From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 8 – Further advice on how we can become more faithful
If you will fear the Lord and serve him and hearken to his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well;1 Samuel 12:14
4 For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. 5 For Solomon went after Ash′toreth the goddess of the Sido′nians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done.1 Kings 11:4-6 (RSV)
You need to make a firm decision that being faithful is more important than staying alive
Probably the ultimate test of our courage is whether we are willing to die rather than abandon our faithfulness. Resolve now, ahead of time, that being faithful and staying true to what you believe is more important even than staying alive. Then you will be set free from what is probably the demons’ best leverage point. Demons use fear to get you to compromise, to give in, and to let God down.
They will whisper into your mind that unless you compromise your faith, or drop your standards, you might lose your job, your home, your business, or even your life. The dread of losing such things causes most of us to panic and to disobey God. We have trained ourselves over many years that, when under pressure, the main priority is self-preservation, i.e. to look after number one.
But you can reverse that pre-programming. If you begin now to train yourself to say that staying faithful to God is more important than getting a pay rise or a promotion, then you will gradually learn how to see your faithfulness as more important than keeping your job or your home or business. Once you’ve reached that level you will be ready to move up to the next stage, which is to resolve that your faithfulness and loyalty to God are more important than staying alive. You can build up to that level in stages if you don’t feel you can make that jump all in one go.
You can then make a firm decision, in advance that, if faced with a crisis, you will stay faithful. Making that decision, now, ahead of time, means that you don’t need to pause and think if and when the crisis actually arises, which could be suddenly. Then you won’t be taken by surprise or panic or get ‘caught in the headlights’. You will react well to the threat when it comes because your mind was already made up beforehand. It is also because you will have learned to be courageous as a habit, by responding to earlier and smaller tests of your nerve and resolve.
A classic example of a group of people who made this decision not to compromise, even if it meant death, is the group referred to in Revelation chapter 12. They are the ‘Tribulation saints’ who are called upon to face the lies and threats of the antichrist during the period known as the Tribulation. They refuse to give in and worship the antichrist, or his image, because they have decided that they would prefer to die rather than do that. In the RSV it says “for they loved not their lives even unto death.”
9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Rejoice then, O heaven and you that dwell therein! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”Revelation 12:9-12 (RSV)
They make that choice in a period of intense suffering and persecution which comes about because the Devil knows that the time he has left is very short. The tribulation is only seven years long and the Devil knows that. But so too do the believers who are alive at that time, because the Bible makes that clear. So they wisely choose to give up their lives here and gain eternal life, rather than worship Satan and be lost forever.
In their circumstances that is a sensible and logical choice. It is equally so in our circumstances today. Therefore we must not love our lives so much as to make self-preservation our priority, which is how the world thinks. It is yet another aspect of worldly thinking that we have to reject. Then we too can conquer, as the Tribulation saints will conquer, by not loving our lives, even unto death, or as the NIV translates it, by not loving our lives “so much as to shrink from death”:
They triumphed over himRevelation 12:11 (NIV)
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.
In Revelation chapter two, in Jesus’ letter to the church at Smyrna, He actually warns them in advance that a time of persecution is going to come to them. He then urges them to “Be faithful unto death…” If they will do so, then He promises them the reward of the ‘crown of life’:
Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.Revelation 2:10 (RSV)