When I wake up each morning, my first task is to let out the dogs and retrieve the newspaper. Before I read the headlines I wonder what new tragedy has rocked people from their illusive peace. In Israel, yet another Palestinian has blown himself up and taken the lives of bystanders. What propels these martyrs to so willingly die?
Of course the answer is their cause. The more noble the cause, the greater people see themselves as heroic in laying down their lives. There are two kinds of martyrs: those who die for their cause and those who die for their Cause. The former focus on an agenda and they see no conflict in destroying the lives of those who disagree with them. The latter see Jesus and amplify their faith in Him. Their objective is not to impose their views but to be faithful to God and to let the Holy Spirit lead them.
Acts 7:55,56--But Stephen, filled by the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven. He saw God’s glory, with Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!
While stones smashed his body, Stephen felt no hate for the hurlers. He remembered the life of His Savior Who, while suspended in agony, prayed “Father, forgive these people, because they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NLT). Stephen died a martyr for his first Cause. Centuries later, if those in power had learned from his example, they would never have enflamed soldiers with religious propaganda launching them across Europe and the Middle East as crusaders. They died for a secondary cause—to Christianize heathen civilizations. They were sent and led by men motivated by greed and power, men who called Christ Lord, but who ignored His lordship. They disdained what Jesus taught “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Stephen’s death draws our eyes to Jesus and brings glory to God. Those who perished as crusading martyrs discredited God and have caused countless lives to see Him as a tyrant, no different than the gods of any other people. Sad isn’t it?
Sabina Wurmbrand, a Romanian woman familiar with suffering for Christ wrote, “A martyr does not make the truth. The truth makes a martyr.” What truth are you made of?
Because men and women devote themselves to martyrdom for a cause, they think they have struck the profoundest secret of religion; whereas they have but exhibited the heroic spirit that is in all human beings, and have not begun to touch the great fundamental secret of spiritual Christianity, which is wholehearted, absolute consecration of myself to Jesus, not to His cause, not to His “league of pity,” but to Himself personally.—Oswald Chambers in The Place of Help
©2002 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)