A Stalwart

British pastor George Duncan was once invited to preach live from Keswick, England, on the BBC. He choose this text, saying it summed up the “full-orbed and balanced experience” of the Christian in “six unforgettable words, which in English at least are words of one syllable each, and should therefore not be beyond the understanding of the youngest or simplest of us.” Victorious Christianity, Duncan said, is something personal—to me. … It is something practical—to live. … And it is something possible—is Christ!

It certainly proved that way for retired missionary/pastor Dan Merkh. Merkh recalls being part of a church youth group that called itself the “Stalwarts” and choose Philippians 1:20–21 as its theme. But Merkh wasn’t very “stalwart” himself, for later while serving in the Marines, he drifted away from Christ and lived in a back slidden condition. He was assigned a desk job in the Marine Corps Depot of Supplies in Norfolk, and much paperwork passed over his desk. Someone gave him a glass paperweight in the shape of a half ball. The curve acted as a magnifying glass under which was to be placed a picture. Having nothing to put there, Dan remembered his old youth group theme and wrote the words, “To Live Is Christ and To Die Is Gain.”
Every time he shuffled papers, his eyes fell on those words, and they eventually drilled into his heart. Later, rededicating his life to Christ and yielding himself to ministry, Philippians 1:20–21 became his life-verses.

Another missionary, Bill Wallace, a doctor in China, also loved these words. When he was arrested by the Communists and treated brutally, he would scribble verses like these on the walls of his cell to keep himself sane. After months of interrogation and abuse, he was found dead. The Communists claimed he had hanged himself, but his body showed signs of having been beaten to death. Defying the Communist authorities, his friends buried him with honor. Over his grave, they inscribed the words they felt described the motivation of his life: “For To Me To Live Is Christ.”

Robert J. Morgan

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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