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4. My London Days

Chapter 4

London Days

In today’s sharing, I would like to do what Scripture calls “declare” or “witness”. I will declare His glory, declare His mercy, declare His good­ness, declare His wisdom, declare His character. I will declare His eternal name Yahweh.

Knowing God

Becoming a Christian is not a matter of joining some religion. I have never been interested in religion as such, and to this day I am not interested in religion. Becoming a Christian is a matter of knowing God, indeed knowing Him as a living Person. It is in this process of knowing God that we understand what it is to be a Christian and to grow in the Christian life. Being a Christian is not about how much you have learned or studied. I have nothing against learning; I myself have spent enough time in studies. You are not a Christian by what you know about Christianity in terms of its doctrines, its history, and its structural organization. None of this makes you a Christian, not even if you believe the creeds. Funda­mentally, being a Christian is to know God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son of God. John 17:3 says that eternal life is to know God and His Son Jesus Christ. So every­thing depends on knowing God and His Son. What I want to declare today is what God has taught me about Himself.

God reveals himself differently to different people

I also want to make it clear that everyone’s experiences are bound to be different. Therefore your experience of God is not something you have to mea­sure against mine, because God reveals Himself differently to different people. I stress this point because sometimes an experience may sound dramatic, so you say to yourself, “I haven’t had such dramatic experiences.” It doesn’t matter. You can experience Him in less drama­tic ways but nonethe­less in very real ways.

It is not for us to make an experience dramatic or not. For exam­ple, when the Lord Jesus revealed himself to Paul, Paul was not yet an apostle and was still called Saul. But on the Damascus Road, a brilliant light from heaven caused him to be blind for sev­eral days. Very dram­atic stuff. So you say, “I never have experiences like that.” It doesn’t matter. Your exper­ience of God is no less real just because you didn’t fall off your horse or weren’t blinded for three days.

Be prepared for sufferings

One thing I do want to say is this: If an experience is particularly out­standing or dramatic, you might need to be prepared for the possibility that God will ask you to do something very tough. For example, Paul had a dramatic experience, and the consequence of that experience was that God had arranged some very difficult things for him to go through. In other words, if you are interested in gaining some out­standing exper­iences, you had better be prepared to endure some very outstanding suffer­ings, which was what Paul was called to (Acts 9:16). If you aren’t keen on extraord­inary suffer­ings, you had better forget about extra­ordinary experiences. Just listen to somebody else talk about their own exper­iences, and let them go through the suffer­ings.

When I share about these things, I won’t talk much about the suf­ferings I have experienced. By God’s mercies, I think I could say that I have had a fair share of suffering. Whenever attacks and suffer­ings come to me, I would simply remember that this is what the Lord has called me to, and that a major part of His calling is to confirm to me His relation­ship with me in a living way through these experiences.

The word “declare” in the Bible occurs repeatedly in the Psalms:

“Declare His deeds among His people” (Psalm 9:11)

“Come and hear all you who fear God and I will declare what He has done for my soul” (Psalm 66:16)

“That I may declare all Your works” (Psalm 73:28)

This goes on and on through the Psalms: declare His works and His glory to the nations, the people of the world. This is basically what I am doing now. I declare Your mighty deeds, Your mighty works, Your great­ness (Psalm 145:6).

Many have said to me, “It is not fair that God gives you dra­matic experiences but doesn’t give me any.” Well, I hope you’ll bear in mind what I have just said. You can have the same experiences, even greater ones, provided you are ready to suffer for His sake. If not, don’t even think about it. That means to say, every revelation of God brings along with it a certain price tag. If you are unprepared for it, don’t even seek these experiences.

As for me, I delight in the privilege of knowing God and His Son Jesus Christ, and more and more in the sufferings attached to it. I can say with the apostle Paul, “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death.” (Philippians 3:10) That was how Paul was going to know Jesus. How much do you really want to know the Lord?

London years

Let me get on with this fourth part of my testimony. I will relate only a few incidents because in this one hour I cannot cover even a small fraction of my testimony from any particular period of my life, in this case my days in London. My previous sharings dealt somewhat with my background in China and my time in Scotland. I now con­cen­trate on the years during which I was in London. In those years, I had experienced so many things from God; but, as I said, I can only give you certain highlights here and there.

Our needs: an opportunity to experience God

It is through various difficulties—suffering in particular—that God reveals Himself. If there were no problems, we would have no opport­unity to experience what God can do. If you have no financial or mat­erial needs, and have never been in financial difficulty as a servant of the Lord or as a child of God, where is your opportun­ity to experience His miraculous provision? You don’t have a need, so there is no opportunity for God to intervene. I feel sorry for those who have no needs because they will also have no opportunity to exper­ience God’s provision.

