“They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Revelation 12:11)
It will be twenty years next January since the tragic deaths of Graham Staines and his two young sons in India. Believers around the world and especially the BST (then BCQ) community were rocked by the news, killed by religious extremists. It was a starkly confronting reminder of the risks taken by Christian missionaries as they go about their work.
No-one comes to study at BST planning to become a martyr. I often ask them, “Where do you expect to be in 10 years’ time?” Not one person, in all my interviews has responded with, “Dead at the hand of persecutors.”
Yet as soon as they begin their studies they are reminded that this is a real possibility for faithful servants of the gospel today. They are reminded as we explore the teaching of Jesus, review early and more modern church history, study missiology, and hear stories about faithful servants like Graham.
Long ago, BST nominated Graham as one of our ‘Distinguished Graduates.’ It is a commitment to remember him, his family, the people he loved so much, the work he committed himself to and the price he paid. It is a story we want our students to hear as they prepare for a life of costly, faithful service, without ever wishing for them a similar fate.
If the Scriptures confront us with the ongoing dangers, it also comforts us with God’s loving commitment to his faithful servants. The beginning of Revelation 12:11, quoted above, reads: “They overcame the accuser by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.”
God will never forget what happened that day to Graham and his sons. And God will raise them up, and bring them to that new heaven and new earth where “They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4). That’s the future we want our students to prepare for so that they will not ” love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”