It was with gut-wrenching horror that I watched the video of 21 Coptic Christians being forced to kneel on a Libyan beach before being beheaded by terrorists. Later, I learned that a relative of some of the men who were killed said that many of them cried out the name of Jesus with their dying breath—a testimony to their faith in Him. Though the terrorists had hoped for the opposite effect, they had actually strengthened the faith of the Coptic Church by proving that even imminent death couldn’t snatch away their brothers’ love for Christ!
This story of modern-day martyrs mirrors the story of early martyrs like Stephen. He bravely stood before the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:54)—men who wanted to kill him and who were directly responsible for the death of Jesus (Matthew 26:59). Stephen could have kept his mouth shut and maybe made it through with a beating or even a warning. But instead, he testified that he saw Christ standing at the “right hand” of the Father (Acts 7:56). Given how dangerous Stephen’s situation was, this suggests that he truly saw an amazing sight that day!
The story of Stephen is mirrored by the story of many other martyrs over the centuries who have chosen to die rather than renounce their faith in Christ. They, like Stephen, must have “seen something” in Jesus and the Scriptures that led them to give up their lives. I’m encouraged by this fact: They felt so convinced of the Lord’s resurrection that they chose to die rather than recant.
But this challenges me as well: Have I “seen something” worth living and dying for? Something that even in the face of death, I would never take back? I hope and pray that should that day come, the answer is a resounding yes!
NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: John 4:43-54
Read Hebrews 11:35-38 for a powerful description of prophets and martyrs who gave up their lives for their faith in God.
Have you ever been challenged to reject or at least be silent about your faith in Jesus? How did you respond? Have you seen something so true that you would be willing to live or die for it?