Receiving a baton or relaying a message? Part Four: “You are a victor because you belong to Jesus”

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Editor’s note: This series comes from a sermon given at a recent conference on discipleship for Chinese house church leaders. This sermon is addressed to the persecuted church, and is intended as a call to joyfully persevere through hardship, knowing that, in Christ, the victory has already been won.

Yang Mingdao is the collective pseudonym for Chinese staff within China Partnership. This sermon has been translated and edited from its original version.


In everyday life, we face real failures and feelings of failure every day. We must honestly tell everybody that we have often failed. There is a sickness called clinical depression. I have never consulted a doctor, and I do not know if I have clinical depression. But the worst kind of disease is that which a sick person does not know he has. Suppose you are sick and don’t know it. You say, “I’m healthy.” This is a dire situation. It is actually good to know you are sick. I don’t know much about clinical depression, but I think I have probably had it because someone who had depression told me that my experiences were similar to his.

In the past year, I have experienced three things. Last year about this time, I was ministering away from home when my wife suddenly texted me two lines: “Daughter is in surgery. Come home quickly!” Our communication had never been so brief, so I immediately rushed home and found my wife. The doctor said to us, “Your child has brain cancer.” She was only nine and a half years old. Of course, I had never experienced such a thing before. If you research on the internet about the surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy that follows cancer, you will completely lose it. But man is strange. Knowing all this, you still want to look this information up. After that, you imagine all sorts of things.

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This did not end up being a huge obstacle. We were able to deal with it for a period of time through our theology, by trusting in the sovereignty of God. But I thought to myself, “If God is sovereign, why did he allow this to happen? Why couldn’t his sovereignty bring me something good? Why did this illness befall us?” What’s even more exasperating, you begin to reason with yourself, “You are risking your life to serve God. How could he allow this to happen to you?” This was the most difficult thing for me. At the time, I was asking myself, “Who am I, honestly? If I truly lose my daughter, then I am not a good father.” Then I began thinking that I was also a bad husband. Immediately after that, I thought that I was a failure. I could not even protect my own daughter. There is an idiom in Chinese: “Blessings never come in pairs; misfortunes never come singly.”

I am often depressed, and I cannot even pray sometimes, so I keep myself busy. We preachers have many books, and we flip through them often. But our theological ideas cannot relieve us of real suffering. I can talk about them with others, but when suffering comes to me, I experience real struggles daily. I pray in hope, “O Lord, maybe you will perform a miracle tomorrow.” But I still have to experience his healing every day.

This incident did not make me depressed to the point of death, because I am standing here today. But as I continued to serve, a second thing happened. In the spring of this year, a church invited me to their mountaintop retreat. It was very beautiful. I consider that retreat to be the most successful one I have ever been to. Almost everyone who attended repented in tears. They refused to sleep at night in order to continue repenting. Their pastor was very moved and told me, “Come again every two months.” I told him that the retreat was not even over yet. He said that it was too good, and that we had to continue.

Two weeks after the retreat, another pastor called me and said, “Did you see the news recently?” I said, “What news?” He said, “Did you know that a husband killed his wife and then committed suicide? They were at the retreat where you spoke.” I nearly collapsed that day because the retreat had left such a strong impression on me. I could see that couple standing there before me, confessing their sins together and repenting. And then, in the blink of an eye, the husband murdered his wife and killed himself, leaving behind their child. I thought, “O Lord, maybe I am not suited to preach.” Over the previous decade or so, I had only missed one or two weeks of preaching. But after that incident, I couldn’t preach for about two months straight. I thought to myself, “Who am I? I am a servant of God. After my sermon, they killed themselves.”

