Alan Richardson, St. Louis, MO
My dear and beloved brothers and sisters. I may not have met you who are reading this letter, but my heart and my prayers are with you. You are an inspiration and encouragement to me. You are a marvel in the earth and a source of amazement to this world, its citizens and its rulers. You stand in strength when the enemy of your souls – and even your own flesh – tells you that you are weak and helpless. You face the loss of all you have, but continue to hold to the One you cannot see despite the bullying and derision of those set against you
Continue to hold through in love and peace. Do not lift up your voices or your fists against those who seek to harm you. Remember that Jesus was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and although the almighty Son of God, did not call a single angel to his help at his time of most desperate need. This is because the Kingdom you are called to is demonstrated not through your words, but through your lives. And God’s goal through you is to reach the hearts of those who oppose you. Because but for His grace, you and I might be the accusers and persecutors instead of the ones called by God to be His ambassadors. And whereas we have a hope and an inheritance that nothing can harm, our persecutors in their hopelessness have nothing but eternal despair in front of them.
Can you see then why Jesus commands us, that if an opponent should strike us on one cheek, we should turn the other cheek to him for him to strike that as well? For if we are called as followers of Christ, we are called not to preserve our own lives but be ready at all times to lay them down.
As we lay our lives down, we prove meekness and humility. And although it may be in trembling and weakness, we also prove the love that is greater than fear, the life that is greater than death. And our Father in Heaven sees His Kingdom coming upon the earth through the sacrifice of your life lived in love. Don’t be afraid dear friend, your reward is ahead of you, and it will not fail! And as you lay down your life daily, learning to live in Love not fear, you tread a pathway for the Kingdom of God on earth.
I will say one other thing that may surprise you – you may even find difficult to understand. It is this. There are many of us here in the rich and affluent West who envy you.
You may say?..”but how can you envy us who are poor, persecuted, frequently without bibles and often only able to meet at great risk to ourselves?”
We envy you because the riches of this world blind us here in the west. We envy you because though you have little support or encouragement in this world, you have all of Heaven behind you and are forced to lean upon Him alone who will never fail you. We envy you because you are called upon daily to love the loveless, to live your faith in a world that opposes you, whereas here in the West we have “churches” that are accepted by the world and are all too often left with only the language of salvation.
Yes we are organised, but our organisational strengths all too often rest in our own talents and gifts. Yes, we have wonderful church buildings, but they teach the world that God dwells in them instead of in people, and the God that dwells in those buildings is usually withdrawn and religious – difficult if not impossible to identify with the laughing, loving, vibrant, passionate, compassion filled Jesus, Son of God. And yes we have Bibles, but we have come to depend upon them as the word of God, whereas the Word of God is a person. The Word of God is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is He that we are called to learn of. The Bible is a great help in that respect, but never a substitute. Remember that the early church – the most powerful church this world has ever seen – had no church buildings or bibles for over 200 years. And when it began to erect church buildings and appoint church “officers”, it began to slip into the dark ages.
Can you see then where you are such an encouragement and example to us here in the west? In China you have become the most powerful church in the world! You have grown faster than any church since the first century! And you have done it without any of our western “strengths”. If you have had church buildings, they have been torn down. If you had bibles, they were confiscated. If you had leaders, they were imprisoned. And yet this did not stop you from growing – even though you felt, and must still feel pressed to the point of desperation! Because all of your strengths and supports in this world were removed from you, you had no other resource than Heaven!
Yes, the world sought to make an example of you. But so did God! God sought to show us that if we will yield ourselves to a point of helplessness HE WILL BUILD HIS CHURCH AND THE PLOTS, PLANS AND STRATEGIES OF HELL ITSELF WILL NOT BE ABLE TO STOP HIM!!
You my dear brothers and sisters – whether in China or Mexico, in Iran or Columbia – are in inspiration to us and a joy in the eyes of your Father in Heaven. Press on and do not despair!
Finally, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. Beware of the mistakes we have made in the west. If persecution begins to be lifted from you, beware of ambition, beware of control seeking, beware of seeking to find your own identity amongst your friends, for these things all flow from the flesh and will cause division and strife. They will not advance the Kingdom, they will betray it to the world. Beware of setting up church buildings. If you have bibles, you will know that “God no longer dwells in buildings made with the hands of men”. Why set up meeting halls when you have homes? Why create settings for oratory when Jesus is learned through LIFE – the life that you live and impart to others each day. We are called to make DISCIPLES, not listeners. To be a functioning part of one another, not an audience. Why then should we lift up one person to stand in front of us, when only One – the Lord Jesus – should be in that place.
Yes, God has given gifts to His church. He has given apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. And they will come and strengthen and equip us to live the life and share that life with each other and the world. But they are not to be the focus. They are but servants, who once a job is done, gladly step back. If a servant continues to do a job for us, we forget how to do it ourselves!
Church was never meant to be a means of finding our identity upon the earth. For “if we find our life, we shall lose it”. When we seek our identity in “our own church”, we lose the power of heaven to win the world around us to the reality of The Kingdom of God.
You may wonder then, what is the way ahead if we are not to do these things when we come to a time of peace and freedom from persecution. If you wish to know the way ahead, look behind you. See how God has sustained and kept you. See how God has caused His Kingdom to grow and advance upon the earth through you. Israel journeyed through the wilderness so that they might have this lesson to remember when they came to the Promised Land – God alone is their provision and source and supply. Depend upon nothing else but Him.
Your security is not to be in this world. We have failed in the west in many ways. We who once were your teachers now need to realise we are the pupils.
Stand strong no matter how you may feel. We need you, and so does The Lord. Pray for us here in the west that God may shake us out of bed with the world. We pray for you that God will continue to keep you strong and pure. Remember, you are strong, not because of anything you do, but because “greater is He within you than He which is in this world.” Walk on with Him dearly beloved! He is ahead of you, and His angels are around you. He will never let you fall!
With much love in our Lord Jesus.