How I Prayed: Hold Fast to the Kingdom

A Heavenly Kingdom

My kingdom is not of this world.”

This Sunday is Palm Sunday, the day Jerusalem came out with joy to meet Jesus on his way into the city: waving branches in welcome, proclaiming him king of Israel. But even as we celebrate, we know the regal welcome did not last. Less than a week later, Christ was arrested. The one they previously hailed as king was now a criminal. Jesus told Pontius Pilate, the earthly ruler of the city, that his real kingdom was not one Pontius Pilate could see.

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“In his mercy, God has placed China and Chinese Christians in the crosshairs of history and struggle. This month, we are praying for Chinese believers to hold fast to their true possession: the kingdom of heaven.

What does a heavenly kingdom have to do with life on this earth? Everything. Christ’s kingdom is in heaven, but it is not ethereal and ghostly: it is real and solid and Jesus lives there now, wearing flesh-and-bones every bit as substantial as ours.

Right now, Chinese Christians are bumping up against a world that really does not welcome them. (Of course, Christians following Christ have always faced that reality; for instance, those who repudiate greed have never fit in with our consumer culture.) A few weeks ago, a house church pastor remembered what his seminary professor told him as he embarked in ministry: “Cherish these times, because there are not many times like this in the history of the Church. Though there are many challenges, it is within God’s great mercy that we get to experience his kingdom through them.”

In his mercy, God has placed China and Chinese Christians in the crosshairs of history and struggle. This month, we are praying for Chinese believers to hold fast to their true possession: the kingdom of heaven.


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A Kingdom That Cannot Be Shaken

The author of Hebrews writes:

32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. (Heb. 10:32-36)

This passage is what I’m praying this month for Chinese Christians.

May those who are enduring “a hard struggle with sufferings” remember that God takes care of and protects them. In a sermon on Revelation, Preacher Yang reminds us that persecution is difficult, but normal. God is with his people when they face trouble. They do not have to worry, but can rest, even in trouble.

Some are “exposed to reproach and affliction”; others partner with them. (v. 33) Some years ago, a Chinese friend shared with me about his childhood when his father, a house church pastor, went to jail for several years. He talked about how God sustained his dad and his family through that time, and he also talked about how the years following his dad’s release were in some ways even harder than the years his father was in jail. That conversation left a deep impression on me. My heart always breaks for those in prison, but also for those left on the outside.

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“How can anyone ‘joyfully’ accept severe trouble? The only way is a deep belief that she has ‘a better possession and an abiding one.’

Recently, many wives of men in prison have begun publicly sharing their stories. I believe these stories are an important record of what some in the Chinese church are now experiencing. We published one such testimony this month, a letter from a wife and mom caring for her three children and her elderly in-laws while her husband is in jail. She wrote to her husband: “God did not call you to this alone—he has also called me. I see the flood of God’s salvation…Whenever I am at my weakest and worst, that is the very time the Holy Spirit is working in me. How much God loves me! Everything is well out there. It’s not easy, but it’s good.”

How can anyone “joyfully” accept severe trouble like this? The only way is a deep belief that she has “a better possession and an abiding one.” (v. 34) Please pray with me that this woman – and others like her – will be able to persevere because they know they have something better than anything this world can offer.

Finally, I’m praying that Chinese believers will remember that any troubles they face are only proof of their heavenly citizenship. This month, a Chinese pastor shared his story, and how the degradation he has experienced because of his faith is part of living out the life of Christ. He wrote, “I can keep serving the Lord, and for doing that, I face persecution, even being imprisoned, being sentenced, and going through many other things. These marks of humiliation are still opportunities to testify to the eternal life, to manifest the eternal life.”

Pray with me: may Chinese believers truly realize that they have a kingdom that cannot be shaken. The king they serve is with them, is living, and his rule cannot be overcome.


E.F. Gregory is a mom of three. She lives in the San Gabriel Valley on the border of East Los Angeles, where her husband is a P.C.A. church planter.  

 

FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION

Pray for Chinese Christians to hold fast to the unshakeable and victorious kingdom of Christ.

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Further Reading

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The External Cross: A Pastoral Letter
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Qingdao: How to Pray
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Qingdao: Locals and Outsiders
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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

About Shenyang

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

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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