WOW! What a book! This is one of those books that will be impossible to forget, and one I highly recommend all Christians should read.
The Heavenly Man is the story of the Chinese evangelist and pastor, Brother Yun. A poor boy from rural China, Yun came to know Jesus at age sixteen, and God used him mightily to preach the gospel in China, and establish many house churches. Despite years of horrific opposition, torture, and imprisonment, the Holy Spirit enabled Yun to stand firm in his faith and bring glory to God in his suffering. Many heard the gospel through him and were saved.
These are some of the things that struck me about this book:
- The descriptions of the torture Yun went through in prison are not for the faint-hearted (he was given shock treatment with electric batons inside his mouth). I read that feeling deeply sick and fearful that I would not be able to endure in that situation. I worried that I would deny Christ after going through only a small percentage of what Yun went through. But Yun emphasises that it is the Holy Spirit that enabled him to endure and praise God through his suffering, not through his own strength.
- At times I felt the Scriptures he quoted were taken a little out of their biblical context in order to fit his experiences.
- It says on the blurb that this book is like a modern-day version of the book of Acts, and that is so true. Some of the miracles God does among the Chinese Christians are truly remarkable. In the church circles I'm a part of there seems to be an expectation that God will always work in logical ways (i.e. heal people using doctors, only speak while we're reading the Bible). But the Chinese church have very few Bibles; people became Christians and have lived as Christians for years without ever owning a Bible. The poor in rural areas don't have access to medicine. Therefore, God shows His power among them in mighty ways, healing the sick, and speaking to Yun, his wife and others through dreams. As Yun says about the Western church:
Many Christians have also asked me why miracles and signs and wonders are so prevalent in China, but not so evident in the West.
In the West you have so much. You have insurance for everything. In a way, you don't need God. When my father was dying of stomach cancer, we sold everything we had to try to cure him. When everything was gone we had no hope but God. We turned to Him in desperation and saw Him mercifully answer our prayers and heal my father. We reasoned that if God could do that then He could do anything, so our faith grew and we've seen many miracles. (page 299). The chapter, Reflecting on Four Years in the West is a powerful rebuke to the Western church.
- I've noticed that Asian Christians are often more straightforward, open, and urgent in their faith that we here in Australia. We tend to muck around a lot before telling people the gospel (or we're afraid to tell them in case we lose their friendship). In China, there is no delay. Persecution has created an urgency and spiritual hunger. Because of this, Yun asks people not to pray that persecution will stop, as this is often God's intended way for the gospel to spread.
- Yet, despite all he has been through in China, Yun acknowledges that some of the most painful opposition he has received has not been from prison guards and Communist party officials, but nasty words from fellow Christians. As it says in the book, In China, Christians are persecuted with beatings and imprisonment. In the West, Christians are persecuted by the words of other Christians. (pages 308-9) Shame, Western church, shame.
- Despite the millions in China still needing the gospel, Yun is focused on world mission. Often I hear Aussie Christians using the excuse that there are many unreached Aussies as an excuse to stay in comfortable Australia. Yun challenges us to consider going to areas where people have not even heard the name of Jesus.
- I was pleased to read that Yun places his marriage and family as high priorities. He criticises the way many house church leaders in China are so focused on ministry that they neglect their wives and children. Yun believes God rebuked him of this when he tried to do too much in ministry and ended up in prison, separated from his wife and children for years. We have a role to play, but we are mere men and women, and we need to let God be God.
Prepare to be deeply encouraged as well as rudely awakened. An absolute must for the sleeping churches of the West.