“Simon, Simon, listen!
Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat,
but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail;
and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
Luke 22:31-32 (NLT)
So the trial will begin in mid-May - a few days before my birthday - and the prosecution will take place over a week or more. And then there'll be a three-month-long break before the defence makes its case.
Who would even wait three months before fully accepting the prosecutor's side of the story - and the media's fire? Who would even bother waiting for the truth? Who cares enough to do more than point fingers of accusation, cynicism, mockery and dismissal, and find out the full picture?
Almost one mission trip every day, 47 affiliate churches, 12,786 conversions in 2011 - who even bothers reading the good stuff? No one wants to read the news about how a church is changing lives - it's like reading about a doctor doing his job, versus one that might have caused a patient's death. Of course, the good stuff doesn't make allowance for the bad; I'm just saying. No one knows the truth, but it's so easy to criticise a big church. But why? Why would you want to dismiss and laugh at an organisation that has saved tens of thousands of souls, a vast proportion of whom came from non-Christian backgrounds, and transformed the individuals' lives in ways incomprehensible? Why would you so easily dismiss as lawless money-sucking an organisation that conducts mission relief in devastated regions, that sends teams out to places destroyed by tsunamis, earthquakes and famine alike; that sets up private schools for wayward youth and conducts church services, home visitations and other support activities for children, the elderly, the mentally disabled and more?
No one knows the truth about the case just yet. But if I were from a different church, I wouldn't mock and criticise. I would pray. I would pray that the souls whose lives have been transformed for Christ would not waver in their faith. I'd pray for the Lord to keep each of His children safe in His hands.
I look up at the hall of people crying out to the Lord in the Spirit with passion and determination, and I see Anatoly and Sean on the big screen, fervent in prayer. Look at that. Coming to Singapore, all the way from Kazakhstan and New York respectively, to attend a seven-month theology course in a church that's got all this bad press going on, and here they are, praying for the church. And then the camera focuses on Andrew and Carmen. Look at that, with all that God has brought them through, and all the talent and big-heartedness He placed in them.
And then it hits me. I love these people. It's hard to call a big church your family and absolutely mean it, but it hits me when the camera focused on these faces. I know the people in the church. I admire and love them. They are strong in the faith, powerful in the Spirit, grounded in their understanding, vessels of love.
What are you doing with us, God, is it going to be yet another excruciating, testing year for the church? Hasn't the furnace been heated enough? 15 May, followed by three months of waiting while the public takes the negative sensationalised reports as truth and assume us churchgoers don't have half a brain to discern for ourselves?
When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place.
The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies.
All the nations surrounded me,
but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
They surrounded me on every side,
but in the name of the Lord I cut them down...
I was pushed back and about to fall,
but the Lord helped me.
The Lord is my strength and my defence;
he has become my salvation.
I will not die but live,
and will proclaim what the Lord has done.
The Lord has chastened me severely,
but he has not given me over to death.
Open for me the gates of the righteous;
I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord
through which the righteous may enter.
I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
you have become my salvation.
Psalm 118 (extracts)