November 2015 Volume 3 - Departments
In this conversation, K.P. Yohannan focuses on today's young people, their impact on society and how other generations can play a part in their lives.
QUESTION: What significance do young people play in today’s society?
There is so much potential in what God can do in and through the lives of this new generation. They are amazing at multitasking; they are continually connected with information globally; they are compassionate and have loving hearts; they are honest, open and very sincere.
This generation is ready to jump in and be the one to say, “I’ll make a difference!” And in some ways, they already are. They’re shaping and shifting the course of our tomorrow by the sheer magnitude of their presence and their ability to adapt and excel in their surroundings. They can offer some brilliant ideas in making the world better because they long to live lives of significance.
When so much of our world today seems to have lost the challenge of Christ to deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Him, this new generation is craving something deep, something real, something to live and die for.
QUESTION: What qualifies a young person to serve the Lord?
When I think back to when I first began in ministry, I don’t think there was anything that qualified me to serve the Lord. I hardly knew any English; I was very young; and I came from a simple village life. I simply surrendered my life to the Lord.
At 16 years old, I joined a missionary training group and was transformed. Making the decision of surrendering my life to God, coupled with learning from godly brothers, has greatly impacted me, not only during the years that I served with them, but throughout the course of my whole life.
Today, young people are faced with this impossible challenge to measure up with those around them in education, knowledge, experience and talents. They have a mindset that they need to work hard enough to outdo everyone around them—and this has translated into their spiritual lives as well.
They think hard work and effort will qualify them. The Lord is looking instead for a humble, broken person who comes before Him and says, “Take it all. Here is my life, and I’m not holding anything back.”
I’ve known people serving the Lord who are highly educated and those who are not educated, those who are rich and those who are poor. None of it makes any difference. It is only when a person has prayed that simple prayer that God is finally able to put them on the journey of enabling them for His work.
QUESTION: How can older generations impact today’s young people?
When you ask believers, no matter the generation, what they want in their walk with God, they will say they want to grow deeper in their relationship with the Lord. If you ask them how they plan to carry that out, they will tell you about plans to read more chapters in the Bible, listen to more messages from godly teachers, listen to more worship music, etc. All those things are good, but they are not the end in themselves.
All of us grow the most by being with others who are ahead of us in this spiritual race. It is by being with them as they follow Christ that we learn to grow in spirituality. It is something that is more “caught” than learned.
The way in which older generations can impact the younger generations is by choosing to live our lives before them and letting them learn from us. Believe in them. Those of us who are older can tend to forget what it was like to be young and in need of direction. Rather than seeing the next generation as a project to be fixed, see them as a blessing.
Remember, Jesus didn’t see His disciples as projects. He sought to be a blessing to them. Over the course of three and a half years, His life impacted them so greatly they could not help but be changed. It is through investing in them through our own day-to-day lives that we can best encourage, mentor and show them the way of godliness.
QUESTION: What is Gospel for Asia doing to make this investment in this generation?
Gospel for Asia has a one-year internship for young people ages 18 to 27 called School of Discipleship. Students serve alongside our staff at our home office in Texas or at our extension campus in Canada. Daily, they are challenged to live their lives in community with Christ and others.
It is a unique place for young people to come together with others in following the Lord. Even though we have classes, exercise, structure, evangelism, worship and prayer, it’s the people that make the program.
Our staff members at Gospel for Asia are incredible. They have a passion for Jesus, and they serve because they love Him. They are focused on missions and have a passion to reach people in Asia. It’s in this environment that these young people can grow in the simplicity of God's grace.
Parents of School of Discipleship students also see this program as a springboard in helping their children grasp what it means to follow the Lord and understand biblical truths that will help them the rest of their lives. I believe if any young person has a desire to serve God or grow in the Lord, their parents should be their greatest encouragement and cheerleader! What an amazing work of God to see a young person’s heart stirred for God because of the influence of their parents.
School of Discipleship is a unique place for young people to come together with others in following the Lord. It’s a safe environment and a place that is biblically sound and challenges students to learn practical skills that will deepen their walk with the Lord. I would challenge all young people to pray about investing a year of their lives in the School of Discipleship. They will never be the same!
QUESTION: What is your hope for young people?
My dream for all upcoming generations is that they will recognize that the call of God upon their lives has been and always will be to deny themselves, pick up their cross and follow Him.
It will never be the latest and greatest books and messages that will deepen our walk with God. It will not be new methods or the things that are trending. It will be that which is solid, unchangeable and foundational: God’s Word and His call to die and live.
My prayer is that we will see God’s Word lived out in this young generation and that they will follow the Lord with all their heart and be willing to give up all for the sake of Christ’s name!
“If you stay in this town and share the . . . Christian message, I will kill you and chop you in pieces,” Khine threatened the missionaries. His harsh words pierced the air, while the knife he held confirmed his seriousness.
Khine was not religious as his ancestors had been, but he was brutally against Christianity. His anger stirred fear in the hearts of many missionaries who had tried to share the hope of Christ in his village. Many fled at his wrathful warnings—but Pastor Nyunt stayed.
