A wasted life

SERMON TOPIC: A wasted life

Speaker: Ken Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 11 August 2019

Topic Groups: WORSHIP

Sermon synopsis: Aroma played a significant role in Jewish worship. How do you we smell in God’s nostrils?

2 Corinthians 2:14-15. But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.

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A wasted life.

John 12:24-25. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

A wasted life.

2 Corinthians 2:14-17.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.

For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.

To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?

Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit.

Christ’s triumphal procession.

After a Roman army would conquer a particular tribe or

people, there would be a ticker tape parade.

The Roman senate would vote to give the conquering Army and General a Triumph parade.

First, rank upon rank of trumpeters would march by.

Next came the older Roman senators, leading men of the city, such as, rich merchants, government officials, etc.

Christ’s triumphal procession.

Then came the army with wagon loads of spoil taken in victory.

Finally, the hero and conquering general came riding in a chariot while wearing the garb associated with Jupiter: purple and gold robes.

At the very end of the procession came the enemy prisoners who would later provide entertainment in the arena with the wild animals and Gladiators.

Alongside this procession were people swinging censers filled with sweet-smelling incense. Various bonfires would be burning here and there along the route.

People would pour perfume into the flames so the smell of its fragrance would fill the air. Also, fragrant flowers would be cast by the spectators into the path of the parade and crushed by the hundreds of marching feet.

Christ’s triumphal procession.

1 Corinthians 4:9-13.

For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena.

We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings.

We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ!

We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored!

To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless.

We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly.

We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world, right up to this moment.

Treasure in jars of clay.

2 Corinthians 2:14-15.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.

For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.

2 Corinthians 4:6-7.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

The treasure is the aroma of the knowledge of Christ.

Treasure in jars of clay.

God doesn't use beautiful flasks to house His fragrance. He has chosen to put the treasure of His fragrance in clay pots. He uses earthen vessels, not the fine china.

He takes simple clay pots and fills them with His glory. Fragile and flawed, cracked and leaky clay pots are His choice vessels.

We will see from Scripture how the Lord allows us to be broken so that the fragrance of the knowledge of Jesus can flow from our lives and touch those around us.

The only aroma that God desires in us is the aroma of Christ, not our good works done in the flesh.

Aroma played a significant role in Jewish worship.

Luke 7:36-50 (A sinful woman)

When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.

As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears.

Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them..

Aroma played a significant role in Jewish worship.

Luke 7:36-50..... When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is, that she is a sinner. Jesus answered him, Simon, I have something to tell you. Tell me, teacher, he said.

Aroma played a significant role in Jewish worship.

Luke 7:36-50.....

Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more? Simon replied, I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.

You have judged correctly, Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.

Aroma played a significant role in Jewish worship.

Luke 7:36-50. ...Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven, as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little. Then Jesus said to her,

Your sins are forgiven..... Jesus said to the woman, Your faith has saved you; go in peace.

The second anointing of Jesus.

There is a second occasion that Jesus was anointed, and this took place just before his crucifixion when he went to Bethany on Palm Sunday after he had entered Jerusalem on a donkey.

Mary the sister of Martha anointed Jesus.

Matthew 26:6–13.

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

Mark 14:3.

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

The second anointing of Jesus.

John 12:1-8.

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

To Judas this perfume was wasted on Jesus.

John 12:1-8.

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor? He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said,

Leave her alone, so that she may keep it

for the day of my burial.

For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.

How do you we smell in God’s nostrils?

Before Israel existed, God "smelled" the smoke of animal sacrifices as an "odour of sweet smell.

One the first things Noah did when he left the ark was to offer animal sacrifices to God.

Genesis 8:20-21.

Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.

The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

How do you we smell in God’s nostrils?

After Israel came into existence, incense played a key, important role in Jewish worship.

There was an altar of incense used to burn incense in the tabernacle and later the temple (Exodus 30).

On the day of atonement, if the most holy place was not filled with the smoke and aroma of incense before the high priest entered, he died (Leviticus 16:13).

Some "smell" had to mask the stench of sin when God's people approached Him.

Throughout the entire Old Testament, smells and aromas were an extremely important part of worship.

