Radical Discipleship

When I first went to Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary in the Philippines to teach a short course in an interim, I was browsing through the books in the library and I came across a book about a Chinese evangelist John Sung, written by Leslie T. Lyall. I was surprised to read that this highly respected and gifted evangelist had lived and studied in my hometown of Delaware, Ohio. When my father was one month old (February 10, 1920), John Sung arrived to begin his college education at Ohio Wesleyan University (then it was Ohio Wesleyan College), at that time a center for holiness theology. Forty years earlier, the first Protestant missionary to Korea, Horace Allen (a medical doctor), was a student at the same school. Sung had a very strong, independent mind. He had been promised full tuition, room, and board but whenever he received help, he sent it to his father in China. John went out to find a job. Menial jobs and then factory jobs kept him barely surviving.

            Sung desired to finish college in three years and graduated with the highest honor at the top of his class in 1923. He was awarded highest honors in chemistry and physics. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. After graduation Sung went to Ohio State University just down the highway from Delaware in Columbus to get a master’s degree in science which he obtained in nine months. One year and nine months after that he received a PhD degree in chemistry. During that time he attended a Christian convention for students at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, where he first began to feel God calling him to give himself totally for God’s use. Finally Sung had determined to give up everything in order to seek the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit so he could go out and witness for the Lord. He spent much time in prayer, day after day,

            His discipline of prayer paid off for him. On February 6, 1927 light began to break through the darkness. He experienced a genuine cleansing from all sin and the load of sin and guilt was lifted off his shoulders and he began to shout “hallelujah.” It was midnight and everyone in the dorm was sleeping but he burst out into the dormitory hall shouting and praising God for his deliverance. Sung felt that it was his calling to herald the coming of the King, to prepare the way before him like John the Baptist, hence the name of John (Sung). Joy was so evident in his life that he testified to all his teachers and fellow students. Songs of joy filled his life so that he would walk around his room and down the corridors of his dorm reciting Scripture, praying, and praising God. He was a transformed person, experiencing what was like a second conversion.

            Sung made his way back to China—a fully committed Christian. On the way, he considered his situation. He was well-educated, with the potential for a very successful career with a high salary ahead of him, which would be a great honor for his family. Surely God would ask no more of him. While in prayer, however, he realized the dangers of his position. He felt like the Apostle Paul that whatever seemed like gain to him was counted loss for Christ. Sung would renounce the world and its fame and burn his bridges behind him. Near the end of his voyage, sung went down to his cabin and took his trunk filled with his diplomas, medals, and fraternity keys and through all the items overboard, except for his doctor’s diploma which he would give to this father. This was the chief reason for Sung’s successful career as an evangelist—he had made a complete renunciation of all the world holds dear.  He would give up a career of academic distinction. He had no desire for worldly fame or fortune. God would use him mightily all over Asia.

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