The horror which unfolded in Roseburg, Oregon is still painfully fresh. The faces of the martyrs in Umpqua are becoming familiar as their stories are being told. Christians dying in the Middle East at the hands of Muslim extremists is something we've seen. It’s horrible but remote—clear on the other side of the world. But Christians dying in their classroom in Oregon is up close and personal—and forces me to think.
The word martyr means “witness.” And there is no more powerful Christian testimony than those who would die rather than renounce their commitment to Jesus. It’s become standard to elevate martyrs to a kind of 'super Christian' status. We think, they must be made of sterner stuff than me. I just don’t think I could measure up to what they did. And each time the enemy helps our uncertainty by whispering, “You couldn’t do that. You’re not that kind of Christian. You’re too weak, too lazy, too immature.” Each whisper is designed to weaken faith and camouflage the real issue—that our loving, generous God can be trusted to give us exactly what we need in every situation.
As a child, Corrie ten Boom had an encounter with death that left her shaken and afraid. Her father comforted her with this, "When you and I go to Amsterdam...when do I give you your ticket?” She responded, "Why, just before we get on the train". Her father then went on, "Exactly. And our wise Father in Heaven knows when we're going to need things too. Don't run ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need--just in time". Just so. The enemy wants stories of martyrdom to make us afraid and uncertain. God wants such stories to fill us with faith—not in our own strength or ability, but in Him. I can trust that my wise Father in Heaven has the necessary ticket for where I’m going.
I’m grateful that the courage the Roseburg martyrs exhibited isn’t something they learned in a book or gritted their teeth to produce. Those brave souls who overcame the enemy and went to glory last Monday couldn’t do what they did either…without the indwelling, super-abundant power of God. That’s not to downgrade what they did; it’s to encourage us. I don’t have to worry that my Christianity won’t pass the test, because there is no test. The same God I trust for my daily bread can be trusted to provide the power to face the unfaceable. Every.Single.Time.
That’s not to say that this isn’t a tragedy or that we shouldn’t grieve. I can only imagine the pain and anguish of those affected. I am praying for the friends and family of those who’ve lost loved ones and for the others healing from their wounds. My heart hurts for them, but I am also praying for us. The enemy would have us conclude that God was powerless to stop evil in Oregon. But we know something he’d rather we didn’t. When we trust our wise Father with everything…even the well-being of our physical lives, we overcome satan. In this world we will have trouble, but our Jesus is faithful. He has overcome and promises that we will as well.
And they overcame and conquered [the Adversary]
because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony,
for they did not love their life and renounce their faith
even when faced with death. Rev. 12:11