But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life. Revelation 2:10 NLT
Kevin o’Rourke grew up dreaming of being a firefighter one day. He could not imagine being anything else. When he finally became a firefighter, knowing the dangers involved, Kevin loved his job more than anything else in life. Sadly, on September 11, 2001 in New York City, his love for being a fireman cost him his life. From what I have read about Kevin and his family, I believe he would have rather died a faithful firefighter at age 44, than to have lived to be 100 without being faithful to his calling.
In 2006 an Amish school girl asked a crazed gunman at her Amish school, in an effort to buy time for help to arrive to save the other students, to shoot her first. The Amish treasure the Bible, and I can’t help imagining this young girl receiving her very first Bible, and proudly holding it close to her little heart, as she treasured the sacred pages that would teach her to give up her life. The church of Smyrna loved Jesus so much they were faithful even when facing death and will receive at the resurrection, the crown of eternal life!
So are Kevin O’Rourke and the Amish school girl extreme cases or does Jesus expect all of us to be faithful even when facing death?
Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23 NLT
We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.1 John 3:16 NLT
As someone who has been giving Bible studies since the 1980’s I don’t know if it is just my imagination or not, but it seems people have a harder time these days grasping the idea of being totally committed to Jesus,and being faithful even to death. Many of us are only faithful until its inconvenient! Bible students have told me that surely God does not expect a poor widow to return an honest tithe and offerings. In 1 Kings 17 we meet a poor widow who tells Elijah, “I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.” 1 Kings 17:12 NLT So this woman is at the point of death. What does Elijah tell her to do? “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son.” 1 Kings 17:13 NLT The woman is at the point of death, but Elijah still expects her to be faithful to God and His messengers first. Even when facing death! Of course we read on about how the oil and flour never ran out after she supported God’s servants first.
So today, does God expect us to be faithful even when facing death, or just until life gets a little hard or difficult? A while back I told an embarrassing story about when I was in my early twenties and held back my tithe money for a while. So now please let me share a a couple stories where I actually did something smart. I was working for a family-owned business, and one Friday the owner called everyone into his office. He was very upset about everything being unorganized, so he said everyone would have to come in the next day, Sabbath, and work to straighten it all out or lose their jobs. My first thought was I had lost my job. I was already imagining myself losing my apartment and moving back home. What I never imagined was me working on Sabbath! I didn’t get a chance to imagine very long, before our boss looked at me and said, “I understand tomorrow is a religious holiday for you. So we won’t see you but I better see everybody else!” God saved me!
Years later I was working for UPS, and had the opportunity to become a package deliverer and drive the big brown trucks. Human resources told me there may be some times I would have to work on Friday nights after sunset. I told them there was no way I would. They asked, “What if your truck breaks down, and by the time we get you another truck, it is dark?” I summed it up for them quickly. I told them, “Many people have died for their faith, and I am not going to give up my faith just to save my job!” That ended the discussion and I became a delivery driver.
I share those two stories, because so many times I have studied with people who supposedly accepted the Sabbath, only to turn around and take the first job offer that required them to work on Sabbath. I have baptized Bible study students who later told me they could not come to church on Sabbath because they had to work. When I asked them what their boss said when they asked for Sabbath off, I found they never even asked. By not being faithful, they are missing wonderful opportunities to see God work in their behalf! If we want God to be real to us we have to be real to Him.
Many never see how real God is because they never give Him a chance to do anything real in their life. We must be like the three Hebrew children in Daniel 3, who said God could deliver them, but even if He didn’t they would still remain faithful unto death! If they hadn’t taken that stand, they would not have had the experience of the Son of God walking with them in the fire.
In a world that bases everything on convenience instead of faithfulness, in a world where surviving is more important than sacrifice, Jesus still promises eternal life to those who are faithful, not until it becomes hard, but until death.