Hold Fast

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.

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“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.

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.


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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.

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“How can we boast or hold fast? By prayer. We have no external resources, only prayer.

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.

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“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.

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.

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Further Reading

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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

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Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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