Why Did They Die Young?
Jim Elliot, an American, born in October 1927, committed to missions at an early age of nineteen. After turning 22, Elliot’s journal entry had the following quote that has become a classic, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose”. At the age of 24, Elliot left for Ecuador, eager to reach out to the Indian tribes, especially the violent Auca tribe. It was while trying to establish contacts with the Auca Indians that Elliot was speared to death, along with four others. He died at the age of 28, a young martyr, leaving behind a wife and child.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, born in 1906, was a German pastor, theologian, ecumenist, and peace activist. He wrote a lot about Christian faith, community, grace, and ethics. In response to the atrocities of the Nazi Regime, Bonhoeffer joined a conspiracy that tried unsuccessfully to assassinate Hitler and install a new government that would end the war and those atrocities. Bonhoeffer was imprisoned for two years before he was executed. He was hanged by the Nazis in April 1945 just weeks before the Germans surrendered. He was 39 years old.
Eric Liddell, the Olympic gold medalist, whose life is told in the movie, Chariots of Fire, is another Christian who died young. Liddell, born in China to English missionary parents in 1902, was a gifted athlete, known for his sportsmanship, humility, and commitment to God. While serving in China in 1925, he was captured and imprisoned by the Japanese. When given an opportunity to be released through a prisoner exchange programme, he offered his place to an expectant mother. In 1945, he developed brain tumour and died from typhoid fever, when he turned 43.
Nabeel Qureshi, a Pakistani-American born in 1983 in USA, was a former devout Muslim who became a leading Christian evangelist and apologist. He had spent several years examining the evidence for Christianity and Islam.While attending Eastern Virginia Medical School in 2005, he became a Christian. He spoke at over 100 universities around the world sharing the Christian message and how it differs from Islam. After a year-long fight with stomach cancer, he died on September 16 at age 34. He left behind a wife and young daughter. During his brief time as a Christian, he wrote three important books: Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus (2014), Answering Jihad (2016), and No God But One (2016).
Why do highly gifted, effective, and promising young people die young? Why did God decide to call home all these young people? Who can fathom God's mind? As God said,
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”? - Is. 55:9
While the death of a loved one, especially one cut off in the prime of his or her life, is painful and an enormous loss for those left - parents, siblings, wives, children, and friends, it is gain for the believer who will pass from death to life. Jesus said,
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”- Jn.11:25-26
They were so young, we argue. If they had lived longer, they could have done so much more for God! As humans, we view people in terms of their usefulness. But God is sovereign over time, His purposes, and even our lives. Thus, we can trust that each of us has enough time to accomplish exactly what God wants us to do. Also, God is more interested in our relationship with Him than in our usefulness. After all, God can make the stones cry out if we remained silent (cf. Lk. 19:40) so He is not so much concerned about our usefulness as He is about our relationship with Him.
We may squander our time. We may procrastinate. We may walk by sight, not by faith. But if we abide in Christ, we can trust that God has measured the precise amount of time needed to accomplish the ministry he has for us.
The impact of a believer never ends with his death. For the four examples I gave earlier, their lives may have ended, but their influence flourishes. The impact of their ministry has outlasted their lives.
Jesus died in His prime when he was 33 years old. Yet because of what Jesus achieved in His short life, all believers can say, O death, where is your sting? (cf. 1 Cor. 15:55.)
Some of you reading this devotion may have lived far longer than all those mentioned here. And these young Christians have done far more for Christ and the Kingdom in their short lives than we may have done in a much longer period of time. Does reading about what these young people achieved in their short lives make you want to finish your final years fully on fire for Christ? We need to bear in mind that life is short, and that our days are in God’s hands. Reflect on your journey on earth and what we've been doing for Christ.
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last. – C T Studd
We will face many terrifying events throughout this life, but may we never forget that the ultimate victory belongs to You. Through Your sacrifice, death has been defeated. As we continue to walk in Your truth, help us to set our eyes on Heavenly things.