by Raymond Elliott
It must have been a very emotional scene as the Marine Commandant visited the young men who lay wounded on their hospital beds following the terrible truck bombing of their barracks in Beirut on October 23, 1983. One young marine, who was critically wounded and could not talk because of the tubes in his throat, made a sign with his hands as the General visited him.
It was soon understood that he wanted a pen and pad in order to write something. Upon receiving them, the marine wrote the words “Semper Fi”, short for “Semper Fidelis”. The message, “Always Faithful” is the motto of the Marine Corps. In the face of death, in pain and discomfort, here was a person loyal to the cause, faithful even until death. Our hearts are filled with admiration for young men with such courage, fortitude and faithfulness.
My mind was filled with exhortations from the Holy Scriptures regarding the faithfulness of Christians to the Captain of our salvation, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 2:10). The encouragement in Revelation 2:10, “Be thou faithful unto death...” must be understood in the light of the context. Many of the saints in Smyrna were being imprisoned and not a few were being killed because of their love for and their loyalty to the Lord. Regardless of the severity of the persecutions, Christians were urged to be faithful to Christ even if it cost them their very lives. If they would not recant but die confessing Christ, the Lord promised them “the crown of life.”
Oh, how we need to emulate the traits of courage and faithfulness of the young marine, and especially of our brethren in the first century, many of them dying horrible deaths. The example of faithfulness exemplified in the lives of men and women of every age needs to be imitated today. No greater example of endurance and faithfulness to the Lord can be found than that of the apostle Paul. Think of his rejection, his suffering, and his imprisonment; yet, he never wavered in his faith. He, too, could have written, “Always Faithful” at his death. In fact, this is what he did write during the last days of his life on this earth: “For I am already being offered, and the time of my departure is come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith...” (2 Timothy 4:6-8). His faithfulness cost him his life but he received that “crown of righteousness” from Jesus Christ.
It is truly disheartening to learn of brethren, after many years of faithfulness, falling from the grace of our Lord. Some apostatize because of apathy, others because of carnality, while many falter because of their unscriptural marital relationships. Some apostatize from Christ, embracing religious errors and practices. How foolish for a person to ‘quit the church’ because of hurt feelings or an injury to one’s pride. In contrast, it is so wonderful to know of brethren who remain faithful to Christ all their lives. I spoke at the funeral services for an elder of a congregation where I had formerly served as a preacher. It was with confidence and assurance made possible by God’s grace, love and the death of Jesus Christ, that it could be said that this brother had gone to be with the Lord. It could have been written on his grave marker, “Always Faithful”. Whether your life may be taken because of your love for the Lord, or whether you live until you die of natural causes, may it be written of you, “SEMPER FIDELIS!”