If you have no physical problems, you would not experience God along that line. Every day I have to depend on God physically. I have arrived at a stage where I cannot get through a day without His daily sustenance. I used to be as fit as anyone here and maybe even fitter, very fit and physically strong. But today I have severe back problems, and even standing for 10 or 15 minutes can give me intense pain. So what do you do? You learn to depend on God. My need becomes His opportunity.

Andrew McBeath, a man of God

In Scotland, I spent two years at the Bible Training Institute which was one of the oldest and best known Bible institutes in the United King­dom. It was in fact set up through D.L. Moody. Many Christians in the western world would know of the great preacher D.L. Moody. Moody Bible Institute in Chicago also came into being as a result of his ministry. Ira D. Sankey was his music minis­ter. Wherever Moody went, Sankey would follow and carry out his music ministry. As you know, many famous English songs and hymns were written by Sankey. They had an evangelistic cam­paign in the United Kingdom, and many turned to God. As a result, many people wanted to be trained in the Lord’s work. That was how the Bible Institute was set up.

In my time, the principal of the Institute was Andrew McBeath, a scholarly man, but more importantly, a fine servant of God. As I look through my life, I try to count how many true servants of God I have met—people who stand out in my mind as men of God. “Man of God” is not a title that can be thrown around lightly. Few people qual­ify for that title. I think there is no higher title in all of the Bible than “man of God”. There are very few men of God around. In my whole life, I can count perhaps fewer than there are fingers on one hand. I would list Andrew McBeath as one of these men. If you meet him and get a chance to know him, you would know that you have met a man of God.

First, his outstanding humility struck me. I arrived one month late because I could not get a visa. I was hav­ing all kinds of visa problems and finally got to Glasgow one month after the school term had started. And Mr. McBeath himself welcomed me. Why should a prin­cipal welcome a new student? He could have sent someone else to wel­come me. There were many other students around, but he welcomed me person­ally. Not only that, he took me to his own living quarters which was in the same building as the Bible Institute. He took me to his own apart­ment and introduced me to his family. I had never heard of a principal who takes the trouble to introduce a student to his family. He introduced me to his wife who was sick at that time. So she greeted me sitting up in bed.

Those of you who are married would know that when a woman is sick in bed and doesn’t have her hair combed properly, she wouldn’t want to see visitors. But no problem. Andrew McBeath in­troduced me to his wife and she graciously welcomed me as well. That was my first taste of his graciousness and humility.

One day as I was walking down a corridor, Mr. McBeath saw me. He said to me, “Come here.” I wondered what was going on. He called me aside and handed me an envelope. I looked at it and asked, “What is it?” He said, “The Lord has spoken to me and I would like to give you my tithe.” I was deeply touched. There were so many stud­ents in the Bible Institute and here was the principal personally giving me not just any gift but his own tithe. I was speechless, stunned, and deeply moved. This is just to give you an idea of the quality of this man. I was still a first-year student.

You can see how his whole life radiated Christ. It was truly beauti­ful. What I took away from the Bible Institute was not a lot of know­ledge but above all, an impression of what a man of God is like. There is nothing more precious than to develop a friendship with such a man.

Many years later, when Mr. McBeath was quite old, I phoned him from Liverpool where I was pastoring. I asked him what he thought of the lay­ing on of hands, a topic which I had been studying in the Bible. All along I had stead­fastly refused ordination. I didn’t want to be ordained because I didn’t like to be addressed as Reverend so and so or Pastor so and so. I didn’t want to have any title. In fact, I wanted to serve God without pay, which in fact was what I had done for all my time in Liverpool. I had received no salary during those five years. I de­clined to receive pay. That didn’t make life easy, but I wanted to show the church that I wasn’t preaching the gospel for money. I didn’t want any income from serving.

In fact I never said any­thing about it. When I left Liver­pool five years later, only then did some people find out that in all those five years, I had never received a salary. They were quite shocked. They asked, “Where did all the money we put into the offer­ing box go to?” I said, “It has gone into the Lord’s work. Just because it didn’t come to me, doesn’t mean it didn’t go to the Lord’s work.” And they said, “How come you never said so?” I said, “I said so in the beginning but you hadn’t yet joined the church.” The church had grown from a small handful of people to a larger congreg­ation, and most of them didn’t have any idea about the matter.

But I did want to know more about the laying on of hands which I had seen mentioned in Scripture several times. So one day I phoned Mr. McBeath and said, “Reverend McBeath, what do you think about the laying on of hands?” He said, “It is very important.” I said, “All right, what else can you tell me about it?” He said, “I will be going to Liverpool.” I said, “Is your exposition so lengthy that you have to come to Liverpool to explain it to me?”