Commitment in the Midst of Strife
Nyunt, a dedicated Gospel for Asia-supported missionary, ministers to the people in Khine’s area. He also pastors a mission station with 13 people. Nyunt has persevered through much opposition and is committed to sharing the love of Christ no matter the cost.
In the beginning of his ministry, Nyunt experienced many difficulties, but he pressed on despite the hardships, carrying one burning passion: to proclaim to those around him the God who deeply loves them. He prays for the sick and works alongside the villagers, constantly displaying the love of Christ. As a result, he has gained respect in the eyes of those he serves.
Softened by a Simple Booklet
One evening, Khine met Nyunt. Even though Khine hated Christians, he saw the love the missionary had for his neighbors and respected Nyunt because of it. As the two men talked, Nyunt offered him a booklet he had about Jesus, and in a shocking move, Khine received it. When he read it later that day, Khine’s heart was deeply touched. He was filled with a new desire to learn about this God who offered people eternal life.
Three days later, Nyunt received a call from Khine, asking if he could visit the missionary’s home. The man who had hated Christians now had many questions. The two men talked about the Lord and eternity. As Pastor Nyunt explained about the love of Jesus, Khine soaked in the words. He was hungry to learn. It seemed the murderous intent he once felt had vanished.
New Life and Passion
Nyunt invited Khine to Sunday worship, and he began attending these meetings regularly. Soon Khine received the hope that Jesus gives.
“I misunderstood Christianity and Jesus,” Khine says. “But I know Jesus has forgiven all my sins and wrongdoings. … I will use the rest of my life for the glory of God.”
Khine helps out in the church and shares booklets, like the one that changed his life, with the local people. Now the man who once wanted to kill Christians longs for others to experience the hope he has found in Christ.
Aaliya was born a girl—and her grandparents hated her because of it.
“She will be a curse for the family,” they said. “Throw her away!”
Aaliya’s parents kept her, but to honor their parents, they showed no love to their daughter. A year after Aaliya’s birth, her father developed a leg problem, and they blamed the 1-year-old. Years later, when he was diagnosed with a kidney problem, they blamed Aaliya again—and beat her.
Throughout her childhood, Aaliya constantly heard, “You are the curse of our family.”
And she believed it.
When Aaliya was 12, she planned to end her life, but she couldn’t.
Over the next three years, her father’s sickness escalated, and no amount of treatment cured him. Her family sold their land, cows—everything—so he could get better. But then they were just poor, and he was on the verge of death.
Aaliya couldn’t bear to see her parents’ suffering, so she left home. As she walked, she saw a school friend who was a Christian.
“Aaliya, you listen to me,” she said. “You think nobody loves you, but still there is one more person who loves you.”
Aaliya looked into her friend’s eyes and found hope.
“Who is that?” Aaliya asked. “Who is that who knows me and loves me? My mother and father, they never loved me; they never cared for me, their own daughter. Who is that one who loves me?”
“Jesus,” her friend replied. “He died for you and gave His life for you. Aaliya, He loves you so much.”
Aaliya broke down in tears and held her friend close. She spent the night at her house, and the next morning, she walked back home, accepting her friend’s challenge to believe and “take courage.”
When she entered her village, Aaliya saw a crowd around her father, who looked like a statue as he lay on a cot. She ran to him, threw herself on his body and silently prayed, “Jesus, can you listen to my pain? Can you help me?”
Suddenly, her father moved his hands! The crowd stood back in surprise, then took him to get checked.
Aaliya kept praying. For six months, she fasted every Friday and prayed for her father’s healing—and the Lord answered.
“Why did you do this for me?” her father asked her one day.
Gathering courage, Aaliya said, “Papa, in Jesus’ name, you are healed. He healed you.”
He walked toward her and wrapped his arms around his daughter. It was the very first hug they shared.
That day, Aaliya’s father opened his heart to Christ.
Her mother followed, and Aaliya experiences more love than she ever dreamed of from her earthly parents and her heavenly Father.
Think About It :
In some South Asian cultures, girls are considered a curse because they’re seen as financial burdens to their families. Aaliya believed that, until a friend helped her discover how much God loves her. Now Aaliya is a Bible college student, planning to be a missionary who helps others discover the greatest love they will ever know in Christ.
Only days after her mother’s death, Aamaal’s father married another woman. Her stepmother did nothing to alleviate the young girl’s grief. Instead, she added to it. She scolded Aamaal and treated the 5 year old harshly for no reason. Aamaal lived in continual sorrow and discouragement without the love of a mother for 14 years.
When Aamaal was 19, her family arranged her marriage to a man named Gambheer. She began a new season in her life as a married woman and gave birth to a son a year later. Aamaal’s childhood dreams about a happy family life had started to become reality.
Sickness and Addictions
A few years into their marriage, however, Aamaal and Gambheer began to struggle with their finances, and Aamaal seemed to always be sick. Unrelenting pain, headaches and a sense of fear wracked her body.
