I used to pray for martyrdom. Yes, you read it right. Everyday I would pray that when my card was pulled, my end would be for Christ at the hands of a persecutor. I sold myself on the fact that being a martyr was truly the only “good” way to die. Perhaps it is. I mean, who wants cancer? Or dementia? Or years upon years in a nursing home? A car wreck? At least dying as a martyr has significance; purpose; honor. Yep, that’s me. I want a selfless death because I’m…selfish.
A martyr shouldn’t be confused with a murderer. Many terrorists today are called martyrs but the truth is that all they are is murderers on suicide missions in the name of selfishness and false religion. A Christian martyr is killed for his faith. A Christian martyr does not kill for his faith.
Anyway, I read many books on the martyrs of the Christian church down through the ages. I read how they died, who killed them, and why. That’s about when I stopped praying that I’d be one.
I mean, these men and women were brutally treated and mercilessly tortured. They were brave, courageous, and unmoved by horrendous physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse. They are rocks. I figured I probably didn’t qualify. Moreover, I recognized a greater truth: It is harder to live for Christ than it is to die for him.
By saying so, I do not mean to diminish the valor of those who stand in the face of death without wavering in their profession of faith. There is no greater honor on earth than to die for Christ. In Jesus’ words, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
Still, the Bible, in its great wisdom, calls me to much more than a one time act of valor. Christianity calls me to repetitive, daily actions referred to collectively as “dying to self.” Those who do not discipline and master the art of living life for Christ will never stare down the barrel of a terrorist’s gun or kneel to be beheaded and confess Jesus Christ as Lord.
Early in my Christian life I would not only daily pray to be a martyr, but also for wisdom, insight, and conviction of sin. These were the main things I prayed for day in and day out for years. The wisdom God gave me at the time was that I must learn to live for him everyday if there was any chance I’d have the opportunity to die for him one day. Because living for Christ is dying for him. Every. Day. He’s still working on that with me.
All that to say, I’m thankful for college men and women who will stand, look death in the face, and confess Christ. What an amazing faith! What an amazing honor. I know what “kind” of Christians they must have been. They were real ones – not mere professors.
Maybe I won’t ever get to die for Christ. Then again, maybe I get that opportunity every single day I live.
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” ~Philippians 1:21