Text: Sadhu Sundar Singh (1889-ca.1929) Tune: Assam folk tune
1 I have decided to follow Jesus; I have decided to follow Jesus; I have decided to follow Jesus;
no turning back, no turning back.
2 Though none go with me, I still will follow; though none go with me, I still will follow; though none go with me, I still will follow; no turning back, no turning back.
3 The world behind me, the cross before me; the world behind me, the cross before me, the world behind me, the cross before me; no turning back, no turning back.
In the scripture lesson for this Sunday, Luke 14:25-33, Jesus talks about the cost those who follow him must pay. Some, recoiling from the strong statement, will spend time remarking that he really didn’t mean it when he said “if they do not hate father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” It is a sobering thing to hear and leads one to think more deeply about following our Lord. But listen to his tone: He is not ordering us to hate our parents, and siblings, or even our lives. He is observing a truth of the faith. He comes first. If he does not, he cannot be our Lord.
Faith does bring division in families and communities, especially where Christianity is new. Many people who have heard the Gospel for the first time and accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior do so knowing their parents will reject them, even revile them. If not family, the community, even the state. Missionaries sometimes have felt they had to deny their families to serve their Lord. There are many missionary children who are bitter about that, but many who are not and even follow in their parents footsteps and become missionaries despite the cost. (see the poem below.)
Martyrs have understood this as they face the fires or swords of persecution. Our song today arose in such a context. It came from a terrible martyrdom in India that bears repeating.
Sometimes called, "No turning back," a theme song for the Billy Graham meetings, its story is bracing. Welsh missionaries brought the gospel to Assam and had much success. At first a tribe in the area persecuted any who became Christians. They captured a Christian family and brought them to the chief who demanded they renounce Christ. If they did not they would die. The father, Nokseng, a man of the Garo tribe from Meghalaya, refused. His answer came in the words which became the first stanza of the hymn—I have decided to follow Jesus. With that the chief ordered his sons to be killed, as he said words that became the second stanza.
Once again, as he was asked to deny his Lord, he spoke the words which became another stanza as his wife was killed. Again, he confessed his faith as he was shot to death. Later the chief, regretting his action, became a Christian.
Many people have derided this song because faith is a gift, and we can’t decide to become Christians, they say. When they hear this story, however, they go quiet. In its context it did not mean he had decided to become a Christian. That had already happened to him and his family. His words meant that because he was a Christian, he would follow his Lord wherever he led. There would be no turning back. That is the kind of courage we all need today when the faith is being attacked all around us, even separating parents from children, siblings from each other. The terrible sacrifices that faith requires are nothing compared to the joys of being with our Lord. No turning back!
Singh, who is credited with writing the song, was a missionary to the Punjabi, and Tibet.
He is said to have written the text using an Assam tune. His story bears reading. Click the link under the picture to read his story. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadhu_Sundar_Singh
Rampert and Meghala
Counting the Cost
It’s costly, following this Lord. He wants
All of you. Doing his will may separate
Parents from children, husbands from wives, old aunts
From dear nieces and nephews. It may feel like hate
To those left behind. Missionaries knew
These verses well as they waved their last goodbyes
To parents fluttering hankies, dropping from view
To the creaking axles, salt blurring their eyes.
Like Stan Quanbeck, still a small boy, alone
When his sister died, after his parents left
For the Malagasy bush, without a phone.
Only orchids he came to loathe, bereft
Of his mother’s arms. And still he served his Christ
Whose riches somehow paid this awful price.
Luke 14:25-27; Deuteronomy 33:8-9; Acts 20:24-27;
From Jesus the Harmony by Gracia Grindal
For those planning for Bible study through the next year, you might consider the book Jesus the Harmony. It has a poem for every day of the year and Bible references for each poem that put Jesus in what has been called "the red thread of salvation." Many have been using it for daily devotions; others in group Bible studies.