Notice this godly man. He travelled all the way from Scotland to Liverpool. That’s a long way. I thought he was coming down to Liver­pool to explain to me the laying on of hands. It was just before Easter. When he got to Liverpool, I said, “I am wondering why you have come all the way down to Liverpool to tell me about the laying on of hands.” He said, “I didn’t come here to tell you about the laying on of hands; I came here to do it!” I was speechless. I said, “What?” He said, “When you know that something is in the Bible, you don’t just talk about it, you do it.”

The amazing thing was that he came down on a weekday just before Easter. Three days later, on Easter Sunday, I received the laying on of hands and was ordained. The church wasn’t even notified of it the previous Sunday because I myself didn’t know I was going to be ordained.

That shows you another secret of a man of God. He doesn’t just talk about something, he does it. If something is Scriptural, you do it even if you don’t understand everything about it. He never expounded it to me. He never explained the laying on of hands to me. He simply proceeded with the laying on of hands. Looking back, I consider it a high privilege that I was ordained by an exceptional servant of God, a man of outstanding quality. I truly regard this as the apostolic success­ion through men of God.

I am spending some time on this because I would like to say that there are very few men of God. And in God’s wisdom and kindness, He had granted me the privilege of meeting a few of them.

Andrew McBeath wrote a number of books. Before I left Glasgow, I said goodbye to him in his office at the college. Always in his kind and gentle way, he said goodbye to me and said, “My book has just been published and I would like to give you a copy.” So he auto­graphed the book and gave it to me. Significantly, it was a book about the book of Job. Being immature at the time, I didn’t catch its full signifi­cance. Only later did I realize that he wrote his comment­ary on Job because of his long experience of suffering for the Lord. Yet he never talked about his sufferings. Only later I gathered from here and there how much he had suffered. You don’t become a man of God without a lot of suffering. His commentary on Job was of great value because there are lots of comment­aries and books written by scholars sitting in their armchairs, but Andrew McBeath was a man rich in both scholarship and experience. He exper­ienced many things for the Lord in preaching the gospel in many places in the world.

Furthering my studies in London

When I was set to leave Scotland, one of the last things Mr. McBeath said to me was, “Eric, you have to go on to higher levels of training because God has given you the gift. You have what it takes to go much higher. So go down to London and continue further studies.”

To tell you the truth, I wasn’t interested in further studies. A fire was burning in my heart and I wanted to go out to preach the gospel. I didn’t want to waste more time sitting in classrooms studying things that bore me to death. I never liked school all that much. I loved the sports field but not so much the school.

Here was Mr. McBeath telling me to go for higher studies and I thought, “Oh no.” Yet you have to listen attentively when a servant of God speaks to you. So I said, “All right, I will go down to London, and if God opens a way for me, I will go and study, but if not, then great, I will go and preach the gospel.”

I don’t know if Mr. McBeath was praying for me, but every­where I went, the door was open to me. I thought it was amazing. The fact of the matter was that I had no time to do my university entrance studies (the GCE) in the usual way of taking two or three years to complete them. I wasn’t even interested in this. But because of Mr. McBeath’s counsel, I took up a bit of studies. But studying part-time here and there would not get me far. After all, London University is not the easiest university in England to get into. But be­hold, this man of God must have been praying for me be­cause every college I went to, I was immediately accepted on the spot. I thought that this was quite amazing. Many people have tried but never got accepted. I would just walk in and the professor would say, “I accept you.

I was pondering what to study. Some of you are proba­bly wrestling with the same question, “What to study?” I thought to myself, “I want to study something that will be useful for the Lord’s work. So Lord, what would You like me to study? I am waiting for Your answer.” I thought that because my heart’s desire was to bring the gospel to China, I had better get more deeply acquainted with China. But what can I study that has something to do with China?

Eric Chang at his study table at home in London circa 1956

I should mention that I dreaded studies that have to do with litera­ture, philosophy or history, because in all the studies I had done in school, I was good in science subjects and hopeless in the arts. I didn’t know how to write a proper essay. In science subjects, things were straight­forward. Two and two equals four. I could cope with that. But I didn’t know how to write an essay. My arts subjects were terrible. If I could scrape a pass, I would be very grate­ful. With science subjects, I did reasonably well. My best subject was always mathematics. It was a nice game I could play with, so it was great fun. I have never under­stood why some people are terrified of mathematics. Yet I was terrified of the arts.

I felt that I wasn’t going to study science subjects because I didn’t know what I could do with them in God’s work. There is certainly use for them but I am just talking about my own situation at the time. For other people, science might be useful in one way or another, such as opening a door to a job in China or some­where. But for myself, I was thinking of deepening my under­standing of culture and language. So I went into Oriental philosophy and other subjects like literature and history which took me very deep into the arts. I was doing the very thing I was not good in doing.

