I can understand Job’s victories and Job’s defeats. It taught me that grumbling does not help. Not against God and not against those who persecuted me. My dear wife died while I was in prison. I was not allowed to attend her funeral. It was like an arrow of the Almighty, until I understood that God allows the pain, the loss, the torture; but we must grow through it.
Samuel (Lin Xingiao) Lamb knew firsthand what it meant to suffer for the sake of the Gospel. Eighty-eight years old when he died on August 3, he had spent almost twenty-two of those years in the prison and labor camps of the Chinese Communist regime. Although Lamb’s years in prison were spent in grueling labor in the coal mines and on the farms, he continued to preach and teach to other prisoners.
Born in Southern China, Lamb preached his first sermon at age 19. He was first arrested in 1955, during one of the first big waves of persecution under the dictatorship of Chairman Mao. After two years’ imprisonment, Lamb was released, but then rearrested in 1958, this time for a twenty year sentence.
Lamb’s wife died in 1977, the year before he was released from prison.
Lamb was targeted by the government because of his refusal to merge his illegal house church into the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, the state-regulated Protestant Church. The registered Three-Self Patriotic Movement churches functioned under many restrictions about what they could preach and not preach (could not preach about the Second Coming of Christ, for example) and who was allowed to attend church services (no one under the age of 18). Lamb believed that although Christians should obey their government, when the law of man conflicted with the law of God, they should obey God.
Lamb also believed that persecution caused the church to grow spiritually and numerically. During the decades of Lamb’s ministry, the church in China has grown from a few million people in the 1950?s till today, when it numbers anywhere from 80 million upwards, with many secret believers within the ranks of the Communist Party.
In his last years, Pastor Lamb would have seen great changes taking place in China. Lamb revealed in an interview last year that the police in Guangzhou were actually unofficially giving newcomers directions to his church now! But Lamb still wanted to make sure that Christians did not too easily assume that nothing would ever happen to them.
Lamb warned both Chinese Christians and any international visitors who came to his church:
We must be prepared to suffer. We must be prepared for the fact that we may be arrested. Before I was sent to prison, I already prepared a bag with some clothes, shoes and a toothbrush. When I had to go to the police station, I could just pick it up. I was ready. People are still being arrested. You don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Today the authorities are not bothering us, but tomorrow things may be different. I pray that we will receive the strength to stand firm.
No more prison bags for Samuel Lamb. Like Paul, who also suffered for the sake of Christ, Lamb can say that he has fought the good fight, he has finished the race, and he has kept the faith. Lamb has gone home.