“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV).
We often honor those who fought and died in battle to maintain freedom and protect lives around the world. As believers, let’s also recall the many who faithfully share God’s love, whatever the cost. Countless individuals, including the following, gave and continue to give their all.
They Gave All
- The disciple, Stephen, stoned as a Christian believer around AD 34 in Jerusalem while Saul of Tarsus held his coat.
- The apostle, Paul, earlier know as Saul of Tarsus and a persecutor of Christians. Following his dramatic conversion and subsequent missionary journeys, he was martyred in Rome around AD 65. In Philippians 1:21 he wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
- Polycarp, burned alive in AD 168 in Smyrna for refusing to deny Christ.
- Lottie Moon, missionary to China who died of starvation December 24, 1912. She gave her food to hungry neighbors following flood, war, and famine in their country.
- Betsie ten Boom, who perished in Ravensbrück concentration camp in northern Germany on December 16, 1944 for helping her family hide their Jewish neighbors from the Nazis. Betsie’s father, Casper, died the previous March in Scheveningen Her sister, Corrie, survived to tell their story to the world through books and public appearances until her death in 1983.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who wrote, The Cost of Discipleship, hung in Germany in 1945 at the age of 39 for his leadership in opposition to Hitler’s regime.
- Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, and Roger Youderian, missionaries to Ecuador, speared to death on January 8, 1956 by the tribe they sought to win. Jim Elliot earlier wrote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”[i]
- Ivan “Vanya” Moiseyev, a young Russian soldier, arrested, tortured, and killed in 1972 for daring to share his faith.
- Seventeen-year-old Cassie Bernall, shot April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. She answered “Yes” when asked if she believed in Jesus.
- Rachel Scott, also killed at Columbine. She wrote in her journal on April 20, 1998, exactly one year before her death, “I am not going to hide the light that God has put into me. If I have to sacrifice everything, I will.”[ii]
- Missionary Graham Staines, director of the Leprosy Mission in Baripada, Orissa, India, who also translated the New Testament into the Ho tribal language. He and his sons, Philip and Timothy, were burned alive in the early morning of January 23, 1999. The jeep where they slept was set afire and the doors blocked by Hindu radicals. Graham’s wife, Gladys, and daughter, Esther, forgave their family’s murderers and continued their work rather than return home.
- William E. Koehn, Martha C. Myers, and Kathleen A. Gariety, missionaries to Yemen, who died instantly from gunshot wounds to the head at Jibla Baptist Hospital on December 30, 2002, following years of Christian ministry.
- Ri Hyon Ok, 33-year-old wife and mother of three, publicly executed in June, 2009, in North Korea for distributing Bibles
What Will We Give?
Pastor Li De Xian of mainland China, arrested numerous times for preaching without a license, said, “Humanly speaking, we know that no one likes to suffer physically. But I know that if the Lord leads me into it, He will give me the strength to survive it.”[iii]
This truth applies to all who sacrificed everything for the gospel. It also applies to us.
Let’s remember and pray daily for believers around the world who continue to endure persecution, including beatings, imprisonment, loss of home and family … and death … for their faith.
Above all, let’s keep our eyes and hearts wide open to God’s leadership and share our faith, whatever the cost!
[i] dc Talk and The Voice of the Martyrs, Jesus Freaks (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2009), 123.
[ii]Ken Walker “I am not going to hide the light,” Baptist Press: http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=947, (May 10, 1999)
[iii]Pat Cook, “Praying for the Persecuted,” 200 Pat Cook Sermons http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/praying-for-the-persecuted-pat-cook-sermon-on-endurance-73779.asp?Page=2 (Sermon for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, November 14, 2004)