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Vol.  9  No. 7 July 2007  Page 13
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Priscilla's Page By Marilyn LaStrape *Editor's Note*

Bonnie Rushmore

Died While Serving

By Bonnie Rushmore

    Beginning with Chapter Four of the Book of Genesis and continuing through to the Book of Revelation, God chose to give many examples of his followers serving unto death. The service of some of these individuals caused their early deaths while others died after serving God a long time.

    The first death recorded in the Bible is found in Genesis Chapter Four. Jealous Cain killed his brother, Abel, because God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and rejected Cain’s sacrifice (Genesis 4:1-11; Hebrews 11:4).

    Samson was a faithful judge for Israel who allowed himself to be tempted by a Philistine woman. However, he returned his focus to God, praying his strength to be returned and died in service to God, slaying many Philistines in the process (Judges 16:28-31).

    The Old Testament records the names of two righteous individuals that did not die a physical death on earth, but were taken directly to heaven. The first, Enoch, “…walked with God: and he was not; for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). According to Hebrews 11:5, Enoch did not see death and he could not be found because God took him. The 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 a physical death (2 Kings 2:1-12).

    Turning to the New Testament, we read about John the Baptist who was beheaded for telling Herod, “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife” (Mark 6:16-18). Stephen was stoned to death at the conclusion of a sermon he preached to the Jewish council (Acts 6:8-7:60). Herod the King killed James the brother of John with 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 than man. After their imprisonment, Peter and the apostles told the council, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29, 40-42). Some of the many hardships inflicted on Paul were he was stoned and left for dead on one occasion (Acts 14:19), received numerous whippings, was beaten with rods on more than one occasion, was shipwrecked, spending many hours in the water (2 Corinthians 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 faithful servants. They serve as examples to us to persevere even in the darkest hours of our lives. Secular history also records the horrendous persecution of God’s faithful servants.

    Revelation 2:10 admonishes all Christians to serve God up to and including the point of death. Although there are modern-day Christians who suffer death and beatings for serving Christ, many will not be tried so harshly. Nevertheless, God still expects our unending, faithful service as we walk on this green earth. Paul admonished the Corinthians, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour 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 years ago. Remember, Christ died on the cross to save “unto himself a peculiar 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 die tonight, could your epitaph read, “She died while serving God”? The Salem church of Christ in Glen Easton, WV recently lost a loving, devoted sister whose epitaph could read just that. Melba N. Rine Burkhart passed from this life on January 1, 2007. A part of her obituary reads, “She was a loving and devoted Christian mother and grandmother who loved baking bread and sharing it with family and friends.” At the age of 80, Melba walked with a cane and had some difficulty walking. Most Sundays she cooked lunch for some of her children and grandchildren who would spend a part of Sunday afternoons with her. Sunday morning December 31, 2006 Melba taught her usual Sunday morning children’s Bible Class. She immediately left the building following worship services because she was not feeling well. After resting for a while that afternoon, she arose and made a batch of bread, possibly because she had promised some to a friend. As time neared for evening services, she was again not feeling well and stayed home to rest during the evening worship service. Later that evening, family members checked on her and she was resting. Sometime later, she passed from this life to her heavenly reward. Melba will be missed by all who knew and loved her. However, she died peacefully in her sleep after spending a day doing what she loved best: Teaching God’s Word to young hearts, worshipping God and 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 and others. I hope this will be your prayer as well.
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