In the last days, persecution, suffering and pain will increase in varying degrees, and these will be accompanied by physical upheavals and changes in the world. In the face of all these, what can contribute positively to enable God’s children not to falter? Here, the one significant factor that must be resolved in the lives of God’s children is the issue of COMMITMENT. Commitment to the Lord is vital during such times. It is commitment that will see God’s people through, no matter how hard the going might be, whether it be through persecution, pain or suffering. In the midst of uncertainty, dangers and many changes and fluid situations, it is commitment that would make the essential difference.
Commitment involves a crisis decision and stand. There ought to be a time in the lives of God’s people when they make a definite stand and decision to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and knowingly. By “wholeheartedly”, I mean that every aspect of the life is surrendered to God without reservation, knowing full well that we are serving a good and perfect Master who desires the best for us. And by “knowingly”, I mean having counted the cost and realising the full implications and consequences of following the Lord and turning our backs to the world, we still make the definite decision and choice in our lives to follow the Lord Jesus. Just as we take a definite step to accept the Lord Jesus as our Savior and become believers, we ought also to take a definite step to commit ourselves totally to our Lord and Master, forsaking all, taking up the cross and following Him. Has there been such a definite crisis and decision in our lives? Or are we still vacillating and not making up our minds, wanting the world and yet wanting the Lord as well?
Commitment involves love; it is not just a mental decision. It involves the whole being. It is, in one sense, an expression of our love for the Master. This aspect is clearly shown and expressed in Revelation 2:1-5. All the various deeds and activities, coupled with perseverance, may not amount to anything worthwhile if we have lost our first love for the Lord. Love is not necessarily measured by the amount of activities and deeds done. I remember an old lady who is staying with her youngest son. She is diabetic and rather ill, requiring much attention and care. The youngest son attends to all her physical needs lovingly and also takes time off to bring her to the doctor. All the other children would come by occasionally with various gifts and errands done for her. Yet, in her own words, she felt that it is the youngest son who loves her although the others may be prepared to undertake certain activities on her behalf. When it comes to the crunch and her real needs, it is the youngest son who is quietly present to meet her needs with care, tenderness and understanding. All the rest may come along rather boisterously with many words of advice and activities, but none, it seems, among them, is willing to be counted upon when she truly requires their assistance. God is not so concerned with what we can do for Him as much as whether we love Him. And love means also identifying with Him and appreciating His deepest longings. Love does not shrink back when it comes to suffering for the one we love, and love certainly is not ashamed to stand by the one who is loved.
Some time ago, I met an old gentleman at a clinic. After his consultation, he asked me the direction to go home. I was rather concerned whether he could reach home on his own as he appeared rather weak and was walking with the aid of two walking sticks. So I asked whether he came to the clinic on his own. To my surprise, he told me his son brought him to the clinic but had left him there alone and expected him to go home on his own. I then asked him whether he would want me to call his son to bring him home. He hesitated. When I asked again, tears came to his eyes and he expressed that his son was ashamed to be seen with him in public as he was rather old and incontinent, not being able to control his bladder, and his clothes were often soiled and dirty. He went on to share how miserable and dejected he felt, having a son and yet not having one in reality; for all intents and purposes, his son treated him as a stranger. What he shared with me remains in my mind. Love means not being ashamed of the one we love. It means the willingness to identify with the one we love. The old man cannot help being incontinent. His bladder control had failed him. A retarded child is not to be blamed morally for his retardation. True commitment involves love. What is the quality of our commitment to the Lord? Do we indeed love Him; are we truly identified with Him and not ashamed to be called His child?
Commitment also implies daily outworking and decisions along the line of our commitment. Although commitment involves a crisis decision, it also involves making small and big choices along the way and perhaps this is the more difficult part of commitment. Many a child of God may well remember the time when he or she made a definite commitment to follow the Lord, whatever it takes, but somewhere along the way, this major decision may have been well forgotten and the daily encounters and choices of life eventually take on a character that it is so very different from what the original commitment meant. Somehow, the implications of the commitment become so faint and the issues of the day loom so large and so urgent that God’s children choose and respond like people of the world. The affairs of the world, the business of making a living and the hustle and bustle of life for the busy housewife, the pressured student and the up-and-coming executive – all these seem so real and demanding that the child of God forgets what it means to be committed to God. And so the daily choices are made in favour of what matters most for the moment rather than what means more in the eyes of God.
