Thursday, January 16, 2014

Don’t Waste Your Death

People from my church have known Pierre and Yolande Korkie from spending time with them in London. I had only the privilege of meeting Yolande who roomed next to me in the hostel where we stayed. I fondly remember waking to the sounds of Yolande and her South African companions singing praises to God early in the morning as their songs gently filtering through the thin wall between our rooms.

It was in those days that she shared with us her and Pierre’s intentions to move to Yemen to teach.

After they settled into their life in Yemen, their family was taken hostage by al-Qaeda militants. The children were released soon after their capture but Pierre and Yolande have been in captivity for several months now.

We rejoiced when we heard of Yolande’s release a few days ago. However, her release was so that she could raise money to pay the ransom for Pierre. The condition is that she had 8 days to raise $3 million dollars or he would be beheaded.

According to Yolande, their captors believe that the Korkies are rich Americans. She also says aside from holding them hostage, the al-Qaeda militants have been kind to her family. I suppose that remains to be determined whether they kill Pierre or not.

But aside from sharing this news to you, I want to make a broader point. From having met Yolande and hearing her words since her captivity, I believe her faith is as strong as ever in this dire situation. She remains, it would seem, the same woman I heard leading worship in that hostel in London. Though the threat of death looms large in her family, the promise of eternal life is far greater.

For those whose faith is in the temporary provisions of God in this fallen world, their faith would be threatened by such a situation as this. But for those whose faith is truly in Christ, their faith would be strengthened. Faith in Christ is the exchange of death for life, although it takes recognizing what death and life are.

Christ died to bear the punishment due for our sin and demonstrated the power of God over life and death by his subsequent resurrection. Faith in this necessarily entails trusting our lives to him in our death and receiving unending life in him. We may be moved to despair over events that surround the death of our broken bodies that each one of us faces.

We only have but a fleeting moment on this earth in comparison to eternity and we have a task to do while here. In carrying out that task, we must be willing to demonstrate our faith in our death if necessary. Pierre and Yolande laid down their lives for Christ long ago. Jim Elliot and his companions laid down their lives for Christ long before they landed on that beach in Huarani territory only to be killed immediately. Jim’s wife, Elisabeth, and a few others ventured into Huarani territory thereafter and were able to win many to Christ, even those who killed her husband.

Now, I’m not saying that Yolanda should return to the al-Qaeda should they kill Pierre, although it is within the realm of possibilities. God will direct her on the best course of action. But it may be that if Pierre were killed in the next few days, that God could use his death to bring many in the al-Qaeda to faith in Christ.

The death of this temporary life is rightly fearful. It is a merciful instruction in the wrath of God allowing us to understand the seriousness of the eternal death that we face without Christ. So we mourn over the loss of loved ones. Nevertheless, we who have Christ can rejoice in that while these bodies may die, we will yet live.

And so, when we give our lives to Christ in faith, we also give our lives to the task of proclaiming the good news of Christ’s work and discipling people who come to faith. Too many who are short on faith pray and work in the name of Christ as though escaping death and threatening circumstances are the signs of our faith. In reality, we are already dead in these broken bodies. Though our bodies may cease to function, can we not plan on living boldly in such a way as to make the reality of the resurrection to come the sign of our faith? Therefore, even if we die proclaiming Christ, so shall we live.

I can still hear her voice echo from those early mornings in London praising God in her room filled with faithful South Africans. May many al-Qaeda come to faith because they heard the voice of Christ from the mouths of their captives.

Don’t waste your death. Praise God even to your last breath.

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