Editor’s note: At the end of January 2020, believers from around the world gathered at KL2020, a gospel conference in Malaysia. God’s presence was tangibly experienced through his protection of and encouragement to oppressed believers at the conference.
As Chinese believers continue to experience increasing levels of persecution, the conference focused on building the body of Christ on earth. In the face of suffering, a deep understanding of the Christian’s heavenly citizenship is necessary. The gospel speaks directly to oppressed and suffering believers, showing them the way to live and act in a culture that is increasingly hostile to the gospel. When believers understand their ultimate belonging is “with Christ in the heavenly places,” the way they interact with the world necessarily changes.
We are pleased to share on our blog the voice of Chinese sisters who spoke at KL2020. Here “Fay” shares about how she has experienced God’s promises in the midst of suffering. “Haley,” a missionary and herself an overseas Chinese, talks about what she has learned from her years of partnering with Chinese sisters in their suffering.
Moderator: Can you speak to what God promises to those who suffer?
Would You Pray With Us Today?
Fay: There is a lot in the Bible regarding God’s promises to those who suffer. I will share with you three points today. “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Since God said that it is blessed to suffer for righteousness, we joyfully accept this suffering. We experienced persecution in 2019, yet it was the most glorious year in the history of our church.
The second promise is God’s presence with those who suffer. In Acts, the Lord asked Saul, “Why do you persecute me?” Saul inquired, “Who are you, Lord?” The Lord answered, “I am Jesus, who you are persecuting.” The Lord suffers with us in our suffering. He has not abandoned us. The Lord knows our deeds, our humiliations, our perseverance, and the hardships we endure for his name. If the Father who created the universe, the Son who delivered us from our sins, and the Spirit who ever guards, comforts and counsels us in our hearts—if the true God, three persons in one—is ever with and among us, then what more do we need?
The third promise is that as we suffer with Christ, we will also be glorified with him. The book of Romans tells us that we are God’s children and co-heirs with Christ. If we suffer with him, we will also be glorified with him. Our present sufferings are nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us in the future.
Moderator: Why is corporate life—the body life of the church—important during times of suffering?
Fay: The Lord sanctifies us through his Word, the Spirit, and the Church. God tells us to care for one another, encourage one another, build one another up, love one another, and exhort one another. We need others to help us when we are weak, and we need their counsel when we are prideful. We usually react in two ways to suffering: either we are extremely weak and discouraged, exposing our true nature, or we might think we are strong and consequently look down on others, judging them and feeling self-righteous in our heart. While the Spirit can give us supernatural peace, God prefers to comfort and help us through our brothers and sisters whom we can see. This is because when we love one another, others will recognize that we are his disciples.
When we were persecuted last year, our pastors would often gather together to share and pray with one another. Churches would visit one another, and whichever church was attacked, we would immediately go to that church and offer our help. We also know that there are many churches praying for us, both within China and without. God has helped us face persecution with joy through your prayers. God has also guarded our hearts in him throughout the process.
As we fellowship with one another, we often come to see how great our sins are. Compared to some, I have quite a strong personality. I often look down on other believers. “Why are you still so weak, despite having been a believer for so long?” But the Holy Spirit will not let me be. He shows me how ugly and messed up and full of sin I actually am inside. I am thankful that, through my relationship with others, I am able to continue to turn to Christ and go to him in repentance. Human relationships and our fellowship with one another is the instrument God uses to save us.
Moderator: Haley, you have had a foot in both the East and the West for a long time. Could you share with us what working with these sisters has taught you personally about prayer as well as suffering? What have you learned in all of your time working with the Chinese church?
Haley: I weep with them and pray with them, realizing that we are all the same. How they would respond is how I would respond. I’ve had the privilege to listen to them and to meet with them and to look to the Lord with them. Prayer is a response of understanding who we are and our need for Christ. The more desperate we are, the more we cling to Christ. The more desperate we are, the more our prayer life increases.
I pray for all of my brothers and sisters, that they would grow in godliness and hope instead of despair. Suffering is a shortcut to maturity and godliness, and God gave the Chinese church the privilege to be in this kind of suffering to grow in maturity and godliness.