Following in the Sandy Footsteps of 21 Martyrs

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The morning I saw the photos of 21 men in orange jumpsuits being escorted to their own beheadings, many questions popped into my head:

Why? 

What kind of evil takes place in the hearts of people who pride themselves on becoming gruesome, murderous exhibitionists?

What can we do to stop them?

But the biggest questions that get conjured up when I see martyrdom are more personal:

If I was given suit #22, would I follow suit #21, #20, 19, 18 … scared spitless, heart pounding in my chest, but joyful because the crown of life was so near I could almost touch it? Would I consider myself “blessed” because I was being persecuted for righteousness sake? Or would I cower to a bigger coward and say there was no need to jump into any orange garb because I don’t associate with anyone by the name of Jesus Christ?

Would I become a traitor, even for a moment, to try and save my own flesh?

I don’t want to be a Peter. I don’t want to deny Christ once, twice, or thrice. I want to have guts. Holy courage. Wild, loyal-unto-death faith. But when I see the photos of the 21 Christians? I don’t have one drop of desire to follow in their sandy footsteps.

Lord, I’m a big fat chicken who doesn’t want to die for You.

Poor Peter. Maybe he gets a bad rap. Because although he denied Christ multiple times in his lifetime, ultimately, when it came down to proving his faith, he reportedly proved it well, in the same manner that Christ gave Himself for us – hanging on a cross, only (at his request) head down, because he felt unworthy to be crucified in the same manner as Christ.

If that’s not Christian character, I don’t know what is. And his ultimate decision gives me hope that throughout the course of my life, though I may deny Christ singly, doubly, or triply, perhaps someday, I too could die for Him near the shores of Tripoli.

Not this day. Because this day, God has called me to different things. To lay down my life down in small ways. Not in an orange jumpsuit. Not at the hands of an evil, sword-bearer. But at the kitchen sink. At the computer. Over the laundry basket. Over coffee with a hurting friend. In my husband’s embrace at the end of a long, tiring day.

When I ponder whether the day may come when I am called to follow in the footsteps of 21 Christians who one day left this world in the most valiant and triumphant way possible, I am forced to rest in this one truth:

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:13)

Not all things I want and aspire to do, but all things He’s called me to do. Today, I’m not called to bear the cross of gruesome, unjust decapitation. But if that changes, God will empower.

Whatever the cause of death, He does not give dying grace until the time to die is at hand. And just as I find His grace sufficient in smaller, every day ways of dying, I will find His grace sufficient when/if I’m called on to die once and for all, for His name’s sake.

So, instead of worrying my safe little head about my cowardice heart, I’ll pray.

Lord Jesus, I believe. Help my unbelief. I confess I don’t posses the faith, desire, or strength to die for You. And yet, You haven’t asked me to. So I release myself from the burden of my own martyrdom. Help me to continue dying to self in small ways, so that if the day comes that You call me to die to myself in the biggest way, I will be able to answer affirmatively – with a resounding yes, in complete trust and submission, eager to leave this world and be welcomed into Your unconditionally loving arms. ~Amen

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