Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sadhu Sundar Singh - An Indian Sadhu for the Living Christ!!

The Bible speaks about the existence of God even before the existence of any living thing. He is the creator of everything. He is the God of all flesh (Jeremiah 32: 27). This God of the whole universe became flesh and came into the world in the form of a man, and He is Jesus. The path of following Jesus Christ, the savior, is Christianity. Christianity is neither a religion nor it belong to a particular culture, creed or community. However, some groups charge Christianity as a foreign religion and hinder the expansion of the kingdom of God. Christianity in India faces such a charge. From time immemorial Indian culture is known for religious beliefs and devotion. Because of its deep rootedness in religious fanaticism, even now certain organizations cry out and claim that Christianity is a foreign religion and the Indians should not convert to Christianity. It is not the nominal conversion that the Lord Jesus intends for, but for the complete conversion of the being and becoming the child of God. To bear witness for Christ, the God of all flesh, against the aforementioned charge, there have been many Indian witnesses as well as martyrs from the remote past to date. Among them, Sundar Singh is considered one of the earliest and most impressive witnesses of Jesus Christ.  By following the footsteps of Jesus and through indigenous ways he testified that Christ was the God of all creation including Indians.

Sundar Singh's life began in 1889 in a wealthy Sikh family in the state of Punjab, which is in the northwestern part of India. A Sikh is a follower of Sikhism, which is a blend of Hinduism and Islam. As Sundar's father was a wealthy landlord he sent Sundar to a school, which was run by the American Presbyterian Missionaries. Besides formal education, Sundar obtained religious education as well. His mother was a pious and prayerful woman and wished her son should also be devout like her. So she appointed special teachers called pundits or scholars to instruct him on religious beliefs, duties, worship, and devotion. These religious classes affected in him a burning desire to know deeper truths regarding salvation and life. Neither his instructors nor his personal study of the Hindu religious scriptures satisfied his hunger and thirst for the truth. Although he desired to know the truth, he could not accept the truth that Jesus is the savior of His life and He is the only one who can give him peace and joy, which the world cannot give, because he vehemently opposed it as the foreign religion. During this period of his spiritual restlessness, his beloved mother passed away. The loss of his beloved mother intensified his state of dejection leading to suicidal thoughts. As he was seriously thinking of putting an end to his life to escape from extreme frustration, he saw the vision of Jesus, which was a breakthrough event in his life.

Sundar Singh's account of the remarkable intervention of Jesus in his life is included here for perusal. "I found nothing in Hindu philosophy. Only in Jesus Christ whom I used to hate, I found peace. I was spiritually blind, but in Him, I found what I had been seeking for a long time. I shall never forget that day, December 16, 1904, when I burnt the Bible in fire and my father said, Why are you doing such a foolish thing. I said the Western religion is false; we must destroy it. So I destroyed the Bible and thought I had done my duty. On the third day, I saw the power of the Living Christ. That third day I was going to commit suicide because I had no peace in my heart. I woke up in the early morning; it was winter and I took a cold bath. Then began to pray, but not to the Christ of Christianity, but I prayed like an atheist for I had lost my faith in God. I said, if there be a God you must show me the way of salvation or I will commit suicide. From 3:00 to 4:30 early in the morning I was praying. About 5:00 I was going to commit suicide by placing my head on the railway line, so I had only half an hour more. Then something happened that I never expected; the room was filled with a wonderful light I saw a glorious figure standing in the room. I thought it was Buddha, Krishna or some other saint whom I used to worship and was quite prepared to worship him, but I was surprised to hear these words; "How long are you going to persecute me? I died for thee. For thee, I gave my life." I could not understand, could not speak a single word. And then I saw the scars of the Living Christ, whom I thought of as a great man who used to live in Palestine and was now dead; but I found he was living, the Living Christ, not dead and gone. I was now prepared to worship Him. I saw his loving face. Though I had burnt the Bible the day before yesterday, he was not angry. I was changed! There I knew the Living Christ, the savior of the world, and my heart was full of joy and peace, which I cannot express. When I got up he disappeared. I went to tell my father. He could not believe it. "Only the day before yesterday you burnt the Bible, how can it be that you are now a Christian?" Because now I have seen His power; He is the Living Christ. It was not an imagination that I saw Him, because before the vision I hated Him and did not worship him. If I had seen Buddha you might say it was an imagination, because I used to worship him. It was not a dream. After taking a cold bath nobody can dream. That was reality, the Living Christ."

Initially, Sundar Singh's family members did not believe Sundar's conversion as he did greatly oppose Christianity. But as days rolled on, his witness for the Living Christ was so evident that they were indeed afraid as they considered it as a threat to the Sikh heritage of their family. So they persuaded him to change his mind through enticing and loving words. As their efforts for peace failed, they began to threaten him. But Sundar was steadfast in his faith in Jesus. As the latter mode also failed them, Sundar's own family members went to the extent of committing homicide. They poisoned him and cast him out of the house. Sundar took refuge in the house of a Christian friend. But by the time, the toxic effects of the poison were evident and he was almost dying. By God's unfailing love and grace, he was able to receive medical attention in due time and was saved from death. After his recovery, he stayed with the American missionaries who sent him to study in a high school in Ludhiana. At that time he was 15 years of age. As he grew up in faith and in the love of Jesus, he took baptism on September 3, 1905.
After his baptism, he followed Jesus closely but in an Indian Sadhu way. Right from his early childhood he was taught to respect Sadhus or saints who devoted their entire lives to God and spent their life in traveling from place to place chanting mantras and living on the food offerings offered to them. Therefore, he opted to lead a saffron-robed Sadhu life for Jesus. He traveled from place to place preaching the gospel but determined not to depend on anyone for anything. His Sadhu appearance gave him much freedom to move even among the orthodox people and share the gospel of Christ.
Impressed with his evidential witnessing of life for Christ, Bishop Lefroy of Lahore sent him to St. John's College of Divinity in 1907 so that he might ordain Sundar as a pastor after his theological studies. However, Sadhu Sundar Singh could not accustom himself to the college and quit in about 8 months. He said, "I learnt many useful things, no doubt, but they were not of much spiritual profit. There were discussions about sects, about Jesus Christ, and many other interesting things, but I found the reality, the spirit of all these things, only at the Master's feet. When I spent hours at his feet in prayer, then I found enlightenment, and God had taught me so many things that I could not express even in my own language. Sit at the master's feet in prayer. It is the greatest theological college in the world."
After his short-term college life, he resumed his independent preaching extensively throughout the northern part of India. God blessed his ministry and made it fruitful. Many Hindu scholars who heard his speech publicly claimed that Jesus was the true God. He had a great desire to take the Gospel to Tibet which was closed to Christianity. The law of this country did not permit the preaching of Christ in any form. But Sadhu started visiting Tibet from the year 1912. His adventurous, perilous journeys and the miraculous deliverance of the Lord are sources of inspiration that would have great influence on any ordinary person to perform extraordinary exploits for the Living Christ. He underwent innumerable persecutions, all of which would have caused sure death of our Sadhu, but the miracle-working God of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego delivered him out of them all. Here is one such incident narrated by Sadhu Sundar Singh himself.

