The stories of martyrs are inspiring – to read and learn about these people who were unafraid of death, and whose faith remained strong, bearing fruit even after death on earth. I’ve thought about what it would be like to be in such a position, where my physical life is threatened unto death for the sake of the gospel. I’ve spoken to friends who have considered the same, some of them having gone out into dangerous places knowing death could be a real possibility. I remember John 10:10 – “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy. What exactly is he stealing, killing and destroying? It is life, the life that Christ freely gives to all. [John 1:4] – “In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.” Martyrdom, like that which occurred in Smyrna, is one thing. Satan persecuted the saints and many were faithful unto death. Stephen is often seen as the first Christian martyr and since then, through different reigns and rules, many followers of Christ have had physical life taken from them. Their spiritual life, however, could not be snuffed out for, as Jesus promises in John 10:28 – “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand.” It is with Christ that we defy Satan, and we defy death.
We have the unshakeable promise of a faithful God – He will never forsake us, never lose us, and never forget us. If anyone challenges me about God, or about my position in God, I cannot be shaken because I know I am in His hand and cannot be removed. I know without doubt, that Jesus loves me, that He will never leave me, and that His Spirit resides within me. I remember Israel who were taunted so many times with “Where is Your God?” God never failed, but in the testimony of Israel, He declares Himself the one true God. It is documented many times in the Bible.
[Isaiah 49:15] – “Can a mother forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb. Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you.”
Even today, testimony upon testimony of God’s faithfulness stands strong. “The heavens declare the glory of God”, David writes in Psalm 19; “There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard” (v.3). Satan seeks to destroy this truth. He doesn’t just take away life physically, but he wants to destroy the blessing of eternal life which Christ has freely given us in his being. How does he do this? Well, look at the world today. Without the grace of God, humanity could easily destroy itself. Greed, anger, lust, selfish ambitions and the works of the flesh are destruction, but the work of the Spirit in us results in love, joy, peace, self-control and more. The works of the flesh lead to death, but the work of the Spirit saves and redeems.
[Galatians 5:14-16] – “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another. I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.”
Martyrdom is to remain faithful unto death. Obedience or submission to God is to take up our cross daily, deny ourselves, and follow Him. It is to love continuously, to forgive, and to crucify the flesh with its passions and desires. Instead, we continuously strive to allow the Spirit of God to work in us and through us. It is a spiritual battle, a decision to trust in God, and a choice of life and death. One thing is clear – Jesus always wins, and His love always wins.
[Revelation 11:15] – “… The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ.”
… is humility, patience, and longsuffering [1 Corinthians 13:4-8]. We love because Christ first loved us. We love because that is what the Spirit within us causes us to do so. We love with the love that God gives to us, and we love out of the love we have experienced from God. Love is not just a feeling, but it is a choice. To love another person does not depend on their actions, but it comes from ourselves – we love regardless of who. Why?
[1 John 4:10-11] – “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
… is to look up, to remember that we died and our life is hidden with Christ in God [Colossians 3:1-4]. Forgiveness is not always a once-off word, or a once-off meeting. It may be a continuous process, a battle of perseverance, and a work of faith as we choose to focus on Christ, rather than the things of this world [Hebrews 11:3]. Unforgiveness not only withholds blessing from another person, but it more potently poisons our spirit, and our relationship with God.
[Mark 11:25-26] – “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
Martyrs laid down their lives, defeating the Devil as they remained faithful unto death. As Satan wars against the world, offering the false gratification of earthly desires and attitudes, we defeat him by dying to the flesh, and pursuing life in Christ. We have complete assurance of God’s victory and we fight a spiritual battle [Ephesians 6:12]. God desires that all would have life, and life to the fullest, so I pray that we would remember His love and His faithfulness, that our lives will be seasoned with His grace, and that with forgiveness and forbearance, we would testify boldly the majesty and love of Christ. I proclaim that Christ is my eternal Saviour, and I declare that the Devil can never take away the life and Spirit that Christ has given to me.
[Revelation 12:10-11] – “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”