Sunday, August 13, 2017

Book Review: A Biography of John Sung (2004) by Leslie T. Lyall

A Biography of John Sung (2004) by Leslie T. Lyall

John (‘Ju-un’ in Chinese meaning ‘God’s grace’) Sung was born in the Hinghwa district in Southeast China in 1901. During the great Hinghwa revival in 1909 – often called the ‘Hinghwa Pentecost’ – young John Sung was converted. Though only nine years old, he “was so convicted by sin that his tears of remorse soaked right through his outer coat as his head was bowed is a spirit of contrition.

To cut the story short, John wanted to study oversea so he travelled to America. In 1923, he graduates from Ohio Wesleyan University. But he is not finished with Ph.D in chemistry, he wanted to further his study in theology, so he enrolled to Union Theological Seminary. There he became acquainted with liberal theology. The seminary was so bad that they taught that the Bible cannot be trusted, that the Creation account was a myth and that the miracles of Jesus was fanciful tales told by disillusioned disciples. As a man of science, he soon found himself doubting the very Word of God that had once empowered him. I understand that feeling… I do.  

Leslie Lyall wrote, “Not many days after this tremendous crisis, John had a strange dream. Looking into an open coffin, he saw that the corpse was himself, dressed in academic cap and gown and holding diplomas! He heard a voice say, ‘John Sung is dead – dead to the world!’ Then the corpse began to stir and awaken and angels above began to weep, until he called out, ‘Don’t weep, angels! I will remain dead to the world and to self!’” The brilliant scientist had died, the new John Sung was alive to preach the gospel! It was like a second conversion for him.

This is amazing, John Sung set all of his liberal theological textbooks on fire and began reading only the Bible. Because of his ‘strange’ behaviour, he was admitted to psychopathic ward. For more than 6 months he was confined unwillingly, but fruitfully, it has become for him his own personal theological seminary. He read through the Bible 40 times! During this time too, God “called him to the task of preaching the Gospel in China.” When he went back to China, he said to the missionaries, “China does not need the teaching of [Harry Emerson] Fosdick or [Mahatma] Gandhi. The teaching of Confucius is far better than theirs. What the Chinese need is Jesus Christ and His Cross.

For the next few years John worked closely with the Bethel Mission but he could not be confined to one organization. I think partly because he was so fire up that people couldn’t catch up with him. And partly because he was not easy to work with. “He had a strong will and a hot temper. He was independent to the point of being sometimes stubborn. A rebel as a boy, he remained an individualist all his life. He could be abrupt and even rude,” explained late John Stott. Regardless of these weaknesses, God is pleased to prosper his ministry! He led thousands of people to Christ through preaching, teaching, training and healing ministry. My colleagues and friends also have told me personally that I’m a bit proud and stubborn (no wonder I also admire Steve Jobs), but Lord, continue to use me for your ministry! Amen.

In 1942, after 15 years of exhausting ministry, Sung retired due to ill health. He died in 1944, at the age of 42. “Never in the history of Chinese Church had someone touched so many lives in such a brief period,” said Bobby E.K. Sng. “His sacrificial and total disregard of himself is perhaps most clearly illustrated by his death,” writes Hwa Yung, “his active ministry ended only when his health finally broke... Although his ministry ended too late to save his life, his sense of God’s timing was perfect.” Three most important things in my life and ministry that I learned from the life of John Sung: #1 The Love for God’s Word, #2 The Power of the Holy Spirit and #3 The Work of Prayer.

“For a servant of God to have authority in every sentence he utters, he must first suffer for the message he is to deliver. Without great tribulation, there is no great illumination.”

“Man’s works do not even come close to the works of the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit does not work, all the efforts of man will come to naught.”

“China needs Christ!”

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