When it comes to knowing Christ, are you tired of splashing around in the kiddie pool? This year, if you want to dive deeper in your Christian experience, pick up a copy of The Heavenly Man (Monarch Books, 2002).
This story by Paul Hattaway of Asia Harvest Mission chronicles the tribulations and victories of Chinese evangelist Liu Zhenying, better known as Brother Yun. The title of the book comes from his first arrest by Chinese authorities. As he was be being interrogated and beaten, they asked him where he was from. Pastor Zhenying shouted: “I am a heavenly man!” For his refusal to stop preaching the gospel, Brother Yun was locked away on three occasions, spending years in prison. Many of his guards came to faith in Christ, as did other prisoners. During his first stint in prison, he refused to eat or drink, laying immobile for 74 days. While that appears medically impossible, who are we to discount what God can do? In the same vein is Yun’s miraculous escape from prison, reminiscent of Peter in the Book of Acts.
There are several “take aways” after reading The Heavenly Man:
1. Memorize the Word of God. Often, Brother Yun was locked away by himself with no Bible. He had to rely upon what he had committed to memory. How well would we as Western Christians fare if the only Scripture portions we had were what was in our head?
2. Expect hardship for the sake of Christ. Sure, as a missionary to Africa I’ve known some hardship, including several bouts with malaria, but I’ve grown accustomed to comfort as the norm. The prosperity message is so seductive because it teaches us to expect “first class treatment” as children of the King. Brother Yun’s story is a reminder that the way of the Cross is not an easy way, and we shouldn’t expect it to be so. Php. 3:10 records the words of Paul, who prays for the privilege of sharing in “the fellowship of his (Christ’s) sufferings.” We cite the verse, but when God actually answers that prayer, we get angry. Chinese believers like Brother Yun remind us that only through suffering do we grow deep in our faith.
3. Don’t worry about your children. God will take care of them. It’s incredible to see what Brother Yun’s family went through. His wife and two young children in many ways suffered more than he did. While he was in prison, they had to fend for themselves. This included not having enough food, wearing worn out clothes and often hiding from the authorities. One would expect the children as they grew older to grow bitter toward God, yet his son and daughter grew strong in their faith. They understood that their family was a team and served a bigger cause than themselves. Sometimes Christian parents called by God to serve overseas will resist the call fearing that it may cause deprivation for their children, turning them away from God. Yet Brother Yun’s story is a reminder that if we obey the Lord, God will take care of our kids. When we model obedience to God to them, that will have a positive impact.
By the end of the book, I’ll admit that my Christian faith in comparison seemed shallow. In 2012, I want to start diving on the deep end of the pool. Thanks, Brother Yun, for showing me the way.