Editor’s note: When we asked two prominent Chinese Christian leaders how we should pray for the church in China in 2023, they pointed to Hebrews 3:6: “But Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.”
That is why, in 2023, the theme of our prayer movement is Hold Fast. Each month, we will be praying for a specific area in which we long for Chinese Christians to hold fast, such as holding fast to Christ, holding fast to hope, or holding fast to joy. Will you join us in praying for the church in China to hold fast in 2023?
Union with Christ, Communion with the Spirit
It is important to pray for the church in China to hold fast. First, as long as we are awaiting our Lord’s return, all of life is wilderness. In Acts 2, the Spirit descended. The Spirit is here, leading the church toward the return of the King. As we depend on the work and leadership of the Holy Spirit, we respond in prayer. This is part of our union with Christ and our communion with the Spirit. We need to pray and hold fast.
Second, in China, this is a particularly dire time. We need even more prayer. In the Book of Acts, there are two prayers. The first is in Acts 4, after the Council of Jerusalem orders the Christians not to proclaim or share Jesus. They say, “Is it reasonable to listen to you and not to God?” When they went home, they went to another court: the Lord’s heavenly court. They prayed to Christ for leadership and help. They asked him to give them boldness and strengthen them.
When Stephen was on trial before he died, he saw heaven open, and he cried out to the Lord. His last prayer was, “Forgive them, for they don’t know what they do.”
Outside persecution from earthly kingdoms only shows more clearly who the heavenly king is. We pray because, the more persecution there is, the more we need prayer. When we support the church in China, we need to pray along with them.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
Hold Fast Our Confidence
Hebrews 3:6 says: “Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.”
Is this a conditional promise? If we don’t hold fast, are we still his house? I think it is both. We are Christ’s house, and we hold fast our confidence, boasting in our hope. These things mutually point to one another. We are the house of Christ, and we hold fast; because we hold fast, we further prove we are his house. Christ is over the house. He is the foundation, and we are the building. We are in union with him.
Part of “holding fast” is daily, faithful communion with him in prayer. This is not blindly done. We persevere because of who Jesus is, what he has done, and the kind of hope he has delivered. This confidence is not human. If you study Hebrews, this confidence always points to the Son as the high priest, one who has entered into the temple, behind the curtain. Holding onto this confidence is almost the same thing as having union with Christ. It is exercising your faith.
When you endure hardship, you are proclaiming that Christ is all in all, he is my sufficiency. You are not boasting in yourself. Our hope is that, eventually, Christ and the Spirit will deliver us. How can we boast or hold fast? By prayer. We have no external resources, only prayer.
Everyday life is a journey in the valley. We always cry out. Sometimes, I just cry out and say, “Help me.” The Psalms say the love of the Lord is better than life. I may be delivered, or I may not be delivered. But eventually, my deliverance and my salvation is in Christ. This is so hard. It is like Wang Yi’s prayer, where he said, “Father, if you will, please remove the oppression of this government from our bodies so we can have a breath. And if not, give us strength so we can endure. Give us strength so that, through this, we can know more of your love in this situation, and we can show people that you are real.”
This is not one specific prayer. It is union with Christ deep down in the heart, and communion with the Lord.
To Those Who Leave
I have talked with some Chinese believers who are in the U.S. and who are considering emigrating. What does “holding fast” look like for those who leave China?
The number one struggle they are going to face is an entirely new world and situation. Can they survive? This time brings deep dependency on the Lord to deliver them from the anxiety and uncertainty of the future. In China, there is great pressure and great persecution – but that provides a different kind of security. When people move from China – especially those who are already in their 40s and are less resourceful – they are in deep anguish. Holding fast in that is experiencing God and knowing his faithfulness.
This reminds me of when I was young and my father was imprisoned. I had to go to the countryside with my mom. Someone asked me if, when my father was arrested, I was angry with God? That question really surprised me. At the time, I never thought of being angry with God. I couldn’t answer. Later, I realized that maybe part of it is, as a young Christian in persecuted China, losing freedom was just part of the package. You don’t think something extra has come upon you; it is part of life. At that time, you depend on and turn to God. You rely on God.
In China, we have hardships. But if we come to the States, then we have to depend on and rely on God in different kinds of life situations. We survive by trusting in his lovingkindness.
Brothers and sisters who leave China: God has richly blessed you in China through [the persecuted church], and it is not for no reason. May that encouragement continue to be a reminder of how loving and kind God is. Just keep going.
Believers who emigrate will have many different kinds of challenges, from legal issues to work. Everything will be very difficult. Those who come here, especially those who pursue asylum, will have hardship. It is not entirely the same as in China, because they have freedom, but the uncertainty they face in life is also difficult. It is not easier than in China.
Muxi Zhang is a pseudonym for a China ministry veteran who has in-depth and extensive ministry experience.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Pray for Chinese Christians to have wisdom on how they can bring the gospel to more people in turbulent times. Pray also for wisdom on navigating tense political times within China.