The Story of Sadhu Sundar Singh

Story Of Sadhu Sundar Singh by Cyril J. Davey presents the story of the life of a young Indian mystic who rebelled against God.  After struggling with his life, he finally sought God and received an answer when the Lord Jesus appeared to him.  From that point on Sundar Singh lived the life of an Indian holy man who was totally committed to Christ.  His ministry stretched across India, into Tibet, and around the world.  All this took place during his 39 years of life.

Sadhu Sundar Singh (1889-1929), the son of a wealthy landowner in the Punjab plain of India, was a prime candidate for becoming another honored member of the “Singh” (lion) family.   God had other plans.

Sundar grew up under the traditional mystic teachings of his mother, but he was influenced by teachers at a nearby mission school.  As a child he rebelled against Christianity until he realized he was not finding the peace in life which he sought.

At the age of fourteen Sundar plotted his suicide and finally he cried out to God.  In despair Sundar cried out, “O, God, if there be a God, reveal Thyself before I die.”   In the wee hours of the morning, Christ Himself appeared to Sundar and told him, “I am the Way” that you are seeking.  From this point in his life Sadhu never turned back from following Christ.

Sundar’s family encouraged him to keep his faith silent, but Sundar adamantly refused to hide the source of his joy.  When his family’s persecution spread to the others in the local Christian community, Sundar moved away to a Christian boarding school.  There he found more disappointment in what seemed to be shallow faith in the young men who were taught there.

Back home, Sundar determined he must make a definite difference from what he had been.  The Sikh clan, of which Singh was a family, were known by their uncut hair and distinctive dress.  That evening Sundar shaved his hair and further incurred the wrath of his family like never before.

Unbeknownst to him,  his last meal with his family was poisoned.  After that meal his father spoke the words of outcast and sent Sundar away to die.  When the poison began to take affect, Sundar painfully made his way to Christians in a nearby village.  They treated him and saved his life from the poison.

Self-sacrifice in persecution, poverty, and hardships lasted throughout Sundar’s entire life and ministry.  One of Sundar’s heartrending trials was his father’s hatred for his newfound belief.  Even so, after being cast out of his own family, Sundar continued praying that his father too, would come to know Christ.  Through his continual ministry and steadfast faith, Sundar was able to eventually see his father come to know Christ as well.

Sundar learned to minister not as many other missionaries did but as Christ Himself did.  Sundar used examples from the nature that surrounded him for so much of his life.  Sundar related Biblical principles in a way those to whom he ministered to could understand.

“In every home there are spiders. Many of us,” he once warned, “trying to get rid of sin, are like housewives who destroy the spiders’ webs without destroying the spiders.”  By his actions and in simple terms Sundar was able to spread the gospel among his people.

Sundar made many treacherous journeys over the Himalayas and into Tibet that were followed by intense persecution by the Tibetan lamas each time.  Even through persecution Sundar lived a life of complete sacrificial service to Christ.

Sundar realized the people of India would understand the gospel if it was lived rather than just taught.  In an effort to relate to his people, he dressed in the traditional garb of the Indian holy man or sadhu.  By relating to the people through traditions and by understanding their beliefs, Sundar was able to reach his people.

At the age of 39 in 1929 Sundar was last seen as he began his final attempt to touch another life in Tibet.  On this trip the words he often spoke became a reality.  Before every trip to Tibet he would say, “I never expect to return from Tibet.”

In evaluating this book, I describe The Story of Sadhu Sundar Singh, by Cyril J. Davey as an impressive true story of faith put into action.  I liked how the author, Davey, drew the reader into the life of Sundar.  Not only does the reader catch the fervor of Sundar’s mission to his people but is also drawn into his struggles in understanding what is God’s will.

The author’s style is easy to understand and appealing to the mind.  By using strong examples, quotes, and experiences, the author  accurately describes the hardships and experiences of Singh.

Author Davey used descriptive phrases accurately to describe the persecution that Christians underwent in Tibet.  His wording drew pictures of the treacherous mountain trails and brought the story from black and white words to nearly living color on the pages.

Some of the unique theological ideas included the near-mystic experiences that occurred to Sundar.  One such event was recorded by a friend who once saw a prowling leopard prepare to pounce on Sundar but suddenly go stand at Sundar’s side as calm as a house cat before it bounded off into the jungle.  Sundar was in danger of the elements, natural enemies, and persecution most of his life.  These experiences are somewhat mystical (in the sense of mystery) yet show protecting hand of God on Sundar’s life.

The Life of Sadhu Sundar Singh relates to this Introduction to Missions class especially in the area of strategy as found in Perspectives Lesson Seven.  Sundar used strategic methods which were not traditional but are definitely Biblical in their reflection of Christ’s own ministry.

Sundar’s strategy was also very culturally relevant.  He ministered in such a way that the sensitivity of his fellow Indians was not overlooked.  He used culturally relevant means to show and tell the people about Christ. Sundar pointed out how missionaries need to understand those to whom they wish to minister. He once told people:

“We are offering Christianity in a Western cup and India

rejects it.  But when we offer the water of life in an Eastern

bowl, then our people will recognize it and take it gladly.”

As students preparing to go onto the mission field, we especially need to understand this.  We are not to go and Americanize the world but to go and tell them about Christ.  If we go and live in the manner they do and show them how to live in their environment and culture as Christ would have; then won’t our witness be much more effective than if we go and tell them about Christ and try to teach them to live like an American?

Modern missions is not going and establishing a mission compound where the people come to you but going out among the people and living with and like them to minister Christ to them where they are.

As examples of Christ we can reach the world if we, like Sundar, and yes like Christ go to those who are hurting and in need.  Christ went to live among the people and so must we.

I would suggest the reading of The Life of Sadhu Sundar Singh to mission minded young people who are planning to go onto the mission field.  Through this text they will understand why strategy needs to be relevant to the people.  Sundar is an example for us to look at as a young man who devoted his entire life to Christ.

After reading this, each of us should ask ourselves: “In my effort to reach those around me, would I be willing to suffer the same mental, spiritual, and physical pain for my King?”


Sept. 29, 1997