Living Water: Are you Thirsty?

Are you thirsty? Do you feel the desperate need for the Holy Spirit in your life and ministry? Do you want to learn how to lean on Him more?

“’If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’” –John 7:38

Brother Yun told the story of his persecution as a church planter and evangelist in China in The Heavenly Man. He suffered brutal beatings, electrocution, malnourishment, and repeated imprisonments for the gospel, and he considered it all joy to join in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings.

His new book Living Water is collected from his teachings, many of them given to Western churches. Some of the principles may seem basic to Western Christians with theological knowledge, but his challenging calls to obey the Bible’s teachings are anything but boring.

Brother Yun is the only Christian I know of today who is writing in a radical way about the necessity of persecution for Christians. Listen to these quotes and consider how they apply to your walk with the Lord, our fellowship as a whole.

“Do you want to follow God and do something great for His kingdom? If so, then good. But first you must realize that the pathway to bearing fruit for the Lord is strewn with much opposition, slander, criticism, false accusation, and pain. People will misunderstand you and doubt your motives, and Satan will throw many roadblocks in your path in a bid to thwart your progress. This has been my experience over the years, and it has been the experience of every person I have known who has been used by God, from the apostles to the present day.”

“The true gospel, when it is preached with power, always results in either revival or riot. Just read Paul’s experiences in the book of Acts.”

“Did you ever consider that Jesus sent His own followers on suicide missions? He knew His disciples would be killed as they attempted to take the gospel throughout the world.”

“We need to get our minds off man-made temples, churches and buildings and realize that God no longer dwells in structures made by human hands.”

“When I’m in the West, I see all the mighty church buildings and all the expensive equipment, plush carpets and state-of-the-art sound systems. I can assure the Western church with absolute certainty that you don’t need any more church buildings. Church buildings will never bring the revival you seek. The pursuit of more possession will also fail to bring revival.” Instead he says we need teachings that contain the “sharp truths” of Scripture, and obedience to those truths.

“In China we always teach five things that all disciples need to be ready to do at any time. We need to be ready to pray, regardless of circumstances. We must always be ready to share the gospel and always ready to suffer for the name of Jesus. We also teach every disciple in China that they must be ready to die for Jesus Christ, and finally they should be ready to escape for the gospel if the opportunity presents itself, for Jesus said, ‘When you are persecute in one place, flee to another’ (Matthew 10:23). There is great power when we suffer for the gospel.”

“I have found over the years that many of the most fruitful times of ministry for the Lord have come at the same time as great opposition and persecution. There seems to be direct correlation between effective work for God and intense opposition. We can grow to such a place in Christ where we laugh and rejoice when people slander us, because we know we are not of this world, and our security is in heaven. The more we are persecuted for His sake, the more reward we will receive in heaven.”

“China is not being transformed for Jesus because we sit around thinking and talking about God’s work. No! We invest all our energy, time, and resources in reaching the lost. The church prays hard and works hard for the Lord. Many thousands of Christians have willingly endured brutal treatment and imprisonment in order to see the vision of a redeemed China become a reality.”

“Have you ever felt you would die unless you shared the goodness of Jesus Christ with others? If not, it is time to kneel down and ask God to give you a fresh revelation of the joy and presence of the Lord.”
I still have a few chapters left to read so more quotations may be forthcoming. I do recommend the book for if you are willing to look past the “basic teachings” and question whether you are really following them. In other words, be forewarned: contains highly convicting material.

Perspective on Persecution: Practical Suggestions

My heart is heavy as I write, but at the same time it is buoyed up by God’s Word and His work in our midst. Although we were saddened by the signage outside CT, how much greater is the joy of two salvations in one week!

Blogging about persecution is all the rage, so I’ll piggyback off Tom’s, Dar’s, and Joe’s recent blogs. I have a few anecdotes to add, but mostly I want to suggest specific ways we can learn to handle to persecution faithfully and graciously.

First I want to share my experiences with the limitation of Christian free speech, which I would not call persecution, but which illustrate the anti-Christian atmosphere in the education system. I taught British literature and the textbook included an excerpt from the King James Bible. The parable of the prodigal son appeared along with offerings from other sacred texts, which had nothing to do with British lit. I was excited about the opportunity to teach the prodigal son since it’s a beautiful picture of God’s grace. When the kids opened their books to it, they asked, “Are we allowed to read this?” and “Can we talk about God?” The latter question came up throughout the year when there was a connection between their reading and a spiritual topic. I assured them of our right to free speech, and pointed out the parable was in the textbook, after all.

