The likelihood of dying because you are a Christian is closer than it used to be for Americans. The freedom from such threats has generally existed in this country for a tiny portion of history (about 400 years). We have gotten used to it. It seems like the way things must be. So our first reaction to the threat that things might be otherwise is often anger.
But that anger may be a sign that we have lost our sense of being aliens and exiles (“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles . . .” 1 Peter 2:11). Perhaps we have settled in too much to this world and this country in particular. We don’t feel as homesick for Christ as Paul did:
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).
Many of us need the reminder,
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).
Have you ever wondered how you will do in the hour of final trial? The gunman has you in his sights and asks, “Are you a Christian?” Here is a strong word to give you hope that you may do better than you think.
“If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:14).
This encouragement from Peter says that in the hour of unusual threat (whether insult or death) there will be “a Spirit of glory and of God resting on us.” Doesn't that mean that God gives special help in the hour of crisis to those who suffer because they are Christians? I don’t mean he is absent from our other sufferings. I just mean that Peter went out of his way to say to those who suffer “for the name of Christ” will experience a special “resting” on them of “the Spirit of glory and of God.”
This may account for some of the astonishing testimonies of martyrs.
O the joy that the martyrs of Christ have felt in the midst of the scorching flames! Surely they had life and sense as we, and were flesh and blood as well as we; therefore it must needs be some excellent thing that must so rejoice their souls while their bodies were burning: when Bilney can burn his finger in the candle and Cranmer can burn off his unworthy right hand: when Bainham can call the Papists to see a miracle and tells them that he feels no more pain than in a bed of down and that the fire was to him as a bed of roses; when Ferrar can say, If I stir, believe not my doctrine: think then reader with thyself in they meditations; surely it must be some wonderful foretasted glory that can do all this.
Linger over the stories of the martyrs. Meditate on the promises of Christ’s final help. And pray that this will be true of you:
“They have conquered [the accuser] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (Revelation 12:11)