Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What Good Is God?

This phrase sounds so much like it's coming from an atheist, when I was reading this book in the office lunchroom, I didn't want people to see the cover.

But the truth is, this book by Philip Yancey is full of anecdotal
evidence for the existence of God. Not that it's going to change the minds of any unbelievers who happen to read it, but it certainly bolstered my faith and cultivated a sense of wonder and awe at what God does...even in the midst of horrible circumstances.

What kind of circumstances, you ask? How about the campus massacre at Virginia Tech? How about the professional sex trade in Green Lake, Michigan? Or the post-Apartheid uncertainty of South Africa? Or dodging terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India? Or any one of six other situations in which Yancey has spoken during the last decade or so?

This book's ten sections consist of a chapter introducing the circumstances leading up to the author's involvement in these different settings, followed by an almost-transcript of the speech he gave at the time. (Yancey is a journalist, and would never characterize his public addresses as sermons...and rightly so.)

Let me give you a taste of what impressed me about God's work in the hearts of people as I read each chapter.

From the chapter on the underground church in China:

China was the pearl of the missionary movement, with 7,000 foreign missionaries overseeing seminaries and publishing houses as well as 900 hospitals and 6,000 schools. Almost overnight Chairman Mao forced them all to leave. Members of the largest agency, the China Inland Mission, met in Australia to consider their fate. Should they disband? Or relocate to other Asian countries? And what about the Christian community left in China? Four hundred years of missionary work had produced a million Protestant and several million Catholic converts, a tiny minority in a country already exceeding a half billion in population. Who would teach them, print their literature, nurse their sick?

For several decades no one knew how the Chinese church was faring, especially in light of the leaked reports of social turmoil. Had Madame Mao succeeded in her vow to destroy Christianity? When China finally began to crack open its borders, some of these same missionaries returned to visit, astonished to find that the church had exploded in size. [Former Time magazine reporter, David] Aikman estimates the number of Christians in China today may exceed eighty million; others suggest a total of more than a hundred million. No one knows for sure because many of them meet in unregistered (and illegal) house churches of twenty or thirty members. This, the largest religious revival in history by far, took place with little direction and no foreign influence.

And consider this quote from Pastor Allen Yuan, one of the four patriarchs of the underground church, who spent twenty-two years in prison for his faith:

We live in a time like the apostles. Christians here are persecuted, yes. But look at Hong Kong and Taiwan - they have prosperity, but they don't seek God. I tell you, I came out of that prison with faith stronger than I went in. Like Joseph, we don't know why we go through hard times until later, looking back. Think of it: we in China may soon have the largest Christian community in the world, and in an atheistic state that tried to stamp us out!

Truth is...God's love and grace are not bound by political ideologies nor hindered by oppression. God's ability to bring about good from the midst of injustice and suffering cannot be squashed. So whatever dire circumstance you find yourself in, rest assured that the Lord of the Universe knows what's happening and has not forgotten you. God is good...all the time. 

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