Faith in the Wilderness: Words of Exhortation from the Chinese Church, edited by Hannah Nation & Simon Lee. Bellingham, WA: Kirkdale, 2022, xxiv + 161, $16.99, paper.

For me to read this marvelous little book of sermons was a welcome experience during a time of transition. Not only was it fun to read a collection that included works written by people I have actually met, but the preaching of these heroic Chinese ministers also helped me regain perspective, as I was suddenly facing extraordinary additional challenges during a difficult, extended time of re-tooling for a new phase of ministry. God used this book to help me see that if I faced these difficulties with faithfulness, they could actually be something positive in my life, deepening my joy and love. Indeed, that was the common thread running through this sermon collection of well-educated, Reformation-theology-influenced, underground church pastors: The Lord is sovereign over all of life and is even working so that he can bring his people through the fires of opposition more pure, humble, joyful, obedient, Christlike, and mature than before. And you know what? God was true to his Word! I am not sure how well I did, but the Holy Spirit was not only faithful to sustain me but also to walk more closely with me as my Comforter, Savior, and Guide, welcoming others to come along for the ride. Hallelujah!

Living in North America for about half of my life and East Asia for the other half has encouraged and given me the opportunity to think deeply about things, and this book called for some critical thinking. First, there is a danger of oversimplification by the reader when reading such books and, second, a danger for our minds as we live out the Christian life in the real world, where the principle of anti-Christ will always be at work opposing the things of the Lord until the last day. As much as it is true that just because someone is suffering (or has suffered) does not automatically mean that God is punishing him or her for unfaithfulness, so too it does not mean they are automatically wiser or more spiritually advanced than someone else. So, we should read with discretion. Just as there are temptations living in countries where persecution is not so obvious—perhaps to be lazy in spiritual disciplines or to fall into sins of the flesh—so too there are temptations that more likely fall upon a person when they are threatened with persecution—perhaps to compromise so as to avoid the persecution, to be unnecessarily legalistic, or to be prideful after having been faithful and suffering for it (“Sin and Hell,” by Yang X., 47). And there are quite a variety of forms anti-Christian opposition can take, not only the dramatic forms they may tend to take in a Communist or Muslim country. Persecution is not always from the government. It could be ridicule for saying or doing something culturally unacceptable; it could be a boss who makes you work on the Lord’s Day (or requires your child to compete on Sunday if they want to be on the school debate club). It might not be intolerant of Christianity itself; it could be pressure to be tolerant of (not speaking out against) points of view, lifestyles, or behaviors which God forbids or clearly calls evil and requires us to oppose. So, stay alert and obedient!

But with such things in mind, Faith in the Wilderness is a good read. We have much to learn from our Chinese brothers. Yes, silence—when called by God to speak out—can be sinful (“Let Us Fall into the Hand of the Lord,” by Guo M., 20). While we are not called to jump into the lions’ den (33), we are called to worship God without (idolatrous) regard for our own lives, because for us there is no real death just a change of address (“A Deadly World,” by Simon L., 31, 34). No, a minister cannot lecture with integrity on spiritual warfare and then fight over some petty thing with his wife without confessing his sin (“Why We Must Pursue Christ,” by Brian L., 73–75). Sometimes it is easier to know what is right than it is to know what is best and choose it instead of choosing the second-best (“True Love,” by Victor G., 81). Though you may be afraid of those who oppose the Lord, do not give up your integrity as a Christian for the sake of lentil stew (“Our Hope,” by San S., 32). “All those who stand on the edge of the sea of glass have been carried through the chaos of the sea of darkness and been made to prevail through it.” It is Christ who makes them victorious (i.e., we are saved by God’s grace alone) (“On the Other Side of the Sea,” by Paul P., 151).

Brothers and sisters (wherever you are), persevere in your faith in good times and in the bad; and as you strive so hard to do so, remember the key hope that we have as the children of God: it is God in Christ by the Spirit who will preserve us!

Ordained Servant Online, May, 2023.

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Ordained Servant: May 2023

Missions in Romans

Also in this issue

The Epistle to the Romans: Profound Theology and Ethics for the Sake of Missions[1]

Christians, Churches, and Public Aid, Part 2

The Voice of the Good Shepherd: The Primacy of Preaching: A Church Historical Overview, Chapter 4 [1]

Commentary on the Book of Discipline of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Chapter 4C

The Elder’s Wife: Letters to a Younger Ruling Elder, No. 5

Teaching Your Children to Delight in the Lord’s Day

Position Available: Executive Director of Great Commission Publications


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