DEAD ALREADY-AND HIDDEN IN CHRIST
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning and the foundation of all true religion. Without a solemn awe and reverence of God, there is no foothold for the more brilliant virtues. He whose soul does not worship will never live in holiness."C.H. Spurgeon
The first part of the journey was great - travelling through green, lush countryside. But then the scenery began to change and we ended up travelling through semi-desert. The plants and trees became more and more sparse, until eventually it ended up with mostly sand and just a few little cacti dotted around. Almost everything was brown and there was dust everywhere.
We were pretty much travelling in the wilderness on our journey. It wasn't total desert, but it was pretty close. Imagine if you were going by foot through that type of landscape and there was no road that you could follow. To form a roadway through that landscape is no easy task. And especially in Old Testament times when Isaiah wrote it, they didn't have modern things like tar to make it hard and stop the wind from covering it with dust again. It is the same with a river in the desert. A desert is so dry and dusty and has pretty much no rain all year round. For a river to form there in the desert it is truly something wonderful and miraculous.
I personally knew Ranjeet and consider him to be a simple and humble God fearing man. Ranjeet was a pastor of the Tribal District Church in Madhya Pradesh. It was a Sunday in July 2004 was his first serious brush with death at the hands of Local goons. After an all-day worship service he went exhausted to the vestry to change clothes—too exhausted to notice the twelve strangers ( Naxalites who are actually considered as outlaws by the Indian Government) following him into the room.
They stood between me and the door, pointing their rifles at my face. For a long moment no one said anything. Then the tallest man, obviously the leader, spoke. “We are going to kill you,” he said. “If you have something to say, say it before you die.” He spoke quietly but his face was twisted with hatred.
I could only stare at him. For a sickening moment I felt the full weight of his rage. We had never met before but his deepest desire was to tear me to pieces. My mouth felt heavy and my limbs began to shake. Everything left my control. They will not need to kill me, I thought to myself. I am just going to fall over dead and I will never see my family again.
From far away I heard a voice, and I was astonished to realize that it was my own. “I do not need to plead my own cause,” I heard myself saying. “I am a dead man already. My life is dead and hidden in Christ. It is your lives that are in danger, you are dead in your sins. I will pray to God that after you have killed me, He will spare you from eternal destruction.”
The tall one took a step towards me and then stopped. In an instant, his face was changed. His hatred had turned to curiosity. He lowered his gun and motioned to the others to do the same. They stared at him in amazement but they took their guns from my face.
Then the tall one spoke again. "Will you pray for us now?" he asked. I thought my ears were playing a trick. I looked at him and then at the others. My mind was completely paralyzed. “Father in heaven,” I prayed, “you who have forgiven men in the past, forgive these men also. Do not let them perish in their sins but bring them into yourself.''
“Father in heaven,” I prayed, “you who have forgiven men in the past, forgive these men also. Do not let them perish in their sins but bring them into yourself.”
It was a simple prayer, prayed in deep fear. But God looked beyond my fears and when I lifted my head, the men standing in front of me were not the same men who had followed me into the vestry. Something had changed in their faces.
AlI of them began to see every single fault they had in them and they confessed their sins as they came to their mind.They began to realize that they had so much of darkness in them, but as they confessed them, they felt very light and a joy filled their hearts. This was entirely a new experience.They realized that they had had a face to face meet with God.
It was the tall one who spoke first. His voice was bold but there was no contempt in his words, “You have helped us,” he said, “and we will help you. We will speak to the rest of our company and they will leave you alone. Do not fear for your life. It is in our hands and you will be protected.”
I was too astonished to reply. The tall one only motioned for the others to leave. He himself stepped to the doorway and then he turned to speak one last time. “I saw widows and orphans in your congregation,” he said. “I saw them singing and giving praise. Why are they happy when death is so near?”
It was still difficult to speak but I answered him. “Because they are loved by God. He has given them life, and will give life to those they loved, because they died in Him.”
His question seemed strange to me, but he did not stay to explain. He only shook his head in perplexity and walked out the door. I stared at the open door of the vestry for several moments and then sat down on a nearby straw mat chair. My knees were no longer strong and I could feel my whole body tremble. I could not think clearly. Less than ten minutes before, I had considered myself a dead man. Even though I was surrounded by 4,000 people there was no human being to whom I could appeal. I could not ask the elders to pray, I could not appeal to the mercy of the Naxalite killers. My mouth had frozen and I had no clever words to speak. In that moment, with death so near, it was not my sermon that gave me courage, or an idea from Scripture. It was Jesus Christ, the living Lord.
THOUGHTS ABOUT TODAY'S VERSE...
So many things about our lives are uncertain. This one thing, however, is sure: no matter where, when, or how long, God will be there and will be with us.
Everlasting Father, I find great comfort in knowing that I cannot be in a place or time where you are not. Stir my courage through your Spirit that I may be more bold, by your power and presence, to share the Gospel of Jesus. Through whom I pray. Amen.
Realizing I am dead in Christ brings boldness to proclaim truth even in fearful situations.