To honour God, you had to approach Him with sweet, soothing aromas. Only the right aroma could remove the stench of evil in sinful people.

How do you we smell in God’s nostrils?

The sacrifices we make as Paul and the Apostles made in giving themselves up as captives in Jesus procession of those condemned to die in the arena, are a sweet smelling savour to the Lord. The principle applies in every area of our lives, not just to those called to martyrdom

Philippians 4:16-19.

For even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent.

They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

A sweet smelling savour.

One day while walking along the wharf in Panama City, I saw a sign that read: "Old fishermen never die; they just smell that way!“ The sign reminds me of carnal Christianity that always has the smell of death about it. It stinks. It has a repulsive odour. We have an idiom in the English language that says, "Something does not smell right here.“ However, there is something refreshing when a beautiful young woman comes into a room wearing an elegant fragrant perfume. The aroma does not overpower you, but when she leaves the sweet fragrance lingers on for a while.

So it is with genuine Christianity. Those who love the Lord Jesus emit a lovely aroma.

The stench of sin and death.

You have probably never chanced upon the mortal remains of a dead cow sacrificed so that a tender rump roast might grace your plate. Little wonder then you cannot imagine a smell of death that smoulders on still and magnifies in the eddies of air.

I have slaughtered my own deer, cows, pigs, and chickens for meat. I have watched men bleed to death. With my bare fingers I have cleansed wounds crawling with maggots.

I have operated on cows and horses. I have sewn dogs up and even sewed up a skunk or two that weren't the least bit happy with my generosity. And yet, the stench of death is something so much stronger it overpowers me, especially if it emanates from the remains of a human being left long untended.

The smell of sin.

We sinful people get used to the smell of evil, but the holy God never does. As humans we get so accustomed to the smell of common evils that we do not "smell" them.

The ungodliness that we classify as horrible has an awful odour.

The ungodliness that is common place all around us has less odour all the time.

The ungodliness that is acceptable does not even have an odour.

The ungodliness that we find pleasurable actually smells good to us.

The smell of sin.

Consider some illustrations.

To many Christians, homosexual acts, prostitution, rape, forced human bondage, incest, abortion, murder, and violent crime have a horrible odour that really turns most Christians off. Many can't stand to be around "those kinds of people.“ Many believe the gospel cannot help "those kinds of people.“

To many Christians, adultery, "living together" arrangements, "one night" stands, white collar crime, recreational drugs, and gambling have some odour--but the odour is not that bad. It would be bad to do those things openly. But if we can do those things secretly and quietly with "the right people," its okay--“ no big deal."

The smell of sin.

To many Christians, deceit, greed, jealousy, selfish ambition, and hate do not have an odour.

Those who wrote the New Testament, who understood Jesus and his teachings, however said:

Deceiving a person insults God (Matthew 5:33-37)

Greed is idolatry, an act of worship to a false god (Colossians 3:5)

Jealousy and selfish ambition are ungodly arrogance (James 4:14)

Hate nourishes murder and destroys eternal life (1 John 3:15).

The smell of sin.

Many Christians have this attitude towards, "getting high" on alcohol, "getting high" on recreational drugs, entertainment that is sexually stimulating, :

"If they don't smell bad to me, they cannot possibly smell bad to God."

The smell of sin.

In the Judaism of the New Testament and the early centuries beyond, a man could divorce his wife but a woman could not divorce her husband.

A few exceptions were allowed.

In the exceptions, the woman could not actually divorce her husband, but she could demand that her husband divorce her.

If my memory is correct, there were five circumstances in which a wife could force her husband to divorce her.

One was if her husband’s occupation was tanning animal hides.

The smell of sin.

Tanning animal hides was a process that involved horrible odours.

The stench was so penetrating that the odour actually permeated his skin.

Literally, the odour could not be washed off, no matter how much he cleaned himself. Even when he could not smell the odour, he still stank.

If his wife could not tolerate the odour, she could demand a divorce.

The smell of sin.

We lived in West Africa for four years.

After three years, some of our African friends felt close enough to us to be quite honest instead of kindly polite.

Once we asked them what was the most difficult thing they did with the missionaries. They said the hardest thing they had to do was visit us in our homes.

