Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: STAND UP FOR JESUS (don't write about the song) (04/09/15)
- TITLE: Fullness of Joy
By Pam Richards
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The persecutions that followed the resurrection put early church Christians at risk of torture and death each time they shared the gospel. The two volumes of The Prologue of Ohrid by Saint Nikolai Velimirovic are filled with accounts of those who rejoiced at impending martyrdom rather than deny their Savior. The compelling stories include those of occasional by-standers who were converted on the spot as they witnessed Christians bravely face their imminent execution. Once the new convert openly proclaimed Christ, of course, they were also put to death, becoming a Christian for minutes or hours before entering eternal life. They had none of the resources for spiritual growth that we have today, and yet, by the power of the Holy Spirit, these newly-illumined Christians passed the ultimate test.
Although we worship in relative safety in the Western world, the killing of Christians continues around the globe. Glory to God that His grace remains unfailing in fueling Christian courage. Among the Coptic Christians who were beheaded at the hands of Islamic State was one man who was neither from Egypt nor a Coptic Christian, but had been abducted along with the others. He was from the Republic of Chad, and when asked to reject Christ replied, “Their God is my God.” For this, he paid with his life. I have found the names of the 20 Egyptians; however, I have yet to find the name of our brother in Christ from Chad.
When I consider all who have gone before us as witnesses to the Truth, and what they endured that we might know Him, I must ask myself some difficult questions: How dedicated am I to the Lord and to the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, Bible study, scripture memorization, service to others in true humility, and sacrificial giving? Would I openly confess Jesus to a wicked executioner when I fall so short of engaging a family member, neighbor, or co-worker for the cause of Christ? Am I always aware of my Heavenly Father’s omnipresence and His will for me, or am I easily drawn away from eternal concerns to vaporous temporal distractions?
Courageous Christians throughout history inspire us in how to live, and if necessary, how to die. The actor and playwright Genesius, or Genisius, of Rome, during the reign of Diocletian in 303 A.D., is such an example. As a pagan, Genesius participated in a play designed to mercilessly ridicule the Christian faith. Genesius was asked the same questions of a true candidate for baptism, responded in the affirmative, and was mockingly baptized by his fellow actors. God miraculously saved Genesius, and by the end of the play, to the surprise of all present, Genesius sincerely declared his faith in Christ and sealed a death sentence for himself. The words below are attributed to Genesius:
“Your Emperor is but a mortal man; whoever desires the favor of such, may seek it of him. I pray to the immortal King of heaven and earth, and will never forsake Him. I know that He, who received me in Holy Baptism, is the true King, and I repent for having so often derided and offended Him. I will not obey Diocletian, whose reign will soon be over, and who will one day become as naught. You may torture me, therefore, as much as you like; I will remain faithful to my God. If you had the power to kill me a hundred times, you would not be able to take Him out of my heart or my mouth.”
May we ever keep our eyes on eternity and our Heavenly King in all His glory. May our lives reflect the light of Christ in such a way that others are eager to follow us as we follow Christ, even unto a martyr’s death.
You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures evermore. Psalm 16:11 NKJV
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