When expensive treatments performed by physicians and witch doctors gave Aamaal no relief, Gambheer’s heart broke and he started to drink. He developed a violent temper and fought with his wife often. He blamed her for becoming sick and losing all his hard-earned money.
Unable to Jump
One night, Gambheer came home drunk and beat Aamaal very badly without cause. At her wits end, the desperate woman found a rope and ran into the jungle to kill herself. Aamaal climbed a tree, secured the rope to a branch and wrapped it around her neck, intending to end it all—but she found she couldn’t jump. She didn’t know why. Unable to end her miserable life and not wanting to return to her drunken husband, Aamaal spent the night in the jungle. The next morning, she returned home and realized she had been reliving her childhood torment.
A Family Restored
One day, Aamaal’s relatives told her about the life of Jesus. Out of curiosity, she started attending a church led by a Gospel for Asia-supported pastor. There she found encouragement.
Gambheer tried to prevent her from going to the church, but Aamaal persisted. Soon, she found hope in Jesus. While her husband continued to make her life painfully miserable, Aamaal kept faith and prayed regularly with other believers for the Lord’s help.
God heard His children’s cries and answered them by completely healing Aamaal. As a result, her husband chose to believe in Jesus, the One who heals the broken.
Aamaal now belongs to two families who love her: her earthly family and the family of God. She and Gambheer have joy and peace in their lives since being adopted as children of the Father.
Think About It :
There are people in South Asia who face hopelessness and desperation every day of their lives. Some people, like Aamaal, see suicide as their only way out, but we can pray they find the source of true joy. Ask God to protect them from self-harm and prevent them from committing suicide, and pray they will find their joy and identity in Christ.
For many years, everybody, including me, thought the Christian brother who had come to talk to me was a godly, gifted man with much responsibility in God’s kingdom. Now he was sitting before me weeping and confessing to a secret failure that had been going on for 12 years.
When I asked him how he managed to live such a double life, he answered, “I wore a mask. When I met you and others, I knew exactly what to say. I worked hard, performed well and made things happen. Nobody suspected anything. But I could not hold on to this mask any longer. It began to crumble, and my face began to be exposed. I could not sleep at night or think clearly anymore.”
King David wore such a mask for one year after his secret sin with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. He described in Psalm 32 how his physical body began to waste away, how his vitality was lost and how his sin was haunting him day and night. When he could not bear it any longer, he pulled off his mask, confessed his sin and genuinely repented. God forgave and restored him and called him a man after His own heart.
Judas too was wearing a mask for three and a half years. He did it so skillfully that the rest of the disciples didn’t suspect anything. Only Jesus knew the truth. Judas never removed his mask, and it led him to betray the Son of God and eventually hang himself in despair.
What could make us, as believers and Christian workers, resort to wearing a mask?
It all has to do with our inner life. On the outside we have the needed head-knowledge, expertise and gifting to accomplish great things for God, but on the inside we have not grown up. Our spiritual maturity and Christlike character has not developed enough to be able to support the ministry or leadership position we were given. In order to compensate for the lack of our inner life, we resort to wearing a mask and pretending to have a spirituality we don’t possess.
We keep wearing the mask because we fear others will reject us if they really knew who we are on the inside. We feel threatened that we may lose our important place in the church or ministry if people could see our real life and discover how spiritually unqualified we are for the position we hold.
What do we really want: an empty life or an authentic one?
If we wear a mask, we have to constantly scheme, plan and pretend to keep the deception going. But sooner or later the truth will catch up with us, and the mask will start to crumble, and our inner emptiness will be exposed.
If we want an authentic life, we must be ruthless with ourselves and, like David, pull off the mask we wear. We must humble ourselves before God, before those in authority over us and possibly before others we have hurt, and confess our pretense and ask for forgiveness.
Yes, there will be consequences, such as possibly losing a position, facing up to failure and even public embarrassment. But in the end, it’s all worth it because our fear is gone, we are cleansed from sin and guilt, and we are free to be honest and walk in the light. The fruit we produce in the future will be lasting because it will be the result of an authentic inner life.
More than anything else, we need grace when we finally pull off our mask.
We need God’s grace to give us the necessary courage, openness and vulnerability to come clean about our life of pretense. The only way we can receive His grace is through humility.
“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
If we humble ourselves, we will experience God’s abundant grace to cleanse us, fill us with new strength and bring about a supernatural transformation in our inner life.
We very much need grace from our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. Our double life not only hurts them personally, but they also have to pick up the pieces we left behind and face the dishonor we brought to the name of the Lord.
How can we extend such grace to one another? Only if we remember that none of us is without sin and failure—that is how. Therefore, let us show others the same compassion and grace God has shown to us.
When that Christian brother, whose story I told in the beginning, took his mask off and confessed his sin, I prayed with him and assured him of God’s forgiveness and of my own. Then I said to him, “You need to take a break. Your life is not lost. You will make it.”
My dear friend, only you can remove your own mask to become authentic. No one else can do it for you. When you take this step, God promises to be there to extend His grace to you and transform your inner life into the likeness of His dear Son. In the light of eternity, it’s all that counts.