Many a time, the problems we encounter in our Christian life have their roots in the meaning and consistency of our commitment to God. When we say we have no time to read the Bible, it often means we are not prepared to miss our favourite TV programme. When we say we cannot afford time to attend a Christian meeting, it often means we are not willing to give up our badminton game for that day or our round of golf or whatever it might be. And so ultimately, it boils down to our priorities, to what really matters most to our lives. In our declaration of our commitment to the Lord, we say that we are willing for Him to be the Lord and Master of our lives. But when it comes to daily outworking, it is an entirely different matter!
Here I am reminded of the story of a lady surgeon. She was a paediatric surgeon and worked very long hours. She had to be on call regularly, and at odd hours of the day and night, she might be called upon to operate or to review emergency cases. At the time of her training, when she was busiest and most committed to her work, she became interested in a man, with a view to marriage. Soon she found that her work became affected and before long, she was called up by her superior and questioned about her commitment to her surgical training programme. Her answer was, “I have a life of my own to live too.” The superior replied, “Go ahead and live your life but drop out of your surgical training programme. We require and demand the best, not only of you but also of ourselves.” So even in the secular realm, commitment means doing what is required of you, and for the surgeon in training, it means availability at odd hours for operation, emergencies and not being late for ward rounds and medical meetings. She had to make a choice at that point of her life – was she still committed to be a paediatric surgeon?
Unfortunately, for many of God’s children, commitment to the Lord does not mean daily outworking and choices. We give only bits and pieces to the Lord and carry on as if we were committed. Does not He, who made the eyes, see our state and condition? Wherein is our commitment? Where indeed is our heart?
True commitment to the Lord would also mean a growing identification with the perspective and values that God holds regarding issues of life on earth as well as eternal issues. This ought to be seen in the way we make our decisions in life as well as in the pursuits of our lives. It is starkly inconsistent if we say that we are in agreement with how God looks at an issue and yet, in our outworking, we choose and pursue that which is the very opposite of what we are supposed to uphold and believe in. We say that what matters is what God thinks of us and not the views of men and yet, we get so very upset when we are misunderstood by men or looked upon in a degrading manner. We declare that we trust in a God who answers prayer and a God who cares and desires the best for us and yet, in daily living, we get so easily bogged down by anxiety, fears and apprehension, living as if we are a people who have no hope, no peace and no God.
In such a state, it is no wonder then that when persecution or suffering comes along, the child of God easily breaks. In the context of the last days when the degree of persecution and suffering increases, then there is very little room for optimism for many of God’s children whose commitment to God remains as a question mark.
When there is true commitment to God, there is loyalty and faithfulness to Him in varying and changing circumstances. No matter how difficult it is and how long it takes, the true child of God would endure in faithfulness and in steadfast loyalty. The winds of change and uncertainty and the onslaught of persecution and pain cannot move such a one as this.
We can recall the picture of true commitment in the lives of David’s mighty men. Against overwhelming odds, in the face of death and danger, they stood their ground and achieved victory. A deeply committed Christian does not easily bend in the face of adversity.
Adoniram Judson, a Christian worker to Burma, endured untold hardship to reach the lost for Christ. For seven heartbreaking years he suffered hunger and privation. During this time he was thrown into prison and for seventeen months, he was subjected to almost incredible mistreatment. As a result, for the rest of his life he carried the ugly marks made by the chains and iron shackles. Upon his release, Judson immediately asked for permission to enter another province. The Burmese ruler angrily denied his request saying, “My people are not fools enough to listen to anything a Christian might say but I fear they might be impressed by your scars and turn to your religion.” Judson’s scars remain as a testimony of his commitment to Christ and the gospel.
The great Christian leader, John Wesley, knew the value of having committed men. He said, “Give me one hundred men who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I will shake the world.” Yes, indeed the church needs committed men and women of God. When the goings get rough and painful, who can we depend upon? Who can God look to, who continues to be faithful and trustworthy?
We started by considering what we can do to ensure that we stand in the last days. We saw two areas we can nurture and cultivate – our character and our commitment to the Lord Jesus. A godly and wholesome character can withstand all the negative influences and pull of the world and still remain intact in the Lord. A true and deep commitment to God would remain steadfast and unwavering, despite all the pain, suffering and persecution that might come along.
Remember, character and commitment take time to develop. Let us not be discouraged by our failures along the way. Instead, let us make sure that our direction of life is correct and with God’s grace and enabling, we will see definite progress in our lives and development.