“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Matthew 6:19–24.
One of my favorite songs is entitled “With My Whole Heart.” The lyrics say so much:
With my whole heart I trust You.
With my whole heart I seek You.
With my whole heart I rest in You my Lord,
Loving Lord of all my heart.
With Your whole heart You love me.
With Your whole heart You forgive me.
With Your whole heart You lift me up my Lord,
Loving Lord of all my heart.
With my whole heart I love You.
With my whole heart I adore You.
With my whole heart I’ll lift you up, my Lord,
Loving Lord of all my heart.
A while ago as I was staying at the hospital with my mother, I was reading a missionary book by Jean Carter Cochran, The Bells of the Blue Pagoda, Teach Services, Brushton NY, previewing it for my granddaughter. Something in that book really caught my attention. As I thought about it, several other similar incidents from the Bible came to mind and caused me to think seriously about my life, my priorities, and how I act based on those priorities. Do my actions prove that what I think in my own mind and claim are my priorities, truly are my priorities?
The mission story that first instigated my thinking on this topic took place in China quite some time ago. This story concerns a Chinese pastor by the name of Pastor Meng. At the time of this incident, he was working at a clinic with two foreign missionaries, a husband and wife, and a young Chinese woman doctor, Little Small Feet, and a few native assistants.
Little Small Feet had just recently returned from completing her education in the United States. She, along with the two foreigners, chose to set up their clinic in a remote city called The City of the Blue Pagoda. Unbeknown to them all, this was the very city where years before Little Small Feet had been kidnapped by an evil woman for the handsome ransom she expected to extract from Little Small Feet’s wealthy father, Lord Chang. Sadly, Lord Chang had never wanted this daughter, as she was the last of several girls and he had desperately wanted a boy. Therefore he refused to even consider paying the ransom.
Though it may seem irrational to us, Little Small Feet’s captors never forgave her for not bringing them the ransom they had expected. Though Little Small Feet had been rescued by the two foreign missionaries mentioned above, who were at that point in time working in a different hospital and a different city, throughout her lifetime her evil captors plotted and pursued, seeking to kidnap her again in order to wreak their revenge on this innocent girl. So when naively Little Small Feet and her dedicated Christian friends set up their clinic in her native city, the wicked kidnappers were ecstatic. Carefully they made their plans. Silently and patiently they waited and plotted. They wanted no chance of failure as had happened time and again before. Nor did they wish to be found the guilty ones in the carrying out of their wicked scheme.
Finally the time was ripe. An epidemic had recently swept through the city, and though the workers from the clinic had nearly worn out their lives in caring for the sick and dying, the evil ones had slyly insinuated that it was these very ones who had brought the plague upon the city.
Needless to say, this little rumor, this wicked scheming, easily turned the tide of public opinion against these true servants of the Lord. Signs of brooding trouble began trickling to their ears. And soon, it was no longer trickling and brooding, but breaking out into open danger. One afternoon as they were returning to the compound, a mob began following them, and it was only with great difficulty that they succeeded in arriving home.
As the day progressed, Little Small Feet and her colleagues realized the absolute necessity of leaving the city for a time until the disturbances should subside. Given the unrest of the unruly elements, they decided they would escape over a wall in the back of the compound late in the evening, when they hoped things would be more peaceful. Calmly, as though nothing were brewing beyond the compound walls, they each pursued their various tasks, caring for the sick and suffering ones within. However, as evening approached, the unrest in the city grew heated, and they realized waiting was useless; there would be no quiet in the city that night. As they made their preparations to depart over the wall into and through the gardens of loyal and friendly neighbors, the foreign missionaries and Little Small Feet pled with Pastor Meng to leave with them for the sake of his own safety, but he staunchly refused. And soon, it was too late; he could not have left if he had wanted. As he was speaking his refusal, a loud commotion began closing in on the front gate.
Pastor Meng urged his friends to hurry. Taking a rope ladder he quickly assisted each one up and over the wall to the other side. Then, being the only one left, rather than climbing it himself to escape, he took the ladder down and hid it. Then he went to meet the seething mob who had burst through the gate. Boldly he confronted the intruders, questioning them as to why they were attacking the very ones who had saved the lives of so many of them. But rather than listen, they only became more inflamed. The mob, intent on looting, on finding the foreigners, and especially Little Small Feet, swarmed the buildings. But Pastor Meng, rather than escaping in the confusion, stayed. His only thought was that each moment he could delay the mob increased the chances of his friends’ successful escape. Not finding their quarry, the rabble turned on Pastor Meng, demanding that he tell them where his friends had gone.
