DayBreaks for 7/01/14 – Held Captive
Philippians 3:8 (NIV) What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.
We have brothers and sisters who will die today because they hold tightly to their profession of faith. It is very hard to get accurate numbers for how many Christians are martyred each year. Even a casual search indicates that there are anywhere from 8000 to 100,000+ per year (that’s anywhere from 22 to 274 who this VERY DAY will face the choice to either confess or deny under the most difficult of circumstances!) who walk that road because of their commitment to Christ. We don’t see or know it in the United States, though on occasion we hear news stories about churches in places like Nigeria or Egypt being burned and some “Christians” being killed, but we don’t know those people and we wonder if they really are Christians or if they are just identified that way politically.
Regardless, I’d like to encourage you to stop your world for just one minute and ask you to think back with me to the first century. Think about those first 50 years after Jesus’ death and what it must been like for Jesus’ disciples. Before the last of the Twelve died their efforts had brought 500,000 men, women, and children into the ranks of the church. But what they had to suffer in order to accomplish this task is seldom discussed. We like and are astounded at the outworking of their discipleship but we don’t want to hear about the cost of discipleship – certainly we don’t want to think about it for ourselves, let alone for theirs. So, for the record here is the cost of what history/tradition tells us about the apostles…
1. John died of extreme old age exiled to the island of Patmos.
2. Judas Iscariot, after betraying his Lord, hanged himself.
3. Peter was crucified; head downward, during the persecution of Nero.
4. Andrew died on a cross at Patrae, a Grecian Colony.
5. James, the younger, son of Alphaeus, was thrown from a pinnacle of the
Temple, and then beaten to death with a club.
6. Bartholomew was flayed alive in Albanapolis, Armenia.
7. James, the elder son of Zebedee, was beheaded at Jerusalem.
8. Thomas, the doubter, was run through the body with a lance at Coromandel, in the East Indies.
9. Philip was hanged against a pillar at Heropolis.
10. Thaddeus was shot to death with arrows.
11. Simon died on a cross in Persia (what we now call Iran.)
12. Matthew was first stoned and then beheaded.
What sacrifices! Why did they suffer these things, to die these ways instead of live? Why desert your father and mother, your wife and child, and your home? Why put up with the constant humiliation, and hunger, and persecution, and defeat town after town after town?
I’ll tell you why, because, in the words of Apostle Paul, they were held captive by the words and teachings of Jesus Christ. And because they counted everything else as rubbish for the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus.
Would you be willing to walk that same road? Would I? What holds us captive with such tenacity?
PRAYER: Thank You, Lord, for great examples of faith and commitment that can inspire and challenge us to consider our own walk with you. Grow faith inside us! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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