Living in the last days can be risky business, and talk of the persecution of Christians is becoming more prevalent these days. We are challenged on every side, “You may be killed for the sake of Jesus Christ, and you should not expect to escape it.”
I got to thinking, what if Jesus were to say to me, “You will die for me?”
Unexpectedly my heart rejoiced in anticipation of the great privilege and honor given that I might be counted worthy to suffer such a thing for Christ, whom I love. Many have died in Christ, laboring ardently for his glory, yet missed out in the honor of laying down their very lives for him. They have their reward, yes, and “good on ‘em,” I say, but the great privilege of the martyr has eluded them.
Matthew records, in chapter 5 of his Gospel, that Jesus lists the joyful rewards received by those who meet various conditions but, when it comes to the persecuted he does not mention what that rewards is, only to say, “Great is your reward in heaven.”
Think on what it means to die for Christ. How can you show your deepest affection for him? Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this: that he should lay down his life for his friend.” O, to show him such love.
Peter is the clearest example I know of this. Peter said, “I will die for you.” Then denied his friend three times. Later Jesus said to Peter, “You will die for me.” And Peter accomplished the will of God. The flesh cannot accomplish this, but God’s will for your life can.
It is never easy to suffer for Christ. Jesus told Paul, “What great things you will suffer for my name’s sake.” Yet Paul cried out, “Three times I asked the Lord to relieve me of this, but each time he replies, my grace is sufficient for you.” Paul’s prayer was the same as Jesus’ prayer in the garden, “Lord, if it be your will, let this cup pass from me. None the less, not what I will, but your will be done.”
It does not surprise me to hear the persecuted cry out. Their cry is recorded in the sixth chapter of revelation, and so is God’s answer, “In just a little while.” And a white robe was given to them, and they were comforted.
The terror of the persecuted is “gold tried by fire”, and it will stand at the Bema seat of Jesus Christ. The wood, hay, and stubble of my comfortable living and ‘easy gospel’ may be burned so that I am ashamed, but I will rejoice with them in their glory, shake their hands, pat them on the back, and say, “Well done.” Then they shall cast down their rewards at the feet of the Savior and sing, “Worthy are you, O Lord, for you have redeemed us from every tribe, nation, language, and people.” And together we will rejoice in the Lord. When you read those words in Habakkuk 3:18, its not just the conclusion of faith, it’s a sure promise of God: you will rejoice.
I cannot say that I aspire to the reward of the martyr, nor can I say that Jesus has told me I would die for him. But, if he did, I can only say, “Thank you Jesus, I love you.”