Beginning with Chapter Four
of the Book of Genesis and continuing through to the Book of
chose to give many examples of his followers serving unto death. The
some of these individuals caused their early deaths while others died
serving God a long time.
The first death recorded in
the Bible is found in Genesis Chapter Four. Jealous Cain killed his
Abel, because God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and rejected Cain’s
(Genesis 4:1-11; Hebrews 11:4).
Samson was a faithful judge
for Israel who allowed himself to be tempted by a Philistine woman.
returned his focus to God, praying his strength to be returned and died
service to God, slaying many Philistines in the process (Judges
The Old Testament records
the names of two righteous individuals that did not die a physical
earth, but were taken directly to heaven. The first, Enoch, “…walked
and he was not; for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). According to Hebrews
Enoch did not see death and he could not be found because God took him.
second individual was Elijah. After many years of service, God took
Elijah in a
whirlwind and a chariot of fire to heaven, never to suffer the pains of
physical death (2 Kings 2:1-12).
Turning to the New
Testament, we read about John the Baptist who was beheaded for telling
“It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife” (Mark 6:16-18).
was stoned to death at the conclusion of a sermon he preached to the
council (Acts 6:8-7:60). Herod the King killed James the brother of
the sword to inflict pain on the church (Acts 12:1-3).
The Bible also records the
physical pain inflicted on individuals who chose to serve God rather
After their imprisonment, Peter and the apostles told the council, “We
obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29, 40-42). Some of the many
inflicted on Paul were he was stoned and left for dead on one occasion
14:19), received numerous whippings, was beaten with rods on more than
occasion, was shipwrecked, spending many hours in the water (2
11:23-27); through all this Paul remained faithful as he served God.
The Bible’s hall of fame as
recorded in Hebrews Chapter 11 highlights the lives of many of God’s
servants. They serve as examples to us to persevere even in the darkest
of our lives. Secular history also records the horrendous persecution
Revelation 2:10 admonishes
all Christians to serve God up to and including the point of death.
there are modern-day Christians who suffer death and beatings for
Christ, many will not be tried so harshly. Nevertheless, God still
unending, faithful service as we walk on this green earth. Paul
Corinthians, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast,
always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that
is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). These words are as
compelling to us today as when they were penned to the Corinthians many
ago. Remember, Christ died on the cross to save “unto himself a
people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14).
Are you zealous of good
works? Are you serving God as if there were no tomorrow? If you were to
tonight, could your epitaph read “She died while serving God”? The
church of Christ in Glen Easton, WV recently lost a loving, devoted
whose epitaph could read just that. Melba N. Rine Burkhart passed from
life on January 1, 2007. A part of her obituary reads, “She was a
devoted Christian mother and grandmother who loved baking bread and
with family and friends.” At the age of 80, Melba walked with a cane
some difficulty walking. Most Sundays she cooked lunch for some of her
and grandchildren who would spend a part of Sunday afternoons with her.
morning December 31, 2006 Melba taught her usual Sunday morning
Bible Class. She immediately left the building following worship
because she was not feeling well. After resting for a while that
arose and made a batch of bread, possibly because she had promised some
friend. As time neared for evening services, she was again not feeling
stayed home to rest during the evening worship service. Later that
family members checked on her and she was resting. Sometime later, she
from this life to her heavenly reward. Melba will be missed by all who
loved her. However, she died peacefully in her sleep after spending a
what she loved best: Teaching God’s Word to young hearts, worshipping
serving others as she so loved to do.
My prayer is that I too can
reach my heavenly reward as she did, peacefully and in service to God
others. I hope this will be your prayer as well.