From Crisis To Christ?
There are innumerable times when a man or woman feels like he or she is left alone in a silent, aimless, senseless world. What surpassing peace can the world offer in times of pain and agony; and in times of utter desperation; in the midst of an ever changing world that has almost lost its meaning; in times of turmoil and destruction; in times when social structures, religions and politics fail; and more so- in times even when the solid earth beneath your feet fails you? Where do you run to? In the world there are troubles, but Christ gives peace: Peace not apart from Himself, but peace that is quietly and powerfully passionate, peace that never fails, peace that overwhelms and overflows, peace that conquers all doubts, peace that umpires the soul and orders your steps, peace that gently woos you to Him even when your hearts faint! That’s what Japan needs in this dark hour. When all is said and done, Japan will begin looking for answers. Will they look in all the wrong places again?
“In the days and weeks ahead, huge numbers of Japanese will be turning to their country’s religious traditions as they mourn the thousands of dead and try to muster the strength and resources to rebuild amid the massive destruction wrought by…. [March 11th] 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami.”
This must concern us. Every religion is consciously seeking the ultimate answer to the greatest philosophical questions of all time, such as: What is the purpose of my existence? How in the world did I get here? Is there a life after death? If so, in what manner or form? Is there a Creator of the Universe? etc. But we have seen time and again, where the philosophies of our times have led us into; with its horrific entailment that follows: A hopeless and blunt future that emits fear of the present leaving people uncomfortably numb. People don’t have a point of reference outside of themselves, someone reliable to lean on to; a real God who is transcendentally true at all times. Regardless of whether we believe in Him or not there is a God who simply is. And sadly, man in his lostness is drowning in his fallen state and is choked by his own incapability to see the world as purposeful and meaningful. Perhaps, this may be one of the many reasons why suicide rate in Japan is tragically and alarmingly ascending (more here). While the world mourns over the loss of 10, 000- 20, 000 lives due to earthquake & tsunami, not many know or care very little about the 30, 000+ who commit suicide every year for the 12th year in a row. Furthermore, the quest for some kind of divine comfort will take place all over Japan, as more people mourn over the deaths of family members.
“In the days ahead, you’ll see people praying, with hands folded, for the spirits of those killed…..It goes back to a really early understanding of human spirits and rituals designed to control those spirits, which can take 49 days or, depending on the type of Buddhism, could go on for up to seven years.”
“The earthquake is an opportunity for Buddhist priests to step up and show they are still relevant,” says Nelson (a reporter). But he adds: “Young people just aren’t buying it anymore.” What will they buy into next, in such a time as this? As massive suffering and national crisis is pressed before our very eyes, just next door, it’s time to set aside our self-centered agendas, legalistic-church-politics, and all the petty little child-like minor differences. This is the time for the Church to rise up as an adult; and focus on what commonly unites us most, namely: The Gospel, “the power of God to salvation” (Romans 1: 16). This may be the time to call forth for fastings & prayers for a city-wide Gospel movement in every major cities of Japan. “Revivals always happen with extraordinary prayer, uniting for the city, for one another” (Tim Keller). Leaders need to listen closely & be extra-sensitive to the Spirit’s leading in the next few months. God put the Church in Japan to do only what the Church alone can do: “To minister to both body & soul,” says Dr. Micheal Oh.
A city-wide gospel movement is an organic thing. It’s an energy unleashed across not only the city but across the different denominations, and therefore, there’s no one church, no one organization, no one leader in charge of it all. It’s bigger than that. It’s the Holy Spirit moving across the whole city and as a result the overall body of Christ is growing faster than the population, and the city is being reached. And there’s an impact for Christ made in the whole city.- (Tim Keller)
At the end of the day, will Japan revert back and slip into its old self again? Does this concern us as the global church? Thank God so many people are praying for Japan, and contributing to the needs of the people affected by the disaster. But in the midst of all comfort and luxury, infected by a pandemic affluenza, humanity finds itself with deep inner discontent. This discontentment is the result of man`s inability to find rest in temporary things that appear as security. When the known-security, as legitimate as it may seem, becomes the ultimate, man begins to drown in an ocean of materialism that never satisfies. People soon grow weary of life`s simple joys resulting in a wanting for something more; only to find themselves that the best gifts the world can offer no longer satisfy them. When the pleasure button is repeatedly pressed and it can no longer satisfy, the spiritual emptiness that results is terrifying. The human heart was made for something so big that only God is big enough to satisfy. There is no other hope for Japan, as it is for the rest of the world.
