This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from the heart of Pastor Zhu's wife (from China, described as a "pillar of God in China"), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say. (Matthew 10:19)
During the Cultural Revolution I was detained and isolated from the outside world because I refused to compromise with the enemies of God.
My husband was also detained. We were not allowed to communicate with each other. They tried to break our spirit by interrogating us individually.
One day they came and looked triumphantly at me. 'Your husband is a good man. You should love him dearly. He loves you too and does not want you to suffer any longer. He has finally given us the names of those who have visited your house last year. Thanks to his co-operation he will be sentenced less severely. And so will you. But before we release you we want to check with you if the names your husband has given are correct!'
Afterwards, one realises how simple and dirty this trick was. But at the time it was not simple--it was clever. Your body and spirit are weak--you want to get out of that dirty prison. Any offer sounds like an opportunity to be set free. How wonderful is God's grace and protection. When we are weak--He is strong. He will give us words to speak--and power to remain quiet where needed. How He does it? Through the Holy Spirit who lives in us.
If God's word exhorts us not to worry when we get arrested, how much less should we worry about small, petty daily matters.
'Do not worry--for He cares for you' (1 Peter 5:7).
A moment of introspection: Discernment--understanding, insight, perception--how important such insight is to each of us, and to Pastor Zhu's wife. God's Word seeks to provide what discriminatory acumen we need when we need it. Pastor Zhu's wife noted both speaking and silence as possible responses to ruses and ploys; in Ecclesiastes 3:7, God tells us that there is a time for speaking and for silence, but also informs us that when we are required to speak to figures of authority or of power, "...I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict." (Luke 21:15) Pastor Andrew Brunson has recently found strength in testifying of his innocence before a Turkish court, from this divine provision. 1 Peter 4:11 adds, that in what we speak, we ought to give glory to God through Christ Jesus. When Satan tempted Christ with simple, dirty, clever ruses, Jesus responded with Scripture--showing the importance of knowing God's Word when tempted (Matthew 4:1-10), and giving glory to God in the process. But even Jesus remained silent at times in the face of confrontation by earthly authorities: "And Pilate again asked him, 'Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.' But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed." (Mark 15:4-5) Even silence may be eloquent. Pastor Zhu's wife sums this up as she says "He will give us words to speak--and power to remain quiet where needed. How He does it? Through the Holy Spirit who lives in us."
When standing before oppositional authoritarian figures, the Holy Spirit within us speaks teaches us (and speaks through us) those words which the Father has given (Mark 13:11; Luke 12:11); the Holy Spirit conveys God's will to those who listen (Acts 13:2). The Holy Spirit commissions us to the work God has for us (Acts 13:4); He directs our steps (Acts 16:6; Isaiah 30:21). The Holy Spirit warns of impending danger or peril (Acts 20:23); He commissions us to the work of the Father (Acts 20:28), and has spoken through the prophets (Acts 28:25). The Holy Spirit is the conduit for God's pouring out His love upon us (Romans 5:5); and provides fellowship between God and us (2 Corinthians 13:14). Etc. Pastor Zhu's wife reminds us that the Holy Spirit gives us power to speak and to remain silent. Accordingly, it behooves us then, not to grieve this presence in our lives (Ephesians 4:30), but to remain sensitive to its ministrations and, through them, to God.
"Your body and spirit are weak--you want to get out of that dirty prison." Pastor Zhu's wife admitted her weakness in that dark place of her suffering. We too know our own weaknesses: the times when we feel powerless, unable, our energy sapped, and the way ahead dark and foreboding. When we are weak, God is strong. The apostle Paul reminds us of this, through his writings to the church at Corinth:
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 - But [the Lord] said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (Emphasis mine)
2 Corinthians 1:8-9 - For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. (Emphasis mine)
In the first reference, Paul started by asserting that "when I am weak, then I am strong", and finished the thought in the second reference when he clarified that in his weakness, the incapacity "was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead." His own strength was God's strength. God chose Paul's weakness to shame the strong who opposed him. (1 Corinthians 1:27) Our strength is the Lord's strength, and Isaiah 40:31 reminds us that our relationship with God through Christ is critically important; "they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." Spend time with the Lord; practice His presence. In His strength, then, may we be like the oak tree, which is not felled by one stroke. (Psalm 1:3; Psalm 46:5) In His presence, when we are devoted upon Him, there is peace (Isaiah 26:3). Pastor Zhu's wife states "If God's word exhorts us not to worry when we get arrested, how much less should we worry about small, petty daily matters." We are weak but, in God, strong. Bring your anxieties, your cares to your Father. For He cares for you. (Philippians 4:6-7;1 Peter 5:7)
From Pastor Zhu's wife, we learn that God helps us handle stressful, perhaps confrontational situations. In such situations, should we speak, or remain silent? If we speak, may we speak the message that God would have us express. If we remain silent, may we also do that by His leading. It is the Holy Spirit which empowers us in this. The Holy Spirit is a boon and a blessing to us, and we would do well not to grieve it, but to be sensitive to its communications. In our human weakness, we believers find strength in the Father--whose power is perfect in provision of strength. In our frailty we look to Jesus and His example so that, in our weakness, we do not give up (Hebrews 12:3; Galatians 6:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:13) and grow disheartened.
Shall we worry? No. Shall we weary? No. Shall we trust the Lord, and abide in Him? Yes!