While teaching a class on Philippians, we studied how Paul’s view of life has changed to such an extend that he said,
“For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21
This reminds me of the Chinese evangelist Sung Shang Chieh (宋尙節), or John Sung.
John Sung was born in 1901 into a Christian family. His father was a pastor. He later went to study in Ohio Wesleyan University and Ohio State University where he received his Ph.D. in Chemistry. Though he had great career opportunities, he responded to God’s calling by returning to China. On his way home, he threw away all his academic awards into the sea, keeping only his doctorate diploma for his father.
Pastor John Sung was a passionate preacher. He preached fiercely on repentance, launching revival meetings in Southeast Asia, and always seen spending hours praying! Towards the end of his life, his intestinal tuberculosis plagued him. He died when he was only 42 years old, leaving behind his wife and 5 children.
Chinese spirituality is quite different from the Western ones. Due to the historical background, Christianity in Asia was never the dominant faith. We never experienced “Christendom.” More often than not, being Christian means that you will be persecuted. “Success” was never our vocabulary. In fact, “eat bitterness” is our spiritual heritage. Just like what Paul said,
“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” Philippians 1:29 (NIV)
Yet, suffering never stops the gospel. It multiplies. If you don’t see the gospel flourishing in the field, you can find it buried underground like a seed. The Word of the Lord will never return void.
When we look at history, we don’t look at 20 or 200 years. Jesus came 2000 years ago. David was probably 3000 years ago. In God, a day is like a thousand year. A thousand-year is like a day to God!
Apostle Paul said, “our citizenship is in heaven.” (Philippians 3:20) This truth in itself is enough to comfort us and give us hope while we persevere through our challenges.