This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled Extreme Devotion, compiled by the Voice Of the Martyrs.  In the following passage, the account of a young Lithuanian woman provides us with fodder for reflection and perhaps application:

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.  (Matthew 11:29)

The mood was somber, almost harsh.  The Lithuanian court was meeting to determine the sentence for Nijole Sadunaite. Her "crime," like so many others', was simply being a Christian in a Communist nation.

Then the judge offered her a final chance to speak.  He eagerly waited for the young woman to tearfully beg for mercy.  Perhaps she would even renounce her ridiculous faith in God.  Yet he was in for a surprise.

There were no tears from Nijole.  Her face shone, and a beautiful smile began to form.  Her eyes held warmth, even for her accusers.

"This is the happiest day of my life," said the condemned woman.  "I am on trial for the cause of truth and love toward men."

Now, every eye in the courtroom was on her.  "I have an enviable fate, a glorious destiny.  My condemnation here in this courtroom will be my ultimate triumph."

The passion in her voice was unmistakable.  "I regret only that I have done so little for men.  Let us love each other, and we will all be happy.  Only the one who has no love will be sad."

She turned her attention away from the judge and peered into the eyes of other believers who watched the trial.  "We must condemn evil, but we must love the man, even the one in error.  This you can learn only at the school of Jesus Christ."

FURTHER:  When it comes to learning about those who have been persecuted for the sake of Christ, take notes.  Class is in session.  From the relative safety of our homes and communities, we may read the stories of Christian martyrs.  We may even shudder as we turn the pages.  However, are we ready to enroll in the school of Jesus Christ?  Are we ready to study side by side with those who have walked the lonely path of oppression?  We must apply what we learn from them about faith, love, holiness, and endurance.  Only when we identify with the sufferings of Christ through the experiences of others can we truly call ourselves "Christians," meaning "little Christs."  Only then will we be made ready to pass the test.

A moment of consideration: In our everyday lives, we do not often think in terms of our list of life accomplishments and successes.  The world does not reward traditional successes as often anymore, with success increasingly being defined in terms of how we conform to the state, the world powers, the mandates.  As paganists and radical religionists cajole, threaten, entice, and attack peaceful Christians around the world, the demands seek to demolish pax Christiana (the Christian peace) and exact from us the renunciation of our "ridiculous faith in God." In light of this, let us consider what Nijole thought to be her ultimate triumph.  For her, and likely for us, our ultimate goal is to meet Christ in the air and spend eternity with Him.  Yet this young woman viewed this life as being a field of service, preparing her for meeting Christ.  She was in a dire situation; the expendability of her life hung in the air, as she awaited the decision by the Lithuanian court and yet, in the face of its imperiousness, Nijole described her willingness in terms of their condemnation of her and perchance her own impending death.  She might have agreed with the apostle Paul, who wrote to the church in Philippi and expressed his "hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless, to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. (Philippians 1:20-24)  Nijole described meeting her Lord as enviable, glorious and the ultimate destiny of humankind--for the chance of death in the existence of each person is 100%--and we Believers have a future with Christ to look forward to!  

In today's culture, people speak of having a "Bucket List"--a list of things they would regret not to have experienced before they die.  It is likely that people have at least a short, tacit list hidden away in their thinking.  For the apostle Paul, he wished that he could travel to Spain, that he could continue to mentor the churches he had started in Asia Minor, and that he could be of further service to God.  For Nijole, her regrets did not mean going to a remote theme park or skydiving, or a culinary tour of the world, among other "bucket options"; her one regret, according to her words, was that she had done "so little" for people.  She had a servant heart, and wished only that she could have continued to have time to love others.  That is a laudable desire and regret; Saint Francis of Assisi prayed that God would make him "an instrument of His peace: where there is hatred, let me sow love…"; he also asked, "O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love…"  Nijole wished to be set free so that she could continue to serve God by loving others; CT Studd, who served as a British missionary to China, penned a famous poem that helps us consider the only worthy way to use the life God has given us--for Christ!  May God help us to be ever mindful that only what is done for Christ will have lasting significance.  In her wish to continue to serve the Lord, she knew what a life of impactful and lasting service might entail.  Lord, help us to be so aware and so focused.

Only One Life (by CT Studd)

Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life's busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from  my mind would not depart; 
Only one life, 'twill soon be past,
Only what's done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in 'that day' my Lord to meet,
And stand before His judgment seat;
Only one life, 'twill soon be past,
Only what's done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice,
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God's holy will to cleave;
Only one life, 'twill soon be past,
Only what's done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill,
Living for self or in His will;
Only one life, 'twill soon be past,
Only what's done for Christ will last.

When this bright world would tempt me sore,
When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way,
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, 'twill soon be past,
Only what's done for Christ will last.

Give me, Father, a purpose deep,
In Joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e'er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, 'twill soon be past,
Only what's done for Christ will last.

Oh let my love with fervor burn,
And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, abd Thee alone,
Binging Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, 'twill soon be past,
Only what's done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,
Now let me say, "Thy will be done";
And when at last I'll hear the call,
I now I'll say "twas worth it all."
Only one life, 'twill soon be past,
Only what's done for Christ will last.

Let us number our days, as Psalm 90:12 bids us, so that we too may get a heart of wisdom.  Nijole Sadunaite echoes this thought and, as she too saw her condemners' demands, determinations and sentencing as another opportunity to serve God.  When we look back on our lives, will God have had first place?  May we enroll in the school of Jesus Christ, hating evil but loving the man--even those in error.  Let us say, with Christ Jesus as our Example, "Father, Thy will be done." (Matthew 26:36-42)  Let us serve God as He shows us how, and enables us to do so, in concert with His will.  And, when time is at an end for us, may we also say, "this is my ultimate triumph!"