20 July 2009

Luke 21 and the faith of Polycarp

This morning, I read Luke 21, which is a rich chapter. I could likely write a post on each of the verses, but I was particularly struck by verses 10-19. Jesus is talking with the disciples about future things:

10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. 13 This will be your opportunity to bear witness. 14 Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated by all for my name's sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.

I have no idea when Christ will return (though verses like 10 make me wonder), but I admit I have had some trepidation about how I will respond when faced with adversity. I read about early Christian martyrs like Polycarp, with awe. When he was arrested and was to be burned alive by the Roman proconsul for his faith in Christ, he told his captors, "Leave me as I am. For He who grants me to endure the fire will enable me also to remain on the pyre unmoved, without the security you desire from nails." Wow! What power in that statement. Polycarp was simply living what Christ promised in verses 13-15--he "bore witness, knowing how to answer". His death likely did more for the advancement of the kingdom even than his life, which was lived for Christ.

As I read this passage and am reminded of Polycarp and other martyrs for the faith, I take heart. If I am someday faced with adversity of this magnitude, I do not need to rely on my own strength and in fact, I cannot. God will provide the words that I need and the strength to not back down. It may mean death as it has for many martyrs for the faith, but "by our endurance, we will gain our lives", eternally with the Father.

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