Shocked, we asked why. Respectfully, they replied, "You people smell so bad. The odour is almost more than we can take."

We bathed every day, used deodorant every day, used lotions, we put on clean clothes every day. We had showers; they did not. We could afford deodorant and lotions; they could not; we could afford to buy enough clothes to change frequently; they could not.

The smell of sin.

We had showers; they did not. We could afford deodorant and lotions; they could not; we could buy enough clothes to change frequently; they could not.

Yet, we were the ones who smelled so bad they had trouble coming into our homes.

We did not stink to us--we smelled good to us.

Yet, we smelled awful to them.

Why? Because of our diet.

Missionaries ate a lot of meat; we could afford to.

They could not afford meat very often.

When you eat a lot of meat, your body secretes offensive odours in societies where most people do not eat meat.

The smell of sin.

The spiritual truth.

Every human stinks to God. Sin makes us stink. There is enough evil ingrained in all of us to make each of us give off a horrible odour to God. Our diet included evil every day of our lives, and the evil makes us stink to God.

Only one thing can remove the odour: God's forgiveness administered through Jesus' cleansing blood. When a person trusts God's acts in Jesus' death, the blood of Jesus removes the odour. God will remove the odour from any person who enters Jesus and lives in Jesus.

Do you know what is wrong with Christians?

I'll tell you what is wrong. We have a huge behaviour problem in the church."

Christians have a huge behaviour problem.

That however is not the foundation of our problems.

Too many Christians do not trust God. They were not baptized because they trusted God. Trust had little to do with their baptism. They did not want a holy or a pure life.

They still do not want a holy or a pure life. They love some forms of evil. They want the smell of evil, not the smell of purity and holiness.

To them, the greatest option in all life is to smell like evil and stay out of hell.

When you look at your personal holiness and purity, are they more important to you today than a year ago?

Is your purpose to "get used" to the smell of evil in your life? Or, is the purpose to let God cleanse you every day of your life so that you have the smell of holiness and purity? David Chadwell

How do you we smell in God’s nostrils?

We put on creams and lotions and perfumes to appeal to our fellow humans, but do we even care what we smell like to God?

What is the purpose of Salvation?

The purpose of Salvation is not the forgiveness of your sins. That had to take place to fulfil the purpose of Salvation

The purpose of Salvation is not that you may escape Hell! That is the draw-card for many, but Salvation is more than a fire escape from hell.

The purpose of Salvation is that you may have a

relationship with God

Is anything given to Jesus a waste?

Matthew 26:6–13.

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. Why this waste? they asked. This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.

Aware of this, Jesus said to them, Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.

A wasted life.

The big problem is not when Judas criticises but when the disciples criticise.

Many Christians who have gone out into missions have faced this kind of criticism from family members and fellow Christians. Why do you want to waste your life amongst the heathen, there is so much to do right here in your own town, in your own Church, in your own country.

But consider how many men and women of God, pastors and prominent Christians, and even the Apostle Paul the Lord has seen fit to allow to be locked up in prison for years, removed from their family and fellow believers.

A wasted life.

Mary anointed Jesus for his burial, others would want to do so but it would be too late. Are you waiting for a more convenient time to make your surrender to the Lord? Do you have some pursuits and interests of you own to fulfil before you waste your life for God?

Luke 24:1-3. On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

A wasted life.

The prison epistles, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, are so named because they were written by the apostle Paul during one of his incarcerations.

Colossians 4:16-18.

After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea. Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.”

I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

A wasted life.

The trap we fall into is the one where we reason that the time that could have been better used to strengthen the Church and serve in other areas of service.


Our first priority is to minister to the Lord and Mary shows this to us on more than one occasion.

A wasted life.

Luke 10:38-42.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed, or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.


Martha Snell Nicholson.

Martha was a woman who suffered from four incurable diseases. She struggled with pain more than thirty-five years, an invalid, bound to her bed.

Her spirit was so transcendently triumphant through those many weary years, that she wrote some of the finest Christian poetry that has ever been written.

Martha writing about her situation. I am looking back over more than twenty years of illness and thanking God for them. Does that sound strange?

