Live Martyrs' Manifesto - Choosing Love When It's Most Costly
Withholding Nothing From HimI was once asked, “If I don’t die a martyr, will I still get the reward of a martyr?” My question back was, “Well, how do you become a martyr?” The answer I got was, “By dying for Jesus.” But I disagreed, “No, by living for Him.”
What makes people martyrs isn’t one final act of not denying the Lord in the face of death, it’s the history of a life utterly surrendered to the Lord day after day. You don’t become a martyr by how you die, but by how you live. Martyrs aren’t just a testimony in death, their whole lives exclaim that He is worthy of it all and that they won’t withhold anything from Him. That’s the deep cry and DNA they share with those who have gone before them.
Echoes of Love Poured ForthThere are live martyrs walking among us today, obscured and unnoticed because of the mantle of human frailty and imperfection they wear. Martyrs, not because of how they’d die but because of how they live. By dying to themselves day after day, pouring out their lives one day at a time, choosing love over comfort, convenience, and complacency. Not just one final act, but countless deeds of surrender. Their life’s First Amendment is the First Great Commandment. Cause they know that real freedom is found in giving up their rights and in laying down their lives. For this is love. And there’s no greater love than this (John 15:13).
They don’t need to be cornered to pay their vows, they have resolved long ago: Whether in life or in death, they would withhold nothing from Him. Having been granted a glimpse of the beauty of His heart and the inferno of His eyes, their lives unceasingly proclaim, “Worthy! Worthy are You!” (Rev 4:11).
Beyond all the treasures they taste in life, they hold Him dearer still inside, the purest and supreme delight. Wounded by the sound of His tender whispers, their lives are ruined for anything less than having Him. He has overcome them, ravished their hearts, won their all. So they’d follow Him everywhere. They’d do anything. They’d endure everything. No matter the price, no matter the pain involved. They gotta have Him, and they won’t give themselves any rest until it’s found in only Him. They gotta be with Him.
So they ascend the mountain, bearing their cross, being drawn and hastening after the One they love, their exceedingly great reward (Gen 15:1). Whatever the weight of the beams, nothing can stop them, nothing can temper their determination to be with Him where He is, to be pleasing in His eyes, to live to see Him smile and hear Him say, “Well done!” (Mt 25:23).
They are resolute pilgrims and restless wanderers, though not without a destination. The road less traveled is their home though not their abode, for they never cease to feel like strangers, and from deep inside their hearts testify that they don’t belong.
So when their world falls apart, they knew all along that they were never meant to settle, and it lifts their eyes all the more to the finishing line of the narrow road. When things whistle through their fingers, they stretch them out to heaven. They bless in gain. They praise in loss. They worship in pain. They trust in adversity. It’s only a shadow.
They are acquainted with suffering, familiar with heartache, well-versed in songs of grief, eloquent storytellers of events they can’t make sense of. They have tasted it all. They know testing, they know trials. Yet they don’t waste a single one of them. Whatever life throws at them, it becomes their arena to prove their unyielding love, their resolute allegiance, His unfathomable worth.
Love longs to pour itself out. It’s not satisfied until it’s fully given. Martyrs know that love is costly only on this side of eternity. They got but a moment to make their soul and bones testify that He is worthy of it all. So they seize every opportunity to show sacrificial love that will be remembered beyond the end of time (Hebr 6:10). They’ve got just a minute within the infinitude of forever, and so in the spirit of David they refuse to “offer burnt offerings to the Lord their God which cost them nothing” (2 Sam 24:24). Costly love isn’t something they have to give, it’s something they seek after, making their every breath count for all the ages to come, turning the vapor of life into a pleasing fragrance unto Him.
Where others give up, they press on. Where others look back, their eyes remain fixed on the prize. Where others count the cost, they lavish their lives. Like fierce warriors, nothing can take them down. Nothing can stop them from walking in triumph. Again and again, they emerge from the deserts, leaning on their Beloved (Song 8:5). What others call defeat becomes their catalyst. Their scars are their trophies, crowns hidden from the eyes of the unaware, silent hymns of love poured forth.
With sheer naivety they hold that inescapably darkness makes light shine more tenaciously. They make the cloud of witnesses a cloud that witnesses that trust is rightly put in Him and that the circle of the earth still begets people of their kin.
In the Footsteps of Those Gone Before ThemSo throughout the globe still echos the resolve of present-day Jonahs, who have learned their lesson and settled in their hearts that they won’t be found unfaithful like those who chase after what’s vanity in His eyes and everyone else’s who views life from the vista of eternity (Jon 2:8). And even when this faithfulness requires a high price, they won’t murmur, they won’t complain, they’ll offer up their sacrifices with shouts of joy. Whatever it costs, they’ll gladly give it. That which they have vowed, they will pay (Jon 2:9). When His eyes run to and fro throughout the earth, He will find them, faithful to Him, faithful to their words.
Facing the fiery furnace of trials and testing, they put their trust in Him like the friends of Daniel. In the midst of distress and agony, in the face of death, their hearts will not waver. They know their God. Naively they put their hope in His goodness and faithfulness. Because they know that He is able and willing to stretch forth His hand, reach down and deliver them from evil (Dan 3:17). But even if He doesn’t step in and save the day, even if hope stays unfulfilled, their hearts remain loyal to Him (Dan 3:18). They won’t turn away from Him, won’t bow to another, even when they say “Amen” and the storm keeps raging.
And like John the Baptist, they will not be offended at Him and His leadership in the midst of circumstances that seem irreconcilable with His goodness. They are acquainted with the implications of His sovereignty. He is the potter, they are the clay. He can do however He pleases even if His ways are not their ways, and His thoughts not their thoughts (Isa 55:8-9). And like this loyal forerunner of Jesus, they won’t be bitter towards the Lord even when His plan includes their demise (Mt 11:6).
They are dreamers like modern day Asaphs, filled with wishes and hopes and anticipation. Yet their highest desire is found in Him. They would never put answered prayers over their relationship with Him. Never would they make their love for Him dependent on a granted wish, no matter how dear it is or how desperate their need (Ps 73:25-26). They willingly surrender the things they hold dear, yet they won’t give up the One who made them. In sickness, in agony, in despair, He is the strength of their hearts, the hope unfailing at last, the treasure anticipated most, the ultimate triumph.
And so like Jobs of the 21st century, they “rejoice in unsparing pain that they have not denied the words of the Holy One” (Job 6:10). With tenderness and trust they counter bitterness and loss. Their joy is found in loving Him, and still loving Him, when reason and common sense urges them not to, when circumstances join the atheist propaganda and fiercely proclaim, “There is no god” (Ps 14:1). That’s where they shine - when the right road becomes the narrow road, the road less traveled, when it includes the weight of a cross, when every single step taken implies a long-fought war won. They are more concerned with what they can give than what they can get. They despise the path that costs them nothing. When love is costly, love is precious.
Like the maiden in the Song of Solomon, their cry and heart’s desire is that He would do everything it takes for their hearts to become fully His, whether it be the tender South winds of blessing or the harsh North winds of testing (Song 4:16). Their lives and prayers continually prompt Him to “do whatever it takes, whatever it needs. Take whatever You want. Whatever necessary for me to become all You ever dreamed of.” Yes, whatever it takes, be it good or evil (Job 2:10). Even when sweat mingles with blood as in the night of their Master, they lift their eyes to heaven, exclaiming, “Your will be done!” (Lk 22:42). The lives of the martyrs - fully yielded, fully surrendered, captivated with the dream of being fully His, obsessed with the mission and chief end of love poured forth. They know that the measure of a man is the measure of His heart, so whether in joy or in agony, they love relentlessly.
Tragedy Isn't DyingAnd though they don’t have all the answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives, they know that He’s got them all and that He knows what He is doing. So they trust His leadership, believing that eventually all things will work together for this one cause that everything, whether good or bad, is unto: love.
And that’s what they make their response in all things. It’s their journey and their destiny, their calling and their reward, their dream and their hope. In bitter agony, after painful loss and in the face of death, they won’t deny Him their all. They are the living martyrs. They choose love when it’s most costly.
“Should I not die a martyr, let it not be because I didn’t live like one.” They have but one goal, and they won’t fail: Engraved on their tombstones will be what’s been written on their souls all along, that “Tragedy isn’t dying, it’s dying without Him having all my heart.”
And this proclamation of their lives will resound with their memory and echo through eternity.