Was I depressed? Are you depressed? Yes. That is not even the end. After this, when I was away on business, I suddenly woke up one night in a hotel. After I woke up, I sat there and didn’t know who I was. Have you ever had an experience like this? I suddenly woke up and was confused. “Who am I? Why am I here? What is this place? What is my name?” I don’t know how long it must have been—maybe one or two hours—but it was excruciating. There is a sickness called Alzheimer’s where a person doesn’t know who he is. During those one or two hours, I realized I was really in trouble. I didn’t know who I was. I really didn’t know who or where I was. It was a truly fearful moment. If you do not know who you are, how are you going to introduce yourself when you open the door? “I’m sorry, do you know who I am?” After you’ve suddenly forgotten who you are, you no longer think it’s strange when you meet somebody like this.

We experience this reality in our lives. We live in the midst of failure. The world tells us: “You have failed in this life!” Life consists of either dying slowly or dying quickly. Your life consists of dying sorrowfully, dying as a failure, or dying victoriously. In other words, living is dying. The difference is how you die. Some people are even more pitiful—they don’t know how they are going to die. I think those who don’t know how they are going to die are like me when I woke up that night. “How did I get here? Where am I going?”

But as disciples of Christ, when you think about this question, do not forget that you are victorious. Your life here, now, consists of dying victoriously, not as a failure. You are a victor. It is not your abilities that make you a victor. You are a victor because you belong to Jesus. Jesus accomplished all of this on the cross. He made us victors. He counts his victory as our victory. This world is full of failure, and this world tells you every day that you are a failure. But the Lord says, “Remember, I was crucified.” Paul told the disciples of his generation, “Does not the crucifixion of Jesus Christ live in you?” He meant that you are a victor; you are victorious. Our duty every day is to live victoriously.

One of the most important characteristics of a disciple of Christ is that he lives victoriously and faces death victoriously. In English, the word “Christian” is “Christ” with an “i-a-n.” I like to explain it like this: “Without Christ, I am nothing.” So who are you? You are a disciple of Christ. And if you are a disciple of Christ, then you are a victor. Without Christ, we are nothing.

May the Lord help all of us. Let us pray:

“Heavenly Father, we give thanks to you once again. Lord, the experience of failure is real. The suffering failure brings is heart wrenching, and the tears it brings are unavoidable. Lord, you know the situations your children are facing. O Lord, we come before you. Lord, we pray that your Spirit himself would comfort those among us who often experience failure, especially those of us who are serving you. We often fail, Lord.

We are not good at preaching. We are not good at exegesis. We cannot love others well. We are often incapable of dying for others. When we are unable to do these things, O Lord, we realize that we are failures. People often criticize us and say that we love the Lord, but that we are not like him. Lord, you know that we are failures, and our spirits are often downcast. Even though we try as hard as we can, in the end, we still must confess that we are failures, O Lord. Lord, you know all these things. You know that we have failed. We have failed to the extent that we are not even able to acknowledge our failures. We are very sick in this world, so much so that death is near to us, yet we are oblivious to its presence.

But you, Lord, have helped us to understand one thing: Jesus Christ has won. He freely gave victory to us failures, and let us know that the last leg of the race is already finished. Help us to embrace our victory. No matter what kinds of suffering or failure we experience, nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Lord, we come before you once again and ask that each of us would clearly understand that, regardless of the time, or place, or circumstance we find ourselves in, we are victors. We belong to the winning team—we belong to Christ. Help us also to be humble. Because no matter what talents or wisdom or management skills we have, we are nothing without Christ.

We give thanks and praise to you once again. Help your children! We come before you and give you our thanks. Christ has won! Amen! We pray in the precious name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen!”


This author says that “living is dying.” What would it look like for you to die (i.e., live) victoriously today?

What must you believe in order to die victoriously?

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Further Reading

Nanjing: Bringing the Gospel Into Life
Read More
Nanjing: A Welcoming City of Newcomers
Read More
Nanjing: A Relational Gospel
Read More


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.


  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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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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About Qingdao

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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About Xiamen

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 Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.


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About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.


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About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.


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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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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.


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About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.


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About Chengdu

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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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