Initially I was thinking of doing Greek. I could specialize in Greek in order to understand the New Testament better. I walked into the Greek department of University College, and said to the professor, “I would like to study Greek.” And I was accepted. He asked me, “Have you applied to Oxford or Cambridge?” I said, “No, I have not. My church is in London, so I don’t want to go to Oxford or Cam­bridge.” He said, “If you apply to those schools, I am not going to accept you, but if you are applying to London only, I will accept you.” I thought, “Well, that was fast.” He was not beating around the bush.

Afterwards I found out that what I was going to learn was not New Testament Greek but classical Greek. They are not exactly the same though they are related. I wasn’t prepared to spend three years learning classical Greek as it might be of limited use later on.

I went to the School of Oriental Studies, University of London, and the same thing happened. I walked in and said, “I would like to ap­ply for study here.” The professor asked me, “Why do you want to study this subject?” I said, “Because I want to preach the gospel. I am going to be a missionary.” I could not have been more straight­forward than that. If he was anti-religion, he might have thrown me out right there and then. They are not there to train missionaries. Most of those who study at that college are trained to be diplomats. They would study philosophy, for­eign lan­guages and foreign culture, and many event­ually become diplomats. In fact, the former Governor of Hong Kong, David Wilson, studied at the same college for his post-graduate research. One day I heard in the news of his appoint­ment as Governor of Hong Kong, and I mentioned this to my wife Helen. He was the second to last Governor before the handover in 1997.

Serving in the Chinese church

I went down to London and a brother there asked me, “Which church are you going to attend?”

“I just arrived in London. I haven’t got a church.”

“Come to our church.”

“Which church?”

“A Chinese church we just started.”

“May I ask which church?”

And he told me.

“You mean the one where I had met a certain Mr. H. before?” (I had a rather negative impression of this person.)

“Yes, but he has already left.”

“No, I think I will look for another church if you don’t mind.”

“Please, we are short of people, why not come to our church?”

“I am not keen.”

The fact is that you are affected by what you hear, even negatively. No matter how good a thing is, if somebody says something negative about it, an impression stays in your mind which thereafter is hard to get rid of.

Anyway, this brother had learned something from the parable of persistence, to knock on the door until it is opened. He never gave up. He kept asking me week after week, and said to me, “I know that you don’t like that particular church very much, so how about coming to the Bible study?”

I said, “What difference does it make?”

“What I mean is that you lead the Bible studies.”

“I don’t even know the people.”

“No problem, you just lead the Bible studies. There is nobody to lead it. Aren’t you going to help out?”

In the end that was how I was persuaded into going to that church, through leading the Bible studies there.

When he referred to the Chinese “church,” it sounded grand. In fact it had only about five people, and they called themselves a church. It should have remained a Bible study. They met in the YMCA chapel, and that was perhaps why they considered them­selves a church. Five persons in the chapel, and they called it a church.

The next thing I knew, I was the only person leading this church. And ironically, I didn’t know where this brother who had invited me had gone to. He suddenly dis­appeared to do something else, and I was left taking care of this five-person church. It was a one-man show because I had to do every­thing from announcing the hymns to playing the organ. I had never played an organ in my life. I knew how to play the piano a little, just enough to get by for hymns. Can you imagine what it is like to sing a five-stanza hymn with five people who can hardly sing a hymn? I thought, “Maybe I had better learn the organ.” I didn’t even know which buttons on the organ I was sup­posed to press.

But God has a great sense of humor. I would be up there making announce­ments and then dash to the back of the chapel to play the organ. No one was on the platform while I was playing the organ. When the hymn was finished, I would jog back to the front.

Gradually the chapel became packed as God continued His work of drawing people in. Within a few months, the chapel was packed full to about fifty people, and we had to set up chairs in the foyer. Even that was getting filled, so some had to stand in the corridor.

I was beginning to see the power of God’s Word. God was pleased to use somebody totally green, totally inexperienced, and unfit for the work, and He was gracious in blessing the work. We had to move to a much larger place in the YMCA building a few weeks later.

So far I haven’t told you anything dramatic about this church, have I? So far I have only told you how you can experience God in all these seemingly day to day things, and experience His power even in the matter of drawing people to Himself and His church.

A year or two later, the church was continuing to grow, not under my care, but under the care of a pastor who was from China. When I first came, he was already the pastor of that new work, except that he was in the United States raising funds to purchase a building for the church. Having been away for three to four months, he was surprised to see the chapel packed out.

Pentecostal experience at Chislehurst

The church continued to grow. One day we had a camp at Chislehurst in Kent, southeast of London. It was an ordinary Easter camp where we did the kind of things that people usually do at camps. About sixty people joined the camp. In the camp, you could already see that God was working in the hearts of the people.

Then came Easter Sunday which was also the last day of the camp. On that day we had a treasure hunt for an Easter egg. To hunt for the egg, you would look for clues for get­ting from one point to another. If you don’t get the clues right, you will end up at the wrong places. From clue to clue, you are supposed to do some Sherlock Holmes detective work to find the egg.

If you know me, you would know that I am a fun-loving person. I was joining in the fun with everyone looking for the clues. In the end, what happened? I won the egg. It may sound great to win it, but I felt like a clown com­ing into the Easter morning thanksgiving service with this big golden egg in my hand. I thought to myself, “Lord, why did I have to win this egg?” This looked ridiculous. I tried to hide it under a chair, and soon the meeting began.

I specifically mention the Easter egg hunt because many Christians try to work up a spiritual atmosphere with mu­sic or by working on people’s emot­ions in order to get spiritual results. But at our camp, there was no attempt to build up any kind of emotional atmo­sphere. There was no emotional preparation for what was coming.

The meet­ing started. The chairman stood up and began to speak. Everyone had just set­tled in, laughing and jok­ing. There was a moment of quietness and the chairman said, “Let us pray.” This was the last I heard from him that day, for he disap­peared from the scene. He tried to mumble something in prayer, and sud­denly the Spirit of God came down. That’s why I told you about the Easter egg hunt. There was no psychologi­cal prepar­ation whatsoever. It was total­ly un­expected. One moment, the people were laughing and giggl­ing. The next moment, total silence. And right after that, an over­power­ing sense of God’s presence. Unless you have gone through an exper­ience like that, there is no way for me to explain to you what it is like.

I can now understand what happened at Pentecost when the Spirit came down. When the Spirit of God came down in Chislehurst, He took control of our meeting. The chairman vanished into his seat and we never heard from him again for the rest of the meeting. In other words, he never chaired the meeting! The Lord took control of it.

There was sobbing in one corner. Then more sobs. Sud­denly there was the sound of crying all through the room in which six­ty people had gathered. There were tears. People were confessing their sins and repenting of them. God’s awesome holiness is not some­thing you can define on a piece of paper. What is holiness? You can look it up in a dictionary and it will say that holiness is this and that. But in the end, you still don’t know what holiness is.

If you have met with God, nobody has to tell you what holiness is, for you have experienced it. Suddenly there was an awesome sense of His presence. God was in the room convicting people of sins. The man standing next to me was a big tall fellow who wouldn’t want to be seen crying. I turned around and saw that he was crying uncontrol­lably with tears running down his face. This was going on all through the room. Everywhere God’s power could be felt. People stood up asking for God’s forgiveness, confessing their sins one by one. It was amazing. The Spirit of God worked through the room, a truly unfor­gettable experience.

We lost all sense of time. The meeting was supposed to last 1.5 hours but it went on hour after hour. Everybody had forgotten about the camp program and nobody turned up for lunch. The camp staff were waiting to serve lunch but nobody turned up. Everyone remained in the room, and the Spirit of God was working. If you want to talk about dramatic experiences, there God’s awesome power was being manifested. It was dramatic, I tell you. It was a first-hand experience of Pentecost. Now I know what Pentecost was like. We experienced an awe­some overpowering presence of God. I use the word “awesome” because I don’t know how else to describe it. Every person’s spirit was broken in His presence.

After many hours, we ended the meeting. I am not even sure how it was concluded. We all came out of the room dazed and stunned. I mention the length of time to stress that it was not something that lasted two or three seconds, flashing by and vanishing, but some­thing that went on for hour after hour with God’s presence. It was not a fleeting, imaginary, ephemeral, evanescent, temporary exper­ience. It went on and on such that you could fully savor it. You could taste God’s pres­ence to the full. He didn’t just come by and vanish, or else you might say, “Did a ghost just pass by?” No, for God was there. Nobody can be the same after that kind of experience. It is etched in my spirit more deeply than I can ever understand. The power of that meeting with God was amazing. I don’t think anyone who was there would know how to describe that experience.

But having experienced God many times, I also knew that as soon as God does a remarkable work, the enemy will strike. What soon hap­pened was that the number of people in the church simply exploded. The news that sixty of us had met with God in Chislehurst spread like wildfire. Everyone wanted to visit our church to see what happened.

How do you catch this fire? The truth is that there is no technique of catching the fire. What are we going to tell you? It is not like step one, step two, step three. We were totally unpre­pared for it. You have no way of preparing for it. God comes as He chooses. It was not that we were any bet­ter than anyone else, or more saintly, or sang better, or clapped louder, or danced better. We were not good at any of these. There was no human reason for what had happened. God had simply chosen to come.

