Deliverance Comes Through Endurance
Open Doors colleague, Ron Boyd-MacMillan, shares the following insight from his teaching, “Why I Need to Encounter the Persecuted Church.”
Christian testimonies on the whole tend to be dominated by those who experienced wonderful deliverances: deliverances of healing, from cancer or other life threatening diseases, or deliverances from debt, or romance less marriages. Even when it comes to reporting on the persecuted, we read of Chinese house church leaders released from the grip of a deadly fever, or border guards with eyes miraculously blinded to the Bibles sitting in plain view on the back seat.
Yet it has to be said that deliverance stories—though they tend to grab the headlines—are not the norm. A dear old Christian in Beijing used to say to me, “Remember, for every deliverance story you hear, there are a hundred endurance stories.” He was right. The story of the persecuted is primarily one of endurance.
I never saw this principle better illustrated than in the story of an old Chinese woman known throughout the world as “Auntie Mabel.” A doctor in Beijing, she was well known for her bright Christian witness. She never married in order to look after a sick brother. Her family was wealthy. They lived in a large house in central Beijing. All that changed abruptly in 1949. Her large house marked her out as one of the landlord class. She was evicted from her house and forced to live in a garden shed, with just a stove, two deck chairs and an old bed.
The Red Guards—teenagers who were given power to direct the Cultural Revolution—began to visit her, beating her up, parading her in the streets, and forcing her to wear a placard with her crimes written on them. So thorough were the Red Guards that they erected a large sign outside her house declaring her a pariah because she had distributed “imperialistic literature.” Mabel was shunned by neighbors, victimized daily by her work gang, and regularly beaten by Red Guards.
Many years later, she knew why she endured all this. In the early eighties, after Mao died, Mabel began to receive a stream of visitors saying, “During the Cultural Revolution, there was a large sign outside your house full of your crimes. One of them was that you had distributed Bibles. So I’m here on the chance that you have some left.”
Amazingly that sign which made her life such a misery became the means of a new ministry. It kept people away from her during the Cultural Revolution, but afterwards, after she had endured, it drew them. A number of high-ranking members of the Communist Party in China today owe their faith to her endurance.
She reflected, “It’s been nice to know why. It helps my faith. But it was hard. Every day was hard. I can’t say I saw Jesus, or even felt him close most of the time. I just got the strength to keep going, and that was enough.”
God can deliver us by transforming a situation, but more often He delivers by giving us the strength to endure the situation. That way, others are transformed as well as ourselves.