Thankful for Others Sacrifice

Sep 07, 2016
Dr. Paul Chappell

“What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Philippians 1:18-21
Often our faith is silenced by things that didn’t even cause early martyrs to stutter.
The story is told of forty Christian soldiers who were a part of the Twelfth Legion of Rome’s Imperial Army. The ruler of Rome at that time was Licinius, a devout believer in pagan gods. He sent out a decree throughout all of Rome, ordering that people offer sacrifices to pagan gods in order to help the military advances. As part of the decree, Licinius wanted each of his soldiers to do the same. Like the three Hebrew children in Daniel, these forty soldiers refused to take part in the sacrifice. They claimed, “You can have our armor and even our bodies, but our hearts’ allegiance belongs to Jesus Christ.”
This showdown happened to be in the middle of a harsh winter, so to punish them for their defiance of the emperor, the captain of the company ordered them all to remove their clothing and lay in the middle of a frozen lake for the duration of a night, unless they were willing to recant their beliefs and renounce Christ. The men huddled together on the lake and spent the night singing praises to God. As the temperature dropped, so did the soldiers. One by one they each succumbed to the freezing temperatures and died. At last, there was only one Christian left. Fearful and in extreme pain, he renounced Christ, removing himself from the ice. Deeply moved by the spectacle that night, and choosing to believe in Christ, the captain of the guard then removed his clothing, walked out onto the ice, and professed his faith in Christ. When the sun came up the next morning, forty Christians lay dead on the ice, a testament to their faith in God.
One doesn’t have to look far in history to see stories of countless numbers of Christians who were faithful despite death. From as far back as Bible times, to as recent as missionaries overseas, many Christians have been killed for their beliefs. The Dark Ages, the Inquisition, and the spread of the Roman Catholic Church have all been times of great persecution for Christians; yet these believers were faithful to stand up in the face of death and claim Christ as their Lord.
Traveling to Europe a few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit many of the sites where early church reformers were burned, beaten, and martyred for speaking out against the false teachings of the day. Many of these people could have gone with the flow of the Catholic church, yet they chose to claim Bible truths and reject false teaching.
How faithful would we be were we placed in that position? Would we claim Christ though we were thrown in prison like John Bunyan? Would we sing praises to God as we were burned at the stake like John Huss? And would we claim to be a child of God while being drowned like Margaret Wilson?
So many believers have paved the way for our faith today. They did not allow intimidation, threats, or even death to deter them from following God. So often we can turn away from serving God at the smallest of difficulties. Ridicule, discomfort, or unpopularity cause us to keep our faith silent. Yet these believers didn’t even let death silence their voice for Christ.
Thank God that through the years there have been believers who have stood strong in the faith despite persecution. Never forget the sacrifice many people have made so that you could worship God in freedom. The next time you are tempted to quiet your voice, turn away from God, or denounce belief in Him; remember the words of Polycarp before he was burned, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury. How then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”

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