Friday, May 22, 2015

Faith is Forged in the Fires of Adversity

Hudson Taylor is known as a man of great faith, and rightly so, for he trusted the Lord and his promises all the days of his life and found God to be faithful. But while we love to meditate on Hudson’s great exploits of faith, and especially his mission to take the gospel into the interior of China, we often gloss over the great difficulties he had to endure. We seldom meditate on the darkness and pain of many situations he and others faced, and thus we fail to see the height of his faith, and more importantly, the height of the faithfulness of God.

Chapter thirteen of the book Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret (Littleton, CO: OMF Books, 2010) is entitled “Days of Darkness,” and the epigraph over it, taken from a poem by W. T. Matson, reads:

Against me earth and hell combine;
But on my side is Power Divine;
Jesus is all, and he is mine.”

And indeed, at this time of Hudson's life, it did seem that many forces were combining to crush him and destroy the ministry. On an international scale, political tensions between China and the West eventuated in horrible riots that threatened to shut down the ministry, for missionaries were being blamed for the violence. This brought about legal challenges which nearly caused all missionaries to be expelled from China, or at least the inland portions thereof.

Take a moment and imagine what it would be like to lay down your life for the salvation of souls in some far off land, and to inspire others to join you, only to find yourself caught up in the middle of legal and local issues that caused your name and ministry to come before local and national governments. This circumstance alone caused Hudson great consternation, for he felt responsible for calling so many to suffer with him, he wondered if people had suffered unnecessarily because of him, and he wondered at times if he should have come to China at all.

After much prayer and seeking the Lord, Hudson and his precious wife Maria decided to press on with the ministry and the Lord gave them grace to do just that, but in addition to these international issues, there were personnel issues inside the ministry that threatened to weaken or destroy it from within. “It was doubly painful that, during such a time of crisis, certain members of the mission who had caused trouble from the very first continued to voice their dissatisfaction, and Taylor determined that it was time to request their resignations” (page 110).

The staff members didn’t take this well, and when they arrived in England after the four-month trip, they represented the issues in such a way as to alienate many of Hudson’s friends from the work. This, combined with all of the public coverage about the ministry and the issues in China, greatly impacted the income of the ministry. It did indeed seem that earth and heaven had combined against Hudson and China Inland Mission.

At this time Hudson wrote, “Pray for us, we need much grace. You cannot conceive the daily calls there are for patience, for forbearance, for tact in dealing with many difficulties and misunderstandings that arise among so many persons of different nationality, language and temperament. Pray the Lord to give me the single eye, the clear judgment, the wisdom and gentleness, the patient spirit, the unwavering purpose, the unshaken faith, the Christlike love needed for the efficient discharge of my duties. And ask him to send us sufficient means and suitable helpers for the great work which we have as yet barely commenced” (page 111, emphasis mine).

The need before them was so great. One Chinese province alone had 20 million residents and yet no missionary to preach Jesus to them. “But instead of the men and means for which they were praying, there was a marked drop in the funds reaching them from home. Although they couldn’t yet see it, God was already preparing provision for the situation” (page 111).

Indeed, at this very time, God was moving on the heart of another man of great faith, George Muller, who was familiar with Hudson’s work and decided at this very time to begin supporting it. The timing of Muller’s gift, and much more so, his prayers and spiritual encouragement, was divine and served as a boost of confidence in the Lord that enabled Hudson and his team to press on in faith.

The details of the relationship between Hudson and George Muller are quite inspiring, but we’ll have to save that for another time. For now, I want to highlight this truth—faith is forged in the fires of adversity. It’s easy to speak of trusting God when it’s easy to trust God, but faith grows when all of earth and heaven seem to be arrayed against us and we yet cling to the great promises of God in Christ. It is then that we learn, “On my side is Power Divine / Jesus is all, and he is mine.” 

May we look to men and women of faith like Hudson and Maria Taylor and learn in the midst of adversity to cling tightly to the promises of God in Christ. For if we, like them, look to him who is faithful and trust that he will do what he has said he will do, we will find that he is faithful still. 

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