Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Hebrews 13:3
It was around the year 320 A.D. the Roman Emperor Licinius was persecuting Christians.
In Armenia, his 12th Legion, nicknamed the "Thundering Legion," had 40 men who had been converted and now were openly proclaiming Jesus as their Lord. To force a renunciation of the Savior, those 40 were sentenced to spend the night, naked, upon a frozen lake.
A warm house, food and a hot bath were available to anyone who renounced the Savior.
If you had been there that night, during the descending darkness, you could have heard their song to the Savior. The 40 sang, "O Lord, 40 wrestlers have come forth to fight for Thee. Grant that 40 wrestlers may gain the victory!" The song became softer as, during the night, one by one, they fell asleep, and died.
Only one of the soldiers gave in. He left his comrades and went to the house where the centurion, with the execution squad, kept watch. In spite of the single desertion, the song continued: "O Lord, 39 wrestlers have come forth to fight for Thee. Grant that 39 wrestlers may gain the victory!" The Holy Spirit used their song, and faith, to touch the centurion.
Proclaiming himself a Christian, the centurion went to the ice. By morning, the cold had silenced their song.
Have you heard the song Christian martyrs are singing to the Savior? It is not necessary to go back through the centuries to hear that song.
Each week, each day, new stories of persecution are coming out of Africa, the Mid-East, and Asia.
Frequently, we hear reports about how a church service is interrupted by a bomb blast and how Christian children are being kidnapped and re-programmed with a hated to Jesus and all His followers. It was only last week that the world was told that for the first time in 1,300 years -- because of Islamist persecution -- no church service was held in the large Iraqi city of Mosul.
We could go on and on speaking about how Jesus is being attacked not just by Islam, but by Hindu nationals, insecure governments, and even monks from the Buddhist community.
Yes, we could talk about those persecutions, but we need to talk about how the Holy Spirit is keeping faith alive and how others, seeing the witness and hearing the sincere song of faith which comes from these martyrs, is making converts.
Eighteen-hundred years ago, Tertullian, said, "The first reaction to truth is hatred." He also commented, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church."
He had no way of knowing how right he was. This is why today we pray, if Christian blood must be shed, let it produce a harvest of souls for the kingdom of heaven.
THE PRAYER: Martin Luther leads us in prayer with his hymn: "Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word; Curb those who fain by craft and sword would wrest the Kingdom from Thy Son, and set at naught all He hath done. Lord Jesus Christ, Thy power make known, for Thou art Lord of lords alone; defend Thy Christendom that we May evermore sing praise to Thee. O Comforter of priceless worth. Send peace and unity on earth. Support us in our final strife and lead us out of death to life." In Jesus we ask it. Amen.
Reach Out to Victims of ISIS Persecution in Syria and Iraq: Click here!
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries