GOD, THE RAIN-MAKER : A true story from the life and teachings of Watchman Nee

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Watchman Nee was a church leader and Christian teacher in Mainland China during the 20th century.  As a new Christian, I read two of his books:  The Normal Christian Life, and Sit, Walk, Stan(a commentary on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians).  Both books were a real encouragement to me because they both talk about the basics of the Christian life.  Nee had an experience similar to that of Elijah, as noted in my previous post (The Power of Prayer – James 5:16b-18)

In his book, Sit, Walk, Stand, Watchman Nee describes a preaching mission to an island off the South China coast.  There were seven in the ministering group, including a 16-year-old new convert whom he calls Brother Wu.  The island was fairly large, containing about 6000 homes.  Nee had a contact there, an old schoolmate of his who was headteacher of the village school, but he refused to house the group when he discovered that they had come to preach the Gospel.  Finally, they found lodging with a Chinese herbalist, who became their first convert.  Preaching seemed quite fruitless on the island, and Nee discovered it was because of the dedication of the people there to an idol they called Ta-wang.  They were convinced of his power because on the day of his festival and parade each year, the weather was always near-perfect.

“When is the procession this year?”, young Wu asked a group that had gathered to hear them preach.  “It is fixed for January 11th at 8 in the morning”, was the reply. “Then”, said the new convert, “I promise you that it will certainly rain on the 11th.”

At that there was an outburst of cries from the crowd:  “That is enough!  We don’t want to hear any more preaching.  If there is rain on the 11th, then your God is God!”

Watchman Nee had been elsewhere in the village when this confrontation took place.  Upon being informed about it, he saw that the situation was serious and called the group to prayer.  On the morning of the 11th, there was not a cloud in the sky, but during grace for breakfast, sprinkles began to fall and these were followed by heavy rain.  Worshipers of the idol Ta-wang were so upset that they placed it in a sedan chair and carried it outdoors, hoping this would stop the rain.  Then the rain increased!  After only a short distance, the carriers of the idol stumbled and fell, dropping the idol and fracturing its jaw and left arm.

A number of young people turned to Christ as a result of the rain coming in answer to prayer, but the elders of the village made divination and said that the wrong day had been chosen.  The proper day of the procession, they said, should have been the 14th.  When Nee and his friends heard this, they again went to prayer, asking for rain on the 14th and for clear days for preaching until then.  That afternoon the sky cleared, and on the good days that followed, there were thirty converts.  On the crucial last day, Nee says:  “The 14th broke, another perfect day, and we had good meetings.  As the evening approached we met again at the appointed hour.  We quietly brought the matter to the Lord’s remembrance.  Not a minute late, His answer came with torrential rain and floods as before.”

The power of the idol over the islanders was broken; the enemy was defeated.  Believing prayer had brought a great victory.  Conversations followed.  And the impact upon the servants of God who had witnessed His power would continue to enrich their Christian service from that time on.  (Sermon Illustrations, PRAYER, answered)

As in the case of Elijah’s prayer, God once again brought rain in answer to prayer. God demonstrated that He was truly God, and there are no other “gods” like Him.

SCRIPTURE READING;  Now Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of the roar of a heavy shower.”  So Ahab went up to eat and drink.  But Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he crouched down on the earth, and put his face between his knees (as he prayed).  And he said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.”  So he went up and said, “There is nothing.”  And he said “go back” seven times.  And it came about that at the seventh time, that he said, “Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea.”  And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, so that the heavy shower does not stop you.’ ”  So it came about in a short while, that the sky grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy shower.  (I Kings 17:41-45)

THE GOD OF ELIJAH IS OUR GOD!  HE STILL LIVES AND ANSWERS PRAYER!

A LESSON ON COMPASSION (Part II) – Jonah, chapters 3 and 4

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The book of Jonah, chapter 2, ended with the description of the great fish spitting up Jonah onto the dry land at God’s command.     God caused this to happen because of what Jonah said at the end of his prayer of thanksgiving.  To put it in today’s language, Jonah was saying, “I’ll do what you command”  and “You can save whomever you choose.”  Let’s see what happens in chapters 3 and 4.

III.  JONAH’S PREACHING AT NINEVEH (Chapter 3)

We find God repeating His initial command to Jonah in chapter 3, verses 1 and 2, and this time Jonah obeys God’s command and walks through the city over a period of three days crying out and saying, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”  The result was that the people believed in God and repented of their sins.  They demonstrated their repentance by proclaiming a fast and putting on sackcloth.  That would be like wearing a large burlap sack over your bare body.  Can you imagine how much that would itch and irritate your skin.  Even the king of Nineveh took off his royal robes and put on sackcloth and sat on the ashes.  He also issued a decree, beginning in verse 7 saying, “. . . Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing.  Do not let them eat or drink water.  But both man and beast must be clothed in sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and the violence which is in his hands.  Who knows, God may turn and relent, and withdraw His burning anger so that we shall not perish?”

It doesn’t say how long they did this.  It may have been for days, or weeks, or even the full 40 days.  They were appealing to God’s mercy and they found that God is a merciful God.  In verse 10 it says, “When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them.  And He did not do it.”

II.  JONAH’S DISCONTENT AND CORRECTION (Chapter 4)

There must have been great rejoicing in the city of Nineveh.  But one person wasn’t rejoicing.  He was angry.  And that person was the prophet Jonah.  Was Jonah mad because his prophesy didn’t come true?  Was he embarrassed?  No.  The real reason why Jonah fled from the Lord, and why he was angry with God is found in 4:2-3.  Jonah was willing to die for the sailors.  He thanked God for sparing his own life.  But Jonah didn’t want God to spare Nineveh because they were a very wicked people; they weren’t Jewish, and Nineveh was the capitol of the nation of Assyria.  The prophet Isaiah had already prophesied that Assyria was going to someday destroy the nation of Israel  and take the remainder of the people back to Assyria as captives.  This prophecy is found in Isaiah 7:17-20 and following.  In Jonah 4:2 he even accuses God of being “gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness”, as if those were God’s faults or weaknesses!

Jonah is so angry that he asks God to take his life.  He would rather die than have God spare the lives of the people of Nineveh, and God questions his anger.  Jonah leaves the city and builds a booth “outside” the city; waiting to see if God will come to His senses  and decide that these people don’t deserve to be spared.  While Jonah sleeps God causes a gourd plant to sprout out of the ground overnight and grow big enough to provide shade for Jonah.  This makes Jonah very happy!  He must have been thinking, “God has finally come to His senses and has agreed with me that these people don’t deserve to live!”  But then God causes a worm to destroy the vine, and Jonah becomes very angry again.  There is an important lesson here.  God is in control.  He caused the storm.  He caused the fish to swallow Jonah and later spit him out.  He caused the vine to grow up overnight, and He caused the worm to kill the vine.  Everyone and everything obeyed God except the preacher.  The storm, the dice, the sailors, the fish, the Ninevites, the east wind, the gourd plant, the worm!  Everyone and everything except . . .  Jonah!  Sometimes God allows us to suffer the consequences of our actions so that we might know that He is in control.

A second lesson is found in 4:10-11.  Jonah lacked God’s compassion for people.  There’s a little bit of Jonah in all of us sometimes, isn’t there?  Sometimes more than a “little bit”?  It is the Jewish custom on the annual celebration of the Day of Atonement to read from the book of Jonah.  And at the end of the reading all would say, “We are Jonah!”

If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord, the book of Jonah is saying that God loves you and wants to show you mercy, no matter how sinful you have been.  God wants to receive you into His family if you are ready to turn from your sins and let the Lord Jesus Christ take control of your life.  The Controller of the universe gives you the freedom to give Him control over your life, and you can do that right now.

If you are a Christian, the book of Jonah is saying that people are precious because God considers them to be precious.  God wants us to lay aside our prejudices and let Him fill our hearts with His compassion for the sinning and suffering people we meet.  Do you remember that person I asked you to bring to mind at the beginning of this message?  What are you and I going to do this week to reach out by the power of God’s love to that person we’ve been avoiding?

I’m closing this message by reading a portion from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  The Lord Jesus says it better than anyone else.  The passage of Scripture is Matthew 5:43-48.  The Lord Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?  Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same?  And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”