(Extracted and Adapted from Counselling Recipes Through 40 Years Pastoring by Timothy Tow)

Be Faithful Unto Death Under the Devil’s Persecution

Now, while it is true that the devil will flee from us when we stand firm against him, it is also true that he may inflict injury on us by the permissive will of God. The well-known case of Job illustrates this point. And we should be prepared for like trials and temptations.

By the will of God, the Church in Smyrna, of the seven churches in Asia, is the one to undergo terrible persecution. Even in peaceful Singapore, who knows what will come to pass as the world becomes more and more hostile to the true Church of Jesus Christ. Therefore, let us hear the Word of the Saviour addressed to Smyrna, “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10)

“Be faithful unto death” is the watchword of every Church under persecution. This in fact is required of us from the very beginning. Did not Jesus demand of His disciples, “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For who-soever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matt. 16:24-25) In the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord said the same as He said to Smyrna, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).

The Apostles, the specially chosen twelve (not Judas Iscariot but Paul his substitute) all died a martyr’s death according to tradition. In the New Testament account, we are sure of the deaths for Jesus’ sake of James, Paul and Peter.

First to answer the Lord’s call to faithfulness in the sub-apostolic church history was Polycarp, disciple of the Apostle John. He was the chief presbyter of the Church at Smyrna. A plain stone monument still marks his grave. He died a martyr in AD 155 at the age of 86 years. When asked to recant his steadfast faith by denouncing Christ, he replied that he had served His Saviour for 86 years and he had experienced nothing but love and mercy at the hand of His Master, so why should he recant?

As Singapore Christians with our roots in China, let us take courage from the noble examples set by 185 China missionaries who were beheaded by the Manchus for their faith in the Boxer Rebellion of 1900. An eminent Chinese pastor and evangelist was Ting Li Mei who received 200 strokes from the Manchu Governor of Shantung. God having spared his life, he became a flaming torch to light up the first Revival in China in the second decade of this century. The latest is Wang Ming Tao, sentenced to life imprisonment by the Mao regime, though he left prison after 23 years, for his faith. He has been called “China’s Living Martyr”.

Key to Victory over the Devil’s Persecution
As our Lord conquered Satan and the power of death by dying on the cross for our sins, so will we win win if we lay down our lives for the brethren (1 John 3:16). Shakespeare says, he who is afraid to die has died a hundred times. But Jesus says he who will die for His sake will live forever (Matt. 16:25). Jesus says again, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. 25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. 26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.” (John 12:24-26)

Resist Satan to the death and he is a fleeting defeated foe.

Text: 1 Corinthians 13:7

The verb “beareth” (stegei) has the idea of enduring or holding up against something which threatens (Thayer). In 1 Corinthians 9:12, this verb is used to describe how Paul and his fellow labourers were willing to forbear the threat of the loss of his rights to remuneration so that the work of the gospel may progress. “If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.” (1 Cor. 9:12 KJV)

Considering 1 Corinthians 9:12, the expression “beareth all things” is best understood as a person who is most willing to forbear all things to help brethren who are spiritually weak or sinning. He is one who bears in mind Proverbs 10:12 – “Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.”

To “cover” all sins here does not mean that a person should turn a blind eye and condone sin. Rather, it refers to a patient man who would forbear all the wrongs and injustices that were done against him, and patiently reach out to restore the brother so that he would no longer be in sin. He would not hold a grudge against personal offences but would absorb the wrong. Thus, Proverbs 17:9 says, “He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.” Proverbs 19:11 adds, “The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.” The wise man forbears the faults of others.

May the Lord help us to exercise patience and forbearance in our relationships, for charity “beareth all things”.

Lovingly in Christ,
Preacher Clement Chew