Editor’s note: This article was written by Brother Fan, an intern evangelist at a church in southwest China. It is a devotional meant to be used by those in the midst of persecution. Brother Fan wrote this reflection after he was beaten while trying to visit Preacher Yang at the police station. Preacher Yang is a pastor at Brother Fan’s church who has recently been detained by police each weekend in order to prevent his participation in Sunday worship.
You can read the second half of this devotional here.
I have recently experienced God’s guidance. In the midst of fear and trembling, I write here to reflect on my identity and mission, to remember the indescribable feeling I had of being led forward by God. At each step, I was amazed—then, suddenly, I was in the midst of the storm, watching to see what God would do. I was like a child in the arms of his father, looking out with curious eyes on the vast world around me.
My personal story has been placed on a larger stage, where God is the director and his church is the protagonist; I belong to Christ and his church. The script is already written, and Christ the glorious king is the beginning and the end. I will die, but Christ will not die; when I eventually die, my predetermined end is to die in him.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
At every turn I experience the greatest mystery on heaven and earth: the king of glory, made manifest in a small and weak man like me. That which is in me is greater than the world. This is no longer just a theological concept, but is alive and active every day. In the midst of the greatest unbelief came an outburst of faith; in the midst of the greatest fear, I experienced deep peace. This is an unspeakable mystery.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, we were at the scene of suffering, waiting for Preacher Yang. Silently and wordlessly, we kept watch in the police station. Perhaps this was the very way he has spent the Lord’s Day many times: one chair, two guards, sitting face-to-face with them as day turned to night and then back to day again. Only after church worship was over would he be allowed to return home. Round and round it goes; this is how we have been living for the past two years.
Those who watched over Preacher Yang neither knew nor thought about what the point of it all might be. This is life; “live as a monk for a day, ring the bell for a day.” [This is a Chinese saying which describes the aimlessness of life and refers to drifting forward in time.] There is no lack of absurdity in it all. But on that night, in the calm of late evening, hymns broke the darkness, and prayers rose like spring thunder. The gospel which has stirred the world has caused a great indignation; the kingdom of heaven had come to the police station.
Our family—myself, my wife, and our two children—was in the midst of this great storm. Next to us stood Preacher Yang’s wife, and Sister Cao with her two children. On the way to the station, the children looked excitedly at the scripture passages that they would be sharing. After we made it through the harrowing arrest of our pastor in 2018, the greatest miracle was accomplished in the children. God is leading these little ones through persistent persecution. The police are not only a part of our lives, but also the lives of the children. Faith is a mystery that transcends reason and makes these children more sensitive to the gospel, for the gospel preaches of a Christ who is persecuted by us. The children are not surprised to see that our pastor was condemned and do not wonder why our lives are watched, for this is the reason the gospel was preached to us. The world is lost, and we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Now we are justified freely by the grace of God through the salvation of Christ Jesus.
A justified person will enter into this tension of the righteous living among sinners. Because of that, the righteous heart will suffer. But, as some have said, “instead of cursing the darkness, let us set ourselves aflame.” However, we must first take care to be on guard against the darkness within ourselves. In suffering, Christians are refined. If we never enter into dangerous situations and see how little faith we have or the worry and hatred in our hearts, we might think we are full of faith and hope and love.
That night, at the scene of the storm with my child asleep on my shoulder, through prayer I entrusted myself to God, the one who is in charge of the storm. He has great love, and he works through broken people. As several police officers filmed us, we worshipped the one who made heaven and earth. In the face of the threats of the world, the only thing Christians can do is to sing and pray.
After the police threatened to handcuff us and forbade us to leave the premises, our group went inside and sat down in the reception area. Outside, more and more people gathered, and discussed our end with great enthusiasm. They saw us as dangerous, a force coming in from outside of the country, because the kingdom of heaven had invaded the earth and the world did not accept the Savior. I think that, in heaven, God turned his focus to us. The saints of all generations watched this battle, and the angelic hosts of heaven discussed it. The night was late, and, one by one, the children fell asleep. I thought I was just going to the police station to check on Preacher Yang; I did not expect for God to lead us into the lion’s den.
We only wanted a shallow taste, but God filled our cup of blessing to overflowing. There was a twinge of concern in my heart: what would be our outcome? Would the situation get out of hand? I prayed for the Lord to help us. What angered the officers the most was our singing in front of the police station. In fact, that was just our instinct. If you listen carefully, hymns can calm people down. We sang a song of love, but in a world filled with hate, it was a battle cry. Our communication was ineffective, and the scene was set for conflict. All I could do was put myself into the hands of God and be there, as a brother, for the other sisters and the children. From the depths I cried out to God: “O Lord, the days of my life are in your hands. Our hearts are firm in you.”
For awhile the police station was empty, as everyone gathered outside in the courtyard. Soon, the officer who had been in charge of monitoring my activities arrived and greeted me [it is not unusual in China for Christians to have cordial relationships with the officials who track and monitor them]. He, though, was stopped by the police inside. They did not want to let us go so easily. We could only continue to wait, and put ourselves in their hands.
If we did not believe that God is in charge of everything we would have been scared out of our wits. My heart was hidden in God, and in my heart, I could not stop crying out to the Lord. I have already tasted suffering for my faith; the road ahead was not unknown. Interrogation and detention are somewhat familiar processes to me; but that preparation of my heart and my mind was a new process, a process of life renewal led by God.
Do I really believe that God is in charge? Am I really living for him? How can I face my own suffering and the suffering of everyone else? The situation is getting worse for us—but this is an opportunity for faith. Indeed, it is because of the filth of the human heart and the corruption of the world that I have come to assent to and trust in the gospel!
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
The Chinese church who first shared this devotional wrote this prayer to accompany the meditation:
“May the Lord keep our hearts. May we always rely on him, not on ourselves. May the resurrected life of the Lord Jesus be manifested through us. May the kingdom of heaven—which will last longer than all earthly nations—come, through our weak church, to the people who sit in darkness.”
-Pray for Brother Fan, Preacher Yang, and all those who were present at the police station to experience God’s love, care, and protection.
-Pray for the kingdom of heaven to come to those in China who sit in darkness.
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