Monday, June 4, 2012

Book reviews: The Heavenly Man & Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret

My husband came home with these two books recently and we both enjoyed them so much, I wanted to share them with ya.

The Heavenly Man is an autobiography of a Chinese man who came to know Christ through remarkable circumstances. An account of modern day miracles, it is humbling and shocking to read of the extreme persecution he and many, many other Christians endured in China. When you consider that all these things took place in modern days, you'll realize anew the privilege we enjoy here in America to worship God in freedom, and I for one, realize anew how much that precious freedom is becoming in jeopardy. If you (as I embarrassingly admit) ever feel like you've sacrificed for God... if you ever feel like woe is you for what you've endured for His name, then you can read this book and like me, can evaluate your life and know you have known nothing of real sacrifice. My life is really quite luxurious. My burdens are really very light. And the attitude toward the burdens we do have!! Oh my goodness. We ought not pray for God to remove our burdens, but pray for stronger backs.

Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret is a biography written by his son. I cried my way through this one. I don't want to make it sound like a depressing book, because it isn't. But it convicted me. Really, both these books leave me feeling like all my STUFF- worldly temporal STUFF does not add to my life but rather detracts from it. Only what's done for Christ will matter. As I flipped the last page of Hudson Taylor's biography, I really was burdened about my duty as missionary here in NY. All the silly things we devote our energy to.... *sigh*

Hudson Taylor was called to a very difficult field of service. China is still a hard mission field (of course, I don't know if there is an "easy" one!) but during the days of Mr. Taylor, the suspicion of foreigners and political instability, added to the physical difficulty of the land and times, made China a place where he risked his life, his family's lives and the lives of every co laborer with them. And as history records, many many missionaries, and their children, have been martyred in China, particularly during the 1800s. and early 1900s. (But as you can read in The Heavenly Man, Christians face martyrdom even today!) Hudson Taylor buried a wife and 3 children on the soil of China. Yet, he was known for his joy. His quite peace. The "Spiritual Secret" the title implies was that of learning to rest in Jesus. Though his life was filled with labor and burdens so heavy, I almost wanted to stop reading of it all because I could feel how heavy they were just by description, yet his heart was light and free, as he simply would abide in Christ. For many years, he struggled and strove within himself, constantly frustrated by the distance he always saw between him and his Saviour. Never gaining the victory over self. A life of spiritual failure despite every human effort. The more he grappled after holiness, the more it eluded him. When this conflict threaten to depress him and bring him to defeat, he received a letter from a dear friend with a phrase that changed it all for him. "But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One." And at this, his demeanor all changed. He rested in the promises of victory through Christ, no longer leaving success to his own efforts but leaving it all on Christ.

Of course, I don't do this experience justice. And in all honestly, I'm inspired by this thought but don't claim to fully understand it yet. I know we shall not attain unto a sinless state here on earth- and that is not what Hudson Taylor was professing. But he did gain a victory in this life. Perhaps in our current terms we would say he had a filling of the Spirit at this time? The book never puts it into those terms, however. A quote from the book:

I saw not only that Jesus will never leave me, but that I am a member of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. The vine is not a root merely, but all- root, stem, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit. And Jesus is not that alone- He is soil and sunshine, air and showers, and ten thousand times more than we have ever dreamed, wish for or needed. Oh, the joy of seeing this truth!
That, my friends, is worth pondering.