We’ve all heard that the members of the Secret Service will take a bullet to protect the President, Vice President and whoever else they are assigned to protect. These men and women do this because it is the job they chose. It does not mean that they believe so much in the person they are protecting, but in the job they have sworn to carry out.
Law enforcement officers across the land also know that they may lose their lives in the line of duty. It’s generally something they don’t long for and wish to do, but they are aware that their lives are on the line every day they leave their home.
The same is true with firefighters. In some areas of the nation, there are nearly as many firefighters that lose their lives in the line of duty as law enforcement officers. Fires pose many dangers that most people aren’t unaware of.
And let’s not forget the men and women in armed forces. From the Revolutionary War to today, more than 1.3 million U.S. military personnel have died fighting for and defending America’s freedom. Over 1.5 million have been wounded in the line of duty. These men and women, in most cases, have gone into battle knowing that they could die for the cause they are fighting for.
But what about dying for one’s faith? Are American Christians willing to die for their Christian faith? Many say they are, but I bet when the time comes that few will be willing to stand up and say that they believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, knowing that those words would mean certain death.
I couldn’t help but think of this as I was reading the account of Youcef Nadarkhani in Iran. He had been in prison now for three years and is facing a death sentence for converting from Islam to Christianity. He has not been allowed to see his wife or two sons. The last time Youcef was in court, Iranian officials demanded that he renounce his Christian faith. Knowing that his words meant certain death, Youcef told the officials, “I cannot.”
Youcef understands what Jesus meant when he told a crowd and His disciples:
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Mark 8:34-35
Christians wear crosses and use them to think of how great it is to be a follower of Jesus Christ, but they fail to understand the true symbolism of the cross. The cross was not meant to be a symbol of beauty and life, but rather one of immeasurable suffering, grief and death. Death on a cross is slow and agonizing. When Jesus said to pick up your cross and follow Him, He meant that you had to die from your old life of sin, no matter how hard or painful that may be.
Youcef picked up his cross and followed Jesus. In so doing, he is suffering in an Iranian prison, separated from his family and friends. He knows full well that the fickleness of the Iranian judicial system means that they could drag him from his cell at any moment and execute him for his Christian faith. Yet he stands strong in his faith, as did Steven before he was stoned to death.
Do you have that kind of Christian faith? Have you truly died to your old life and picked up your cross and followed Jesus. If someone had a knife to your throat or a noose around your neck and demanded that you renounce Christ, would you cave in to fear or be willing to let your last words call out Jesus’ name?
If you don’t have that kind of faith or are not sure, they you may need to question your own salvation, for as Jesus said:
“For whoever would save his life will lose it.”
Jesus was talking about eternity and losing your eternal life by denying Him in order to save your life now.
I plead with you to be honest with yourself and ask yourself that question. You also need to ask and discuss it with your family and loved ones. It just may be the most important question you’ve ever asked them or yourself and one that has eternal consequences.