Hebrews 11:35-40 Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated — the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
A life of light and glory
How would you feel if separated from your wife or husband for 11 months? And, what if you could end this separation by selling out just a bit of your calling? Would you remain at your post, true to your high calling in Christ…? Or would you sprinkle just a small sacrifice on the Emperor’s altar? Just a tiny pinch of incense – it’s nothing really! – and you are free to go! Free to travel anywhere you please, free to take your ease, like the rest of the world...
This is no theoretical question. It is the stuff of real life.
Dr. Sam Thomas has paid this kind of price this year, forced into false imprisonment and lonely separation from his wife and children. His “great crime” is the loving care of outcast orphans in Rajasthan, India. There, militant Hindu authorities have made Sam’s life a living hell this year, trying to force him into death or quitting, casting the rescued orphans to the wind…
And, his wife Shelley has lived this torture with him, separated by thousands of miles, continuing the ministry and raising their children, in faith, alone…
And people don’t understand why he stays, why he toughs it out, giving his life for the care of Indian orphans. Even “good Christians” fault him for staying…
I thought of Sam as I watched part of a series called “Walk as Jesus Walked.” In one scene, modern Christians traveled into caves where Christians once lived. They went deeper and deeper into the earth until they were twenty stories underground. 20 stories! And there, deep in the earth, they entered a little chapel, a chapel with a cross carved into its entrance…a cross etched deep by thousands upon thousands of Christians across the years, persecuted believers who felt the cross on the wall as they entered to pray and sit in darkness…twenty stories underground, without light, without hope of day, without the safety of home or comfortable toiletries…in darkness, praying to the Light of life.
For nothing other than the call of Christ.
All they would have to do to be free is just walk back up, up the twenty stories, out into the light and air, walk over to an altar, and toss a pinch of incense on the small flame, confessing Caesar as lord. And that’s it! Now you are free to live in comfort, free to travel, free to go as you please – all this for just a small, very small, sell out…over in a moment! And oh! how much better you feel!
But they stayed there, deep in caves in the earth, in prisons, wrapped in chains, lives counted as naught for the sake of the call…willingly suffering so that we might inherit the richness of faith, vital life, passed down in blood, for sake of truth.
...of whom the world was not worthy.
Sam Thomas stands in that line. His life is on the line, right now, for the sake of the call. Sam is one of the thousands of Christians being persecuted as we speak, for the sake of faith.
And he could escape it all for just a small, very small, sell out! over in a moment’s time…
But he stays!
I think of Sam, and I think of the others, both now and then, who give their all for faith…and then I think of what modern Christians have made faith into…and my head bows low.
I think of what we call Christian success – gleaming megacenters filled with Christianized self-help messages, endless streams of self-actualization offers… I think of how we have defined the will of God – as something easy, as something that must accord with social expectation, as something that gives instant returns…as something all about “open doors” and “good choices” made in line with others who buy the same line….
I think of this cultural Christianity in light of Christ's higher call, and I can only bow my head, and confess my lack. I pray with Isaiah, “Lord, I am a man of unclean lips and I live among people of unclean lips. Please help me!”
Christians have faulted Sam Thomas for staying, as if he is missing the will of God because of the discomfort, because of the separation from family. One Hindu police officer asked Sam, “Why do you want to continue in this work? Why not go and live a comfortable life in USA? Why not sell all the property?” And to this Sam could only reply, “Because of all that God has done for me, I must serve Him more!” For Sam, it is about the call – the utter reality of seeing Christ’s intent face to face, and living in that light.
Every life that Sam touches, every orphan he saves, is an infinite blessing. Every day that Sam’s wife Shelley quietly prays, raising her children in hope, is a day of unending light. For these the world was made, these who live the Image of God, the intent of Creator in creation!
And we, we who live in comfort, can we do any less than support this call, with our all?
So then, let us live our own high calling – giving up the necessary cultural falsehoods, so that we can answer in light to the God of Light: Yes, I lived that intent for which I was made, my Lord and God!
Thank you, Sam and Shelley, for showing us, in current terms, what it means to live the call.
May we follow this light, in sacrifice, to our destiny!
Note: Please consider a gift today for Hopegivers orphanage. And with your gift, please consider a five-minute prayer! Many thanks, this day...