Fierce attack upon the church

Then came the fierce attack upon the church. As the church exploded and expanded, we jumped to 120, then 150, then moving towards 200 people in a short time. Brothers and sisters, this is a bad sign. You may ask why? I tell you why: Most of the newcomers were not ser­ious with God. They were only interested in spiritual things in a temporary and carnal way. Crowds and num­bers are not necessarily a good thing. It is what is deep that abides. What is shallow will disappear. Many were curious because they had heard that we had an out­pouring of the Holy Spirit at our church camp. So they crowded in, hoping to catch a bit of this leftover blessing, to feel some of its bright rays, the leftover warmth, the leftover crumbs under the table. The result was that we suddenly expanded in number, but the people in the church didn’t know each other well. The level of the sweetness of fellowship began to drop. Every­thing began to weaken. The distance between people be­came greater because we didn’t know each other. It takes time to know one another. The sense of family disappeared. Suddenly we had a large number of unfamiliar people.

Those of you who have been to our joint camps in Hong Kong would know what I mean. Suddenly you have a thousand gathered there. It is nice to have the great numbers around you, but you don’t know who is who. Every time you meet somebody, you have to look at his or her name card: “Your name is this, and you are from so and so church”; this is like what was happening to our church in England. When a thousand people attend a Hong Kong joint camp, it is impos­sible to know one another in any meaningful sense in the limited time available, especially because you come from different churches. Some churches have over a hundred people, and they already have a hard time knowing one another meaningfully. This is one of the negative aspects of a large church. Unless you have wise spiritual leadership, what is meant to be a blessing can become something undesirable.

Church scandal

The larger the church, the larger is its financial capacity. The high­er the level of devotion in the church, the larger is its income. Do you know what that does? It attracts people who join the church for the church funds. Soon a certain man became a church treasurer with the aim of siphoning some of the funds into his own pockets, which he did with con­siderable success until he was discovered. This man from East Malaysia worked himself up into the position of one of two treasurers of the church. By means of subtle slander, he got the other treasurer removed from office. He then arranged that no one will be appointed to replace the treasurer who was dis­missed. So he became the sole treasurer of the church. (By the way, the treasurer who was removed was also from Malaysia, a very good man. It was absolutely tragic that the people believed the slanders brought against this dear brother.) And this wicked man began to siphon off the funds by “fixing” the books.

I am taking you from the heights of spiritual experience to the negative side that often accompanies it. We are engaged in an intense spiritual war. This is the nature of the spiritual life. When we advance trium­phantly, there will be counterattacks. And this happened quickly. This man eventually stole funds amounting to thousands of pounds sterling. We couldn’t find out exactly how much he had stolen because he had des­troyed the ac­counting books. We brought in out­side accountants to assess the damage, and the losses were enormous.

As you can see, one has to be alert and vigilant. When this scandal was exposed, the treasurer promptly vanished. But before he vanished, he married one of the richest girls in the church and returned to East Malaysia. It was a shameful scandal to happen to a church. Our pastor was distressed by the fact that our church, despite having experienced an extraordinary outpouring of the Spirit, now had an enormous scandal in its hands. The trea­surer had run away with a huge sum of money. The pastor didn’t know what to do about it and wanted to keep it hush-hush.

As one of the church leaders, I said to him, “Pastor, you can’t do that. We must answer to the brothers and sisters in the church. It is their money which they offered to the Lord. We have no right to keep this thing hidden.”

He said, “But it’s bad for the reputation of the church.”

I said, “We will have to leave that in God’s hands. We must do the right thing. What people think of us is second­ary.” But he disagreed.

So I said, “Pastor, if you don’t wish to expose it, then I cannot be part of a cover-up, so if you will pardon me, I will leave the church.”

He was very distressed and said, “No, please don’t do that.”

I said, “I have no choice. I’m not going to be part of a cover-up.”

He said, “What do you suggest?”

I said, “This man has stolen the Lord’s money, and nobody who steals money from the living God gets away with it. At Chislehurst we experienced how real God is. Deliver this man into the hands of God because it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the liv­ing God (Heb.10:31). And after God has dealt with this evildoer, you won’t have to worry about your reputation because the fear of the Lord will be upon every­one. They will know that God is the living God. No one can steal His money and get away with it. So let Him deal with it.”

He said, “I still don’t have the confidence to do that.”

I said, “Well then, goodbye Pastor. Here is where we must part.” And I left the church.

The aftermath was terrible because the more he tried to hide it, the more the church people got to know about it. I didn’t say anything about it because I had already left the church. But the news spread by word of mouth, and people began to leave the church. Some wanted to leave the church with me: “We will go with you. We will set up a new church and you lead us.”

I said, ‘No, you don’t understand. I’m not going to do that.”

They said, “You have been giving us Bible studies in the past two years. You are our teacher and we will follow you out.”