Ah, but they have brought me gifts, those weary years. I do not enjoy sickness nor suffering, nor the nervous agony and exhaustion that are harder to bear than physical pain. And an invalid must bury so many dear dreams which have death struggles and refuse to die decently and quietly.

Martha Snell Nicholson.

But God has a way of taking away our toys, and after we have cried for awhile like disappointed children, He fills our hands with jewels which “cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx, or the sapphire.”

And what friends He has given me! Are there more loyal friends than those who stand by the sick through the years? My family and friends have prayed for me, encouraged me, quietly sacrificed for me, washed my dishes, rubbed my aching head, offered me everything from new books to their very life-blood for blood transfusions. I should like to speak of a very devoted and tender husband, but that is a matter too personal.

Poems began to appear in magazines. In 1938 she was overjoyed at the publication of her first book, Wings and Sky. Six others would follow. Eventually nearly two million of her tracts were distributed.

His Plan for Me. (Martha Snell Nicholson)

When I stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ And He shows me His plan for me, The plan of my life as it might have been, Had He had His way; and I see

How I blocked Him here, and I checked Him there And I would not yield my will, Will there be grief in my Saviour's eyes, Grief though He loves me still?

He would have me rich, and I stand here poor, Stripped of all but His grace, While memory runs like a hunted thing Down the paths I cannot retrace.

Then my desolate heart will well nigh break With tears that I cannot shed; I shall cover my face with my empty hands; I shall bow my uncrowned head.

Lord of the years that are left to me, I give them to Thy hand; Take me and break me, mould me to The pattern Thou hast planned.

Lawrence Lightbody.

For my first 16 years of Full time Ministry, I had an elder who was a quadriplegic. Many people prayed for him to get out of his wheelchair, some even tried to pull him out, one even bought him a new pair of shoes for when he stood up and started to walk.

Crippled at 18 years of age, was his a wasted life? Instead of following a career and doing something successful, he wasted time in God’s Word and prayer and counselling able bodied Christians with problems.

Bradley Walker. (Joey and Rory)

Bradley Walker

Bradley was born with muscular dystrophy, and has been in a wheelchair all his life.

Walker started singing when he was two or three years old, and began performing in public when he was four. When he was ten, he was invited on stage to perform with The Oak Ridge Boys, and when he was eleven, he sang with The Oak Ridge Boys on The Nashville Network's Nashville Now as well as on the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon.

Walker's second album, Call Me Old-Fashioned, was produced by Rory Feek and recorded at the Joey + Rory studio out on their farm. Walker had known Joey and Rory Feek since 2007, and he was asked by Rory Feek to sing the hymn "Leave It There" at the funeral of Joey Feek in accordance with her wishes. Bill Gaither of the Gaither Music Group, who was also at the funeral service, heard Walker's performance and signed Walker to his label. The album includes a posthumous duet with Joey Feek, "In The Time That You Gave Me", using vocals she recorded before her death.

A wasted life.

Luke 2:36-38.

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.

She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.

Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

A wasted life.

How did Jesus know that Zacchaeus was saved?

Because Zacchaeus was ready to waste his wealth on Jesus.

Luke 19:5-9.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today. So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, He has gone to be the guest of a sinner. But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount. Jesus said to him, Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.

Faith will make you waste all you have on Jesus.

A wasted life.

Luke 14:28-33.

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish. Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.

In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

A wasted life.

Black Panther is nothing short of a phenomenon. The latest installment in the wildly successful “Marvel” movie series, it has become the second-highest grossing four-day opening in movie history, raking in $242 million. The film has been praised by critics and received a 97% rating on review site Rotten Tomatoes.

But even more remarkable than box-office records and glowing reviews is the story behind actress Letitia Wright, who plays T’Challa’s little sister, Shuri. Wright, who appeared on British talk show This Morning, talked about how she almost missed out on the role after hitting a crisis in her life, dumping acting and going on a search for God.

I needed to take a break from acting because I really idolized it. So I came off from it and I went on a journey to discover my relationship with God, and I became a Christian, Wright said in the interview aired Feb. 9. It really just gave me so much love and light within myself. I felt secure, like I didn’t need validation from anyone else, or from getting a part. My happiness wasn’t dependent on that, it was dependent on my relationship with God.

