Faithlife Sermons

11-3-19 5 Things Martyrs Teach Us

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Maybe we cannot understand what they are going through, but we can still pray for them and we can learn from them. They can teach us. The question is what can you learn from those who are being persecuted for their faith? How can we apply what they know and experience from their culture to ours which is vastly different? Fortunately there is something that we still do have in common with them. It is our faith in Jesus and the Word of God. Today I am going to share five things I think we can learn from Martyrs.

Sermon – 5 Things that Christian Martyrs teach us I am not sure when I first began to realize that others were facing persecution for their faith. When I was younger, I thought it was something that happened in the past. It is amazing how you can live day in and day out and just think this is how it is everywhere. I was teenager when I found out the Bible was illegal. A classmate of mine in a speech class told me how she went with her family to China to smuggle Bibles into the country. Often the Bible would be torn, pages would be torn out and passed around from person to person. This was so more could get copies. She went on to tell us how the Bible was illegal and to be caught with the book would result in arrest and often death, because many Christians would refuse to recant their faith. It was here that I guess I first realized that it was illegal to be a Christian in some countries. The Bible was considered contraband. I confess the whole thing blew my mind in so many ways. I remember looking at her as she talked. Sizing her up. She was taller than me. Actually, she was one of the taller girls in the class. We were both in high school. Yet she was smuggling Bibles into other countries for her summer break. I thought it was pretty gutsy. She couldn’t wait to do it again, she said it was awful in China and the people there just wanted to read the Bible. Honestly, I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. Even though I had been raised in the church. I couldn’t understand why she would take such a risk. I couldn’t understand a government making something that seemed pretty harmless to me illegal. And I couldn’t understand why people would go to so much trouble to get a copy of the Bible. Isn’t amazing how we just go day to day and we think things is the way it is everywhere. Do you do that? I mean we hear about stuff happening, but it is like we have just so much of our own stuff going on that we forget about those who are being persecuted. Then something happens. We see something in the news. A missionary shows up. We watch a movie. Perhaps we travel ourselves. I took a trip once to Israel. Just a tourist thing, but this woman sees me and she crosses the street and stops me and says you are Christian. I said yes. She said I saw you and somehow, I just knew you were. She went on to tell me that it had been so long since she had seen another Christian. She was a Palestinian Arab, who lived with other Muslims and she was just so happy to be in my presence. Her English was hard to understand and I got about half of it, but I figured out she had been saved as a young girl by a visiting missionary, and she had daughters who she was secretly raising to know Jesus. She lived in danger constantly because if they found out they would kill her and take her kids from her. I confess I was a little overwhelmed by the encounter. I struggled wrapping my head around why she was so happy to meet a complete stranger. In one sense I got it, in another I couldn’t relate, because her world was just so different from mine. I cannot help but wonder if you are like me. It is something you get, yet just cannot understand? You know it happens, but it is something that you cannot really relate to. Maybe it is even too much to think about, so you just don’t. Yet we need to, we must somehow acknowledge them. To fail to acknowledge they exist would somehow be worse. To fail to pray for them at least once would, be an injustice somehow. Don’t you think? Maybe we cannot understand what they are going through, but we can still pray for them and we can learn from them. They can teach us. The question is what can you learn from those who are being persecuted for their faith? How can we apply what they know and experience from their culture to ours which is vastly different? Fortunately there is something that we still do have in common with them. It is our faith in Jesus and the Word of God. Today I am going to share five things I think we can learn from Martyrs. 1. Faithfulness– This is exemplified by the Apostle Thomas. When Jesus was determined to go to Judea because his friend Lazarus was sick. His disciples tried to convince him not to go because the religious leaders there were trying to kill him. Yet Jesus was determined to go and was not persuaded to change course. Once they say He wasn’t going to listen, look what Thomas said in John 11:16 ESV So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” They were faithful to Jesus at this point and decided to go with him. And while they failed at the crucifixion to stay faithful and remain with Jesus, they did not fail later. All but one of the disciples did in fact give their life up because of their faithfulness and love for Jesus. 1 Peter 4:12-14 ESV Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 2. Dedication – This faithfulness leads us to the next thing the Martyrs teach us. Martyrs teach us what really matters. They exemplify dedication. Jesus said in, John 15:20 (ESV) Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. Often when Christians are persecuted their tormentors try to make them think that they are doing something wrong. Those who persecute justify their actions and claim to be on the side of right. But Remember Jesus said,“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:18–19). Our brothers and sisters in Christ chose Jesus and not the things of this world. They teach us to choose wisely what is really important and to be faithful to that choice. We need to remember the next time we are tempted by the world. When we long for its approval. The martyrs teach us, do not choose what is the world, choose Jesus. Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32–33). Martyrs show us what it looks like to stand firm in not denying Jesus. They show us dedication. 3. Destiny - Revelation 20:4–6draws a picture of the reward awaiting the Christian martyrs who have died for their faith. “I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. . . . This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection.” To often, especially when we get focused on the things of this world and the day to day details of living, we forget about where we are going. Martyrs remind us to keep our eyes on the prize. To not forget our destiny. The trip might have its ups and downs but where we are headed to is what we are trying to achieve. One of the followers of Jesus caught a glimpse of his destination. He was sharing the good news of the love of God with his fellow countrymen when they suddenly turned on him. As they began to stone him to the point of death, Stephen cried out, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56). Yes, the martyrs remind us to stay focused. To keep our eye on our final destination. Their message is you can endure whatever you are facing in this world as long as you remember what lies ahead of you. That your destiny is greater than anything you are going through now. 4. Love – When Stephen uttered his final words. He expressed words of love for those who were persecuting him. He said, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60).Wow. The scripture says in Matthew 5:44 (ESV)But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you Stephen did just that. He prayed for those who were persecuting him and gave forgiveness by asking that they would not suffer for their actions. Many times we want justice so bad that it is hard for us to give grace. But Stephen who was the first martyr, by the way, did that very thing. Jesus once said, “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man” (Luke 6:22). Blessed are you… hard to imagine that to be hated so is considered a blessing but it is. That is because the martyrs teach us that when we are faithful to Jesus, dedicated to Him, not forgetting our real destiny and rewards will come. They know better than anyone that the spiritual battle is real. Yet they also testify to its rewards. They know that Jesus died for them first. That he exemplified what it means to lay your life down for those you love. He was willing to die for us even though we had done wrong too. The martyrs lay their lives down as well. Because of their love for Jesus. Because their love for others. Many are caught because they are trying to share their faith. Trying to help others know the love of Christ. Which is the final thing Martyrs teach us. 5. Share – Share what you have. Tell others about Jesus. People have to know about Him. Nothing in this world should stop you from telling others about Christ. Maybe we cannot relate to what Martyrs go though really, but we can learn from them. We can be more faithful and dedicated. We can show love, we can tell others about Jesus. And if it gets a little hard or we come under a little difficulty for doing that, then we can remember our destiny and the rewards that come with it to keep us going. What do you think can you learn something from a martyr? Okay, when the storms of life blow in your world. Be faithful, dedicated, full of love, share your faith and keep your eye on the goal. Be like a martyr!
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