I said, “No. This is the church where I have served. This pastor is the pastor of the church, and God forbid that I do anything to split it. God forbid that it be laid to my charge that I raised my hand against the Lord’s anointed, for whether he is right or wrong, he is the pastor. God anointed him pastor and I won’t raise my hand to do anything against him.”

They continued to press me, so I decided to disappear. I vanished without telling them where I had gone. They could not find me anymore. I pulled up my tent pegs and disappeared, not telling any­one where I went. Later that was used against me to say that I must have some­thing to hide. But never mind. Let them say what they will. I won’t let it be said that I split the church, for I had not. In any case, many others also left the church.

Nobody runs away from the living God

I am telling you all this because I want you to know what God did to the man who stole the money. Nobody but nobody runs away from the living God. Scripture says, “Be sure your sins will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). Because he destroyed most of the accounting books, we could not press charges against him. It would be a difficult thing to do. Humanly speaking, there was not much we could do. More than that, he had already left England. To pursue him, we would have to get him extradited back to England to face trial. And with much of the evidence destroyed, that would be very hard to do.

But we don’t have to worry because our God will take care of every­thing. He is to be feared in His right­eousness and holiness, but also to be loved in His mercy and goodness, for these are not separate. To show kindness to His church, He has to be severe with evildoers, but evildoers will soon destroy themselves.

This man went back to Malaysia with his new wife, but their mar­riage was falling apart. What more can you expect from somebody like him? He was so insecure about the marriage that he confiscated his wife’s passport to make sure she won’t run away. Can you imagine that? One day his wife managed to get her passport back (whether it was the old one or a new one, I don’t know), and she went off to the United States. He became so furious that he followed her to the States. There he found her and murdered her. Believing that she was in a relation­ship with someone else, he murdered her in a fit of rage and jealousy. Then he fled back to East Malaysia.

The United States, through an extradition treaty with Malaysia, had him extradited to face charges in the United States. He was extra­dited, sentenced to death, and executed. So what had all the stolen money accomplished for him? Nobody runs away from the justice of God. God has a way of dealing with sin.

Sweet presence of God

In sharing all these things with you, I don’t know where to end. Therefore I will close with one last sharing, an experience of God that remains deeply imprinted in my mind.

I was staying north of London in a place called Foreign Missions Club. I stayed there because it was one of the cheap­est places for accommodation, and it gave special rates to students.

I had been living by faith all this time. I had always had to look to God for His provision. I would often start a college term with no idea if I could pay the fees for that term. At University of London, you had to pay on registration day at the start of the term. But I often didn’t have the money even the day before, so I had to leave the matter into God’s hands. It didn’t worry me at all. I would say, “Lord, if You want me to continue with my studies, could You please provide the funds? But if You don’t want me to continue my studies, I thank You none­theless because a degree means nothing to me. I will continue if You want me to, or stop if You don’t want me to.” Of course God had com­plete control of the matter because He controlled the money. It was not up to me to decide whe­ther to carry on or not.

God is remarkable in His ways. Sometimes on the very day of reg­istrat­ion, I would receive an anonymous envelope containing sufficient funds for the school fees.

Staying in North London, I would cycle down on my bicycle in order to save on the bus fares. I would look like a panda by the time I arrived at college because of the pollution. I would wear goggles to pro­tect my eyes from the dust and the bus diesel fumes. When I got to the college and took off my goggles, there would be two round circles. You can imagine my face with black and white rings around the eyes. It looked cute. People would smile as I walked by. At first I didn’t know why they were smiling at me, but when I looked in the mirror, I knew why.

That shows you how poor I was, for I had to get around in a big city like London on a bicycle. There was scarcely another cyclist in sight, so it was a bit of an oddity to have a cyclist charging around the cars and buses.

A few months later, a brother whom I knew at the Bible Institute and was going to Japan as a missionary sold me his old motor­cycle at a low price. But I still had to wear the goggles when riding the motor­cycle, so that panda effect remained!

One weekend at the Foreign Missions Club, because I didn’t have to rush off on my bike for college, I had an extended time of quietness be­fore God in prayer. As I entered into prayer, I was suddenly trans­ported somewhere. I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know if I was being transported up to heaven or if heaven came down to earth. Suddenly I was in a different world. I was still aware of what was going on around me, and I was not in a state of trance, if by “trance” we mean losing awareness of the envir­onment. I was not ecstatic in the sense of being beside oneself and not knowing what was hap­pening. I suddenly felt that I was in some kind of heavenly realm even while on earth. It was truly mysterious. I don’t know how to describe it. All my faculties were clear and alert, being fully aware of what was going on. It was not like the powerful and overwhelming presence of God that we exper­ienced at Chislehurst but a gentle pervasive beautiful sense of being in hea­ven. I don’t know how to describe it. It was as if every­thing was full of light, and I was walking in the light. All darkness was driven back and I was surrounded by God’s light. As far as I looked, every­thing was light.

