I am a Chinese by birth and a Christian by rebirth. I am a Chinese by race, and a Christian by grace.
We Chinese are known as a persevering people, but the Spirit of God overshadows even our Oriental persistence. There was a time when I used a copy of the Bible as a postage stamp album, but over the years the Spirit of God probed at the door of my heart, and the Bible is now my most precious possession.
My day always begins with a reading of God’s Word. If it does not, I go hungry, for my motto is, “No Bible, No Breakfast.”
I was born in Fuzhou, China, in 1898. The first Bible I ever saw was given to my father by Hsu Sanyu, a Christian friend of the family, when I was nine years old. I asked my father for it, although I could not understand a word, as it was in English.
The book made a wonderful stamp album. At the age of fourteen I broke an ankle in a fall from a high iron fence near our house. I became discouraged during the two months I was confined in a Shanghai hospital, for I feared I should never walk again. For the first time I wondered in adolescent fashion about deeper problems. Where did I come from? What is the purpose of life? Where do we go after death? In the years that followed I studied Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism, but they gave no answers. I decided to let the future take care of itself.
After our marriage, my Christian wife, Ada, led me back to a search for life’s truth. While attending church with her one day, I heard the congregation singing, “Nearer, My God, to Thee.” I thought, “That must be a wonderful God. I’ve never heard anyone sing, ‘Nearer, my idol, to thee.'” I reflected upon all the good works — hospitals, schools, missions — built in China in the name of Jesus. Even the history of the world is dated before and after His birth, I reasoned.
Plunging Past the Begats
This man Jesus Christ intrigued me, and Ada told me the Bible was the best book from which to learn of Him. She introduced me to Miss Evelyn Wallace, a Canadian missionary and teacher at Hwa Nan College in Fuzhou, who was conducting a Bible study for anyone interested. I joined the study.
I entered into an examination of Matthew because I was told the Old Testament was too hard for beginners. I began to be disappointed as I read, “Abraham begat Isaac: and Isaac begat Jacob…”; but I kept reading.
As I came to the Sermon on the Mount, I marveled at the remarkable teaching unfolding to me. “No man ever spoke like this man.”
As I continued to study. I began to see myself as a lost sinner whom Christ had come “to seek and to save.” When I read, “Blessed are the pure in heart,” I realized I needed a pure heart to see God.
The Bible became a different kind of book to me, and through reading it I came to acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior.
Thank God for the happy day that fixed my choice on Christ! Confucianism teaches us the duty of life; Buddhism, the vanity of life; Taoism, the simplicity of life; but Christ gives us the eternity and glory of life. Ada, who became a Christian under the ministry of Miss Ruth Paxson shortly before our marriage, was overjoyed at my conversion. My mother, who had been a Buddhist, soon came to the Lord. One by one, others in the family came to accept Jesus as “the way, the truth, and the life.”
In 1921, while serving as a lieutenant on a Chinese gunboat, I felt led to proclaim God’s Word. Later I began to preach in the open air, drawing crowds by ringing a hand bell. I rented a hall in Foochow that later became known as the Christian Assembly, and was joined by Watchman Lee, my younger brother Wilson, Simon Meek of Manila, Faithful Luke of Singapore, and John Wang of Taiwan. This turned out to be the genesis of a vital Christian evangelical movement in China.
One Blow for Each Minute
As time went on, I yearned for a way to become well versed in the Scriptures. I needed a plan of study, and God led me to Acts 17:11, which tells how the Christians in Berea searched the Scriptures daily.
Daily! To systematically study the Word I determined to read a portion each day. But when? I realized my trouble was that I liked to sleep late and then rush into my daily activities. When evening came, I was too tired to read and continually postponed my study until the next day. Again God led me to several verses in Proverbs, one of which. Proverbs 6:9, says, “How long will you sleep, O sluggard?”
So I decided to rise each day at 6 a.m. to read my Bible. I began this discipline when I was twenty-one, while studying at the Naval College in Nanking. There was no central heating; the cold winter provided little incentive for my plan.
After some time I faltered. So I prayed for dedication and disciplined myself by hitting my hand with a stick once for each minute I was late in rising. I think the longest I overslept was thirty minutes — which was a painful experience! My wife and others thought this punishment a little crazy. But it got results. I overslept only a few times.
Later I found an even more effective means of ensuring my early reading. If I did not read at least one chapter to start the day, I did not eat my breakfast. “No Bible, No Breakfast” became my motto.
The Bible has been my daily companion. With no Christian schooling it was the only way I had to gain knowledge of the Word. Needless to say, the reading has helped immeasurably to strengthen my faith. Very early in my Christian service I found answers in the Bible to meet the problems that arose.
Three things have greatly helped my daily Bible reading: First, carrying a Bible or New Testament in my pocket wherever I go. Verses can be read in spare moments. I always have the Word of God within easy reach. Second, establishing my motto. I have lived by “No Bible, No Breakfast” for forty-four years; not as a law to bind me, but as a motto to remind me. For “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”
2 + 2 + 5 + 1 = Breakfast
Third, having a plan. I read ten chapters daily: two each in the Old and New Testaments, plus five in Psalms and one in Proverbs. This way one can finish the Old Testament once a year, the New Testament three times a year, and Psalms and Proverbs once a month.
The Psalms teach me to pray and praise in my dealings with God. Proverbs teaches me how to live and deal with men. I have read these books over four hundred times, and they have not lost their freshness. There are thirty-one chapters in Proverbs. I used Proverbs as my travelling calendar and have no trouble remembering dates.
This is my plan of daily Bible reading. I do not expect everyone to follow it, as it is rather a big order. But everyone should develop some sort of systematized study plan.