By the time you read this, I will be in Oklahoma on a mission trip to the headquarters of Voice of the Martyrs. I’m spending the week packing boxes for the families of those in places like Afghanistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, etc.,—places where to name the Name of Christ is to literally lay your life on the line. These Christians face persecution and the possibility of dying every day of their lives. My life is no more on the line this week than it is any other day, but being here I can’t help but ask the question—am I ready to lay it all on the line for Christ? If the moment came, would I be able to say, “Yes, I love Jesus!” if I knew the cost would be someone chopping off of my head? I certainly hope the answer would be a resounding “yes!”
Stephen was the first Christian martyr, but down through the centuries many have faced this consequence of their faith. All of the disciples except John faced excruciating deaths. Legend has it Peter was crucified upside down at his own request because he believed he wasn’t worthy to die the same way Jesus did. Many other early Christians were also boiled in oil, sawed in half, beheaded, crucified, fed to lions, etc. at the hands of the Romans and other groups seeking to squash this new “rebellious sect.” Later, the Romans tried a new tactic, “If you can’t lick them, join them,” and made Christianity the official religion of the “Holy Roman Empire.” In the name of Jesus, they killed and conquered much of the known world. That’s not at all what Jesus taught.
- Perversion of the faith worked much better than the attempts to squash it. Reading the Bible was highly discouraged, so the only version of the truth heard by the masses was what was fed to them by the Catholic Church. By the time of the Reformation, most of the so-called Christians worshipped the pope much more than they ever did Jesus, so a whole new set of martyrs had to step up to risk their lives by speaking out the truth. America was settled by many of those seeking freedom to worship God.
Today the threat comes to us not from the church, but from those who either worship another god, no god, or Satan himself. All three have the same end result. We never thought we’d see a day of persecution here in America, but it’s come. Maybe it’s not as overt here as other places yet, but when bakers can lose everything they own for not baking a cake, or doctors for refusing to do an abortion, etc., other punishments for faith cannot be far behind. Are we ready?
I doubt it. Too many churches have taught an easy salvation. They’ve taught God is Love and left out the God is Holy. People have a concept of God as a Sugar Daddy to give them peace and comfort and supply all their needs. Their “faith” is limited to a Sunday morning church attendance, and God is conveniently left behind as they go to bars, sleep around, have affairs, or generally continue the life of sin they never left behind.
Salvation isn’t easy. It cost God His Son. It has to cost us our will. Jesus isn’t Savior if He isn’t our Lord. Repentance literally means “turn away.” It doesn’t mean “add to.” Repentance is hard. We can’t do it on our own. It only comes through a daily surrender to Jesus. This is the faith that will get us through our daily struggles. This is the faith that will allow us to face that moment when the challenge to our faith comes.
Maybe it never will. The disciple John lived to an old age. Why? Why was he the only one who never had to face an executioner’s axe? It was probably because he was the only disciple who stood at the foot of the cross. He was already willing to die for his Lord. He had nothing to prove—not to God, nor to himself. He had a PhD in faith.
Where would you rate yours?