…. they were unschooled, ordinary men …. they had been with Jesus …. the crippled man healed standing with them – Acts 4:13,14
2 stories from China in 1970s and 1980s.
1974, Fangcheng county, China
By May 11, I was still in shock. Everything in me screamed with pain. I had never known such depths of human evil. I had previously been so ignorant of the breath of human anger.
That morning, while moving from the place where they fed us, I saw a human figure lying on the road outside our building. When I got closer, I saw that it was my spiritual mother, Guizhen Jia. She was a meek and loving woman who was always praying for others. Whenever I was tired, weak or confused, she would encourage me and pray for me. And she had been like a mother to our church, as well.
Now, she was only a shell of who she used to be. Her hair was wildly matted to her head, where there were patches of bald spots. Her shirt which clearly used to be white, was covered in dried blood. Her face had been disfigured by massive bruising, and blackened by coal and dirt. She looked like she had been dragged down the road.
Guizhen Jia was not able to stand. She had been thrown into a crowd that had beaten her over and over again. They had ripped off her shoes and stomped on her feet until some of her toes came off.
My mouth was so swollen that it wasn’t possible for me to speak to her. I didn’t know how to comfort her. I felt inadequate to protect this wonderful woman who was a mother of two and had recently become a grandmother. I ran to her and tried to embrace her. There were no words, I held her in my arms and wept bitterly.
Finally I said, “Let us die together. Let us be buried together.”
One of the guards heard me say this and ran over and kicked me over the chin. The swift kick lifted me up and onto my back. Several others ran to assist the guard. They dragged my body over to a tree. My legs were too weak to stand, so they used a rope to tie me to its trunk.
“How dare you openly defy us in broad daylight? Do you know where you are right now? Your God is not here, but we are. We are the gods of the town.”
Take me away, dear Lord, I prayed silently to myself. I kept looking up to the sky waiting for the Lord to come and take me. I could feel that I was losing consciousness, but it wasn’t happening fast enough. My spiritual strength was decaying more and more every day. I had no more strength left and just wanted the Lord to come back and take me home.
That night, after I was dragged back to the room where we all slept, I was tossed into the dirt floor, and left for dead. I had been beaten and was barely alive, but I was still breathing. The May heat made our room like a furnace at night because there was no way for the cool air of the evening to flow into our cell.
No one in the room had been allowed to bathe or wash at all. Lying there in the night, I could hear the groaning and crying. I was not alone. Everyone was suffering. In many ways, I had it easy. I had not lost my limbs, nor had I suffered a bad concussion like many of the others had.
In the dark of the night, I could hear the voice of one of the men in the room. His name was Lanju Gao. He was Muslim and the most educated person in the room. He had graduated from high school.
“Zhang? Can you hear me?”, Lanju whispered.
I waited a moment, I had to breathe so that I could answer him without pain. “Yeah,” I replied. I didn’t know if he heard me or not. If the guards heard us talking, they would certainly come storming back in.
“I saw what they did to you today.” I could hear the pain in his voice.
“I saw them tie you up to the tree, and … I saw everything.
Zhang? Do you think I can believe in your God?”
I was dumbfounded. I was not only weak but at a loss for words. I had been so consumed with my own pain and my own situation that I had never thought it would be possible to share Christ with someone. I felt inadequate. I wanted to give up, even to die. How could God possibly use me to share His life and truth when all I wanted was death and escape?
“I saw you today, Zhang, and I believe that you serve the one true God.”
“All you have to do is believe in Jesus. Call upon Him, and you will be saved.”
In the darknesss of that furnace-like room. I heard him cry out to Jesus that night.
My strength was renewed.
Not long after Lanju became a Christian, the guards caught him praying. Lanju was already in trouble and didn’t need anything more against him. He bravely told them that he had come a Christian.
The guards didn’t know what to do. Their goal was to turn Lanju into an atheist and make him deny his faith. It was completely unfathomable to them that he had actually become a Christian in their camp. They were not only angry but also afraid. If word got out that people were coming to their atheist indoctrination camp and finding Jesus, they might lose their jobs or even their lives.
The guards scrambled to rectify the situation as quickly as possible. They tied Lanju up, beat him, and barraged him with questions. All they could get out of him was, “Jesus is the real God! Jesus is the real God!” There was nothing they could do to make him stop saying that.
“What makes you so certain that Jesus is God?” they asked.
They had to wait for Lanju to catch his breath before he had the strength to answer, “Because,” he said with great pain, “because I watched how you beat Zhang Rongliang, I watched him get beaten even though he was innocent of any crime. You beat him, and he took it all. He took everything that you had to dish out and never complained. When I watched him, there was a peace and strength in him that convinced me that he serves the one and true God. I have turned from the darkness, and now I walk in the light.”
He paused for a moment, and then he lifted up his head and said, “Now I serve the one and true God, too.”
The guards released him, but they didn’t untie his hands. They left them tied up behind his back so tightly that it was cutting off his circulation. I was unable to untie his hands, but I fed him the first chance I got. I could see that he was truly changed; he was no longer the same person. The beating had not gotten him down but had rather convinced him even more that God was alive and would protect him.
He looked up at me and said, “It is sad that I am the only one here speaking with you right now, Zhang. I know that if there were one hundred people in this room right now, there would be no way for them not to do what I have done. I know they would all give their lives to Christ. They would all repent, because the love of Christ is so strong right now that no one could resist it.” This is what the apostle Paul meant when he said that our gospel witness is “to one a fragrance of death to death, to the other the fragrance from life to life” (2 Corinthians 2:16)
He shook his head as he struggled to swallow the food.
