Philippians 2:17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.
You may not realize it, but the above verse contains some chilling words. When Paul referred to a drink offering and sacrifice, he was writing about decapitation, which he expected to occur after he personally made his appeal to Caesar. He wrote this letter to the Philippian church – a congregation that he nurtured and loved – from his prison as a dying testimony. He knew that his chances of survival were slim, but rather than hide it from the church, he veiled his words in a way that his people would understand what he truly meant. After the letter was written and dispatched, Paul’s case went to trial and he was beheaded.
It has always taken a great deal of courage to be a Christian. Over the centuries, millions of people have lost their lives for believing in Christ. Around the world today, Christians are still being persecuted. A recent survey by the Vatican revealed that up to 100,000 Christians of all different denominations are killed every year on our planet. That is a chilling number which should cause us all to reflect upon on own commitment to Christ. Is it inconvenient? Does it take a great deal of courage? Are we under pressure simply because we call ourselves Christians?
Yesterday, we commemorated Memorial Day in the United States. It is a special day that we set aside to remember the true cost and sacrifices that have been made by the military to maintain the freedoms we enjoy over here. It is a somber time for those who truly remember why we hold it; but it is also a cheerful day for families who freely gather together.
Perhaps as Christians who enjoy a great deal of freedom, we should also remember the true cost and great sacrifices in the past, as well as the present, that allow us to both somberly and cheerfully enjoy our faith.
Questions for personal reflection
How committed am I to Christ and His church? How has my personal faith been shaped by the lives of Christians in the past?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we thank You for the many leaders and people like Paul, who put their lives on the line, so that we may enjoy our Christian faith today. Help us to honor their sacrifices by living our lives in faithful and dedicated ways. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Please feel free to share this message with others. John will also be delighted to receive any questions, comments, or feedback on today’s message. Send him an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s image is John’s drawing for Memorial Day of this year. It’s called Memorial Rose. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: Rose.