The things that you have heard
from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men
who will be able to teach others also
(2 Timothy 2:2)
The late 1800s witnessed a great wave of missionaries to India. Entire states once ensnared in Hinduism and closed to the gospel became open furnaces of fiery Christian revival. Many of these states, at the same time, became the fiercest of battlegrounds, with many of the missionaries and their converts martyred in the process.
One state, Assam, saw dozens of missionaries murdered before a single convert to Christ appeared.
A husband and wife and their two small children were the first to profess Christ. To make an example of them, the village elders had them shot through with arrows beginning with the children. One-by-one they watched each other die, the husband being the last.
When told to recant Jesus, the husband boldly proclaimed: “I have decided to follow Jesus, and there is no turning back.” His children were murdered while he watched.
Again told to recant, he said: “The world can be behind me, but the cross is still before me.” Then he watched as his wife was shot through.
Once more told to deny Jesus the man said, “Though no one is here to go with me, still I will follow Jesus.” With that, he was executed.
After a long time, when missionaries finally returned safely to that area, they found that those responsible for the deaths of the family had all been converted to Christ.
The missionaries sought out the famous Indian evangelist Sadhu Sunhar Singh (1889 – 1929) to take up the work. He insisted that if India was to be reached with Jesus, missionaries had to teach the Bible alone without teaching Westernized culture.
Singh visited the village and upon hearing the story in person, and seeing the result of the power of the Gospel of Jesus, Singh wrote the hymn we sing: “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.”
The song isn’t about making a choice to be saved, but the once-for-all power of the Gospel of Jesus for the already saved, even in the face of death. Rather than an emotional manipulator to accept Christ, it’s an anthem of devotion to the One who is already your Saviour.