Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Incarnating the Text of Philippians

This post is not about the incarnation of the Son of God as found in Philippians 2.5-8.  Rather is about incarnating the realities of the teaching of Philippians 1.12-13.  It is about how the words and concepts found here in Philippians chapter one are being manifested today.  Here is the text:
Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else
Paul is so devoted to Christ and the magnification of his name that he evaluates all of his circumstances in light of how they promote the progress of the gospel.  This same devotion has its counterparts today.  We received our monthly issue of The Voice of the Martyrs (Feb. 2012) and on page 9 there is an article entitled "New Fruit in China."  This brief article speaks about Chinese pastor Zhang Rongliang.  He has spent more than a fourth of his life in prison as he has been imprisoned five times for a total of 19 years.  Here are some key selections from the article that show that the Pauline devotion is still active.
Pastor Zhang was released from his latest imprisonment on Aug. 31, 2011, after more than seven years in prison.  He endured torture and hard labor, all the while suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure.  He was not permitted to have a Bible, and he was so ill that he had to be carried from place to place by two men.  He didn't think he would leave prison alive.
His wife and two sons worried about him constantly, and many VOM readers wrote letters to Pastor Zhang through www.prisonalert.com.
"I am happy that you and others tried to arrange for my release, but in one way, I am happy that you failed," he told a VOM worker shortly after his release.  "You almost made a big mistake.  If you had been successful, there would be no church in that prison today." 
Even while ill, Pastor Zhang was planting a church in prison.  "God called me to preach to the prisoners," he said.  During Pastor Zhang's seven-year imprisonment, almost all of the 5,000 prisoners had an opportunity to hear the gospel.  He was able to reach many men he would never have interacted with outside prison. 
So like Paul--joyful in the progress of the gospel regardless of the circumstances.   Within the persecuted church the Spirit of Jesus Christ is still active and powerful in ways my mind (and life!) scarcely comprehend.