"I often remember that day when, for preaching the Gospel in Tibet, I was thrown into a deep well. For three days I was in that well without food and water. The door was locked and it was quite dark. There was nothing, but dead bodies and bones in that well. It was like hell. There I was tempted: Is your Christ going to save you, now you have been put into this prison? But I remember a wonderful peace and joy came to me in those hours of persecution, when my arm was broken, and there was such a bad smell. That hell seemed like heaven. I felt the presence of Living Christ. He is always with us as he has promised. I never thought that I could have any Cross with this kind of peace, but there I had that experience. After that was a wonderful thing, I was thinking that my time had come and I would be called to Heaven, when somebody opened the door. I could see no one. Then I knew what a wonderful power had delivered me. Perhaps someone will think that this was a dream, or that somebody set me free from that well, but the Man who made me free, who touched my arm- it was all right in a few minutes- was no human being. A human being could not do that, only the power of God. Now I preach, not because I know Christ through what is written about him, but because I know him from my own experience. He is the Living Savior. If Jesus Christ were not the Living Christ, I would not be preaching the gospel."
Sadhu Sundar Singh was a man of prayer and spent many hours in prayer and meditation. He often chose a secluded place to spend time with God. In January 1913, he decided to undergo fasting for 40 days. He chose a dense jungle, void of human interference, at the foot of the Himalayas. After several days of fasting, he became extremely weak and finally collapsed. He was found by two woodcutters who passed by and was brought to a place called Rishikesh to the Hindu Sadhus, as they thought he was one such. He was then later taken to Rev. Dharamjit's parsonage at Annfield, where he was nursed until he regained his vigor. During the fasting period, he saw the vision of Jesus for the second time. This time he saw Jesus with pierced hands, bleeding feet, and radiant face. He confessed that this vision cleared all his doubts about Christian Sadhu's way of life, and his call, and delivered him from all his weaknesses and fears.
After having revived his strength he left the Annfield parsonage to resume his evangelistic work. His great devotion, steadfastness, his sacrificial Christian living in an Indian Sadhu outlook not only attracted many Hindus to Christ but also the Westerners. He was earnestly invited to share his visions and experiences in many countries such as England, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, the United States, and Australia. After his worldwide evangelistic travel, he returned back to India in 1922. His health began to decline as a consequence of 19 years of toiling. He could not accept any more invitations from abroad owing to his health condition. His father, who once opposed his conversion to Christianity, later became a follower of Christ and insisted Sadhu Sundar Singh have a part of his property. But Sundar Singh refused to take the land but accepted the money with which he purchased a missionary house at Subathu, on the slopes of Himalayas. He rested and spent many hours in prayer at his Subathu bungalow. As his health did not permit him to have a vigorous, adventurous, wandering, ministerial life, he was forced to be confined in his house at Subathu. Even then he served God through his articles and books. Nevertheless, his desire to preach the Gospel in Tibet had not still abated. Finally, in 1929 he set out to Tibet. But after that, there was no news about Sadhu. His friends' efforts to trace him were fruitless. It is inferred that he had gone to live with his Master and Savior, the Living Christ.

The witnessing life of Sadhu Sundar Singh challenges and encourages the believers to live for Christ amidst the persecutions and suffering. His life is an example of utmost earnestness and sincerity in loving Jesus and living for Jesus. Many Christians in India think about Indianizing Christianity to win India for Christ. It is the CHRISTIANIZATION OF CHRISTIANITY that will save any country. If the born-again Christian community leads a CHRIST-FILLED LIFE, the country inhabits it will become a Christian country, NOT a nominal one, but a truly Christian nation for the glory of the Living Christ. Sadhu testified at every instance about the reality of Jesus and proclaimed that Jesus is a living God. He spoke extensively of his visions and his intimate moments with Him. One of the satanic weapons against Christianity is that it is charged as a foreign religion. Although Jesus was born as a Jew and lived in Jewish culture, He proclaimed that after his death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, all kinds of people would follow Him.
This is clearly quoted in John 12:32 "and I, if be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." He said "will draw all men," which means the entire mankind shall be drawn unto Him irrespective of multidimensional differences such as language, culture, race, religion, etc. Mathew 8:5-11 says, "And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the Kingdom of Heaven." This verse assures that the people of different nations will be partakers of the heavenly heritage along with the Old Testament Saints of God. Therefore, the Bible proclaims that Jesus is the God of all people and whosoever believes in Jesus shall be saved. Every believer has to live for this truth and display the banner of truth to the people around them.

"Lord thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth- Psalms. 60:4."

Written by: Shanta S. Daniel
[Copyright@ Permission is granted to duplicate this article in its entirety, but only without additions, alterations or omissions of any kind, including the author and ministry name at the end]

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