I think you all will agree that the Lord will lead a Christian during his life. How does He do this? He may lead us through a trial to develop us...to develop our character, or to impact another person, He may lead us through a time of prosperity, He may desire to strengthen your faith in Him. How about trusting Him? Sometimes there is even discipline. But, what about suffering? I do believe that the path of every believer will, sooner or later, include suffering. The Lord gies us these trials to keep us humble and dependent on Him for our sustenance.
First Peter 4:1 states, "Therefore, since Christ suffered in His body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in His body is done with sin." Brother Yun in his book, The Heavenly Man, makes a statement which he says, "I believe when suffering and pain increases, sinning decreases. I've certainly not yet reached the point of being "done with sin." I still complain to the Lord when I suffer." Here is a man who has suffered unbelievably for the Lord. The torture which he has endured for the sake of Christ is mind boggling; all for the privilege of sharing the good news of Jesus with people who seem to have no hope.
Maybe how we mature as Christians largely depends on the attitude we have when we are faced with suffering. Think about the people you know who have faced suffering. Some try to avoid it or pretend it doesn't exist but doesn't that just make the whole thing worse? Others try to endure it grimly, hoping for relief. Maybe this is better? It still falls short of the full victory God desires to give to each of His precious children.
So how do we approach suffering? Brother Yun says, "The Lord wants us to embrace suffering as a friend. We need a deep realization that when we're persecuted for Jesus' sake it is an act of God's blessing to us. This might sound impossible, but it is attainable with God's help. That is why Jesus said, '"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven."' Matthew 5:11-12. The more we are persecuted for His sake, the more reward we will receive in heaven.
"When people malign you, rejoice and be glad. When they curse you, bless them in return. When you walk through a painful experience, embrace it and you will be free! When you learn these lessons, there is nothing left that the world can do to you, " says Brother Yun. This from a man who has spent over 7 years of his 20 year marriage in prison labor camps in China where all kinds of torture were used.
Is this possible? Well, this is what he says, "God is my witness that through all the tortures and beatings I've received I have never hated my persecutors. Never. I saw them as God's instruments of blessing and his chosen vessels to purify me and make me more like Jesus."
When asked by Western visitors what seminary they (Chinese Christian house church leaders) attended they jokingly yet with underlying seriousness reply that they have been trained in the Holy Spirit Personal Devotion Bible School (prison) for many years. In that prison seminary they have learned many valuable lessons about the Lord that they could never have learned from a book. They've come to know God in a deeper way.
"Christians who are in prison for the sake of the Lord are not the ones who are suffering. When people hear my testimony they invaribly say I must have had a terrible time in prison. But that isn't so. I was with Jesus and had overwhelming joy and peace in His intimate presence."
According to Brother Yun, "The people who really suffer are those who never experience God's presence. The way to have God's presence is by walking through hardship and suffering...the way of the Cross. You may not be beaten or imprisoned for your faith, but I am convinced each Christian will still have a cross to bear in his or her life. In the West it may be ridicule, slander, or rejection. When your're faced with such trials, the key is not to run from them or fight them, but to embrace them as friends. When you do this you'll not fail to experience God's presence and help."
Brother Yun shares what he thought about his first time in prison. He struggled, wondering why God had allowed it. Slowly he began to understand He had a deeper purpose for Brother Yun than just his working for Him. God wanted to know him, and Brother Yun to know Him, deeply and intimately. He knew the best way to get his attention for a while was to give him rest behind bars.
Brother Yun feels strongly about this. Whenever he hears a house church Christian has been imprisioned for Christ in China he doesn't advise people to pray for his or her release unless the Lord clearly reveals they should pray this way. "There is always a purpose behind why God allows His children to go to prison. Perhaps it's so they can witness to the other prisoners, or perhaps God wants to develop more character in their lives. But if we use our own efforts to get them out of prison earlier than God intended, we can thwart His plans, and the believers may come out not as fully formed as God wanted them to be."
One final thought. He says pastors have no rights, except the rights of a slave! Everyone in this world is a slave. They're either slaves to sin, or slaves to Christ. Brother Yun says, "Our 'rights' are in the hands of Jesus. We must fall on our knees in complete dependence on Him. The world can do nothing to a Christian who has no fear of man."