A Voice that gives counsel to this world from the throne, who rules and reigns and governs the universe, has the power to turn our deepest fears and sorrows into joy: Joy that is inexpressible; joy that is interwoven with broken-hearted glee; joy that knows no bounds; joy that helps you see beyond the order of this temporal fallen world; and joy that climaxes in Christ that makes our temporary joys and inferior delights loose their power, replacing them with superior delights in Him. We live and move, and have our being in Him (Acts 17: 28). We were made to enjoy Christ and be satisfied in Him forever. We were made for another world.
Who can compare His surpassing worth and matchless value? No words could ever describe the divine patience which has endured generations after generations in Japan. Consider the divine power with which He upholds this universe by his word (Hebrews 1: 3). What kind of wrath would He pour out in the end upon those who disbelief, if such patience and power has prevailed over the ages? Contemplate on His even-tempered care with which He tarries upon us; as One who shows great compassion on a slow learner who, after a few steps, falters -time and again. But we can be assured, that in the end, the same grace that has awakened us from our spiritual deadness is the same grace that will revive us from spiritual slumber by His word.
It is His faithfulness that stills our hearts; replenishes and nurtures faith; enabling us to trust on His promises; and to have a growing faith in Him who is “the same yesterday, today and forever” [Heb.13:8]. There is an unchanging constancy in Christ; and there is no falsehood in Him. Not one Word that goes forth from His mouth will go void of its power, unlike a man who slips with his tongue (Isaiah 55: 11). But He will accomplish whatever His word is destined to do. He remains true to His word because He cannot deny Himself. “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19). Such is the faithfulness that will last from generations to generations. He is the one who authored faith in us. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” [Romans 10:17]. This must be proclaimed like never before in Japan. Such is the faithfulness of Jesus that can turn the nation of Japan from brokenness into vibrant, joyful and worshiping communities. The reason mission exists for Japan is because worship does not (J. Piper). More than 99 % sheep are lost, and have not even heard the Gospel.
With the same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead, “.. it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness that has shone into our hearts to give light to the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ” [2 Cor.4:17]. He who authors this faith in us is the same person that will take us all the way to the finish line. He is the Way when there seems to be no way forward. He is the Truth in an age where there is an ever increasing abandonment of absolute truth. He is the Life even in the face of earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear threats & death. He is not faithless to leave us on our own. Was it not He who said he will not leave us as orphans? Is it not He who says He will never leave us nor forsake us? He who has begun a good work in us is faithful to bring it to completion (Philippians 1: 6). He is the author, but also the finisher of our faith; and He will take us every step of the way, all the way to the end of the finish line [Heb.12:2]. All authority in heaven and earth belongs to Jesus Christ (Matthew 28: 18).
All things are through Him, from Him and to His glory. No earthly kingdom; no power, no dominion ever existed or will ever exist apart from Him. He ordains and orchestrates every surpassing visible grandeur up from the stars, galaxies, meteorites; and down to the minutest invisible details like the germs and microscopic viruses no man has ever yet discovered. God is sovereignly in charge of the life and mission of the Church. Some of the apparent set-backs are not to be embraced as ultimate defeat. Jesus knows what He is doing exactly and He is greatly at work in the nation of Japan. The Gospel is advancing in Japan.
WATCH (below) Japanese Congressman Doi (Christian) walked the tsunami damaged streets of Sendai for the first time since the waves devastated the city. Doi has been a key Christian partner in mobilizing the relief effort through the local church. “We need faith…..we need to tell them how to have faith,” says Doi.