Daniel is a great biblical example of someone who was willing to step up to the plate and give his life for the cause. In the book of Daniel, we are introduced to this man of God. This story comes to us during the time of the Babylonian Captivity. The Jewish people were being punished by God because of their disobedience. It’s during this period in Babylon that we find Daniel. Daniel had served in the royal court of King Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar and we pick up our story in the 6th chapter of Daniel.
Daniel was blessed by God with the gift of administration and quickly found himself in Darius’ advisory council. This did not please the rest of the council. They were quite jealous of Daniel and started scheming to try to get rid of him. The only trouble was that Daniel lived a life of integrity and the council couldn’t find any way to trip him up. Isn’t that an awesome way to live your life? Can you live your life in such a way that there are no cracks in your integrity armor and that it is just about impossible for people to find fault with the way you do business? That is the way the Daniel lived his life.
The council finally decided that the only way to trip Daniel up would be through his religion. They went to the king and said that there are some people in the land that worshiping others more than you. Would you like to sign a law (of the Medes and Persians – which meant it was irrevocable) that would make it illegal to pray to anyone but you? The king agreed. Unfortunately, he didn’t count the cost of such a law. A day later the council caught Daniel praying. They told the king about it and asked, “What are you going to do? Daniel is breaking your law and you can’t revoke it.” This didn’t make King Darius happy. He knew he had been tricked.
King Darius did what the law required and that was to throw Daniel into a den of lions. Daniel could have very well not prayed publically and saved himself from this law. He could have just blended into the landscape, but he didn’t. He served his God the way he always did. Nothing changed. So Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den. Darius couldn’t sleep a wink all night. Have you ever tossed and turned all night? Then you know how Darius felt. At daybreak, he ran outside to check on Daniel. “Are you ok Daniel?” he cried. Daniel replied, “Yes, I’m still alive. My God has shut the mouth of the lions.” Darius was relieved…He rescued Daniel from the lion’s pit and then threw the rest of the council and their families into the lion’s pit. The scriptures record that they were torn to pieces before they even hit the floor of the pit. Daniel was held in high honor because he obeyed God. Daniel was willing to give his life for the cause.
I want to fast forward a few thousand years and tell you about another who gave his life for the cause. In 1843, the Wesleyan Methodist Connection was organized. After Rev. Edward Smith, first president of the Allegheny Conference, published an antislavery speech entitled “Love Worketh No Ill to His Neighbor,” some copies fell into the hands of Methodists who lived not far from Micajah. A pastor, finding some of his parishioners reading the pamphlet, bitterly denounced it and unintentionally fanned their spark of interest into flame. Finally forty or fifty persons withdrew from the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. They wrote to the editor of The True Wesleyan asking for a Discipline and to the Allegheny Conference, asking for a preacher.
Rev. Adam Crooks, a young minister from Ohio, volunteered to follow up the request. He arrived in North Carolina in October of 1847 and began an evangelistic and church organizing ministry. Micajah McPherson and his family were among his converts. A log church was built that first winter nearby in Alamance County. Called “Freedom’s Hill,” it was ready for dedication by March, 1848. Micajah was one of the original trustees of the building.
By the end of Crook’s first year, he had established eight congregations in North Carolina and Virginia, with a total of 140 members. He was joined in 1849, by Rev. Jesse McBride. The growing work soon faced the threat of violent persecution. During the first year, Crooks saw his effigy tarred and feathered. Later each of the three young preachers was arrested and jailed, charged with disrupting the peace of the land. A mob attacked Freedom’s Hill, burying their bullets in its walls. Another mob dragged Crooks from the pulpit. By the end of 1851, all three preachers had had to return to the North to avoid injury, long-term imprisonment, or even death.
For six years after their departure, Micajah and his fellow Wesleyans were left alone among their hostile neighbors, but their antislavery convictions held true. Then Rev. Daniel Worth, a native North Carolinian living in Indiana and former president of the General Conference, came to encourage these isolated Wesleyans. Some had moved to Indiana and other free states, but Micajah and his associates had been so zealous that there were still twenty preaching points scattered across five counties.
Worth was left alone for awhile, but then he too was jailed and eventually had to return to the North on the eve of the Civil War. More Wesleyan families moved away, and all of the churches were closed except Freedom’s Hill and one other. Micajah and his wife and some fifty or more members remained. As the night of war closed in on this tiny fellowship and antislavery ideas became equated with treason in the eyes of their neighbors, one can only imagine the tension with which the lives of these precious people were filled.
One morning as Micajah was doing his chores near his barn; a number of men rode up and surrounded him. They notified him that he was to be hung because of his antislavery principles. His wife and grandson watched helplessly from the house as he was dragged across the creek toward the woods. They could only pray, and one tormentor shattered even their prayers with an intimidating rifle shot into the house near where they stood.
A few rods from the road, near a small creek, stood a leaning dogwood tree, with a fork some seven feet or more from the ground and slightly above a large rock. The mob lifted Micajah up, one crying, “A knotty dogwood is good enough to hang a Wesleyan on.” They fixed a noose improvised from a bridle-rein and shoved his body off the rock. He soon lost consciousness.
After awhile Micajah heard steps, then horses wading the creek. Someone rode up and cut him down, remarking that “the old rascal” was not quite dead but they needed the noose to hang another. Micajah dropped to the ground, too nearly dead to move or speak. Just before dark he regained sufficient strength to crawl back home, where his wife tenderly nursed him back to health.
Micajah continued his active role among the Wesleyans. After the Civil War, Wesleyan ministers returned to North Carolina. Freedom’s Hill was the lone survivor of the early period, but Micajah and his fellow sufferers had the comfort of seeing the work grow.
His spiritual life remained rich and contagious. He loved to testify in the church services. Micajah came to oppose the use of alcoholic beverages as strenuously as he had slavery. He fully supported the holiness revival among Wesleyans, commenting to a Christian friend during his last summer, “The doctrine of entire sanctification is the doctrine of the Bible.”
Just before his death he got the victory over the tobacco habit, “the last filthiness of the flesh,” saying, “I had rather die than to live and use it.” His Christian life was a battle–and a victory–to the very end.
The young preacher, Adam Crooks was responsible for the title of today’s message, “Can you give your life for the Cause?” I have to wonder what motivated these men (Daniel and Micajah) to stand up for what they believe. Why would they risk their life? What motivates me, your pastor and shepherd, to do what I do? What sets my agenda? This past two weeks there has been a particular passage running around in my head. This past weekend, one of the songs that we sang, alluded to this passage. Pam taught from it last Sunday evening. It comes from Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. Paul writes it this way:
16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.
Micajah McPherson was a layperson; a person just like you. And while I have been a pastor for just over 9 years, I still remember what it was like. What motivated Micajah to do what he did? It was the love that was shown through Christ to him. Without giving you the details, let me share that last weekend, I was reintroduced to God’s amazing love, grace and mercy. The love that was showed to me over a 72 hour period was nothing short of amazing. Paul wrote that God loves us out of his unlimited resources. God’s love has no end…His grace has no measure, to quote an old gospel song. There is no way we can measure God’s love for us. My desire is to take that unlimited love that God has showered down on me and spread it to you. I love our God. I love our Christ. I love my family. I love God’s Kingdom. I love our church. I love our community. I have become aware that everything comes down to love. My desire is that everything I say, whether in private or publicly, comes out of love, a love for Christ that was shown to me.
And so I ask you, “Can you give your life for the Cause?” “What Cause?” you ask. The Cause is to love people and build God’s Kingdom. Thursday night I shared quite openly and honestly that if we really realized the sacrifice that was paid for us by Jesus Christ. If we realized the awesome amount of love that God has for us. If we realized God’s amazing grace, it would not be difficult…it would not be a hard job for us to build the Kingdom. Pam mentioned that this subject came up last Sunday night. What would happen if we would commit to being here every Sunday and commit to regularly inviting friends (and let’s go one step beyond, bringing our friends, not those who go to other churches, but our friends who don’t go to church.) Like Patti said, there’s no reason we couldn’t have 50 or more in attendance every Sunday morning. I want to encourage you this morning during our invitation time, to examine yourself. I won’t be singing. You won’t be singing. Here is the question. It should come as no surprise. Can you give your life for the Cause? What changes do you need to make in your life to live your life for the cause? The Kingdom is in need of us. This morning the altar is open for you to reflect on Christ’s great love for you. It’s a time for you to hear the call of the Kingdom. Can you give your life for the Cause?