This is the fourth of five blogs which describe the secrets behind the astonishing spiritual breakthrough which God achieved in China through the unassuming missionary James Fraser. His work in southwest China sparked a massive move of God which has resulted in around a hundred million Chinese converts to Christ in the past forty years.
In the first three blogs, I began to describe the secrets of his ministry, gleaned from my studies of his journal, his letters and the accounts of his friends. James Fraser was an everyday person, just like us, but he learned how to make his life count in the hands of his extraordinary God. So can we.
LESSON #7: COMMUNITIES GET CHANGED WHEN WE TAKE AUTHORITY
When thousands of Lisu people started turning to Christ, the spiritual struggle got harder, not easier. James Fraser found that threats, setbacks, discouragements and persecution multiplied. At first, he was surprised by the intensity of the conflict, but he learned that he needed to take authority over the demons of the Lisu mountain ranges based on the Gospel he was proclaiming. “I went out of the city to a hidden gully on the hill-side, one of my prayer-haunts, and there voiced my determined resistance to Satan in the matter. I claimed deliverance on the ground of my Redeemer’s victory on the Cross. I even shouted my resistance to Satan and all his thoughts. The obsession collapsed then and there, like a pack of cards, to return no more. James 4:7 is still in the Bible. Our Lord cried, we are told ‘with a loud voice’ at the grave of Lazarus. He cried ‘with a loud voice’ from the Cross. In times of conflict I still find deliverance through repeating Scripture out loud, appropriate Scripture, brought to my mind through the Holy Spirit. It is like crashing through opposition. ‘Resist the devil and he will flee from you’”
Fraser was a 20th-century Englishman, so he struggled to believe that the spirit-gods worshipped by the Lisu were demons rather than simply childish superstition. We find it just as difficult to see the demons who are at work behind the secular idols of Western culture. But Fraser learned that “We need different truths at different times. ‘Look to the Lord,’ some will say. ‘Resist the devil,’ is also Scripture (James 4:7). And I found it worked! That cloud of depression dispersed … The Lord Himself resisted the Devil vocally; ‘Get thee behind me, Satan!’ I, in humble dependence on Him, did the same. I talked to Satan at that time, using the promises of Scripture as weapons. And they worked. Right then, the terrible oppression began to pass away. One had to learn, gradually, how to use the new-found weapon of resistance. I had so much to learn!”
Fraser certainly did learn. He found that resistance to the Devil and his demons in prayer was an essential aspect of the breakthrough amongst the Lisu. He wrote in his journal: “Seem distinctly led to fight against ‘principalities and powers’ for Middle Village.” He told his friends back in England that “I like to read passages of Scripture, such as 1 John 3:8 or Revelation 12:11 in prayer, as direct weapons against Satan.”
LESSON #8: COMMUNITIES GET CHANGED WHEN WE GAMBLE EVERYTHING ON PRAYER
However much he resisted the Devil and his demons in prayer, James Fraser spent even more time in prayer to God the Father that he would give the Lisu people to his Son. He believed that Jesus had bought the Lisu with his blood and had asked the Father for their salvation (Psalm 2:8). Fraser was merely adding his own prayers to this request in Jesus’ name.
Fraser recruited a small band of prayer supporters back in England who were willing to partner intensely with him in his work amongst the Lisu. He sent them long letters describing each village, mapping it out and describing key individuals in incredible detail so that they later told him they felt they knew the Lisu villages better than they knew the streets of their own town. He told them that “I believe it will only be known on the Last Day how much has been accomplished in missionary work by the prayers of earnest believers at home … Solid, lasting missionary work is done on our knees. What I covet more than anything else is earnest believing prayer.”
Fraser became convinced that only prayer could result in masssalvation amongst the Lisu. “We cannot fret people into the Kingdom of Heaven” “I never, now, try to persuade the Lisu to become Christians. I find that they are quite unstable and unsatisfactory unless they ‘turn’ with all their heart.”
He also became convinced that only prayer could result in the genuinediscipleship of the Lisu who were converted. When heavy snowfall prevented him from visiting his converts in the mountain villages for eight months of the year, he decided to spend the time he would have spent travelling back and forth praying for them instead. The results of his experiment were astounding. The converts in the mountain villages grew much faster than his converts in the lowlands despite the fact that he was with them all year round. “If I were to think after the manner of men, I should be anxious about my Lisu converts – afraid of their falling back into demon worship. But God is enabling me to cast all my care upon Him. I am not anxious, not nervous. If I hugged my care to myself instead of casting it upon Him, I should never have persevered in the work so long – perhaps never even have started it. But if it has been begun in Him, it must be continued in Him.”He added: “If two things stand out clearly in my mind, they are firstly how ‘foolish’ and ‘weak’ our new converts are, and secondly that God has really chosen them … If you could come out here and see how useless mere preaching and persuasion is among these people, you would understand this better. One feels so helpless in face of their ignorance and need!”
Fraser became convinced that prayer was not an add-on to the work of changing a community for Christ. It was everything, the difference between great success and abject failure. “I used to think that prayer should have the first place and teaching the second. I now feel that it would be truer to give prayer the first, second and third place, and teaching the fourth.” Most of the British in China were traders, so he reflected that “I feel like a businessman who perceives that a certain line of goods pays better than any other in his store, and who purposes making it his chief investment; who, in fact, sees an inexhaustible supply and an almost unlimited demand for a profitable article and intends to go in for it more than anything else. The DEMAND is the lost state of these tens of thousands of Lisu and Kachin – their ignorance, their superstitions, their sinfulness; their bodies, their minds, their soul; the SUPPLY is the grace of God to meet his need – to be brought down to them by the persevering prayers of a considerable company of God’s people. All I want to do is, as a kind of middleman, to bring the supply and the demand together.”
Do you love the community where you live? Do you long for it to be transformed by the power of God? Are you as desperate for it to happen as James Fraser was in Lisuland? If you are, then you have the same authority over the Devil and his demons as he did. You have the same access to God the Father in prayer as he did.
If you gamble everything on prayer and devote your waking hours to crying out to God for a massive revival, then you will discover the same God at work in you as was at work in James Fraser in Lisuland. If you are an everyday person then the Lord is still your extraordinary God.
This is part four of a five-part series of blogs about the life of James Fraser. I will post the final blog in a few days’ time.