"She was always considerate of others, even though she herself was in a very difficult situation. She was always concerned for other prisoners. She never stopped being concerned for the Syrian population living through just horrible things in this war and still are. She never stopped caring for others."
This is how a former ISIS hostage describes Kayla Mueller in a remarkable story on this morning's ABC News website. Four former hostages will tell about their shared ordeal on tonight's "20/20" broadcast.
We knew that Mueller was tortured and assaulted sexually by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of ISIS. But we are only now hearing remarkable accounts of her unfailing Christian commitment and character. Former hostages describe her sense of humor and unwavering faith. They testify that she defended her Christian commitment to "Jihadi John," the infamous ISIS executioner, and inspired them all with her courage.
At one point she refused a chance to escape so that some teenage girls with her would have a better chance at freedom. "I am an American. If I escape with you, they will do everything to find us again," she explained. One girl who escaped said Mueller "was praying for us to escape, to survive. I will never forget this sacrifice. She was very good to us. I will never forget."
Mueller died in February 2015. ISIS stated that a Jordanian airstrike in Syria killed her, a claim the White House has denied. According to another former ISIS hostage, she was killed by the terrorists, perhaps by al-Baghdadi himself.
Scripture says, "To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice" (Proverbs 21:3). For Kayla Mueller, her righteousness was her sacrifice. She is now numbered among "those who had been slain for the word of God and the witness they had borne" (Revelation 6:9).
You and I are not likely to face anything like Kayla Mueller endured, but we will encounter our own temptations and challenges today. John Maxwell noted, "Your integrity is the foundation for lasting achievement. If you build it, success and significance will come. And you'll be able to enjoy them for a long time." Conversely, we all know what happens to a house with a flawed foundation: cracks hidden beneath the house produce cracks visible in its walls that only get worse over time.
The best time to choose character is before it is tested. At the start of this day, ask the Holy Spirit to manifest the fruit of "faithfulness" and "self-control" in your life (Galatians 5:22, 23). Decide that you will face temptation with integrity and opposition with grace. Remember that "whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out" (Proverbs 10:9). And know that in a day of moral confusion and deception, your character is your most indispensable witness.
Thinking about Kayla Mueller this morning, I am reminded of martyred missionary Jim Elliott's now-famous observation, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." Jesus told his persecuted followers, "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10).
Kayla Mueller is wearing her crown today.
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: August 26, 2016
Do you want to live a life in whole-hearted pursuit of loving God and others?
Read today's First15 at www.first15.org.