(During the Holiday season we are reblogging the top 9 post of 2013. Based on the number of “hits” this one came in at #8)
From Pakistan to Egypt. From Kenya to Syria. And all across the Muslim world it has been an “open season on Christians.” Seventy-eight people professing Christianity were slaughtered Sunday by twin suicide bombers at a church in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad.
In a Kenyan shopping mall, a gang of Islamic extremists from Somalia murdered at least 68 workers and shoppers. Reportedly they shouted for “Muslims to get out-of-the-way so they could specifically kill Christians.”
The Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters have targeted Believers in Egypt. Many have fled Iraq and the West Bank where church buildings were bombed and Christians were threatened.
In Syria conditions are as bad or worse after attacks by militant groups linked to al-Qaeda such as Jabhat al-Nusra.“If we stay in Syria, they will kill us. It is that simple,” explained 36-year-old Rami Sammaan, after worshiping with his wife, Sally, and her mother, father and sister.
In America we enjoy the freedom of worship. We assemble each Sunday in our respective church buildings free from fear of intrusion. Attack. Or deadly assault. We can openly express our faith. Follow our faith. And share our faith.
Yet, there is no guarantee that Christians will always enjoy this privilege.
It raises the question, are you willing to die for Jesus?
We casually read of first century Christians who suffered persecution. Stephen was stoned to death. James was slain by the sword. Both Peter and Paul were imprisoned. Secular history records the terrible atrocities committed against Christians by the Roman authorities. Christians were tortured. Mutilated. And maimed. Believers were burned at the stake. Thrown to the lions. And crucified like Christ.
Jesus plainly told the disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matt 16:25-26).
In the second century many Christians were martyred for their faith in Christ. One of the early “church fathers,” Polycarp lived during this period. He was born about AD 69. He became a Christian and was later appointed as one of the bishops in the church at Smyrna For almost his entire life he escaped persecution.
However, at age 86 he was suddenly a target of the Roman government. Friends urged him to flee and go into hiding. Polycarp refused. When the soldiers came to his door, he let the them in and said, “God’s will be done.” Historians record that he was brought before the local proconsul, Statius Quadratus, who interrogated him in front of a curious crowd of bystanders.
By all accounts the aged saint seemed unfazed by the interrogation and the threats of being thrown to wild beasts or burned at the stake. Polycarp just told Quadratus that while the proconsul’s fire lasts but a little while, the fires of judgment, “reserved for the ungodly cannot be quenched.”
“Swear,” urged the Proconsul, “reproach Christ, and I will set you free.”
“86 years have I have served him,” Polycarp declared, “and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”
Quadratus then commanded Polycarp to be tied to the stake. The fire was set. And as the flames consumed him, this faithful disciple died praying to God.
As the fires of persecution burn around the world, how soon before they envelop the United States? One day we may be faced with the decision to deny Christ or die. In the meantime, let us be strong in the faith. Courageous. And loyal to the Lord.
And may we be fortified, assured and guided by God’s promise, “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman