A few weeks ago, Merv Knight walked into my office door. Merv is a dear elder brother of mine, in his 80’s now, who lives in Australia. Merv Knight has served our persecuted brothers and sisters for more than 40 years. Perhaps his most important contribution to the work of serving the persecuted was summed up in the recent words of one of VOM’s executives: “Merv Knight has served as a spiritual advisor to us all.”
Merv first became involved in the work of VOM in 1969 when he was part of a group of people who hosted Pastor Richard Wurmbrand in Australia. Richard encouraged the group to begin an Australian-based ministry to the persecuted, and Merv went on to establish that work in partnership with several other Australian believers (I encourage you to watch a fascinating interview with Merv about his 40 years with VOM).
Merv can always be counted on to deliver an uplifting word and that is why he was in my office that day. He was carrying a little book in his hand that he wanted to give to me. It was a book that belonged to Richard, and Merv had uncovered it while going through some boxes in the archives. The book is called "To Die is Gain" and was authored by G. Campbell Morgan.
The book is remarkably interesting, because it provides an insight into a reality which many of our family members have experienced. In our culture, it may be rare for us to reflect on another land, a home beyond the grave, a place where pain and suffering cease and, most importantly, a place where we are able to experience full communion with our Lord Jesus Christ.
One of the reasons this may be true is that our lives here are entirely too comfortable. It reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ example of children playing in the mud in the slums of London who refused a holiday at the beach. They simply couldn't comprehend how wonderful the beach was, and so they turned back to their mud pies.
Some of the brothers and sisters that I have had the privilege of meeting who are experiencing severe persecution view this life as a shadow, and a very short season. They seem to have a solid grasp on what we call "eternal perspective."
Perhaps this is why the book that Merv gave me that morning from Richard was well worn. Richard suffered consequences from his torture for the rest of his life, and he longed for his heavenly home. He understood the life-giving value of “the long view” better than most.
At the end of Morgan’s book, there is a collection of poems which capture the beauty of our eternal home and the expectation that we have as followers of Jesus Christ.
Here is an excerpt of one of the poems that is especially encouraging, entitled "The Pilgrim’s Song." I encourage you to read it aloud this season and to let its truths think deeply into your soul:
"My rest is in heaven; my rest is not here;
Then why should I murmur when trials are near?
Be hushed, my dark spirit, the worst that can come,
But shortens thy journey and hastens thee home.
It is not for me to be seeking my bliss,
And building my hopes in a region like this:
I look for a city which hands have not piled,
I pant for a country by sin undefiled.
Afflictions may damp me, they cannot destroy;
One glimpse of Thy love turns them all into joy.
And the bitterest of tears, if Thou smile but on them
like dew in the sunshine, grow diamond and gem.
Let doubt then, and danger, my progress oppose;
They only make heaven more sweet at the close.
Come joy, or come sorrow, whate’er may befall,
An hour with my God will make up for it all.
A scrip on my back, and a staff in my hand,
I march on in haste through an enemy’s land.
The road maybe rough, but it cannot be long;
I'll smooth it with hope, and I'll cheer it with song.”
Do we really believe that to die is gain? I pray that God will give each one of us more of an “eternal perspective." May He grant us the faith to cling less and less to this life, and more and more to our heavenly home. Then we will be able to join the apostle Paul in boldly saying, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Dr. Jason Peters serves in VOM’s International Ministries department, traveling frequently to meet with our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. Jason and Kimberly have been married for over twenty years, and have five children who are actively engaged in standing with their persecuted family members.