Last week several people shared stories related to Billy Graham and his evangelistic crusades.
My wife came upon this story about how the hymn “I have decided to follow Jesus” came into being:
In the 1800’s, a missionary from Wales who had endured severe persecution finally saw his first converts in a particularly brutal village in the Northern Indian province of Assam. A husband and wife, with their two children, professed faith in Christ and were baptized.
Assam and its surrounding provinces was located in one of the most oppressive forms of Hinduism — a place where the caste system was entrenched, and where headhunters ruled.
Their village leaders decided to make an example out of the husband. Arresting the family, they demanded that the father renounce Christ, or see his wife and children murdered.
When he refused, his two children were executed by archers. Given another chance to recant, the man again refused, and his wife was killed. Still refusing to recant, this husband and father was martyred.
Witnesses later told the story to the Welsh missionary. The reports said that when asked to recant or see his children murdered, the man said: “I have decided to follow Jesus, and there is no turning back.”
After seeing his children killed, he reportedly said, “The world can be behind me, but the cross is still before me.” And after seeing his wife pierced by the arrows, he said, “Though no one is ready to go with me, still I will follow Jesus.”
According to this missionary, when he returned to the village, a revival had broken out, and those who had murdered the first converts had since come to faith in Jesus themselves.
The Welsh man passed along these reports to the famous Indian evangelist Sandhu Sundar Singh.
So Singh took the martyr’s last words, and put them to traditional Indian music in order to make one of the first uniquely Indian hymns.
The song immediately became popular in Indian churches, and it remains a mainstay of worship music there to this day.
Eventually some of the American missionaries returned from India and they brought that song with them.
Finally, it ended up with Canadian song writer George Beverley Shea, and he made it a staple at the Billy Graham crusades.
I’m inspired by Christians martyred for Christ – the strength of their faith. Last week’s persecuted church was about Samiha Tawfiq Awad of Egypt who’s face had been severely damaged by an explosion at her church and her reaction was that of thankfulness to be alive so that she could reach out to her attackers and their families for Christ. My faith isn’t that strong.
Last night my family watched a movie called “I’m not ashamed” based on the Columbine massacre and how a teenage girl touched millions for Christ. We don’t have to be spiritual giants to make a difference in other people’s life for Christ – we just need to desire to serve him in whatever way Jesus leads us to.
Billy Graham, as great a man as he was, didn’t give elaborate theological discourses at his crusades but a simple message – the good news of our salvation through Christ. He left it up to the Holy Spirit to do the rest. His audience has been estimated in the billions. Our call may not be the same but just to be ready to give an answer for our hope to whomever will listen. 1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
When I go and pick up Bradyn (my grandson) at his home I will buzz his unit and he will hear my voice on the speakerphone. By the time I get off from the elevator he is out of the door of his apartment and running down the hall, squealing, giggling and calling out Papa, Papa. I would guess that annoys some of the other tenants as the hallways echo with the sound of his voice, but you can’t contain Bradyn’s excitement and it gives me great joy. God calls us to Him. There is no guarantee that we will respond. The decision is ours. If we do come to Him we will not be disappointed and God will be exuberant even more so than we are when our grandchildren run to us to give us a hug. When we respond, is our excitement subdued because we don’t want to disturb the neighbours?
Are we concerned about what will our friends and family think? Are we too grown up to share our excitement with others?
God’s calling on our lives is both to turn to his son Jesus and to introduce others to Jesus. The Holy Spirit does the rest – we’re not responsible for the outcome, just to be obedient in following Jesus and tell others of the joy and peace he can bring into their lives.
By: Yves Blouin