There, in my room at Foreign Missions Club, I was transported to a sweet fellowship with God, as if He wanted to say, “At Chislehurst, you experienced Me in My awesome, over­whelming and frightening power; today I want you to experience Me in My love, gentle­ness, sweetness, and kindness.” There was this warm, sweet presence of God that was not in any way terrify­ing or intimidating.

Again it came totally unexpected. I didn’t work my mind up for it; there was no psychological buildup. Absolutely nothing. I wasn’t sing­ing any song.

In those days I would usually pray on my knees, but I soon found that I could not stay long on my knees because the hard floor would make my knees ache. The pain distracted me and affected my concen­tration. I learned to sit down so that I could stay longer with the Lord. And there was His presence for something like two hours in a state of being lifted up into His sweetness, into the joy of communion with Him. Yet I was totally aware of everything going on.

I looked at my watch and was reminded of a lunch appointment, so I had to get going after these two hours. I knew it would take me about 40 minutes to walk there. I don’t remember why I didn’t go by bike. That detail escapes me. I don’t recall why I decided to walk. Perhaps I thought I could continue in God’s presence if I didn’t have to pay attent­ion to the traffic. I don’t remember if that was the reason.

I thank God for this sweet and amazing experience. I started walk­ing on the streets, and do you think that His presence had vanished? Not at all. It was amazing. As I walked on the streets, His presence was there with me. I was still in heaven because where God is, as the song goes, heaven is there. As I was walking along, I thought, “Am I still on earth?” How come I still see everything clearly, yet I don’t seem to be here? I had a sense of being here and not being here at the same time. Does this sound strange to you? Unless you have experienced it, you wouldn’t know what I mean. As I was walking, God’s presence was with me. I was thanking Him, praising Him, fellowshipping with Him right up to my arrival at the house where the meeting was.

When I got to the door, I knew that this experience ended at that point. The sweet glow was there but God’s presence was not with me in the same way anymore. It ended right at the door. Yet as I was walking along the streets amidst the traffic, God’s presence was there. When I arrived at the door, it was as if God was saying, “I am going to leave you now. This communion with Me ends here.”

I walked through the door in a slight daze, but in a sweet way. I walked into the room and saw the last unoccupied seat; all the other seats were taken. The people were seated in a circle; most of them were peo­ple from our church. I walked to the vacant seat and sat down. I had never met the man who was next to me. Yet he turned to me and asked, “How did you come to know God?” Now, why would someone open a conver­sation by asking, “How did you come to know God?” As I was pondering how to answer his question, he said, “I am asking because I want to know God.” And I didn’t even know his name!

Could it be that God’s presence in us is like the fire of the Spirit (Acts 2:3) which, though invisible, draws people to Himself? You sit down and then somebody asks, “How did you come to know God?” Interestingly, some of the people who have asked me this question before were strangers to me.

I began to talk with this young man. Then God worked so power­fully in him that on the same day, about an hour later at noontime, he knelt down with me. He was anxious about committing his life to God. It was not I who asked him but he who asked me about commit­ting his life to the Lord. I said, “All right, we’ll kneel and you commit your life to Him.” I have seen God do this many times. His power drives people to their knees and they want to commit to Him. It is amazing. Sometimes I try to slow them down but they want to keep going. How can I stand in God’s way? So this young man com­mitted his life to the Lord. He was about to enter medical studies in London. God’s power had so worked in his life that he decided not to study medicine but to be trained to serve the Lord. He paid a high price for that because his father disowned him and was not reconciled to him until recently. He and I are still in touch.

From this please understand that God often grants us an exper­ience not for our personal enjoyment. Perhaps one reason He gave me a special commun­ion with Him that day was to help this man turn to Him. I think that this experience was given not just for me but also for him. He was prepared to be rejected by his family. His father, a medi­cal doctor, wanted his son to be a doctor too. His father, a Buddhist, was absolutely furious, and didn’t talk to his son after he had decided to be a preacher. I asked this brother some years ago when he was in Hong Kong, “Are you reconciled with your father?” He said, “My father still doesn’t talk to me.” Thirty years later, his father still didn’t talk to him. That was how bitter his father was.

Declare His works to all

I pray that God will bless you through this sharing. I was simply ful­filling what Scripture says, that we declare His glory and His mighty deeds. This is what I was hoping to do today. To hear of His glory puts a certain responsibility on you. Nobody can hear God’s Word and go away without responding to God in some way. May God help you to respond to Him in the right way.

(c) 2021 Christian Disciples Church