When you have time for an extended family devotion in the evening, my younger sons always want to read the stories of Christians who suffer for their faith. Last week we read about John Bunyan (author of Pilgrim’s Progress). More than 12 years he was imprisoned while his second wife, Elizabeth, cared for their six children. His crime: preaching the gospel without state sanction. They would have let him go if he promised not to preach. He said he would remain in prison until the moss grew on his eyelids rather than fail to do what God had commanded him to do. He said that parting from his wife and children “has often been to me in this place as the pulling of the flesh from my bones.” This was especially true with regard to his eldest daughter who was blind.
Just this past Sunday we read about the Anabaptists. What a heart-wrenching story they offer. Hans Brett was executed January 4, 1577 after eight painful months of imprisonment in the Netherlands. On the morning of his being burned at the stake, the executioner clamped his tongue with a metal screw device and seared with a hot iron to make it swell. All this to keep him from testifying as he burned!
Women were not safer either. On March 10, 1528 Balthasar Hubmaier was burned at the stake in Vienna for Anabaptist beliefs and three days later his wife was forcibly drowned in the Danube. The same death came to Margaretha Sattler: eight days after the burning of her husband Michael she was drowned in the Neckar River that flowed past Rottenburg.
Last December 3, after being tortured during a month of imprisonment, Hossein Soodmand, a 55-year-old ordained minister of the Assemblies of God was hanged in Iran. He was one of a handful of Iranian pastors who had left Islam for the Christian faith.
Three weeks ago Lynda Bethea, a 42-year-old Southern Baptist missionary was killed in Kenya when she came to assist her husband near Nairobi. They were on their way to get their two children from Rift Valley Academy.
David Barrett in his 1991 “Status of Global Christianity” reported in International Bulletin of Missionary Research, says that there will be 284,000 Christian Martyrs this year in the whole world—people who die from causes relating to their profession of faith as a Christian.
When I read these things it makes me want to live more and more simply. It makes me want to have little to hold me here. It makes me want to be utterly enthralled with Jesus so that “to live is Christ and to die is gain”. Can you say with these Christians: “the steadfast love of the Lord is better than life” (Psalm 63:3)? Better than life! To live in the love of God is better than life with wife and children.
O that God would come and ravish us to such a single-hearted devotion!
Looking to Jesus for my life,