The true story behind the hymn – “I Have Decided To Follow Jesus” is a powerful testimony that every Christian should know.
Persecution Relief along with renowned worship leaders from across India like Zanbeni Prasad, Alwin Thomas, Cameron Mendes, and several others pay a tribute to the families of Christian martyrs in India through a beautiful multilingual rendition of this hymn. Watch it below.
The hymn is originating from India. The lyrics come from the last words of Nokseng, a man from the Garo tribe in Assam. It is today, the song of the Garo people and an Anthem for Persecution.
It is a familiar hymn in Church services, especially in Baptism services. But only a few are aware of the incredible story behind it.
According to different traditions, the formation of these words into a hymn has its attributes to the Indian missionary Sadhu Sundar Singh and Simon Marak, from Jorhat, Assam. The story of this song is also covered in the Book by Dr. P.P. Job, Why God Why?
The Welsh Revival To India
The great revival in Wales about 150 years ago raised many missionaries. As a result, the gospel reached Northeast India through some of them. The region which then was in Assam had hundreds of aggressive tribes called head-hunters.
Despite severe opposition, the missionaries shared the gospel to these tribes. One of them shared the gospel to Nokseng, his wife, and two kids. Thereafter they received Jesus Christ as their Savior. As a result, many villagers turned to Jesus.
Hearing this, the angry chief of the village gathered all the villagers. He called Nokseng and demanded him to renounce his faith publicly or to face death.
Touched by the Holy Spirit, Nokseng replied, “I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back, no turning back.”
The outraged chief ordered the shooting of his two children. The arrows pierced the boys and they fell dead immediately. Again he demanded Nokseng to deny his faith if he wanted to spare his wife.
But Nokseng responded, “Though no one joins me, still I will follow. No turning back, no turning back.”
Nokseng’s wife also died on shooting. The chief then asked for the final time to deny his faith and live. Nokseng gladly said these final words, “The cross before me, the world behind me. No turning back, no turning back.”
He was shot immediately like the rest of his family. But this triggered a mass revival in the village – beginning with the chief! The chief was extremely disturbed by the faith of this man. He could not understand why Nokseng, his wife, and two children gave up their life for a man who lived some 2,000 years ago in some other continent. So he wanted to experience the remarkable power behind the family’s faith.
The Holy Spirit touched him and he spontaneously confessed, “I too belong to Jesus Christ!” When the gathered villagers heard their chief confessing his faith in Jesus Christ, the whole village accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior.
The Baptist hymnologist William J. Reynolds discovered this song in 1958. He arranged the melody and published it in Assembly Songbook (Nashville, 1959). The tune ASSAM was named for inclusion in Christian Praise.
The prominence of Reynolds’ work with the designation of the name ASSAM propelled the song to popularity. This song appeared in the United States during the 1960s and prominently featured in Billy Graham crusade meetings.
The only missing factor was the knowledge of the true story behind the hymn. But not anymore!
Anthem For Persecution
The true story behind the popular hymn “I have decided to follow Jesus” is overwhelming. It is amazing how one man who knew nothing beyond the boundaries of his village became an evangelist to the nations. His faithfulness reflects in every word he spoke at the face of death, impacting millions across the world, turning their hearts to their only Savior Jesus Christ.
As the church in India remembers the tragic Kandhamal riots this August, this song has turned as an Anthem for persecution.
“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)