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LESSONS FROM MISS MARIE MONSEN IN CHINA

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, December 8, 2019


Marie Monsen (1878-1962) was a Norwegian missionary to North and Central China for a period of thirty years. During that time she was used by God in revival, accounts of which can be read in her book, The Awakening. That revival was the first taste of the great revival of the Underground Church, which has become the greatest revival. It continues to this day in China.

As I read Miss Monsen’s book, I realized how God has worked miraculously in my own life as a missionary and church planter. If you read my autobiography, Against All Fears, you will understand what a miracle it took for God to bring me to Jesus in the first place. I was born into a totally heathen family. My parents separated when I was two years old. I was shuffled back and forth, living in twenty-two foster homes, never having friends, failing in high school and college, haunted by mood swings that brought me to the edge of suicide – not an ideal way to be brought up!

I was nineteen years old when I first read The Journal of John Wesley in a paperback edition published by Moody Press. Then I read the story of Hudson Taylor, pioneer missionary to inland China. As I wandered through the streets of Los Angeles one night, I saw a church building with a sign on it that said, “The First Chinese Baptist Church.” I joined that church and was a member of it for many years. Feeling called to be a missionary, I attended Biola University, but due to poor study habits I failed at Biola. But the first miracle took place when I was converted there through hearing the words of Charles Wesley’s hymn, “And Can It Be?”

As a failure in high school and college, the second miracle happened when I encountered Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (p. 1261 Scofield). I got a job working full time during the day. Bolstered by Philippians 4:13, I began to attend college at night. The third miracle was that I finally graduated from the California State University at Los Angeles – after long years of working and studying 16 hours a day, while also working in many capacities at the Chinese church.

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Then I went to Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, near San Francisco. It was a truly terrible experience, because nearly all the professors there tore the Bible to shreds in the various classes I took. I was ready to quit altogether when the fourth miracle took place. After midnight one night the voice of God came to me. It should be remembered that I was not a Pentecostal or charismatic. But God spoke clearly in a still, small voice, to my soul. God told me not to quit the seminary, and that He would use me to preach for Him when I was an old man, as a missionary to the Chinese people, and to other ethnic groups. That was the fourth miracle.

After planting a church near the seminary, I graduated and left the San Francisco area, and came “home” to Los Angeles. At 33 years old I planted The Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles. That is when the fifth miracle took place.

I was working in my office when I met Ileana Cuellar, a girl from Guatemala. I did not know her, and all of her Hispanic friends soon left our church. But I knew within myself that this was the girl I should marry. She could hardly speak English, and I could not speak Spanish. When we got married, several people said it wouldn’t last. They were wrong. Our marriage has already lasted 37 years! If I had married any of the Hippie girls they would have trashed my life and ministry ten times over. I opened my Bible that night and read these words, “Behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way” (Genesis 12:19; p. 21). God told me to marry Ileana in His Word. She is the most perfect pastor’s wife in the whole wide world!

When Ileana became pregnant, I was told by a man in our church to go to his Hippie doctor. About half way through her pregnancy this doctor took an ultrasound of her womb. He called Ileana and me to his office and said that the ultrasound showed that the baby was badly deformed. But he said to come back on Monday for the final analysis. We went to bed that night thinking our baby would be terribly deformed. That night “the angel of the Lord appeared unto [me] in a dream” (Matthew 1:20; p. 994), and told me the truth about the baby. We went back to the Hippie doctor. He told us to sit down. I said, “I don’t need to sit down. You misread the ultrasound. We are going to have twins.” The doctor said, “How did you know that?” I said, “An angel told me that last night in a dream.” Our twin boys were born perfect. They have both been a great blessing to us for more than thirty-six years now! That was another miracle.

Mr. Gene Wilkerson didn’t drive. So I would drive him to his apartment every night. On the way home it was raining hard. Suddenly my car ran out of gas. I pulled to the side of the freeway. I was filled with fear. The next car that came around the bend would rear-end my car. I leaped out of the car to behold the next miracle. A little old man was standing next to the freeway. He took out a long fishing pole, attached a gas can on the end of it, and reeled it up over a chain link fence by the freeway. He said, “Put the gas in your car. Hurry!” I put the gas in my car, put the can on the end of his pole and he reeled it back. I reached in my pocket for some money to give him. He shouted to me, “Get going! I don’t need any money! I do this every night.” As I drove away his last few words made my hair stand on end, “I do this every night.” As I thought about that, these words of the Bible came to my mind, “Some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2; p. 1304). This was an angel that saved my life that night!

These miracles and others led me to believe that God was with me. And they prepared me to understand the miracles that God used to save Marie Monsen.

But first I must take a few minutes to talk about why angels, miracles, and demons play such a small role in the minds of most evangelicals today. Why do most evangelicals spend so little time thinking about angels and demons in our time? Dr. A. W. Tozer gives some good points on this in his essay, “The Bible World is the Real World.”

Dr. Tozer said, “When reading the Scriptures the sensitive person is sure to feel the marked difference between the world as the Bible reveals it and the world as conceived by religious people today. And the contrast is not in our favor...The true world is a populated world. The blind eyes of modern people cannot see the invisible, but that does not destroy the reality of the spiritual creation... We have accepted the empty and meaningless world of science as the true one, forgetting that science is valid only when dealing with material things and can know nothing about God and the spiritual world... The Bible tells of another world too fine for the instruments of scientific research to discover...If we believe we may even now enjoy the presence of God and the ministry of His [angels]. Only unbelief can rob us of this royal privilege.”

“Oh, that’s just Tozer – and we know that he was only a mystic, not a real theologian!” So young seminary students are robbed of Tozer’s prophetic insights.

Then there is Dr. Wilbur M. Smith. Dr. Smith gives us a panoramic view of how angels and demons came to be neglected by theologians. Richard Baxter, Thomas Goodwin, John Owen and Jonathan Edwards avoided the subject of angels and demons in their writings (forward to Biblical Demonology by Merrill F. Unger, Th.D., Ph.D.).

Then there is Dr. Unger himself. He was a great scholar who earned his Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University, and his Th.D. at Dallas Theological Seminary. In chapter one of his landmark book, Demons in the World Today (Tyndale House, 1983) Dr. Unger said, “Awestruck observers are flocking to the altars of science to revere human achievements. Meanwhile, the altars of God are forsaken as naturalism in theology threatens to eliminate the supernatural from everyday thought and life.”

Even a conservative evangelical theologian like Millard J. Erickson, in his 1200 page Christian Theology (Baker, 1985) devotes less than 20 pages to good and evil angels, and only one half a page to “The Role of the Doctrine of Angels” (p. 451). And even this is replete with quotations from rank liberals like Paul Tillich, Karl Barth, and Rudolf Bultmann! Dr. Erickson even said, “Many moderns...derided belief in angels as obsolete” (p. 437). It should not surprise us that the extremely liberal Clark Pinnock said of Dr. Erickson’s book, “I am frankly filled with delight when I contemplate this magnificent production” (jacket cover). To me, the book is poison.

I am convinced that the doctrines of angels and demons are extremely important in ministry today. My long-time pastor, Timothy Lin, Ph.D., was exactly right in placing the doctrine of angels and demons at the center of preaching in today’s world. Dr. Lin was a scholar who came to America from the center of revival in China. He was an expert in Old Testament Hebrew, and taught at Biola University, and at Trinity Evangelical Seminary in Deerfield, Illinois. He was one of the translators of the New American Standard Bible, and he was my pastor for many years at the Chinese Baptist Church where I was a member! Dr. Lin would have been delighted by Marie Monsen’s little book, A Present Help: Standing on the Promises of God (China Inland Mission, 1960).

Marie Monsen (1878-1962) was a Norwegian missionary to North and Central China for a period of thirty years. During that time she was used by God in revival, accounts of which can be read in her book The Awakening. The revivals that came out of her ministry were the forerunners of the great revival still going on in the Underground Churches in China today – the greatest revivals of the past 100 years. Now I will give you a few of her accounts of that revival from her book, A Present Help: Standing on the Promises of God.

Psalm 146:9
“The Lord preserveth the strangers”

Marie Monsen said, “We were both newcomers and had landed in a coastal city in China...Nothing happens by chance to the children of God...where were they taking us? We could not tell them where we wanted to go. In our distress we were both praying silently while we ran beside the men... A young man suddenly dashed across the street through the busy traffic. He began talking to me. I did not understand a word of what he was saying! He was carrying a sack on his back. He threw it down on the street. We realized he was a mailman. But what did he want with us? Piles of letters were laid out on the street. At last he found the letter he was looking for...Smiling, he held it up for me to see. I read the name and address of the missionary who had failed to meet us! We turned up the next side street and soon arrived at our destination. When we had paid our coolies and had been shown to our rooms, tears of thankfulness filled our eyes. The Lord had blessed our coming to China just as He promised to do!

Later we heard that the mailman was a Christian. But how did he know to help us? That question remains unanswered. But where understanding finds no explanation, faith reckons with God, and we believe that God told the mailman about our need for help. Soon after that I read a verse in the Bible. It was a living word to me. It increased my faith in the future, spent in a foreign country. ‘The Lord preserveth the strangers’ (Psalm 146:9; p. 670 Scofield).

God is a Stronghold in the Time of Trouble

Now we were in a period of anti-foreign feeling. The heathen showed their hatred and contempt to us foreigners whenever there was an opportunity. Those who did not share hatred to us were afraid to show their friendliness.

Suddenly a drunken soldier confronted me. He had just drunk a whole jug of wine. ‘Stop, stop,’ the drunk soldier yelled. ‘I want to sit on the cart. I will protect the foreign woman.’ Fear flooded over me! Then I remembered how many times the words ‘fear not’ occur in the Bible. I was set free from being afraid. The drunk soldier came running toward me shouting, ‘Stop.’ The driver obeyed and stopped. I prayed silently, ‘Lord, Thou art a stronghold in the time of trouble. I need Thy protection now.’ Just then, the drunken soldier sat down at the side of the road. I ordered the driver on. The donkey started to run too, for the first time. At the next inn the soldier drank another big jug of wine. I expected him to attack me. Then I remembered how a whole army was stricken with blindness (2nd Kings 6). Remembering that Bible story I prayed, ‘Lord, cause him not to see me.’ The drunk soldier attacked some men carrying barrels. Then he attacked some men carrying expensive glassware. It was all smashed by him.

After each crazy attack the soldier came back to us. But he never spoke to me once. Finally he ran off on a side road, and we saw him no more. Then I remembered Psalm 34:7, ‘The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them’” (p. 614 Scofield).

Perhaps next Sunday night I will tell you more about Marie Monsen, and how she was protected by a “wall of fire” sent by God. Remember that she was a single woman, who was protected only by God, while many other women were raped and robbed while going through the horrors of the aftermath of the Boxer Rebellion in China.

When the horrible church split happened a few months ago I was very weak from treatments for cancer and from severe arthritis which crippled me, first in my right leg and then in my left knee and leg. As most of you know, I have suffered from periods of deep depression and mood swings, which doubtlessly came as a result of the childhood trauma of becoming a virtual orphan, and experiencing the horrors of living among hardened alcoholics as a little boy.

When the church split came, I was very afraid that I would not be able to go on here in the church. Perhaps the greatest miracle of my life occurred when I felt perfectly calm during the agony of the split. But I was calmed by those words of Paul in Philippians 4:11, 12,

“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Philippians 4:11, 12; p. 1260).

I spent each night reading Pastor Wurmbrand, Dr. A. W. Tozer, and later the books by Miss Marie Monsen. Even when my sweet wife Ileana was far away in Israel, I slept through each night like a baby. Thus, I can tell you tonight, for sure, that you too can have great peace if you wait on the Lord. “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord” (Psalm 27:14; p. 611).

I know within my soul that we will build up a good strong church in the San Gabriel Valley. God is with us – and underneath are His everlasting arms! Amen. Please stand and sing, “He Leadeth Me.”

He leadeth me, O blessed thought! O words with heavenly comfort fraught!
   Whate’er I do, where’er I be, Still ’tis God’s Word that leadeth me.
He leadeth me, He leadeth me! By His own Word He leadeth me;
   His faithful follower I would be, For by His Word He leadeth me.

Sometimes ‘mid scenes of deepest gloom, Sometimes where Eden’s bowers bloom,
   By waters still, o’er troubled sea, Still ’tis His Word that leadeth me.
He leadeth me, He leadeth me! By His own Word He leadeth me;
   His faithful follower I would be, For by His Word He leadeth me.

Lord, I would place my hand in Thine, Nor ever murmur nor repine;
   Content, whatever lot I see, Since ’tis my God that leadeth me.
He leadeth me, He leadeth me! By His own Word He leadeth me;
   His faithful follower I would be, For by His Word He leadeth me.
(“He Leadeth Me” by Joseph H. Gilmore, 1834-1918; altered by Dr. Hymers).