God's Gift for Rough Times

David McKenna writes of Pastor Chen Min testimony at the World Congress on Evangelism in 1989. He was a prisoner for 18 years in China for believing in Jesus Christ. During his time in prison he was tortured, malnourished, and isolated from other prisoners. For several years, daily he was placed in the prison’s cesspool which he shoveled out. He spent much of his day, “standing up to his knees in human waste going about his repulsive work (McKenna 136).” Yet he found a Divine gift the other prisoners never had, solitude. He wrote,

“Right there in that festering, rancid cesspool, I seemed to smell the fragrant aroma of the Rose of Sharon…There, in that cesspool, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, the Holy Spirit transformed that dark cesspool of death into a beautiful garden of life and light (Chen Min).”

 With an ever-present stench and pollution one hymn took on new meaning for him, “I Come to the Garden Alone”.

  I come to the garden alone,

  While the dew is still on the roses,

  And the voice I hear

  Falling on my ear,

  The Son of God discloses,

   And He walks with me

  And He talks with me

  And He tells me I am His own

  And the joy we share

  As we tarry there,

  None other has ever known.

 

He let his former churches know he was free and coming back to Shanghai. When arrested there were about 100 believers in three house churches. Taking three days to travel back he wondered if there would be anyone to greet him. Arriving, he was “greeted by more than 5000 Christians who had gathered to welcome him home (Chen Min).” Wondering how so many had come to Jesus he “repented that he had not fully trusted the keeping power and the teaching power of the Holy Spirit (ibid).” Since then, “wherever he went, revival followed and village after village came to Christ (McKenna 137).”

James 1:5-6 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” I have claimed this promise for school tests but that was not James point. He had in mind the wisdom which comes for the Holy Spirit who brings to our remembrance all Jesus has said to us (Jn 14:26). And who bears witness about Jesus and is the source of any witness we bear (Jn 15:26).

This first name of Jesus we’re considering is “Wonderful Counselor”. It may be two separate titles but either way the advice, direction, guidance, and God given placement, speak to the mighty deeds which Jesus did before the people. He is and continues to be called these names as he exercises the power of God through His Body, the church.

Word of Hope

Glance back through Isaiah and in chapter 5 Israel, God’s vineyard is judged as unfruitful. God’s response, “remove its hedge; break down its wall; make it a waste; and no rain (Is. 5:5-6). The next chapter Isaiah says the people were made so that they could not understand or perceive what God was doing. When Isaiah asks, “How long, O Lord?” he’s told “until cities lie waste”. In chapter 7 armies come to invade but God turns them away. In chapter 8, Assyria comes on the scene as the one who will face their wrath.

One word gives hope to them and us “nevertheless” or “but”. God renews the covenants of God with His people despite all the horrible things that have happened. “God’s wonderful plans will bring about these ideals, not the plans of Ahaz…or any other fast-talking politician (Smith).” It is only His birth, the incarnation of Jesus, sent from His Father and God can we hope to live.

The morning described before about God’s judgment gives way to Israel becoming the victor not the one who just avoided defeat but as one who trusts in their Lord and God. It is the picture of gathering a harvest, looting a fallen army, and being released from slavery. The reality of this happened in Isaiah 37:33ff when Assyria was defeated by God, but the ultimate fulfillment is seen in Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:2-3.

“For out of Zion shall go forth the law,

    and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

3 He shall judge between many peoples,

    and shall decide disputes for strong nations far away;

and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,

    and their spears into pruning hooks;

nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

    neither shall they learn war anymore;”

 And in the coming of the new heaven and near earth in Revelation 21.

Word of Promise

The Holy Spirit is the one who protects us and causes us to preserver when wading through the cesspools of life. Keep in mind that the world in which Jesus walked was just as bad as ours is today. Think people worship idols like money, sex, vacation, job, family and the rest? Listen to these words from Paul,

Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. (Acts 17:22-23). Yet it was a mixed success if you read vv 32-34 for Paul was mocked for the central truth of the Gospel that Jesus rose again from the dead. Some joined but not 2000.

Into such situations our Lord Jesus sends to us the Holy Spirit. Not an it but a person, use whatever pronoun you wish. Recall the purpose of his coming. To cause us to remember what Jesus said and to bear witness about Jesus. Our witness to Jesus—our telling the world how God has changed our lives through Christ; is rooted in the presence of the Holy Spirit that indwells us.

There is only one type of witnessing, but Jesus wants us to be certain to understand that we are also integral to the news that we have a wonderful counselor. For those Jews who found themselves kicked out of synagogues and denounced by their families for becoming a follower of Jesus the Spirit, that brings about the Body of Christ is the promise of a place to belong.

In the day when Christians are persecuted in Egypt for their faith (AI 2017). The number of persecutions has doubled in the past year—2016 to 2017--in India ("Hindu Attacks on Christians"). Today, the church and God are non-issues for most people in the US. Most aren’t anti-god most just don’t care. To be certain there are some who are openly hostile toward the gospel and the church. But whether they hate us or a merely apathetic, without the saving work of Jesus they face damning eternal consequences—literally.

That is something those of us who believe have no risk. Salvation is eternal and for eternity. Christ’s death paid for the sins we committed before we were saved and since we’ve been saved. God’s power to old us is strong enough that “nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” Ro 8:39. Did you here those three words, “in all creation”.

Our wonderful counselor, who stands alongside us, walks alongside us, and wades with us into the rough times in our lives not so we escape them but so we may testify to the love of God and the Saving power of Jesus. Let us pray   


 

Works Cited

"Chen Min." Meaning Filled. Web. 30 Nov. 2018.

"Hindu Attacks on Christians Double in India." ucanews.com. 2018. Web. 1 Dec. 2018.

McKenna, David, and Lloyd J. Ogilvie. The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 17: Isaiah 1–39. 1st ed. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Inc., 1993. Print.

Smith, Gary V. Isaiah. Nashville, Tenn.: B & H Publishing Group, 2007. Print.

 

Bibliography

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Borgert, Michael et al. "An Advent Journey." Reformedworship.org. 2006. Web. 28 Nov. 2018.

Bucknell, Paul J. "Isaiah 9:6." Foundationsforfreedom.net. Web. 14 Nov. 2018.

Carson, D. A. The Gospel According to John. Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991. Print. The Pillar New Testament Commentary.

"Chen Min." Meaning Filled. Web. 30 Nov. 2018.

Fredrikson, Roger L., and Lloyd J. Ogilvie. John. Vol. 27. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1985. Print. The Preacher’s Commentary Series.

Gibson, Scott M. Preaching to a Shifting Culture. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2004. Print.

Gower, Ralph, and Fred Wight. The New Manners & Customs of Bible Times. Chicago [Ill.]: Moody Publishers, 1987. Print.

Hendriksen, William, and Simon J. Kistemaker. Exposition of the Gospel According to John. Vol. 2. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001. Print. New Testament Commentary.

"Hindu Attacks on Christians Double in India." ucanews.com. 2018. Web. 1 Dec. 2018.

Pfeiffer, Charles F. The Lord God Will Seek Them Out. Chicago: Moody Press, 1962. Print.

McKenna, David, and Lloyd J. Ogilvie. The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 17: Isaiah 1–39. 1st ed. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Inc., 1993. Print.

Mundey, Paul. "Being Different -- Makes All the Difference!" wwwpaulmundey.blogspot.com. 2018. Web. 30 Nov. 2018.

Shepard, Tom. "Our Wonderful Counselor." Sermon Central. 2007. Web. 28 Nov. 2018.

Smith, Gary V. Isaiah. Nashville, Tenn.: B & H Publishing Group, 2007. Print.