“I know that the love of Christ will one day win over the hearts of the Chinese people. Our country will one day come to know the love of Jesus and will be set free from this evil darkness.”
It was amazing, but in that moment, during his darkest hour, Lanju was prophesying over China. He did not know that one day China would have the world’s largest revival.
Lanju later became a great evangelist and turned many people way from the false religion of Islam to Christ.
— Zhang Rongliang, I stand with Christ, 2015, Whitaker House, pg 92-96
2 Corinthians 2:14-17 (NLT)
14 But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession.
Now he uses us to spread
the knowledge of Christ
like a sweet perfume.
15 Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.
16 To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom.
But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.
And who is adequate for such a task as this?
17 You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit.
We preach the word of God
with sincerity and with Christ’s authority,
knowing that God is watching us.
2 Corinthians 4:7-12 (NLT)
7 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed.
We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.
9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God.
We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.
10 Through suffering,
our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus
so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies.
12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you.
Philippians 3:10-12 (NLT)
10 I want to know Christ
and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead.
I want to suffer with him,
sharing in his death,
11 so that one way or another
I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.
John Gowans (Salvation Army):
If crosses come, if it should cost me dearly,
To be the servant of my Servant Lord,
If darkness falls around the path of duty.
And men despise the Saviour I’ve adored.
I’ll not turn back, whatever it may cost,
I’m called to live, to love and save the lost,
I’ll not turn back, whatever it may cost,.
I’m called to live, to love and save the lost.
If doors should close then other doors will open,
The word of God can never be contained.
His love cannot be finally frustrated,
By narrow minds or prison bars restrained.
If tears should fall, if I am called to suffer,
If all I love men should deface, defame,
I’ll not deny the One that I have followed,
Nor be ashamed to bear my Master’s name.
Erwin W. Lutzer:
In 1984 my family had the privilege of visiting the People’s Republic of China to interact with Bishop Ding, the head of the Three Self Movement, which is the official government-approved church in China. We had the honor of spending several days with him, talking to him about the state of the church in China, the level of freedom, and the sensitive question of the house churches that meet underground (those who meet in homes and seek to survive under the radar of government surveillance). We did not know whether this bishop was a Christian or a Communist, but we did know that he was trying to do his best to walk the fine line of helping the government-approved churches and, at the same time, keeping within the good graces of the Communist governmental authorities.
Though I’ve forgotten much of what he said, I shall never forget this comment
“I know who you as evangelicals are, and if you traveled the length and breath of China you would discover many people who believe just like you do.
Persecution has wiped out all theological liberals in China; only the evangelical faith has survived.”
“Of course!” I thought to myself,
“Why would a liberal who does not believe that Jesus is the Son of God or the only way to the heavenly Father — why would he be willing to die for a purely human being?”
After walking on the Great Wall of China and seeing a few other sights, we flew home, and on the flight I was again reminded that God guides our steps even when we are unaware of it.
En route from China back to the United States, we had a four hour flight from Hong Kong to Tokyo but were unable to sit together as a family. I found myself sitting next to a well-dressed Chinese man, and I’m ashamed to say that I did not initially begin a conversation with him, I was minding my own business reading the book of Luke, but when there were thirty minutes left on the flight, we struck up a conversation. I was gratified to discover that he could speak at least some English, and so I began to explain the gospel to him. I asked him if he had ever seen a Bible before seeing mine.
“Oh no, I have never seen a Bible.”
He told me that he was an atheist, a professor of chemistry at a university in Beijing.
“If only I could give this man a Chinese Bible!” I thought.
Our daughter Lori, was sitting directly ahead of me, overhead my remarks and said, “Dad, Mom took that Chinese Bible from our hotel room in Hong Kong, and she has it with her.” I couldn’t believe this; why would Rebecca take a Chinese Bible from a hotel room and put it in her carry-on bag? Why didn’t she tell me she was doing this. She was sitting a few rows ahead of us, and so I went and asked her if indeed she had the Bible with her. She did. It was a Gideon New Testament with English on one page and Chinese on the other. When I gave it to the man he said,
“So this is the Bible!” and I said yes.
He continued, “The reason I’m so interested in the Bible is because my mother was a Christian who died when I was six years old, and
I always wondered what Christians believed.”
The big jet was beginning its descent into Tokyo airport, so now I excitedly shared the gospel with him, complete with an Evangelism Explosion diagram. Then I said, “I have no doubt that God planned that I would be next to you on this flight. Your mother probably prayed that someday you would be with her in heaven, and God arranged it so that you would hear this good news and believe on Christ to join her someday.
The man smiled.
When I said goodbye I told him, “I want to see you in heaven, and your mother is waiting for you too!” He smiled for a second time and said, “Well, who knows?”
I am confident that that man will be in heaven; I believe that with a copy of the New Testament in Chinese, he soon devoured its contents and believed the gospel.
— Erwin W Lutzer, He will be the Preacher, 2015, Moody Publishers, pg 152-154
“Why would a liberal who does not believe that Jesus is the Son of God or the only way to the heavenly Father
— why would he be willing to die for a purely human being?“
Hebrews 5:7, 8 (NLT)
7 While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God.
8 Even though Jesus was God’s Son,
he learned obedience from the things he suffered.
Hebrews 13:7, 10, 11 (NLT)
7 As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father?
10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us,
so that we might share in his holiness.
11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful!
But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.
Where two or three gather in my name, I am there with them (click here), a further Zhang RongLiang testimony
by 林弟兄, bro Lim
July 10, 2016
Copyright © 林弟兄 bro Lim, Laymanointing, 2014-2016 – All Rights Reserved