It’s been rightly said that a courageous person dies only once but a coward dies a thousand times. In fact Jesus Christ says “…the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”(Revelation 21:8)
Richard Wumbrand once wrote: “A man really believes not what he recites in his creed, but only the things he is ready to die for.” In other words Christ should be obeyed no matter the cost. We must obey God rather than men (Acts 5: 29) The Lord will help us to stand for truth, with courage, consistence, grace, and humility against the gathering darkness and persecution like the disciples did when they were filled with the love and power of the Holy Ghost. That is His promise. He said He will never leave us nor forsake us.
Jesus tells us that every Christian has to carry his own cross. Each must endure his allotted share of suffering and rejection. But each has a different share: some God deems worthy of the highest form of suffering, and gives them the grace of martyrdom, while others He does not allow to be tempted above that which they are able to bear. (see 1 Corinthians 10:13) But it is the one and the same cross in every case.
Another decision may be how visible we are in a persecution scenario. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was imprisoned and hanged and his close friend Eberhard Bethge was very secretive about his faith and actually ended up serving in the army of the Third Reich. Yet God used them both, as Bethge was the recipient of Bonhoeffer’s letters from prison, which have been published and benefited millions of believers.
We have to make up our minds whether we openly stand up for Christ, with potentially harsh and painful consequences, or do we work underground to further God’s Kingdom in that fashion? Some will be called to the former, some to the latter. Having searched our heart ahead of time may be valuable. In his book The Oak and the Calf Alexander Solzhenitsyn who sustained long years of imprisonment and exile in Russia writes that:
I could have enjoyed myself so much, breathing the fresh air, resting, stretching my cramped limbs, but my duty to the dead permitted no such self-indulgence. They are dead. You are alive: Do your duty. The world must know all about it…There is only one way I shall ever be able to rid myself of this stain: and that is if my words someday start something else, this time in our own country…The [KGB] could take my children hostage—posing as “gangsters,” of course. (They did not know that we had thought of this and made a superhuman decision: our children were no dearer to us than the memory of the millions done to death, and nothing could make us stop that book)…
Yes some of us might make be called to make superhuman decisions as the time grows more urgent. Of course some of us will run for our lives. The believers of the Jerusalem church began fleeing the city due to the waves of persecution they faced because of their testimony for Jesus Christ. But what the enemy meant for evil, God used for good as the scattering of the apostles led to the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria.
And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles…..Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. (Acts 8:1-5 KJV)
It has been said that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. Thousands of Christians have stood in persecution, but tens of thousands have fallen. Even in the days of great Roman persecutions only a small fraction of those who had professed Christ stood true to the end.
More Christians have suffered for their faith in twentieth century than in any other time in church history. Why are some able to stand? They have learned how to sink their roots of faith deeply into the Rock, Jesus Christ—to take unto you the whole armour of God that may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13)