Editor’s note: These remarks were given at the close of a pastor’s gathering in China. The meeting focused on the church in the wilderness, with a particular focus on the perseverance of the saints.
Although in recent years the situation in China has become more difficult for Christians, the pastors at this gathering talked about their desire for God to raise up more believers who can minister in the church and plant more believing communities. They are scattered across China, but united in their common identity as those who belong to the kingdom of God.
The Source of Our Salvation
The Lord Most High is the source of our salvation, and the completion of our salvation relies on his unchanging nature, his faithfulness, and his great power. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches; apart from him, we can do nothing. May the Lord give us a heart full of humility and draw us ever closer to himself, so we can deepen our trust in his faithfulness.
I also pray that the Lord, our glorious Savior, would help us gaze more deeply into the glory of the Trinity. May we worship and enjoy him more deeply. May his glory draw our hearts closer to him every day. Let us continue to focus on his beauty.
May we be more committed to the Lord’s church, love the Lord’s church, and value the building of gospel community. In a true gospel community, we can share our weaknesses and use the gospel to mutually support one another. May we more deeply put our faith into practice in daily life. This applies to daily Bible reading, prayer, family worship, building each other up as married couples, the workplace, discipleship, daily gospel conversations, forgiving each other, and more—especially in the midst of persecution. Do not focus on how persecution will develop or on fighting persecution, but instead on what God wants us to do.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
Finally, may gospel hope more deeply drive our ministry. Let us pray for missions, for church planting and evangelism, and for God’s kingdom to continually expand. God will be glorified in his church and in Christ Jesus. May more church planters and evangelists rise up from this new generation, so we may strengthen and support one another as we zealously serve our Lord.
The Rope of Love
Brothers and sisters, the road ahead may become more difficult. A passage in Pilgrim’s Progress describes a time when Christian was swallowed up and sinking in the deep waters of a river. In his panic, the water was about to overwhelm him. Christian had a companion called Help, who took him by the arm, shouting, “Brother, don’t be afraid! I can touch the bottom!”
Brother Spurgeon commented that this is exactly what the Lord Jesus does for us in the midst of our trials. Jesus wraps his arms around us and points upward, saying, “Don’t be afraid!” The water may be deep, but there is good underneath. Our Savior went to the lowest depths of suffering for us, and he stood on the ground underneath the water and said, “Brothers, do not be afraid! I have touched the ground under the water!” This is the true foundation of the eternal preservation and constant perseverance of the saints. Our Savior promised that he loves us, and he will love us to the end.
Li Jianghuang was a member of the house church in the previous generation. He was labeled a rightist in the 1950s, and was taken to the infamous Jiabiangou Labor Camp to be reformed. He survived. Although many have heard of Shanghai writer Yang Xianhui, who wrote a series of works about the hardships experienced in Jiabiangou, most people are not familiar with Li’s memoirs about his experiences at the labor camp. He wrote, “In order to deeply understand my suffering in Jiabiangou, it is necessary to write out the whole process of my life. God guided me from childhood up until I went to the camp. I write so readers can see there is a rope of salvation and love that has been running through my whole life.”
This rope of love has a beginning and end, and for Li, the rope passed through Jiabiangou’s valley of the shadow of death. The miracles and wonders described are made clear through the deep, penetrating power of love. Li did not title his memoirs The Chronicles of the Sufferings of Jiabiangou, but rather The Journey of Grace. Li’s words powerfully reflect the attitude of a Christian who goes through suffering. What is left in our lives is not a chronicle of suffering, but rather a journey of grace. This should be a Christian’s vow after experiencing suffering, and it should also be our vow when faced with suffering: we will follow the loving and faithful Savior into the depths of the waters. This is a journey of perseverance and of grace.
Do We Belong to Him?
May we continually be strengthened and encouraged by truths such as the perseverance of the saints. J.C. Ryle [a former bishop of Liverpool] said, “True Christians shall persevere in their religion to the end of their lives. They shall never perish. They shall never be lost. They shall never be cast away. Once in Christ, they shall always be in Christ.”
At the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves: “Am I really a saint who belongs to the Lord?” No one who belongs to the Lord will be lost. Do we belong to him? If you are one of his saints, are you willing to let him use you according to his will?
May the Lord lead us into the depths of the waters. May he be glorified every day: in our forum, in our daily following, in our obedience, in our service, in our grateful worship, in our self-sacrificing mission and church planting, in our love for the children around us, and in everything that we do.
All glory be to God. Amen.
Paul Peng is the pastor of Blessings Reformed Presbyterian Church, a Chinese house church.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Pray for God to uphold Chinese Christians and help them to persevere in their faith.