Culture

What is Jesus worth, that you would die for your faith?

Josh Yeoh // December 3, 2018, 11:18 am

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I remember the day Jesus broke the fear of death in me.

January 12, 2016, Turkey. We were supposed to have been up north in Istanbul visiting the Blue Mosque at Sultanahmet. For some reason, our itinerary brought us down south to the ruins of Ancient Pergamum instead.

Atop the ominous cliffs of the Upper Acropolis, a stone’s throw from the ruins of the “Seat of Satan”, we received news that a bomb had gone off at the Blue Mosque in Sultanahmet. We later found out that 10 German tourists had died in the incident.

Josh at the Upper Acropolis, Pergamum

That evening, recovering from the shocking news and our “near miss”, we huddled for a time of prayer. I remember our leader sharing: “It could easily have been us that died at the Blue Mosque today. I think it’s fitting that we thank the Lord for His mercy, that He saw it fit to preserve our lives.

“Many in this room will one day be called to go into places where safety will be a real concern. The fear of death is what will keep us from stepping into that calling. I believe He’s showing us today that our lives are in His hands; He alone determines the length of our days.

“Let it not be said that any of us here did not fulfil all that God has ordained for us to accomplish on our time here on earth.”

As we worshipped, the fear of the Lord fell in such a holy way that I had not experienced before and have not since. That night, as awe gripped me and Love filled me, the fear of death was broken.

Jesus everything I count as loss
To know You and be known as Yours
To share with You in Your suffering
To be with You in glory

The Apostle Paul was no stranger to life-threatening situations. Following his encounter with the risen Christ enroute to Damascus, Paul went from persecuting followers of Jesus to being persecuted for following Jesus.

The fear of death is what will keep us from stepping into God’s calling.

He was imprisoned many times; flogged almost to death even more times. Beaten. Stoned. Shipwrecked. Bitten by a snake. Amidst perpetual trials, tribulations, and threats of death, Paul planted, pastored and reproduced churches in multiple cities; raised spiritual sons like Timothy; and gave us almost half of the New Testament.

Yet, in the end, the reward of his life was this:

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him.” (Philippians 3:8)

Have you ever wept over a passage of Scripture? I remember the moment I preached this passage at PenHOP’s Burn Internship. I got as far as “that I may gain Christ” before I completely lost it; I don’t even know how I managed to finish the sermon.

It terrified me that I might one day find I had gained a huge ministry but lost a burning heart.

Was I more passionate about what He could do through me, or who He is to me? Could the songs I sing still ring true should I find myself wasting away the last years of my life in a prison cell? Was I willing to share in His suffering that I might partake in His glory (Romans 8:17)?

Jesus let my days be lived for You
The vapour of this life be given too
Set this heart toward eternity
To be with You in glory

All of life is a vapour. If we truly lived like we believed this, how different would our lives be?

Recently, the story of John Allen Chau has been making headlines. He has been called a martyr, a fool, a reckless adventurer. What the world thinks of him is not the point; the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor. 1:18). But what stunned me was that some of John’s most scathing criticisms came from within the Church.

Something about this whole scenario felt strangely familiar. No, it wasn’t John Elliot. Neither was it John and Betty Stam.

Would we count our lives more worthy of preservation than our King who gave His up with no reservation?

It brought to mind a young girl who, though not attacked by an isolated tribe, had in effect given up her life the moment she broke an alabaster jar of costly oil at Jesus’ feet. In one instant, she emptied her entire life’s inheritance, forfeiting her dowry and wasting with every drop the security of her future (Matthew 26:7-13).

And like what happened recently, her act of extravagant devotion incensed those meant to be closest to Jesus; the same men who would eventually become the leaders of the Church, and eventually die gruesome deaths for His sake.

They said of what she’d done, “Why this waste?”

But something is only considered wasteful if its cost is disproportionately higher than its value. Their indignant objections revealed this sad and sobering truth: In that moment, to the disciples, Jesus was not worth a year’s wages, which was the cost of the perfume (Mark 14:5).

Jesus then publicly vindicated her, affirmed her act of devotion as beautiful, and charged his disciples to tell her story everywhere the Gospel was preached.

I believe He did that for several reasons: To honour her sacrifice, to show everyone what extravagant worship looked like, but most importantly, so that every time the disciples retold the story – in Jerusalem and as far as in India – their hearts would be gripped again by the question Mary’s lavish act provoked.

It is the same question I pray this provokes in you today:

How much is Jesus worth to you?

Would we count our lives more worthy of preservation than our King who gave His up with no reservation?

The first time I sang “Reward” outside of the prayer room in Penang was in Minnesota, in the living room of a mentor together with his family. It was a sweet time of communion with the Lord. As we sang, I heard a friend sobbing. I asked her afterward what had made her weep that deeply. She replied: “You were singing my life verse.”

I believe God is raising up a generation who will make this cry their life verse, who will count all things as loss for the sake of knowing Jesus, who would lose their lives that they might gain Him.

Even unto death.

Come and be my exceedingly great reward
You’re the treasure that I would give my whole life for
What would it profit me to gain the world but lose my soul?
I know my life is not my own


Josh Yeoh is the founder of the Penang House of Prayer, an interdenominational prayer ministry in Malaysia. He currently lives in Singapore, and is involved in training and equipping at RiverLife Church. Josh serves on the leadership team of Burning Hearts and leads Converge, a regional movement of house of prayer leaders. He is also a singer-songwriter and has released three worship albums. “Reward” is his latest single. For more of his music, visit his website.