Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Faith is Forged in the Fire

Here's an article I just wrote for our church's e-newsletter and bulletin: 

Hudson Taylor had endured his share of suffering. From the day he discerned the calling to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the Chinese people, he began to live an austere life, he traveled by boat from England to China which took months and came with a variety of challenges, he decided to reach into the interior of China while others warned him against that and, in subtle ways, even opposed him, he fell ill and had to return to England even though the ministry was growing and producing much fruit, he continued to struggle with his health in England, he struggled to persuade wealthy and content people that they must sacrifice to seek and save the one million or more Chinese souls that were dying every month in those days, and perhaps worst of all he struggled to muster the faith that God would provide and send and sustain an army of workers to reach the people he now loved with all of his heart. 
But God never wastes a trial or difficulty, in fact, He was using all of these things to forge in Hudson a greater faith because He had a greater vision for Hudson's life than he could know at the time. Great visions of God require great faith, and the Lord knew—for He is the Master Craftsman—that such faith can only be developed through testing. It can only be developed as one is forced to exercise it. Even as muscles require increasing resistance to grow and strengthen, so faith requires trials to reach new heights in God. 
And when the time was full, these manifold trials did indeed escort Hudson to new heights in God. As he continued to live on the east side of London and struggle with his health, a friend suggested that he travel south to a coastal town called Brighton where, it was hoped, he would recover. But God had greater things in mind than the restoration of physical health. 
After attending a Sunday worship service, Hudson found himself in turmoil. He just couldn’t rejoice with the believers that were there because he kept hearing that word from the Lord that says, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen” (John 10:16). As he heard this word, he ached for his beloved China and went out by the beach where he could plead with the Lord and break through the lack of faith that had held him back these past few years. And he had a spiritual breakthrough indeed! 
“In great spiritual agony, I wandered out on the sands alone. And there the Lord conquered my unbelief, and I surrendered myself to God for this service… Need I say that at once peace flowed into my burdened heart?” (Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret, OMF Books, 2010: 84) He then petitioned the Lord for several specifics and returned to London with a heart full of faith and peace. His wife attributed it to the time away, but Hudson knew that his many trials have now given birth to a new depth of faith and the peace he felt was but a fruit of God's great work in him. 
Longing with you for eyes to see the Lord’s work in me, 
Pastor Charlie

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