In December 2001, Pastor You Yong was praying in his church in Magetan, Indonesia when members of the Laskar Jihad army surrounded the church and kidnapped the Christian pastor.
Pastor You had started a small church in 1996 and it grew to over 100 people. The majority of the congregation were converts from Islam. The Muslims were outraged.
Indonesia has a population of about 250 million and 85% are Muslim. In a couple of provinces, they have even managed to set up Sharia law. Though Christians only make up 12% of the population, they are the fastest growing religion in Indonesia.
Yong’s church was part of that growth. The Muslims complained to local authorities that Yong was causing disharmony. When they were put off, the Islamic leaders called in the Laskar Jihad army to deal with the situation.
The Jihadists threw a bag over Yong’s head and dragged him off for interrogation. They beat and threatened Yong.
They held a machete to his neck and Yong thought he was going to die.
But during this ordeal Yong recounts how inside he was completely at peace. In an interview with Paul Estabrooks of Open Doors International, Yong said:
“I was amazed that throughout the ordeal I felt an incredible peace. I was also amazed at the answers I was able to give them. That verse came true — ‘when you are brought to trial, do not worry about what to say, for when the time comes, you will be given what to say’ (Matthew 10:19). The more they provoked me, the more peace I felt.”
The extremists eventually let him go, telling him to shut down his church or else. But Yong still pastors today.
Yong’s story is part of a growing trend of persecution around the world. In some parts of the world, Christians are regularly being martyred. Even in North America we sense a growing wave of discrimination because of our faith. Though it’s not to the same extreme as Indonesia or Syria, it is something we are not used to.
As a result, we are having to deal with a very unusual emotion connected to our faith — fear. In fact, Google reports that the ‘fear of death’ is the most researched fear in its search engines.
How do we deal with fear?
When I was reading the Book of Revelation a while back, one verse popped out and it showed the unique ability given end time Christians to handle fear.
11 And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. (Revelation 12:11 NASV)
We need to trust God. In fact, 365 different times (one for every day of the year), the Bible tells us to ‘fear not’ and trust God (Deuteronomy 31:6).
But perhaps just as importantly, we need to conquer our fear of death. The Apostle Paul had. He told the Philippians:
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21 NASV)
In World War II, Allied bombers suffered incredible casualty rates. Over 44% of Allied crew members were killed in action and another 15% wounded or captured.
It was one of the most dangerous, yet important jobs, in World War II.
During the early days of the war, the bombers only had fighter protection for about half their journey. When the fighters turned back, the bombing crews went on alone facing packs of German fighters and flying through terrifying flack barrages.
One of the biggest problems was dealing with fear before leaving on their bombing runs.
Before taking off on particularly dangerous missions, they were at times told to believe they were already dead. They needed to accept their death, before they took to the air.
The Apostle Paul did the same thing. When the prophet Agabus warned Paul of his death if he went to Jerusalem, the apostle tossed it aside, because the ‘fear of death’ had no hold on him (Acts 21:10-14).
He had already faced down death.