The Sub-Sahara Desert west of Sudan and south of Libya is a no-man's land. Travel nine hours by truck due east from N'Djamena, capital of Chad, and you'll come to the tiny village of Korbo. There you'll meet Tchere Ouday.
Tchere Ouday is dressed in a long white robe. His face is weathered and his mostly bald head sports some white stubble. He sits cross-legged on a mat inside his mud hut.
More than thirty-five years ago Tchere became the first Christian among his people, the
Dangaleats in the Guera region of Chad. For many decades he worked as a mason. He is more than seventy years old now and has reduced his activities—yet he still continues to serve as an elder of the Korbo church.
In the past two years drought and caterpillar infestations have substantially reduced the amount of food the Dangaleat people have been able to raise. Typically Tchere would offer guests a meal. But on this day he offers a small cup of sweet tea, a bowl of peanuts, some washed lettuce, and a few slices of tomato dipped in salt and ground red pepper.
"How can we pray for you, brother?" you ask him.
Usually Dangaleat Muslims and Christians say the same thing: "Please pray that God will give us more food." That is on Tchere's mind too. But it's not the first thing. Instead he says, "Pray that we might remain firm in our faith in our old age."
Who could be more faithful than Tchere? Even against the threat of death he refused to
recant his faith during the horrific Chadian civil war that raged through the Guera in the
late 1970s. He's served the Lord steadfastly ever since. Still, Tchere knows better than
to take his Christian faith for granted.
Although Tchere doesn't have the complete Bible in his language yet, he knows that one of
the greatest temptations you and I will ever face in this life is to drift away spiritually from the Lord. No one is immune—no matter how long and faithfully he or she has walked with the Lord.
My friend Tchere is one of several pastors, professors, or mentors who have helped motivate me to stay in the race until the end. In fact probably none has influenced me more than the late Dr. John Mitchell, who graduated from Dallas Seminary in its first class in 1927. Dr. John Walvoord once said Dr. Mitchell reminded him of an aged apostle. Never have I met a man who was more in love with the Savior.
On two occasions Dr. Mitchell made a point of reminding me—more than sixty years his junior—that there are only three reasons Christians die. These reasons are evident in Scripture, in church history, and in our experience today. Believers die:
- because of the discipline of God (1 Cor. 11:29–30; 1 John 5:16)
- for the glory of God (John 21:18–19)
- because their work is finished (2 Tim. 4:6–8).
Dr. Mitchell also urged me to make sure that when it comes time to die, dying is all I have left to do. Thanks to the influence of Dr. Mitchell and others, I love God's Word. As a teenager I started reading it from cover to cover, and before college I had memorized nearly one hundred pages of Scripture. I've read through the Bible dozens of times, and I've discovered that only a few chapters don't talk about sin and temptation.
From Genesis to Revelation we find that the biggest temptation for us, as believers, is to lose heart and give up. How? We stop doing what the Lord says. Why? We stop believing what God's Word says.
Think about it. What happened to mighty judge Samson? What happened to powerful King Saul? What happened to wise King Solomon? They all fell away. What about these good kings—Asa, Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah, and Hezekiah? They followed God for a number of years, then each one turned away. They lost God's blessings and reward for staying true to Him until the end.
What is the single greatest admonition in the Gospels and Acts? In the New Testament letters from Romans to Jude? Even in the Book of Revelation? Keep following the Lord.
We're All Vulnerable
Of course for many years I thought these biblical warnings didn't apply to me. Then seven years ago I was hit with a rapid-fire series of crises.
I felt that the hand of God was crushing me in every way. In my despair—and I say this with deep trepidation—I started doubting God's character. I couldn't read the Bible—not a single verse. I couldn't pray, even over a meal, for days on end. Experientially I was in danger of losing my faith. Why? Because I'd failed to heed the clear warnings of Scripture. I'd let my circumstances temporarily overshadow what I knew to be true.
Today, pictures of Dr. Mitchell, Tchere, and other faithful older saints adorn my home office. They are reminders that, like the apostle Paul, I want to be able to come to the end of my life and say:
"I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith"
(2 Tim. 4:7).
David Sanford, a long-time friend of Dallas Seminary, is president of Sanford Communications, Inc., executive editor of the Starting Point Study Bible, and a contributor
to the devotional application notes in the Living Faith Bible.