It is an extremely difficult and sometimes uncomfortable reality that pain is a mandatory investment for progress. The Israelis wandered for decades in the desert so their descendants not only would later live in the land of promise, but also had cautionary tales of their error and rebellion. The prophets who later reached those generations, were abused, mocked and even killed to pave the way for Christ. And when the savior himself came, he served as the ultimate sacrifice of atonement for humanity.
The story of missionaries of the world is an inspiring and convicting tale of suffering. To those Christians living in first world prosecutions it can be an unrelatable honor. But Paul the apostle gave the ultimate word of advice when he declared. " Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church". To think we can/should avoid pain, suffering and even persecution is illogical when all those who paved the way did the same. It is in fact a disservice to ourselves, and a dishonor to all those who have paved the way for the gospel to pierce our very hearts.
Nearly 200 years ago Robert Jermain Thomas laid down his life in love for the Koreans of the Joseon epoch. His sacrifice of blood would later fertilize the futile tree that would see South Korea transformed from an impenetrable fortress, to one of the largest Christian populations. To this day the gift has been paid forward as Korea is a world leader in the field of missionaries sent abroad. In addition, the great Pyongyang revival of 1907 would not have been remotely possible without the dedication and perseverance of the spiritual giants who blazed the way in selfless toil which transplanted laborers far from their mother lands to the fields of harvest.
Numerous Koreans were praying for a revival in 2007, to mark the 100 year anniversary which saw the current stalinist North Korean. The DPRK capital referred to as the "Jerusalem of the East" was transformed from the land of decadence, only to be reclaimed by the missionaries of Satan. However, many were dismayed when a group of Korean missionaries were kidnapped and the head pastors given the gift of martyrdom. God rest the souls of Bae Hyeong-gyu and Shim Seong-mi. This ironically was seen as a sign of failure, even though the road paved before this gospel was forged in the heart of the fire of persecution. The seeds which were germinated, now are springing to life in the wave of hardships throughout the world.
In studying the revival of the past, there is a truth that we can learn beyond any doubt: progress begins with confession. Several of the prominent pioneers of the society changing culture began with simple acts of confession (Robert Hardie and Graham Lee), that lasted for several days and led to inspiration of others. In addition, many who had wrong others not only confessed, but also sought atonement in making rights of the wrongs. An emphasis on justice of our sins must be forefront in any change. When Isaiah commended a certain fast to be heard from God (Isaiah 58) he spoke of easing the yoke of oppression and injustice. Easing the pain of the world through sharing of our food and shelter must be factored into the equation which has created the apathy that requires revival.
Additionally, we must we remember a spiritual truth taught by Christ when proclaiming the church to be built on the rock of Peter, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Gates indicate defense and it is an absolute truth that as uncomfortable of a reality as it is, spiritual rulers inhabit this world. They have delayed messages from heaven (Daniel), postponed progress (Paul) and even tormented (Jesus). To truly see this revival occur, a reliance on God, the holy spirit must be prevalent. As Christians we are positively helpless to these principalities and we created as lower beings. Self reliance will produce zero fruit in this battle. A steady diet of humility and reliance on God will nurture our body for this spiritual battle.
Finally, for revival to stick and spread, a deep look inward is needed to break from our own sin. In the book of Acts on two separate occasions, (Act 16:16-2119:23-41) Paul and the apostles were actually affecting the local economies. Both in the case of the fortune teller and the silversmith, their immoral profitterings were directly damaged. The same events were mirrored in the revivals of the past when people stopped going to bars and visiting establishments of fornication. For this to truly make a lasting impact, as believers we must repent and relent of our sins of indulgence of the flesh. In 2 of the most Christian nations in the world, pornography, alcohol abuse, and an indlugence of materialism and nationalism reign supreme. For God’s hand to rule with righteousness, a forsaking of all that hinders us must be placed at the foot of the cross.
The revival of 1907 did not stop the long arm of colonial oppression of Japan that followed. A mere 2 years after, Korea was formally annexed and would remain a colony for the decades to come. The outbreak of Christianity, did, however, give many believers the strength to endure the atrocities and captivity of the oppressors. The apostle Peter, who was also a martyr, proclaimed in his first epistle,” it is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil”. So in the pain of trial and battling the worst enemy we will ever face- ourselves and flesh- let us rest in the comfort of Christ who suffered for giving us the ultimate gift of Salvation. Amen.