“The End of the Spear” is a movie based on the real life events of Nate Saint and four other missionaries in Ecuador who were murdered in attempting to make contact with the fiercely violent Waodani tribe. No outsider had made contact with them before and lived to tell about it. If you don’t know the story from the movie, you might know the story from author Elisabeth Elliot who’s husband was killed alongside Nate Saint. Personally, I know the story best because my grandparent’s were friends with Frank Drown, the missionary who led the expedition into the jungle to recover the bodies of the men who were killed.
The movie is a story of living faith in an incredibly difficult, hostile environment. You see, the widows didn’t leave Ecuador after their husbands were killed. They continued the work their husbands started eventually building a real relationship with the tribe. One of the moments which stood out to me the most in the movie is actually towards the end during a voice over when the viewer is told the tribe had to invent a new word meaning “grandparent” because for the first time in their history, they had enough people who lived long enough to see their grandchildren be born.
The book of 1 Peter was written for people who, like the Saint family and Elliot family, had to figure out how to live a Christian life in a hostile environment. It is a call to hold fast to one’s faith no matter the circumstances one faces. The people Peter was writing to in this letter were relative newcomers to the Christian faith and found themselves being labeled and treated as foreigners in their own country due to their faith and their lifestyle. They needed something to hold onto. And in his opening prayer, Peter reminds them of a key truth we can also hold onto when facing a hostile environment today:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, un-defiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. ~ 1 Peter 1:3-9 (emphasis added)
It is this truth which inspired the song “Living Hope” by Phil Wickham. The lyrics focus on the gospel of Jesus and the hope He has given to us through his death and resurrection. It is said that one of the marks of a great worship song is that it explores an ancient truth through a new lens while remaining faithful to the Scriptures. Living Hope strives to do this as it reflects on the grace, mercy, and forgiveness found only in Christ Jesus. It keeps the message of salvation clear:
The cross has spoken, I am forgiven
The King of kings calls me His own
Beautiful Savior, I’m Yours forever
Jesus Christ, my living hope.
While discipleship and living out one’s Christian faith are important topics to talk about, a foundation built on the simple truth of salvation must first be laid. We are saved because Christ died on the cross for our sins. We have done nothing to earn it. We will never do enough good deeds, lead enough prayer groups, memorize enough Scripture, volunteer enough hours at church, or donate enough money to worthy causes to earn salvation. Nor is there a minimum requirement of any of those things to hold onto our salvation. It is freely given. The cross has spoken. I am forgiven. End of story.
The chorus responds to this central truth declaring:
Hallelujah, praise the One who set me free
Hallelujah, death has lost its grip on me
You have broken every chain
There's salvation in Your name
Jesus Christ, my living hope
How often do we stop and declare this praise in response to what God has done in our lives? For me, this declaration and verse 3 work together to give the song its power. Check out the lyrics to verse 3:
Then came the morning that sealed the promise
Your buried body began to breathe
Out of the silence, the Roaring Lion
Declared the grave has no claim on me
Had the story ended with Jesus’ death, he might have been remembered as a great prophet, a leader who sparked a revolution, but not a savior. Had Jesus not defeated death, there would be no Christian faith. The only way to be in relationship with God would still be through the Jewish faith and system of temple sacrifice. (This, by the way, is what I remind myself of if I find myself complaining that I don’t like the music a particular Sunday, or find the liturgy too stiff, or find the liturgy too lacking, or any number of other superficial complaints.)
It is the resurrection which makes the hope we find in Jesus a living hope. Jesus lives and therefore so does our hope to one day dwell with him in heaven.
- Follow the Spear is just one story of holding onto faith in a hostile environment. Scripture has multiple examples (see the stories Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, or Nehemiah, or Esther and Mordecai). Contact someone working in full time mission work in the Middle East and ask them to tell you their stories. Regularly remind yourself of these stories where people are in physical danger even to the point of death so your perspective on just how hostile the environment you face really is.
- Take some time to listen to and reflect on the song “Living Hope.” What other songs would you add to your playlist to remind you of the truth found in this song?
- Share your story of how you have managed to hang onto your faith during a hard time. Ask those who you know have been through trials to share their story with you.