It is hard for the American Christian to grasp Jesus’ encouragement and warning to his disciples. They were not to seek martyrdom, but neither were they to shun it. Their witness was to remain bold in a world that hated the perfection of Jesus and the purity of His message. Faced with pagan insistence on many gods and many ways, they were to insist that there was only one God and Jesus the only Way. The lines were drawn with martyrdom never far from the thoughts of the early Church.
The martyr call is still with us today. Thousands of God’s greatest saints are giving their lives in countries where Islam, Hinduism, Communism, and Spiritism hold dark sway. In Africa, India, Indonesia, China, North Korea, Russia, the Arab world, and further, Christians who refuse to deny Christ are being killed in brutal ways. And their blood is like holy seed that only causes others – including some of the murderers – to trust in Jesus. Tommy Tenney in his book “The God Chasers” told how Communists tried to stop a pastor from preaching in Ethiopia. They broke into the service and threw the pastor’s three-year-old daughter out the second story window while everyone watched. Tenney writes: “…the pastor’s wife went down to the ground floor, cradled her dead baby in her arms, and returned to her seat on the front row and worship continued. As a result of this humble pastor’s faithfulness, 400,000 devout believers would boldly show up for his Bible conferences in Ethiopia.”
You and I do not know what suffering is yet to come to Christians in the West. We are to prepare to pay any price tomorrow by being faithful today in putting “self” to daily death and living out a bold testimony of integrity and faithfulness to the Lord.