“I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”

The Story Behind the Song

The title of this devotion probably sounds familiar; as it was intended to jog your memory and get you think about the great hymn “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”. Many of you may be unaware that the story behind this hymn is quite touching and shouts boldness. I have not read the book containing the story, but I was lucky enough to have a pastor once include the story as a part of his sermon. Since then it has yet to leave my mind. I bet your very curious to hear the story behind this great hymn.

Almost 200 years ago, there was a great revival that broke out in Wales. Because of this massive revival, many missionaries started coming from England to the North-East part of India for the sole purpose of doing their part in fulfilling the Great Commission. The region the missionaries came to was known as Assam and it had hundreds of tribes. These tribes in the Assam region were quite aggressive and primitive. Tribesmen were often referred to as head hunters; their job was to attain as many heads as they could. The collecting of heads was thought to show how suitable a man was for a wife. If he had many heads, he proved that he was strong and could protect his wife.

Into this aggressive and hostile area moved a Welsh missionary family. While in the village, they spread the Gospel and love of Jesus Christ. Being outsiders, they weren’t welcomed in the village. One of the missionaries from the Welsh family finally succeeded in leading a family (husband, wife, and two children) to the Lord. This man’s faith proved strong and contagious as many other villagers began accepting Jesus into their lives.

This turn of events made the village chief very angry. The village chief summoned all the villagers, then he called for the first family the Welsh missionaries had led to the Lord. He demanded them to renounce their faith or face persecution. The husband, led by the Holy Spirit sung out “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back.” The chief, enraged by the husband refusal to denounce Christ, ordered his two children to be executed. As his two children lay on the ground lifeless and twitching, the chief asked “Will you deny your faith? You have lost both your children. You will lose your wife too.” The man replied again singing, “Though none go with me, still I will follow. No turning back.” The Chief then ordered the man’s wife to be executed. In view of their lifeless bodies, the Chief then said, “I will give you one more opportunity to deny your faith and live.” In the face of death the man sang out, “The cross before me, the world behind me. No turning back, no turning back.” The man was executed and joined the rest of his family in eternity.

With their deaths, something miraculous took place. The chief was so moved by this act, that he wanted what this man and his family had. He declared with his mouth, “I too belong to Jesus Christ.”

This story has shaken me since I first heard it. It encourages me daily as a reminder of what being bold in faith actually means. It means we are willing to take it with us to the grave. It means we will never deny our faith in Jesus Christ even when threatened with death. The obedience of one missionary, leading one man and his family to Jesus, who then took a brave stand that led to his death. However, his refusal to deny Christ, even during the worst circumstances, led to the change of his entire village. Man, God is good! This story gets me pumped every time. I hope the story has done for you as much as it has done for me.

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