While imprisoned in the Tower of London at Newgate Prison, John Bradford allegedly uttered the words, “There, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford” while watching a criminal on his way to execution. In 1555, this English Reformer would become a martyr at his own execution. Just prior to being burned at the stake, he said to a fellow martyr behind him, tied to the same stake, “Be of good comfort brother; for we shall have a merry supper with the Lord this night!”
John Foxe’s famous book, The Book of Martyrs, was published in 1563 by the Protestant John Day. The book is an account of Christian martyrs from the first through the early sixteenth century. Many have read this book. If you haven’t, you should.
I have given much thought on so many occasions at how blessed are those who live under religious freedom. My thoughts especially turn in upon myself. I, as many others in this country, have suffered anguish from life’s little surprises, but nothing I could legitimately classify as true Christian suffering. When I read the accounts of my brothers and sisters in Christ who are today martyrs for Christ, I humbly say, “There, but for the grace of God, go I”.
I have long been acquainted with a Christian organization called “The Voice of the Martyrs” (VOM). It is listed on the internet, and I would encourage every Christian to visit and support it, if at all possible. It can be located on the web athttp://www.persecution.com/. You will find true accounts of Christian who are, right now, paying the ultimate cost to defend the Faith because they will not reject the Lord Jesus Christ. You can request VOM’s free magazine, write words of encouragement to those who are suffering, support in several ways, and much more. I am not a spokesman for VOM, but my wife and I have had one of their husband/wife missionary teams in our home about thirteen years ago with a Bible class we held at that time. I know their work, and their love for the martyrs of today.
Asia Bibi is a 37-year-old woman who has been imprisoned inPakistan since June of 2009 because she would not denounce her Christianity. Seventeen months after her arrest, she was convicted for blasphemy and sentenced to death.
Imran Ghafur is a Christian businessman who has been imprisoned since July 2009 because he has been accused of burning a page of the Quran. He is using his time in prison to study God’s Word, and says, “I am happy the Lord wants to use me for His Kingdom.”
Y Wo Nie is a Pastor in Vietnam who was arrested in August 2004 “for leading a demonstration demanding more religious freedom and the release of property confiscated by the Vietnamese government.” His family has not been allowed to visit him during his nine year sentence.
I have only mentioned three, but there are many thousands of our brothers and sisters in Christ who need our prayers.
I fuss just as much as the next person at many of the atrocities that are happening in our country. It is sad to watch while those in power rip the life blood from this great country which our forefathers began. But even with all our problems, and there are many, we are still free to openly worship the Lord Jesus, at least for now. We are free to worship in our home, at any local assembly we choose, across state lines, on any day, as often as we like, and for as long as we like. This is not true in many areas of the world.
Most who attend the church services in this country don’t even carry a Bible with them, while many Christians in oppressed countries risk their lives for just one page from the Bible. We complain about the services, while others worship in secret for fear of being apprehended by the police authorities. We argue over the color of the carpet, while others sit on the ground or the cold hard floor. We forego worship for “more important things,” while others sit in prison because they chose to worship.
Do we really appreciate what God has given us in the land of the free? We speak of those who will come to Christ during the Tribulation period as martyrs, because during that time they will be a martyr if they choose to renounce the Antichrist and follow Jesus instead, yet there are many martyrs among us today. What is the difference between martyrs of the Tribulation and martyrs of today? Today martyrs are in select areas of the world, but not in free countries such as ours. However, during the Tribulation there will be no free zones. Everyone will be affected, without exception. Unlike today, everyone will have to make a life or death decision, either for or against Christ.
Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ today are getting a very strong foretaste of what it means to follow Christ, and many more in free countries such as ours are blind to everything around them but their own pleasures.
Will we ever wake up and hear the cries of help from afar? Will we ever have a fire in our belly to pray for those who are oppressed? Will we allow God to guide us in others areas where we may help, while we pray for them?
Next month we will be celebrating Thanksgiving in this country. We will gorge ourselves on food fit for kings and queens then fall back in our recliners while we watch the games.
The following month we will be celebrating Christmas. While working our way up to that day, we will have spent money, like raving lunatics, on gifts, many getting themselves deeper and deeper in debt.
I realize that not every Christian is self-centered, but I do feel that as a whole, we in this country need to thank our God above for the freedoms we have, especially the freedom to worship. We need to wake up and say, “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” and not from a high plateau of haughtiness, but from a deeply humble and appreciative heart.
Even in our own country, some have it better than others, and I’m not talking about wealth. I’m talking about things that matter. For example, when speaking of our Heavenly Father, what kind of earthly father did/do we have? What about our mother, our siblings, other relatives? What was the neighborhood like where we grew up? I’m not making excuses for anyone. God can and does take people from all walks of life and pull them out of the gutter of despair. He does it every day. My point is this. Are we thankful? Can we say, “There, but for the grace of God, go I?”
We Americans are generally fat, lazy, and selfish, and that includes true Christians. Do we say “Thank you Lord” and go about our merry way, or are we really, deeply appreciative of the grace He has reaped upon us, by allowing us to be born in a religiously free country and everything else that goes along with it? If we are, our conscience will not allow us to brush those out of our minds who need our help. They need especially our prayers, and also whatever the Lord shows us to do on their behalf. There, but for the grace of God, go I.