Another instance occurred in the teacher work room (the new name for the teacher’s lounge) between two teachers who often touted their liberal beliefs.

The teacher work room replaced the teacher's lounge.

The conversation went something like this:
“One of the juniors I had in government was driving me crazy today. I wish she could just go to study hall.”
“What was she doing?”
“She wanted me to come to her church fundraiser.”
The teacher’s eyes rolled. “They just don’t understand that not everyone’s interested in supporting that stuff.”
“I know. I told her no and she didn’t understand. I wanted to say, ‘Your church is nice for you, but not everyone wants to be a part of your religion.’”
“These Christians are just so clueless. They think everyone should believe as they do and worship their judgmental God. It’s so intolerant.”
“Yeah, I’ve had kids ask me to sponsor missions trips and all kinds of crap like that. Why would I want to support you going to proselytize in someone else’s culture?”
“Exactly.”
Intolerant, huh? These politically correct, Democratic educators wouldn’t speak about Jews, Muslims, blacks, or Asians that way, but they saw nothing wrong with cursing Christians in the presence of others who might (and do) follow Christ. Argument seemed fruitless so I remained quiet, but I wish they knew they insulted me under the banner of tolerance.

Second, I wanted to comment on Dar’s balanced view of American Christian persecution. We don’t suffer like those in many countries, where conversion to Christianity is a crime. But certainly we experience a degree of oppression, especially in the free speech arena. I think we need to learn about the consequences other believers face by signing up for Voice of the Martyrs free monthly newsletter. You also get a free book, Tortured for Christ, when you sign up at persecution.org. Here’s why I think everyone should receive and read these newsletters:

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1. We should be aware of what global persecution looks like to get a perspective on our own suffering.

2. We should pray for these fellow believers who are facing dire circumstances. Our prayers can help them to be released from jail and/or torture, comfort them in their suffering, and increase their spiritual fruit. We should just pray against persecution, but that they would remain faithful and that God will work powerfully through it.

3. We can learn so much from how they view and handle persecution. It is clear in many of the issues that Christians in other countries expect persecution and view it as completely normal. When they accept Christ they realize they will likely be beaten or imprisoned for their beliefs. And they truly “consider it all joy” despite the pain and suffering because they experience God’s love and often see more people come to know Jesus. They also pray faithfully for their persecutors, and some have been led to Christ.

Third, we need to learn what the Bible has to say about persecution. I suggest we not only become familiar with the theology of persecution, but also memorize a few verses about persecution and spiritual warfare. Dar’s blog included 1 Peter 4:1-19 and there’s a video of Keith’s recent teaching. There is almost an overwhelming amount of verses on the topic, but that just shows how normal persecution is and how important it is that we handle it correctly, as an opportunity for the gospel.

I want to share Ephesians 6:10-18 because we need to remember that our struggle is not against people—school principles, police officers, or angry parents—but Satan and his forces. Certainly the evil day is upon us and the devil’s schemes are against us. This passage reminds us to fight with righteousness, truth, faith, the gospel of salvation, the Word of God, and prayer. In a word, we battle with love:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.

My last suggestion about learning to handle persecution is to read books about missionaries. Many wrote first-hand accounts of the struggles they faced on the field. A few suggestions:

Watch this movie with a box of tissues nearby.

1. Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose. She was imprisoned and malnourished but clung to God, and He came through.

2. Through the Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot. It’s the first-hand account of the story depicted in the film End of the Spear and illustrates Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s statement that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Although written by a woman, this is not a “girly” book and includes many excerpts from the husbands’ journals about their flights over the Amazon jungles.

3. The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. She wasn’t a missionary but this Dutch Christian hid Jews during the Holocaust and paid the price for opposing the Nazi Germany.

4. Secret Believers by Brother Andrew. This fictionalized compilation of true stories shows the conversions, growth, and persecution of Muslim Background Believers (MBBs). It’s an eye-opening look at what Muslims face when they come to Christ.

5. Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor, Hudson Taylor’s grandson and wife. He pioneered the Inland China missions movement of the 1800s and is the spiritual grandfather of the rapidly growing underground church movement in China. He experienced many obstacles in war-torn, third-world China and his diaries share the spiritual secret that kept him going.

6. The Peace Child by Don Richardson. He took his wife and young children to the Indonesian jungle to reach a cannibal tribe whose highest value was betrayal. The author will likely teach at the upcoming Perspectives course (perspectives.org).

There are many more books; please post other suggestions in the comments. Reading about these ordinary people who lived William Carey’s admonition to “expect great things from God; attempt great things for God” can give us the courage to enter with them into the “fellowship of Christ’s suffering” (Philippians 3:15).