Lucas curled up into a tight ball on the dirty straw he called his bed. With arms covering his head, he wished his life away. "Actually, that's already happened," he cried while tears spilled onto the straw. "Lord, have mercy."
Sitting up slowly, Lucas stretched his hands over his head. Bending down until his head was between his legs, he tried to work out the kinks from sleeping on the hard floor.
His prison door opened as a guard slid a food bowl into his cell. "Eat up, man, this is your last meal. Enjoy the slop," he yelled back while walking down the dank corridor. The guard left him to eat his final meal in peace.
"So much for giving a prisoner a decent last meal," Lucas said while banging the stale roll on the side of his bowl. Dunking the hard roll into whatever-they-called-the-goo, Lucas lifted it and was about to eat when a cockroach poked its head out of the bowl. Pushing the bowl to one side of the floor, he knew he didn't have the stomach to endure one more meal in this place.
"Well, Jesus, I guess this is the day I will finally see you face-to-face. What if I don't have the nerve to go through with this? What if I break and give them the names of my brothers in the faith they are demanding?"
Lucas knew too much. Being the leader of one the Christian bands secretly meeting in various locations around Rome, he could not only tell the names of those in his fellowship group, but the names of other church leaders as well.
"Please, Lord, give me strength. I'm scared. I really don't want to die. And yet, my prayer is the same as yours…not my will but yours be done."
Lucas stood to his feet when he heard the guards walking down the corridor. Putting one shaky foot in front of the other he slowly walked to meet the guards.
"Might as well make it easier for them," he sighed. "I can't stop what is about to happen. Or can I? All I have to do is tell them what they want to know." Shaking his head back and forth until he was dizzy, he was hoping to clear those thoughts from his head.
"But my wife and children need me. How will they survive without me? I don't want my children having to beg for bread," he anguished.
After his hands and feet were shackled, Lucas took small steps down the corridor to a gate. The guards stopped. He knew what was on the other side of the gate. Lucas would not only be ushered into the arena where other believers huddled, he would also come face-to-face with some hungry beasts.
Closing his eyes, he knelt to the ground. Raising his hands as high as he could bound in chains, he cried to the heavens, "God, help me. Please give me strength. NOT my will. NOT my will."
A kick in the gut sent him reeling to the ground. Another kick in the back caused him to curl into a fetal position to protect himself from other possible blows.
"Get up, you idiot," screamed one of the guards.
Staggering around trying to get his wobbly legs to work, Lucas finally was able to stand. The captain of the guards, grabbing Lucas' hair, pulled his head to where he was staring eye-to-eye with his enemy.
"Well, what will it be this day?" demanded the guard? "Your freedom or your death?"
I'm asking myself that same tough question now...if put in a similar situation, would I choose my freedom or my death? My concern is, since I live a soft life compared to other Christians throughout the world, when push comes to shove, do I have what it takes deep down inside to withstand the persecution?
I want to say, "Of course. I'll stand strong in my faith no matter what horrors I must face."
And yet, my faith has never been tested in this way. I want to stand strong in the face of adversity. I want to be found faithful. I do believe God is able to give me strength in that moment. But…
Lucas, taking a deep breath, smiled while looking straight into the captain's eyes. "I have decided. Let it be known on this day…"
By the way, your faith (or lack of faith) determines Lucas' outcome. His freedom or his life?
Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:37-39 (NIV)
Wow this is such a powerful article. I'm really sorry you missed the deadline, but the positive note it gives me a better chance of ranking at least one higher :) This is an outstanding piece and in my mind would have been a winner for sure, but sometimes God has different plans. Maybe by placing it here instead of the challenge page someone who desperately needs to hear those words might find them here, but never would have seen it in the challenge entries. Anyhow what I'm trying to say is outstanding job!