Whether we live or die...

This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short excerpt from the life of Lung Singh (from Laos.  It was rumored that Singh was killed by his brother because of his faith in Jesus Christ.  Jan Pit edited Lung Singh’s experiences and remarks), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:

If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord.  So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.  (Romans 14:8)

Singh's brother was the leader of a Communist group in the area where Singh lived.  He was furious about Singh's conversion--and especially about Singh's continued Christian 'propaganda'.  The reason why he decided to visit Singh was to warn him not to be actively involved in evangelism.  'I can't stop you believing your religion' he told Singh, 'but I warn you, don't talk about it.  If you do, the consequences will be yours.'

That evening Singh and his wife discussed the situation.  They realized what the consequences would be if they continued to witness for Christ.  Should they decide to only believe in their hearts--and thus escape arrest?  Their discussion did not take long.  They had made up their minds. 'If we live, we live for the Lord, whatever the consequences might be.  And if we die, we die for the Lord.'  They finished their discussion with a time of prayer together, followed by singing their love song: 

          'We have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back.'

When Singh's brother learned about their decision he went over to their house again, taking some Communist soldiers along--and arrested Lung Singh and his wife Bunmah.  They were taken into the forest, from where they never returned.

'Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.'  (Romans 14:8)

'Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life' (Revelation 2:10).

'Well done, good and faithful servant...come and share your master's happiness' (Matthew 25:21).

A moment of introspection:  Frazzled, exhausted and spent--it is common to hear the lament, "Decisions, decisions, decisions!" Confronted with too many choices, we share the complaint and yearn for simplicity.  But, for many Christians today, Lung and Bunmah's decision is all too real.  Here is their choice--to hide their "light under a bushel" or to "die for the Lord."  In our country, the United States, we have recently been informed that the first half of this choice is now offered to us; we have learned that instead of Freedom of Religion (which has been ours since 1776 or before), we now have Freedom of Worship.  We are told, in effect, that we are free to believe in and worship the Triune God--just keep it to ourselves.  Efforts across the country attempt to remove "offensive" Christian crosses; prayer has been removed from not only schools, but from public expression; Christian expression has cost believers their livelihood; and more evidences that society expects believers to hide our "light under a bushel", too.  Discipleship costs; Jesus told us it would.  But we are not ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16).

In the same way, Lung and his wife Bunmah knew the costliness of discipleship, the price of living as a follower of Christ.  For indeed they had decided to follow Jesus, belonging to the Lord, and knowing that life and death betide for each of us.  In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus twice taught His disciples the following (Matthew 10:39; 16:25):  "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."  In this passage, Jesus talked about denying oneself, taking up one's cross and following Him--the hallmarks of discipleship.  If we take a look at our Father in heaven and His Son, Jesus, both knew what sacrifice entails.  God gave His only Son as a sacrificial Lamb, just as Abraham offered his own son, Isaac, as a sacrifice.  Christ himself experienced sacrificing His own dreams and desires as He approached the cross.  We are asked to present our bodies [ourselves] as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1) as a spiritual act of worship.  We might echo the words of the apostle, Paul, to the church at Philippi:  "But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ." (Philippians 3:7-8)  Paul noted that some persons, losing sight if this self-denial, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:10)

Have we decided?  To follow Jesus, that is.  With Mr. Singh and his wife, can we sincerely say, "Whether I live or die, I belong to the Lord"?  As Christians, the choice is set before us.  Do we follow Jesus--the world behind us, the cross before us, no turning back?  Or do we not, and fall away?  Jesus noted, in the gospel of John, that, 'After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” (John 6:66-67)  The temptation the world offers is that of mammon, of materialism, of comfort, of ease, of distraction; it was to these that "many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him."  As followers of Jesus, may we truthfully agree that, if we live or die we belong to the Lord.  Psalm 100:3a perhaps says it best:  "Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his." 

Let us run the race set before us, with our light shining for the world to see--that we, too, as torch bearers may receive "the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13b-16)  We run, though none go with us.  Pressing forward, may we always be prepared to make a defense for the hope that is in us. (1 Peter 3:13-22)  See you in the race; I'll be there.  Whether we live for Christ or die for Him, may we be found faithful to the race’s end. (Revelation 2:10)

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