Summary: It is a privilege to face trials which grow us in our sanctification. The book The Heavenly Man is used as an illustration.
This story is a little bit convoluted but the message is important.
Our son Tommy graduated 8th grade in May of 2007. One of his eighth grade teachers was Tim Bratt. Tim is a solid Christian man who lives his faith. During that year they read The Heavenly Man and discussed and reported on it in class. Tommy had mentioned that he really enjoyed it and got a lot out of it but we didn’t really think much about it and didn’t remember it. As parents we were just glad he was reading… anything.
About a year ago Tim Bratt started attending a men’s Bible study group on Tuesday nights that I have been involved with and attending for quite a few years. At one of the meetings Tim brought along a number of copies of The Heavenly Man and told the group that it was a life-changing book and that it was an important read for every Christian. I was coolly interested and grabbed a copy. It sat on my desk for a number of weeks and Tommy saw it and mentioned again how he liked it. My son Mike heard this and was looking for a book to read so he took it and read it last fall. He was strongly impacted by it and recommended it to us. Sue and I were in other books at the time but Sue started reading it a few weeks before we went on a mission trip to Guatemala in March. She was really excited about it and was sharing with Tommy and Mike as she read it. She had shared with me as well how it was affecting her as she read it. I was supposed to read it after Sue and when she finished it in Guatemala I asked her to give the book to me. She indicated that she felt led to give it to Butch Jarrell, one of the Word of Life missionaries we were traveling with. I suggested against it for two reasons. One, I figured that he’s a missionary and he might not like a book about missionaries. Two, I wanted to read it. Sue felt strongly about it and I did encourage her to give it to him as she felt led. She gave the book to him the next day.
I happened to call Butch several weeks after we returned home and he had just read the book. He was as well strongly affected by it and was so thankful to Sue for giving it to him. I felt guilty for ever thinking that she shouldn’t share it with him. This reinforced that when God speaks to us I guess we should prayerfully listen. Butch told me of how he had connected with others who had also been impacted by the book, and he was going to buy some copies and share it further.
I hadn’t yet read it myself and now I heard the calling, so I went out that very night and bought it. I started reading it Friday night and even with a busy Saturday I read it through to Sunday morning finishing it. I wept twice while reading it and wept as I finished it. These were tears of appreciation and joy. Aside from the Bible this was one of the most important books I’ve read. I’ve ordered multiple copies to share.
Reading The Heavenly Man has made me realize that the type of suffering experienced, the type of miracles God works in the lives of those who are suffering and who trust in Him, and the way God delivers us from our suffering through joy and peace in Him, are all integral parts of the Christian walk. As Peter wrote in 1Peter 4:12: “…do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. “ Now I think I get it!
In the story Brother Yun accepts Christ into his heart at age 16 (1972) through a vision and a miracle in a place where the ‘thoughts of Christ’ were only myths or non-spoken wisps from the past – and a place where it was illegal and taught as antisocial to be religious. He grows up during tumultuous times in China during the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and leads a life of a man of God not unlike one of the apostles. His story is incredibly strong and inspiring but as importantly gives many words to the struggles that not only the apostles and the early Church likely went through – but also the struggle that so many developing groups of believers and evangelists have gone through, and are going through even today.
We can even look at the challenges of being in a family of non-believers, dealing with a non-believing spouse, growing up in a home with non-believing parents, accepting Christ and moving away from the ‘family’s religion’, or having a social group around you who are not ‘sold out’ for the Lord. All these and I’m sure many others represent microcosms of the same challenges and persecutions. We must persevere.