“Don’t do it,” Nicholas yelled as he saw the executioner lift his sword to kill another prisoner. “He’s done nothing to deserve this.” The man was about to be executed for his faith in Jesus Christ. Nicholas bravely grabbed the executioner’s sword before it penetrated the prisoner’s flesh.
“Have it your way Nicholas . . . I have many others to kill today.” The executioner spat as he walked away and resumed his duties elsewhere. Nicholas boldly spoke up for Christ at a difficult time in history. In the year 303, Emperor Diocletian began one of the most brutal persecutions
of Christians. So many Christians were killed that the executioners were exhausted and took turns at their work.
Nicholas was branded with hot irons. He survived terrible beatings from the guards. And he endured other torture as well—simply for refusing to deny that Jesus is the Son of God. How could he deny the one who was so real to him? Nicholas remained resolute in the midst of great injustice.
After being released from prison, he spent the rest of his life establishing orphanages and protecting poor children. He was committed to advancing the gospel of Christ in creative ways. Once, he even threw money wrapped in a stocking through the window of a home of two very poor girls so they would not be sold to a house of prostitution.
Many years after his death, Nicholas was affectionately called St. Nicholas. For many children, the night before Christmas is the most magical night of the year as they await a visit from Santa Claus, a caricature of St. Nicholas. The real life story behind St. Nicholas is much more heroic and loving than most children could even dream. Think about your own life’s story. Do people know the truth about your faith in Jesus Christ? Or do they merely know you as an affectionate and unusually moral person? Although Santa Claus is not real, St. Nicholas was and you must be too. You may not feel like a saint, but the world needs real examples of resolute Christians. What will you do today to live your faith in a real way?
Taken from Voice of the Martyrs book Extreme Devotion:
“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” – Matthew 25:23 (ESV)
When the man of Matthew 25 left, he did not promise his servants a reward for increasing the talents he entrusted to them. He gave according to ability, then allowed them to respond through their care of those talents. Today we often use this passage to exhort Christians to devote their abilities to the One who gave them. “Use your talents for God,” I’ve heard many times. My response: why?
What gain is in forfeiting the opportunity to show others my abilities and knowledge? In the worldly sense, nothing. Living for Christ means surrendering the chance to be a person the world admires. If I truly follow Jesus, like He was, so I will be: mocked and disregarded, for obedience to Christ makes us the refuse of the world, not its victors. The lives of our persecuted brothers and sisters demonstrate the fact that the world hates us because of the One whom we obey. Their school records are destroyed, houses blown up, and families torn apart because they live faithfully for the King of kings, rather than cave under pressure from the world.
I do not want to feel the world’s pressure. I want to be accepted, appreciated, and loved. If I could use my talents to gain these things, why surrender them to Christ? Unlike the faithful servants in Matthew 25, I have His Word that promises good things will follow my surrender to Christ; however, I do not give only because of those promises. Not just because the things of Christ are better. Not just because He will grant me a place in heaven. Not just because He will give me what I so desire.
The greater reward of surrender to the Lord is knowing the Person of God, who owns our talents, which He has entrusted to us, and who deserves our devotion. As we come to know Him and wonder at His gracious, powerful, holy nature, we can come to full surrender. What could be greater than a relationship with the God who is perfect and loves so much that He give His everything for us?
The recent terror attacks in Brussels once again reiterated in our hearts and minds the danger of radical Islam to the Western world. It was a shock for many and raises questions about how a public place such as an airport; which is supposed to be the forefront of security measures, can succumb to these acts of violence. How can we live in peace when there are terror threats which can strike anywhere and at any time?
Once again the Belgians and the rest of the Western world are asking these questions, trying to make sense of it all.
Living with the threat of this kind of violence is a daily reality for many of our fellow Christians in Syria, Iraq and also in Nigeria where Boko Haram has taken hold. Perhaps the biggest question on everybody’s mind is; how can we stop this never ending cycle of violence?
Jesus said to the Apostle Peter in Matthew 26:52 “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” This is Jesus essentially saying, violence begets violence. Jesus told us as Christians, to love our enemies and those who persecute us. He understood that the only way to break the cycle of violence is to overcome evil with good. There are many Christians who have been martyred following this principle but there are also many more Muslims who have turned to Christ and found peace because they saw examples of Christ’s love either from the Bible itself or from the fearless believers who shared and died for it.
