Acts 21:12-14 [Agabus prophesied that, if Paul went to Jerusalem, he would be bound by the Jews there and handed over to the Gentiles.]  When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem.  Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”  When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”

Paul was not the last follower of Jesus to consider faithfulness to his Master to be of greater importance than his own life.  For 2,000 years since then, countless numbers of Christians have made the same decision.  They have taken Jesus’ own words seriously: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:34b-35).

What a challenge this is to us.  Even today, while we enjoy relative safety in our country, many brothers and sisters in Christ in countries under anti-Christian regimes are making the same decision as Paul, and they and their families are suffering intense persecution and deprivation as a result.  When I read about these things my heart faints.  I honestly don’t feel courageous enough to follow their example, but I remind myself that I hang onto Jesus’ firm promise to give me the courage I need when the time comes – “Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say.  Just say whatever is GIVEN YOU AT THE TIME, for it is not you speaking, but the HOLY SPIRIT.” (Mark 13:11).

I also keep in mind what my Saviour/King revealed to the Apostle John from the throne where HE now rules HIS world: “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the TESTIMONY they had MAINTAINED.  They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’  Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow-servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.” (Revelation 6:9-11).

I know that doesn’t sound very comforting, but at least it is good to know that all this martyrdom is NOT out of control, but in HIS powerful sovereign hands and under HIS loving, watchful eye – which is all that really matters.  Let us be constantly praying for our brothers snd sisters who are currently experiencing the Lord’s provision in testing circumstances, and for each other for strength and courage to STAND FIRM.  “For all the saints who from their labours rest, who to the world by faith their Lord confessed, your Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed: Hallelujah!  Hallelujah! … So may your soldiers, faithful, true and bold, fight as the saints who nobly fought of old, and win with them the victor’s crown of gold: Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!” (William How).