When I was 15, I had a brief but passionate obsession with the persecuted church. A friend had given me a collection of stories about modern day martyrs as a Christmas gift. The stories were graphic and recent. I read the whole book in one night, wide-eyed and weeping through the wee hours of the morning. I was shocked out of my naïve belief that Christianity is easy and passive. Where I was raised, being a Christian might make you popular before it caused persecution. I thought martyrdom was as much ancient history as American witch-hunts.
I read in horror. Families ripped apart. Believers beaten or killed… all because they would not deny the sweet truth that Jesus is worth any pain on earth. Oh, the beautiful praise they gave God as they received their torture. And I was left with this one fact, staring me in the face: Real faith changes everything. Real face costs everything… perhaps your life. But real faith is a life lived in Jesus, and it is worth its high price.
Tragically, this realization did not change me then. I lived in a place of sinful religious pride before I landed in a pit of sin. But God has since redeemed it all. And it is not too late to be changed.
Sweet friends, it is time that we look at our lives and examine whether they are lived with the “real faith” of the martyrs. No, in America we do not face the same threats and weapons as the modern day martyrs of Christianity. But I argue that our plight may be worse. The persecuted church faces blows to the body – but their souls are strengthened and their reliance on God grows greater every day. What happens to our reliance on God?
We have been lulled to sleep by our comfort. Our spiritual muscles have atrophied. And the only way to become strong again is to be like the martyrs. Not that we seek to be killed – but we seek to live lives that are impossible without God’s power.
If every aspect of your life feels well within your own power, then I’d suggest that perhaps you are not relying on God at all. My new prayer is that I take on things in life that are impossible by my own abilities… that I serve past my own energy, that I give past my own resources, that I love past my own capacity, all to point others to the beauty of our Savior.
You have no idea how ridiculous it is that someone like me aspires to such a holy call. I am not capable. I am not worthy. So if any of my hopes are accomplished, you can be sure that it isn’t me accomplishing them. It will be our sweet Jesus, overcoming me with His love. Will you join me?