A timely response to an urgent need
We have an amazing opportunity to meet it if we are willing to be “the nail that sticks up”
“What do you think? If a man has one hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine, go to the mountains, and seek that which has gone astray?” (Matt 18:12 WEB).
Notice the urgency of the man in this verse. He changes his plans because one sheep out of a hundred is lost and actively searches for it.
Here in Japan, the situation is pretty much reversed. Depending on which statistics you read, there may be only one or two “safe” sheep while “the ninety-nine” are lost! How much more urgent should we be in actively seeking so many who are in eternal danger?
Sticking out for Jesus
However, it’s tempting to isolate ourselves in our churches and ministries—hiding behind excuses relating to cultural sensitivity and how difficult it can be to share the gospel in a country that says, “the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.” We need to remember that Jesus was literally nailed down because he stuck out. “He was despised and rejected by men” (Isa. 53:3). Very often I have despised being despised and rejected being rejected. So I’ve looked for a way to share the gospel without the awkwardness. It doesn’t exist.
I would much prefer to wait for a “divine appointment” where God surprises me and a fish jumps right into the boat. But I have realized that fishing for men is much like fishing for fish. Those who are serious about it get the proper tools, search for good locations, and go out for extended times of intentional fishing. I have found that when I do this, I experience many more divine appointments. We must have regular times of waiting on the Lord, but God doesn’t want us to wait for him to bring the lost sheep back into the pen. When I get a toothache, I don’t wait for a dentist to call me for an appointment; I actively seek one. May God give us an ache to see souls saved so that we put feet to our prayers.
Some friends and I do evangelism every week in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. Quite a few people have been open to hearing about Jesus. We often talk to people in parks and restaurants because they are less busy and more willing to have a conversation. It still amazes me when a person tells me they have never heard the plan of salvation in a country that has so much technology and religious freedom. We never know whom we’ll meet, but God is always working behind the scenes to honor our faith when we actively share it.
A new opportunity awaits
God also works in ways that are more obvious. I don’t believe it’s an accident that the Rugby World Cup and the Olympics are being held back-to-back in Japan. God has given Japan another window of opportunity to respond to the gospel. The eyes of the world are on this nation. Many churches and ministries are doing amazing things in this season, and my wife and I want to be a part of what God has planned. We are on staff with Youth With A Mission in Tokyo, and our base has sensed a call to begin by focusing on training Japanese Christians to share the gospel and to be lovingly and politely aggressive in evangelism. For this purpose, we have started a ministry called A Million Lights. We’re asking the question, “What if each believer in Japan decided to share their light with someone else?” We’ve been conducting evangelism seminars in various parts of the country with the call: “Hey, the world is coming to our doorstep! Let’s get ready!”
But God’s plan for Japan is much bigger, and we believe the worship of Jesus in Japan will overflow to the point where Japan is known as a missionary-sending nation. Imagine churches multiplying in homes and ramen shops, Japanese artists worshiping the Lord in public places, and a huge increase in Japanese missionaries going to other parts of the world!
Jesus is the King of Kings and the ultimate ruler of Japan. He’s the One who gets to define what it means to be truly Japanese. He’s the One who tells Japanese Christians and all other believers to “preach the Good News to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). Let’s ask the Lord for urgency to go after “the ninety-nine.” Let’s embrace the awkwardness and be willing to stick out.
If you’d like an A Million Lights seminar in your area, please visit:
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