Joshua 1:9 states: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord Your God is with you wherever you go.”
We will never be alone or without Our God, regardless of what is happening to us as we follow him. We are his agents of change in an evil and rebellious world.
This final Beatitude does not demand that we be purposefully different, but rather we delight in living for Christ in every moment. This in itself will mark us as not of this world and will bring persecution our way. But persecution cannot derail us from a purposeful life in Christ. We must allow our adversaries to make us better, not bitter. This will only magnify his presence in us as we resist the entangling snares of the evil one. In martyrdom for Christ, our daily persecutions are small steps that eventually lead to longer strides.
Consider again the early Church. Rome, in its power and pride, was out to destroy anything that was contrary to their gods and religious system in which the emperor was worshiped as a god. Authentic Christians would not bow down for these royal edicts, and so they expected persecution that would result in death. They considered it a privilege to carry one’s witness to this sacrificial stage. Every one of the apostles experienced such a death, with the exception of John. Even he was sentenced to the Island of Patmos by the Romans to die of hard labor, yet he survived.
Stories of supreme martyrdom are numerous during this early age of the church, and such is the final episode in the life of Polycarp. He was one of John’s most dedicated disciples and served as the bishop of the early church at Smyrna during the latter years of his life. Following is a compilation from “John’s Story: The Last Eyewitness” by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins in which they eloquently describe the death of this faithful saint discipled by John the Apostle .
Even as the Roman soldiers arrested Polycarp he treated them kindly. They allowed him to pray before being carried off to prison. He lifted his voice to God for two hours and many of the listening soldiers repented before God.
The judge, annoyed at Polycarp’s response, decided to change the manner of his death to fire.
Fire did not frighten Polycarp either. He likened it to the future judgment of eternal punishment for all unbelievers. He encouraged the judge to dispose of him as he wished.
The soldiers set to nail Polycarp to the stake to prevent his escape from the pain, but Polycarp assured them that God would provide him the strength to withstand the pain to confront this excruciating death without moving. They left him tied to the stake.
After Polycarp prayed to thank God allowing him this witness and martyrdom the fire was ignited, yet the flames arched around the saint and would not burn him. The incensed judge ordered Polycarp to be killed by the sword in the midst of the flames, and his blood spurt forth and put out the fire. The fire had to be restarted to cremate the body of Polycarp.
Although part of this story is obviously legend, the message is still powerful. Polycarp was eager and willing to die for our Lord, regardless of the pain associated with it. God received the glory from his and all martyrs’ deaths throughout the generations. But martyrdom is not relegated to the past. It is pertinent now. Jesus said in Matthew 11:6, “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”
We Are Martyrs Daily for Christ! Our pathway has become a narrow ledge, but we risk it gladly to follow our Savior wherever he leads us. Whether our persecution is found in the daily denials of spiritual living or requires the physical surrender of life, the motivation and commitment is the same. As peacemakers we are equipped, ready, and eager to do whatever is necessary to proclaim Christ in this world. We can do nothing less.
Our peacemaking has propelled us to this plane of living, and whether we die in a single physical act or daily, in pieces, it is all for him. We are to be crusaders and heroes for Christ!
Thoughts for meditation:
Have you thanked God for any persecution experienced today for his cause?
How is God preparing you to be more his martyr each day?
Prepare yourself to be a hero for him!