A wasted life.

At the very depths of her depression, the British actress ended up coming to Christ after attending a London actors’ Bible study. So convinced that she had to put God first, she even turned down an acting role that would have set her alongside Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning.

I remember God was like, to me, ‘Give up the job,’” the actress told Vanity Fair. “I can give you more than that; I just need you right now. Give up the job.”

Then, after laying down her own ambition and looking to the Lord, she was offered this gigantic role in Black Panther.

Now an international sensation and with a glittering career ahead of her, Wright just wants to be used as a “vessel” for the Lord. “Where I go, where He takes me, that’s where I need to spread the love of God,” she said in an earlier interview. “Because people’s souls are dying. My soul was dying, and He saved me. So I can’t keep this to myself … I fell in love with Jesus and I’m still in love. Amen.”

A wasted life.

Eric Henry Liddell (16 January 1902 – 21 February 1945)

Eric Liddell was a Scottish Olympic Gold Medalist runner, rugby union international player, and Christian missionary.

Liddell was born in China to Scottish missionary parents. He attended boarding school near London, spending time when possible with his family in Edinburgh, and afterwards attended the University of Edinburgh.

At the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, Liddell refused to run in the heats for his favoured 100 metres because they were held on a Sunday. Instead he competed in the 400 metres held on a weekday, a race that he won.

A wasted life.

Eric Liddell returned to China in 1925 to serve as a missionary teacher. Aside from two furloughs in Scotland, he remained in China until his death in a Japanese civilian internment camp in 1945.

Liddell's Olympic training and racing, and the religious convictions that influenced him, are depicted in the Oscar-winning 1981 film Chariots of Fire. Wikipedia

Pastor Chen.

Pastor Chen spent eighteen years in a prison work camp in China. Because he came from a background of moderate wealth and opportunity the guards at the camp worked hard to break his spirit and indoctrinate him. He was so hungry at times that he was tempted to eat toothpaste. He was separated from his wife and his young church. While he was in prison, his wife died. One of his greatest hardships was that he had no privacy to worship or pray or read or memorize the Scripture. He was under constant surveillance. Frequently he prayed that God would allow him a place of privacy so he could enjoy fellowship with God.

Pastor Chen.

Soon the prison officials gave him a new assignment. In order to break his spirit and indoctrinate him they gave him the most difficult work assignment in the camp. They assigned him to the camp cesspool.

The sewer pit where he worked served 60,000 prisoners. His assignment was to scoop out human waste to be used for fertilizer. No one else wanted the job because it was lonely and repulsive and they feared deadly diseases.

His heart was broken when he went to work on his new assignment. Day after day working in the foul pit he wondered if his prayers were heard. To withstand the hardship he sing and prayed and quoted scripture aloud. One day it occurred to him that his assignment was a specific answer to prayer.

Pastor Chen.

Because he worked in such a foul hole none of the guards would get anywhere near him. He worked completely alone. He could pray and sing and quote scripture as loud as he wanted. He began to thank God and rejoice. There was no one there to hear him but his faithful God. His cesspool assignment lasted six years and miraculously he never contracted a disease from it.

When he was released the church for which he had labored and prayed had exploded in growth and vitality. He traveled to poor villages where he saw the hand of God at work. He represented the cause of the suffering church in China around the world.

Choose a definite time.

Speaking before a huge missionary conference years later he told the story of God’s faithfulness to him in prison

With bright eyes he spoke of the fellowship that he enjoyed with the Lord in the prison cesspool. Standing before the huge crowd the small Chinese pastor began to sing the song that he used to sing in the prison sewer.

I come to the garden alone While the dew is still on the roses And He walks with me and he talks with me And He tells me I am His own And the joy we share as we tarry there None other has ever known.

A wasted life.

I wonder when we stand before the Lord one day whether it will be people like the prophet Anna, Mary of Bethany, Bradley Walker, Lawrence Lightbody, Martha Snell Nicholson, Eric Liddell and Pastor Chen, who have led wasted lives or whether it will be you and me?

Pastor Chen Imprisoned for 18 years


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