“An exalted look swept over the pastor’s face; it verily seemed to shine. His lips moved as if in prayer and with a ringing voice he exclaimed: ‘I will not tell you where the foreigners are because they are the best friends I have ever had, and the best friends this city has! Years ago when I was dying of cholera, they took me into their hospital and nursed me back to life. Should I be false to them now? That is not the idea of gratitude the ancients taught us. I am not afraid for’—and his voice took on a note of triumph—‘I believe in God, the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord!’ At the first words the rioters listened breathless, astonished at the man’s courage; then someone moved and the spell was broken. A hand threw a stone that caught the pastor on the forehead and he fell headlong. A soldier near, as if to complete the mischief, stabbed him with a knife. One of the crowd, with more feeling than the rest, saw the lips of the dying man move and stooping over caught his last words: ‘Oh, I see Jesus, I see Jesus,’ he whispered, and then the brave heart stopped beating.” The Bells of the Blue Pagoda, 212.
It is this scene, the stone, the shining face, the words, “Oh, I see Jesus, I see Jesus” that drew my attention. I thought about another time, another place, another mob, long, long ago; another man, another testimony, another witness for the Saviour, giving his life through stoning for His Lord, and that others might know His God. Then my mind was drawn to the stories of other men whose faces shone with the glory of God in spite of, or maybe because of, the trying situations they were in, and I began thinking; serious thinking. If I am ever in that kind of a situation would I have the courage of the Lord to stand against a mob? Do I have the faith in and the connection with my God that Pastor Meng had or that Stephen had [Acts 7:51–60]? And lastly, I asked myself, have I lived my life with the dedication and doing the deeds of Jesus such that in my dying moments I will see my Jesus? The honest answer to these questions is imperative if we want to know where our hearts really are, where our treasure actually is.
We live in very serious times. We have been blessed with peace and abundance and physical safety. But we are on the very verge of “a time of trouble such as never was” [Daniel 12:1]. And I ask myself and you, where is my treasure, and yours? Where is my heart, and yours? If our hearts and our treasures are not with God in heaven, we will not be able to answer in the affirmative any of the questions above. And if we cannot answer the above questions in the affirmative, we will not be able to say at any point in time, “I see Jesus, I see Jesus.” We will not have the courage necessary to stand. We will not have the faith or the connection that will be essential. And rather than a face shining with the love of God, our face will be one of the faces in the mob, darkened and distorted by the sentiments of Satan, and when the dying moment comes, we will be alone, without a Saviour.
This may sound extreme, but there is no middle ground. There is no middle of the road where there is no commitment one way or the other. Pastor Meng could not protect himself and confront the mob. He could not do both. He had to do one or the other. And so must we choose. To not actively choose one side is to actively select the other. We cannot sit passively on the sidelines. As I read this story of Pastor Meng, as I thought about Stephen being stoned, even as I thought of Moses with his face shining from being in the presence of God (remember God offered to eradicate the rebellious Israelites who continually blamed and mistreated Moses, and make of Moses a great nation, but Moses, rather than finding relief in this offer, interceded and begged the Lord to have mercy on them, but if not to blot his name from the book of life [Exodus 32:30–32]), I realized I have an intense desire to have that faith, that connection with God that these people had. And I realized that it won’t just happen. I have to make a choice. If I want to be able to stand alone in the face of a mob, if I want my face to shine, I must have the same self-renouncing, self-sacrificing love they had. Do I show by my actions that I want to be able to say “I see Jesus, I see Jesus,” when I am faced with death?
Each one of these people made a choice. Each one had chosen to “lay up their treasure in heaven” [Matthew 6:20]. In so doing, each one also chose to forgo the pleasures and treasures of this earth. And I too, if I wish to have the experience these people had, must be willing to suffer and to sacrifice, willing to commit and to take a stand. This desire must be the driving force of my life. This desire must control my choices each and every day.
So I ask you, today, where is your treasure? What is the driving force in your life? What truly controls your choices and your actions? Is it an intense desire to see Jesus? Is it to live your life in such a way that your face will shine with the light of God [Matthew 5:6]? Is it a “hunger and thirst for righteousness” [Matthew 5:6]? Is the driving and controlling motive of your life to have the faith and courage of the Lord, and are your actions proving that this is indeed the case? Is it to have the preparation necessary to stand during the rapidly approaching time of trouble such has never been?
We have all the information necessary to prepare. We have the promise of God that He will be with us. But we must make the choice. And we must act on that choice. Today we must choose to “lay up treasure in heaven.” Remember, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other” [Matthew 6:24].
Today, while probation lingers, “Choose you this day whom you will serve” [Joshua 24:15].
Brenda Douay is a member of the Steps to Life staff. She may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.