A 365 Devotional Journal
Scripture: Hebrews 11; 1 Peter 2:20-24.
I have often wondered what went through Paul’s mind as he penned the words below. Was he thinking of the death of his fellow apostles at the hands of the Romans? Was he thinking of the martyrdom of Stephen, by whose hands miraculous signs and wonders were worked? Was he perhaps thinking of John the Baptist who, after spending maybe three months in prison, was beheaded at the whim of a girl who obeyed her mother’s vengeful demand?
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for…
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth…
There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection…They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them…
none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.1
All of the apostles were executed, save John the Beloved, and it wasn’t for lack of trying on the part of Rome, either. The assumption by many is that John was preserved so that he could pen his prophetic encounter which later became the book of Revelation.
Paul stated that the world was not worthy of these and that they only saw the promise of God from a distance, recognizing and professing they were citizens of another, heavenly country. Yet despite all these things, or perhaps because of them, Paul labored diligently until the day he, too, was executed for his faith in Jesus.
We do not much like to think about the fact of Christian persecution. It was commonplace at the birth of Christianity, as it is in some parts of the world today. It occurred during the reign of Domitian in the 1st century. According to the extra biblical account of Tertullian, in De Praescriptione Haereticorum (The Prescription of Heretics,) the Romans attempted to boil John the Apostle in oil for the entertainment of an audience at the Roman Coliseum. Instead of dying, he not only survived the torture but did not suffer any harm in the execution attempt. The entire audience was said to have converted to Christianity as a result of witnessing this miracle.2
Only the most naïve or proud soul will not admit they do not know what they would do if put into a situation such as the terrible ones mentioned above, yet even the Apostle Peter wrote that we all are called to suffer, prefacing the promise of our healing with this hard word:
For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
“Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.3
We Christian Americans have for the most part grown used to the idea of ease, but anyone with half a heart cannot help but entertain the thought, “what if I am called to die?” And if so, will it one day be said of us “the world was not worthy of them?”
Now that is a thought worth pondering.
Read: Hebrews 11; 1 Peter 2:20-24. Journal your private thoughts.
Father, these are hard words to read, even harder to contemplate, yet I know that should such a day I ever must face, You will prepare me. Thank you, Lord, for making the way possible for us to live for eternity in Your presence, amen!
1Hebrews 11:1-2, 13-16, 35b, 37-40. Bold mine. THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. www.biblica.com
2 Information retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tertullian and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_the_Apostle
31 Peter 2:20-24. Bold mine. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com; www.thomasnelson.com.
Copyright © 2011, Érin Elise