“Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions” (Dan. 6:16).
For entertainment and sport, lions were released in the Roman Coliseum, and the audiences cheered and laughed with insane glee, as Christian families were slaughtered and eaten alive by hungry lions. The babies were evidently sweet to the lions’ palettes, because they were the first to be devoured as the screaming mothers hopelessly tried to rescue their children from the ferocious beasts.
The Book of Daniel is, among other things, a book of courage, and has been an inspiration to Christians who have had to endure unbelievable hardship through the centuries at the hands of their tormentors. Jesus was always honest about the cost of following Him. On one occasion a “certain man” said, “Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head”(Lk. 9:57-58).
Unconditional Obedience and the Way of the Cross
In his book, Church of Cowards: A Wake-up Call To Complacent Christians (Regnery, 2020), Matt Walsh tells the story of a group of Egyptian Christians in buses headed to a monastery in the desert where they were scheduled to have a retreat.
Suddenly, the bus was stopped by armed Islamists who had blocked the roadway. They boarded the bus, pulled all the passengers out of the bus, and lined them up next to the roadway. The passengers were asked two questions: “Are you a Christian?” “Will you abandon Christ and convert to Islam?” When each passenger admitted they are Christians, and refused to convert to Islam, they were shot in the head or in the throat—everyone, men, women and children.
Supposing you were on that bus? You are asked, “Are you a Christian?” Your heart speeds up. Your mind races. The thought flashes through your mind that you only have to utter a single-syllable word, “no,” to escape. A stream of thoughts flash through your mind. The militant who asked you the question is growing impatient and jams the muzzle of the Kalashnikov into your throat. The man draws near to your face. His foul breath is over-whelming. “Are you a Christian?” he snarls…….
Sometimes courage is not demonstrated by standing strong with a gun barrel in your face. It may be demonstrated through prayer and praise in impossible circumstances.
For most of his 18 years in a Chinese Communist labor camp, Pastor George Chen was not called to preach from a pulpit. He found himself standing deep in a prison cesspool every day of the week, shoveling human excrement from 60,000 prisoners to be used for fertilizer.
At first Pastor Chen abhorred the work, but he soon realized that the revolting stench meant that no guards or other prisoners went near the pit, allowing George to pray and worship God in complete privacy and solitude. Almost every day he sang his favorite hymn, “In the Garden.” He found a sweetness in the air. His environment was transformed into a special place where the Holy Spirit came down as Pastor Chen communed daily with Jesus Christ (asiaharvest.org).
“Sign this. Your children need their mother.”
Paul Hattaway, originally from New Zealand, has faithfully brought millions of Bibles to Christians living in China. He is intimately acquainted with the house church movement and regarded as a model for suffering Christians. In over thirty years of dodging border guards, his gait is still as quick and silent, as it was when he first began as a courier for God. He was recently a speaker in a home meeting talking about Jesus’ command that we take up our crosses and follow Him. He was emphasizing the fact that when a man was crucified he completely surrendered control of his life to another.
At the meeting, Hattaway shared the story of Sister Yuen of Shanghai, a widow who was arrested many years ago and put in prison. In an attempt to make her deny Christ, the guards brought her young son and daughter right up to the bars of her small cell. With tear-stained eyes the two children begged their mother to come home. Their sobs and the words “ma-ma” brought anguish to her mother’s heart. Of course she wanted to come home and hold her children close and feel their beating hearts.
The guards asked Sister Yuen, “Doesn’t your God want you to take care of your own children? You can return home today, right now. Sign this. Your children need their mother.” The guards gave Sister Yuen a pen, and slipped a sheet of paper between the bars of her cell. This would be a victory for these two guards. The prison chief would surely reward them for getting this stubborn Christian woman to deny that she would follow Jesus any longer.
Sister Yuen took the sheet of paper and quickly wrote a few words on it. She handed it to the guards. They happily took the paper and read what she wrote. Their faces were suddenly contorted with anger. She had written in large letters: JESUS CAN NEVER BE REPLACED! EVEN MY OWN CHILDREN CAN NOT REPLACE JESUS!”
Sister Yuen was sentenced to spend twenty three more years in prison. By the time she was released her two children were adults. They had been raised by the atheist state. She was able to find both her daughter and her son, and was able to reconcile with her daughter who, initially, did not understand why she chose Jesus over her two children. Her son, however, had become a police officer. He was loyal to the Communist Party and did not want to have anything to do with his mother or her God. This, however, is not the end of the story.
Hattaway says that after the presentation that he gave in the home meeting, a Christian couple, well known in the Christian community, angrily approached him and said: “Your story about Sister Yuen is stupid! If we were in that woman’s position, we would have signed the paper. Of course God wanted her to take care of her own children.” Hattaway writes;
“I was astonished that a pair of professing Christians could openly admit that they would willingly deny their faith under pressure, and that they didn’t see anything wrong with that. I asked if they were concerned about the words of Jesus, who said, ‘Whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven’” (Matt. 10:33). (Paul Hattaway, Asian Harvest: An Autobiography, pp. 265-266).
The America We Live In: Orwell’s 1984 Revisited
Orwell’s 1984, is a dystopian novel about a possible future society. The main character, Winston Smith, brings upon himself the rage of the ruling elite by insisting that 2 + 2 = 4, but changes his mind and finally admits that 2 + 2 = 5 after being subjected to extreme torture and an emotional breakdown. Perhaps many American Christians are on the verge of such a breakdown right now.
Today, the party of the ruling elite in America claims that it is the “party of science.” Yet that party holds that there are dozens of genders, that men can menstruate and get pregnant, and that affirming that 2 +2 = 4 is a racist statement. Does the church in America today have the courage to stand strong in such a milieu of madness?
The Underground Church and the Back To Jerusalem Movement
The growth, vitality and outreach of the Underground Church in China (also known as “the Unregistered Church”) is unique for the modern world in that it is being nurtured and becoming robust in a nation that militantly opposes Christianity. In fact, the current Communist regime is actively trying to stamp out and crush all religious expression. Churches, mosques, and Buddhist temples have been destroyed and their leaders incarcerated. Falun Gong practitioners have had their homes and places of business boarded up.
A large segment of the underground church is driven by a vision for world evangelism, especially those nations in the “10-40 window”—Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran… The Back To Jerusalem Movement is sending Chinese missionaries along the ancient Silk Road westward. Starting from Xi’an, China, the Silk Road ends in the city of Antioch, where the term “Christian” was first used (Acts 11:26). The Silk Road was used for both international trade and missionary access until the year 1453, when the Ottoman Empire, under Suleiman, closed it down. With the rise of Islam the fast-moving, hard-fighting armies of Islam dominated the religious landscape of the entire Silk Road.
In his excellent book, China and End-time Prophecy: How God is Using the Red Dragon To Fulfill His Ultimate Purposes (Whitaker House, 2021) Eugene Bach (a pseudonym) describes the amazing missions outreach of Chinese Christians in a hostile environment. Recently two Chinese missionaries seeking to fulfill the Back To Jerusalem vision were martyred by Islamic militants in Pakistan, but not before they had learned the language, won the hearts of the people, and started Bible studies in several areas. Similar reports are coming in from Iran and other “10-40” nations along the Silk Road. Courage is not for the faint-hearted, but not everyone is fainthearted.