Psalm 11:1-3 “I’ve already run for dear life straight to the arms of God. So why would I run away now when you say, ‘Run to the mountains; the evil bows are bent…aimed to shoot under cover of darkness at every heart open to God. The bottom’s dropped out of the country; good people don’t have a chance’” [MSG]
Persecution of Christ followers is nothing new. Since the stoning of the first martyr, Stephen, believers have been targeted throughout the centuries. The US Department of State reports that today Christians in over 60 countries face persecution because of their faith. For years organizations like Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors and others have ministered to the persecuted church.
Although I’ve been aware of the atrocities, the now iconic picture of those twenty-one Coptic Christians kneeling on the beach in orange jumpsuits brought it home. As they awaited their beheading by the sword-bearing hands of the Islamic State, reports say most of them died with the name of Jesus Christ on their lips.
Almost every day, new information surfaces about more slaughtered Christians. It seems like the bad guys are winning. But no matter how it may look to their genocidal persecutors, or to the world, these martyrs are the true victors “…for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Revelation 12:11).
So what about us? What once seemed remote no longer feels as distant. What if one day it’s my head or yours? Would we be whispering the name of Jesus Christ with our final breath? It reminds me of a story told by Corrie ten Boom in her book, The Hiding Place….
As the Nazi presence grew in Holland, Jews and all those harboring them were being rounded up and sent to prison camps. One day Corrie expressed her fear of martyrdom to her father. “Corrie, when you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?” “Why, just before we get on the train.” “Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need – just in time.”
How important to remember God will always supply us with enough grace at the right time to face whatever lies in front of us. …Even martyrdom.