The Heart of the Martyr

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God's throne. 
—Hebrews 12:1-2
What does it matter? Just that in every way, whether out of false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed. And in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice because I know this will lead to my deliverance through your prayers and help from the Spirit of Jesus Christ. My eager expectation and hope is that I will not be ashamed about anything, but that now as always, with all boldness, Christ will be highly honored in my body, whether by life or by death. —Philippians 1:18-20

Who has your ultimate allegiance? What beliefs would you give your life for? This Sunday, we started our All Saints series as we look at followers of Jesus throughout history to learn from the past as we live out our faith today. The early church only made up 1% of the population at 64 AD, but Christians did not tolerate pluralisms or false idols, unlike many of the religions sanctioned or ignored by the Roman Empire. The martyr’s courage of conviction led them to lay down their lives to declare their faith in Christ. We may never need to lay down our lives for our faith, but here are reasons that we carry the heart of a martyr.

To Live Life Fully Alive in Christ

  • Philippians 1:21 says, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
  • When we look at our faith, many of us would reverse Paul’s statement, saying that living is gain and dying is Christ. This is because our goal is to be as successful and prosperous as possible until we die and go to heaven.
  • But Paul did not buy into the lie of selfishness, and death is the next adventure, a departure to a better country.
  • C.S. Lewis said, "If I find in myself desires that this world cannot satisfy, than I can only assume I was not created for this world."
  • Closeness and unity in Christ comes with suffering because that’s when we are the most like Jesus, mirroring his sacrificial love.

To Put to Death in Me That Which Pretends To Be God

  • Anything that we expect to save us in our time of need has become a god to us. Our salvation comes from God.
  • Philippians 1:27-28 says, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,  and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.”
  • Courage in the face of opposition, joy in the midst of trial, peace in the middle of anxiety—these are all proofs of the power of Jesus.
  • When we try to control life, we aren’t standing firm in God’s salvation.
  • What is your first response? Prayer or fear? 
  • We are not exempt from endurance and patience in the midst of trials.
  • The question is not if we will suffer but how we will suffer.

To Fully Run the Race God Has Put Before Me

  • 1 Timothy 4:6-8 says, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”
  • Gerald Sittser, author of Waters from a Deep Well, said, "That we might not have to die for Christ is irrelevant. How we live for Christ is the real issue"
  • In the Mexico City Marathon, 11,000 runners were disqualified for taking a shortcut. There are no shortcuts to the race set before us.
  • In history as now, the gospel advances despite adversity and persecution. 
  • We are called to live with faith—taking risks, extending ourselves for others, letting Jesus truly take hold of our lives. This is how the Kingdom is built.
  • The Kingdom of God is built by regular people who are willing to lay down their comforts and preferences to run the race set before them.

Dinner Party Questions

  • How do you respond to suffering or trials? Do you see God at work in and through you in tough seasons?
  • When you face opposition, do you respond with prayer or fear? How can you begin to cultivate a response of trust and surrender in trials?
  • How have you faced inconveniences and discomfort in your faith? What shortcuts do you want to leave behind to run your race fully?

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