In our February 2016 newsletter, there was a story about a Muslim coming to Christ because of the Islamic State’s violence towards Christians. “I was Muslim and now I’m seeing,” the man told Joseph, a local pastor. “From the date IS came to Mosul, I started reading the Koran. I wanted to tell the people, ‘IS is not true Islam.’ I read the Koran daily for four hours, five hours. I wanted to defend my religion, but I discovered IS is the true Islam.”
Pastor Joseph’s act of listening and being Christ-like paved way for the Muslim to come to know Jesus. He has seen large numbers of Muslim youth leave Islam after learning how the Koran inspired IS and its slaughter of Christians.
Christ is what will melt hardened hearts, end terrorism and ultimately bring peace for all.
As you think and ponder about the recent events in Belgium, you may wish to use these prayer points as a guide to help you and your church group pray.
- Please pray for all the victims and their families, that they may find solace and strength in God and friends.
- Pray for the government: for wisdom when they respond, not from panic and anxiety, so they will not take disproportionate measures.
- Pray for all emergency services and security services, for police and investigators, that they may expose even more roots of terror networks.
- Pray for God’s peace and protection over this country.
- Pray that the mind-set will be reversed that people will see that a society without a God-of-love derails and has no defence against an attack of such dark hate.
- Pray that God will change this evil for good, and that the difference between light and darkness will be clearer.
- Pray that the churches and Christians will find open doors in people to testify of a good and saving God, that they will be able to show acts of peace and love.
- Pray that – just as in Syria – many Muslims will turn to Christ as their Saviour.
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“On a Sunday morning, I walked towards my church and mused about the sermon, which I would have to deliver…while I was debating with Jesus the sermon, which I had to deliver after half an hour, at once a car of the secret police stopped near me, four men rushed out of the car, in a minute’s time, I was in the car, I was handcuffed, I was blindfolded. And now, I was under arrest.”
As Richard Wurmbrand shared this story at the Royal Festival Hall in London, on 13 April 1969, he invited the listeners to enter into a dark world. He continued, “And now, in our imagination, let us all leave this hall. You descend with me blindfolded down some slippery stair, I do not know where I am led. A door opens before me. The blindfold is taken away. I am pushed in. The door is banged after me, it is locked. And now, Jesus is no more simply at the door; he is at a locked door, which I cannot unlock.”
He asked the spellbound audience: “What would be your first feeling, if such a thing would happen to you? I can tell you what happened to me first: I trembled. We knew already, how the communists behave towards prisoners. It is not only beatings, whippings, but refined tortures, cruelties, and dopings. And I feared that under these atrocities, my faith might break, I might become a traitor to the Church.”
These words provide a window into the soul of a frightened prisoner and the deep questions that each one of us would face when confronted with an unjust imprisonment. It is a space of denial, fear and loneliness. However, as believers, we have an assurance that can never be taken away.
Richard continued his speech, “You are alone in a cell; they meant you to be alone.”
“But, we were not alone!”
Right now. Today. This very moment, there are Christians who are facing the same denial, fear and loneliness. I have personally encountered, and prayed with, Christians in Asia and Africa who have spent years in prison, facing unimaginable tortures.
Even in these dark moments, Scripture reminds us that we are never alone. When Joseph was placed in a dark prison cell, the Lord was with him: “Then Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were confined. And he was there in the prison. But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison” (Genesis 39:20-21).
Will you join me today in praying specifically for those who are in prison right now because of their faith? Let’s pray that they will sense the deep comfort of God’s presence with them, that they will experience His mercy and that they will find favour in the eyes of those who have detained them.
We are never alone.
Dr Jason Peters works as Associate Vice President of Connection for The Voice of the Martyrs USA.
What would you do if an Islamic State fighter wanted to meet up with you? You’d probably have lots of questions. Is his spiritual hunger real, or is it a trap?
Hear what happened when a Christian worker was introduced to an Islamic State fighter, a man with Christian blood on his hands.
Listen to the full interview on VOM Radio here