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The Back Page | Philip Yancey: God at Large

A look around the globe reveals a God as big as we want him to be
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A friend of mine recently returned from a visit to Asian countries where Christians are experiencing persecution. Christians in Malaysia told him, "We're so blessed, because in Indonesia they're killing Christians, but here we just have to put up with discrimination and restrictions on our activities." In Indonesia, where Christians are indeed dying for their faith, they told him, "We're very blessed, because in Malaysia they can't freely publish the gospel. Here, we still can."

In my own travels overseas, I have noticed a striking difference in the wording of prayers. When difficulties come, Christians in affluent countries tend to pray, "Lord, take this trial away from us!" I have heard persecuted Christians and some who live in very poor countries pray instead, "Lord, give us the strength to bear this trial."

Curious, I asked an old-time missionary, who has made a dozen trips to visit unregistered house churches in China, if Christians there prayed for a change in restrictive government policies. He replied that not once had he heard a Chinese Christian pray for relief. "They just assume they'll face opposition," he said. "They can't imagine anything else." He then gave some examples of the opposition.

One pastor had served a term of 27 years at hard labor for holding unauthorized church meetings. When he emerged from prison and returned to church, he announced that he had kept a daily count on his dangerous job, and had coupled together one million railroad cars without an injury. "God answered your prayers for my safety!" he rejoiced. Another imprisoned pastor heard that his wife was going blind. Desperate, he reported to the warden that he was renouncing his faith. He was released, but soon felt so guilty that he turned ...

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Philip Yancey
Philip Yancey is editor at large of Christianity Today and cochair of the editorial board for Books and Culture. Yancey's most recent book is What Good Is God?: In Search of a Faith That Matters. His other books include Prayer (2006), Rumors of Another World (2003), Reaching for the Invisible God (2000), The Bible Jesus Read (1999), What's So Amazing About Grace? (1998), The Jesus I Never Knew (1995), Where is God When It Hurts (1990), and many others. His Christianity Today column ran from 1985 to 2009.
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