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Faithful in Life and in Death!

A columnist wrote about a life and death drama played out frequently in Africa: "Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle; when the sun comes up, you'd better be running." Christians face a similar situation where the stakes are just as high, even though the struggle is a spiritual one.  First Peter 5:8-9a describes the daily drama we all face: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith." The devil's goal every day is not only to run you down but also to take you down-forever. It's what he does. He is relentless in his efforts to devour and destroy the souls of people, including your's and mine.

In view of our daily struggle with the devil, Revelation 2:10b says, "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." These words were originally spoken by Jesus to first century Christians in the city of Smyrna (read Revelation 2:8-11 to get the whole picture). Christians in that city were in a life and death struggle, literally. They were being persecuted by those Jesus describes as "the synagogue of Satan." The Lord warns the church they are "about to suffer .... the devil is about to throw some of you into prison" and that they would "have tribulation for ten days" (a definite but short time). So what does Jesus counsel the church to do in a city where Satan has a synagogue and where he is doing all he can to make it rough on the church? "Be thou faithful unto death" are the familiar words of the King James Version, but in this passage the New International Version more nearly captures the thought: "Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life." Jesus wanted these persecuted Christians to be faithfulfaithful to Him and His Word, faithful to His church, faithful in life and, if need be, faithful to the point of dying for their faith. Few if any Christians in modem America are threatened with physical suffering or death for our faith in Christ. It is difficult for us to know if we could be faithftil even to the point of dying for Jesus. Perhaps a good indication might be to honestly and truthfully ask ourselves if we are faithful to the point of living for Jesus. Faith that will not live for Jesus would not likely be able or willing to die for Jesus. Faith that saves is faithful in life and, if need be, faithful even to the point of death.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