Polycarp was a second century Christian who lived at the time of Roman persecution. This godly man, one of the bishops of the church at Smyrna, managed to escape persecution for almost his entire life. 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 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.
Polycarp’s steadfast stand for Christ dramatically illustrates and courageously embodies our word of the week commitment.
Commitment. Success in any field of endeavor depends upon it. In fact, success and commitment are often linked together. The late news anchor, Walter Cronkite stated unequivocally, “I can’t imagine a person becoming a success who doesn’’t give this game of life everything he’s got.” This is witnessed in sports, business, education, and politics.
Commitment. It is quality necessary for the spiritual growth, maturity and success of every Christian. Interestingly, standard translations of the Bible never use the word commitment! Yet, the concept is woven throughout Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
Commitment. This was the call of Christ to his potential followers. It’s the essence of his statement in Luke 9:62. “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God”. Read the context of Jesus’ statement in verses 57-62. My Bible heading for this paragraph says, “”The Cost of Discipleship” It might as well have read “The Cost of Commitment.” Discipleship involves total commitment to Christ.
In his challenging book, Living with Passion, Peter Hirsch asserts that commitment is one of the 10 keys to success. Here’s part of an empowering quote he shares from W. H. Murray regarding the importance of commitment.
“Until one is committed there is always hesitancy. The chance to draw back. Always ineffectiveness. The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issue from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents…which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.”
Commitment is the key, not only to accomplishment in life, but in our spiritual success as well. An uncommitted Christian is an oxymoron. Everything that relates to spiritual life and godliness is centered around commitment.
What was the common characteristic of all the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11? Commitment! Commitment to God. Commitment to righteous cause. Commitment to personal integrity. Commitment to their fellow comrades of faith.
Jesus’ sermon on the Mount speaks to the quality of commitment. Commitment to spiritual values. Commitment to nobler virtues. Commitment to a higher standard of living. Commitment to a deeper sense of service. Commitment to a greater kind of love.
But commitment has its challenges. Obstacles. Difficulties. Commitment is not always easy. We will be tested and tried. Our commitment will be threatened. We soon realize that Christian commitment is demanding.
Christ challenges His followers to commitment when he declares, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. (Lk 9:23).
Polycarp was not the first or the last whose commitment was tested by fire. Either literally. Or figuratively.
Will you answer Christ’s call to spiritual commitment?
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman