This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled Extreme Devotion, compiled by the Voice Of the Martyrs. In the following passage, a faithful Sudanese Christian prisoner provides us with fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did. (1 John 2:6)
Jeremiah Logara never knew resignation, only determination. The Muslim soldiers had arrested six boys from his church and falsely accused them of being spies. When Jeremiah, their pastor, tried explaining that the boys were Christians, not spies, the soldiers decided to arrest him too.
The Islamic soldiers tied Pastor Logara's arms and legs together and hung him four feet in the air with a rope. They whipped him and dripped hot melted wax on his chest. He recalled the prayer of Jesus in the Garden. He prayed, "Oh God, if it is your will for me to die today, let it be done." He could not bear that he might give in to the tortures of the Northern Sudanese Arabs as he stood before the young, impressionable boys.
But God's will was that he live on as a testimony for these boys. He was released. But the boys were detained. Pastor Logara imagines the boys were probably being forced to train as soldiers.
When the pastor reflected upon that incident, he recalled, "I thought of Jesus' death, that Jesus died to save the whole world. I thought my death could be part of the salvation of these boys as I followed in the footsteps of my Lord. I pray that my example of suffering for them will encourage them to remain faithful to God."
A moment of consideration: How many times have we used the expression, "For example"? In common usage, we seek to add emphasis to what we speak of. But have we ever paused to consider what others would see in us, as examples of Truth, of Justice, of Love, of Mercy, of Righteousness, etc.? In other words, have we ever thought about the examples we leave for others to follow, in our families, in our churches, at our workplaces, in our communities? Jeremiah Logara sought to leave a legacy to the six boys from his church who were arrested with him. What might our legacy be? Upon whom do we exert an influence? Now, the shocker: every day, someone looks at us and sees an example, of something. But even as we are living examples of our values and decisions, our relationships, and our choices, God's Word asks us to take heed of the example of Christ Jesus, of the apostle Paul, of our heavenly Father, of our predecessors in the faith, and even of Rahab. God's Word exhorts us to be good examples, to lead with a good example to those who are entrusted to our care--and to those we meet each day.
How important is a good example to others? We understand how important God's precepts are (Psalm 19:7-11):
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
But Samuel Johnson said - "Example is always more efficacious than precept." (Rasselas, from the 1889 Cassell & Company edition by David Price, page 30) People watch us, and make inferences about what they see; in other words, they "read us" and our behaviors. And so our behaviors convey meaning. We are living examples, but we are examples of what? God's Word asks us to consider and to follow:
(Hebrews 12:1-4) Jesus' example
(John 13:12-17) Jesus' example
(1 Peter 2:18-23) Jesus' example
(Ephesians 5:2) Jesus' example
(Ephesians 5:1-13, NLT) God's example
(Philippians 3:17-20) Paul's (and others') example
(1 Thessalonians 1:4-7) Paul's (and others') example
(Hebrews 6:11-12) our predecessors' examples (in the faith--patience)
(James 5:10-11) Prophets' and Job's examples of patience in suffering for our faith
(James 2:25-26) Rahab's example of faith and actions
There are many persons in the Bible who might well be our models; several come to mind. First, consider Nehemiah's courage in the face of adversity:
- Despite this opposition, Nehemiah rebuilt the walls. He overcame these threats by taking wise defensive measures, by personal example, and by his obvious courage. Nehemiah did what God had put into his heart (Nehemiah 2:12; 7:5) and found that the joy of the Lord was his strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
Also, consider the disciples' willingness to follow Jesus: And they left their nets at once and went with him. He called them, too, and immediately they left their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men and went with him. (Mark 1:18,20)
When reading the Scriptures, make a note of examples whose lives may teach us something. Ask what we might learn from them, and write the example and the lesson down. Always, look to the Holy Scriptures, the light on our path (Psalm 119:105). God has promised to teach us (Psalm 32:8) if we ask Him (Psalm 25:4-5). Jesus promised (in Matthew 11:28-30): "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light." One way He taught His disciples and He teaches us is through example. He gave us examples in His ministry, to teach us how to live.
As we learn from the examples laid out for us by Christ Jesus, by the apostle Paul, and by others who have gone before us, we have also been asked to attend to our own legacy, our own examples for others to see:
(1 Timothy 4:11-13) Be an example to others
(1 Peter 5:2-4) Lead with a good example
(Titus 2:7) Be an example to others
Is too much emphasis placed on setting a good example before others? Albert Schweitzer didn't think so; he was quoted as saying "Example is not the main thing in life--it is the only thing." Even Thomas Jefferson said, "I have ever deemed it more honorable and more profitable, too, to set a good example than to follow a bad one." The Bible warns us not to follow bad examples (3 John 11, Luke 12:1) Consider the Chinese proverb which states that "Not the cry, but the flight of the wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow." A voice from the past (Thomas Morell, in 1775) considers a good example to be the first great gift we can bestow on others. By loving others with Jesus' love in this life, we exemplify the Christ-like virtues. At the end of our lives, retrospection may see such examples converted to legacies. For what will we be known, by future generations? Will we be remembererd as having lived coherent lives, dedicated to Christ, and through Him to the world around us? Can we and will we be the example of Christ that others seek and respond to? May it be so, through Christ and through His power.