up from our selfishness so that we may partake in the Kingdom’s work for His glory.

Disturb us, Lord, when earthly things delight us
And we fail to look above;
When we withhold from others though we’ve been given much.
If the fire of our first love’s not burning bright as before,
Disturb us, Lord.
Disturb us, Lord,
when we’re not in Your word and we don’t spend time on our knees;
When we have a chance but we don’t speak the truth
that sets men free.
If we don’t worship You with fiery passion anymore,
Disturb us, Lord.
Sometimes, in Your great love,
You comfort the troubled.
But other times in Your great love,
You trouble the comfort’ble.
Disturb us, Lord,
If our lives never touch the lives of those still in the dark;
If we don’t live with hearts that break for things that break Your heart.
In tenderness, please lead Your Church back to Your heart once more,
Disturb us, Lord.
If we ever lose the wonder of the cross
that You once bore, disturb us, Lord.
Disturb us, Lord.
(Words and music: Dave Clark, Tony Wood, and Lee Black)

Pr Loliro Sani

July 21, 2019