Editor’s note: As Chinese house churches try to respond to the current challenges in the Chinese climate toward religion, knowledge and understanding are in great need. In a 2021 seminar for Chinese Christians, “Gabriel,” a Christian attorney, shared about how and why house churches should adopt a gospel-centered legal framework, and what that means practically for believers and their church communities. In this excerpt, he encourages believers to take courage in the Spirit, and to lead lives that are holy and blameless. He reminds Christians that the goal is not legal validation, but a faithful witness to the God of their salvation.
19 For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.
The Help of the Holy Spirit
Paul is joyful because Christ has been preached: he is not joyful because he won his lawsuit or because his church has grown . Paul rejoices in the expansion of Christ’s kingdom. In verse 19, he says this comes through prayer and the help of the Holy Spirit.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
At times, we think attacks against other churches are irrelevant to us. We may even think our prayers do not help. But the Bible says Paul is able to rejoice “through your prayers.” The prayers of the saints are very important, and are a great assistance to suffering churches. Do not think you are not doing anything by saying, “I will pray for them.” You are a great help, and this is through the help of the Holy Spirit, not you yourself, for humans are weak and fearful.
I used to say I was a wimpy lawyer, not a brave one. The night before I went to a hearing, I could not sleep. This was because I was inwardly depressed. In this kind of warfare, our weaknesses are obvious; pastors have shared that when law enforcement officers come, their legs begin to shake. People cannot bear this because they do not know what is going to happen. Imagine: suddenly, dozens of people rush upon you, and you are surrounded by a group telling you that what you are doing is illegal, and you will be punished. You might not be able to bear the pressure!
We rely on the help of the Holy Spirit, not on ourselves. We must gratefully say, “Lord, no human can accomplish this.” We need to return to the Holy Spirit and ask him to enable us to be broken and humbled. This is torturous, but it leads to joy and gratitude as we see God can keep and use us. You will eventually say, “Lord, thank you for keeping me on that day. That experience helps me be a little stronger. On that day, I bore witness to you.”
Faith That Overcomes Failure
When verse 19 says it “will turn out for my deliverance,” this is not referring to winning a lawsuit or successfully refuting law enforcement officers. Paul says this is just a part of his faith journey. His goal is to return to God’s family. The ultimate goal is salvation, not victory.
Presently, we attorneys are often defeated. I have never won an administrative review; I have not even been able to file an administrative lawsuit. From a human point of view, this is a very unsuccessful type of law practice. But we can discern we are still effective in certain aspects.
More importantly, we are being refined in the process. God is satisfied with our work, but he is more concerned with our soul: he molds and shapes us to become more like him. When we experience even a small amount of growth, we feel everything is worth it, because “it is my eager expectation…that I will not be at all ashamed.” We do not judge ourselves by our successes or our failures. We are willing to continue to lose. True faith can overcome failure – some mornings you speak eloquently and persuasively at a hearing, but that very afternoon, you find you were penalized and have been served with a complaint. Outsiders think Christians are speaking empty words into the air, but our words still have an effect. We have fulfilled our responsibility.
Heart to Live a Holy Life
We are to be watchful so we can stand firm. As the saying goes, “In order to be turned into iron, the metal itself must be strong.” When you are investigated, any faults you may have will be discovered. Even if you are blameless, they will still find some problems. But in verse 20 Paul said, “I will not be at all ashamed.” We do not need to be afraid of investigation; others are free to examine. As pastors, we should ask, “Have I utilized the church’s offerings for personal benefit? Have I taken advantage for personal gain? Are there any areas of my life where I have fallen and have not repented?”
Some preachers also run a business. If a preacher works part-time, he will be put in a difficult situation when authorities examine his business taxes. But in the Old Testament, we see no one could find fault with Daniel, or with Paul in the New Testament. This is truly important.
I have noticed the rich and powerful are not the ones who have true power. Rich people have many faults and weaknesses, but the truly powerful are the saints, the holy ones. Preachers do not need to be powerful or rich.
Furthermore, if your co-workers within the church are wealthy, your risk is incredibly high – the government loves to search for problems in the church, and it will be easy to isolate the troubles and issues of these co-workers. I recently had a case where the pastor was punished with a 50,000 yuan fine [about $7,200]. The pastor did not intend to pay this fine, but many of his co-workers said they would pay it, because it was within their means. They thought complying would save trouble. This is the manifestation of the weakness of the capitalist class.
Brothers and sisters, we must ask God to give us the heart to live a holy life. Do not ask for a big ministry or for fortune. If God wants to give it, he will do so; if God wants to take it away, he can do that as well. It is important that we are not ashamed of anything. Especially as preachers, we must repent and live holy lives. Since none of us is truly holy, we need to keep repenting, that we may be able to stand in the day of trouble.
Gabriel (加百列) is a pseudonym for a Chinese Christian who works as an attorney representing believers and churches facing legal challenges.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Pray that attorneys, pastors, and congregants facing pressure or persecution will have courage to face it. Pray they will lead holy lives that are free of blame and leave no room for their accusers.