Weekly Newsletter

Pastor David’s Weekly Devotional
     One of my heroes is a man named Polycarp, who lived from about 70-155 a.d.  Polycarp was known as the Bishop of Smyrna in Asia Minor.  He was a godly and devout Christian Bishop who became the focal point of the hatred and persecutions directed at Christians in Smyrna (see Rev.2:8-11).  In that day, tensions had risen between the Christians and those who worshipped Caesar.  The Christians were called atheists because they refused to worship any of the Roman gods and had no images or shrines of their own.  At one point, a mob cried out, “Away with the atheists; let search be made of Polycarp.”

     At a cottage outside the city, Polycarp remained in prayer and did not flee.  The authorities sought him, and he was betrayed to them by one of his servants under torture.  He came down from an upper room and talked with his accusers. “All that were present marveled at his age and constancy, and that there was so much ado about the arrest of such an old man.”  He asked for permission to pray before being taken away.  They allowed it and “being so filled with the grace of God that for two hours he could not hold his peace.”

     The proconsul tried again to persuade him to save himself, “Have respect to thine age … Swear by the genius of Caesar … Repent … Say, ‘Away with the atheists [that is, Christians]!”  Polycarp turned to the “mob of lawless heathen in the stadium, and he waved his hand at them, and looking up to heaven he groaned and said, ‘Away with the atheists.’”  Again, the proconsul said, “Swear, and I will release thee; curse the Christ.”  To this Polycarp gave his most famous response, “Eighty and six years have I served him, and he hath done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my king who saved me?”

     The proconsul said again, “Swear by the genius of Caesar.”  And Polycarp answered, “If thou dost vainly imagine that I would swear by the genius of Caesar, as thou sayest, pretending not to know what I am, hear plainly that I am a Christian.”  The proconsul replied, “I have wild beasts; if thou repent not, I will throw thee to them.”  To which Polycarp replied, “Send for them.  For repentance from better to worse is not a change permitted to us; but to change from cruelty to righteousness is a noble thing.”

     The proconsul said, “If thou doest despise the wild beasts I will make thee to be consumed by fire, if thou repent not.”  Polycarp answered, “Thou threatenest the fire that burns for an hour and in a little while is quenched; for thou knowest not of the fire of the judgment to come, and the fire of the eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly.  But why delayest thou?  Bring what thou wilt.”

     The proconsul sent word that it should be proclaimed aloud to the crowd three times, “Polycarp hath confessed himself to be a Christian.”  After the crowd found out that there were no beasts available for the task, they cried out for him to be burned alive.  The wood was gathered, and as they were about to nail his hands to the timber he said, “Let me be as I am.  He that granted me to endure the fire will grant me also to remain at the pyre unmoved, without being secured with nails.”  The fire did not consume him [legend reports the flame actually arched around Polycarp, not touching him], but an executioner drove a dagger into his body.

     This may seem like a radical, even fictional, story (perhaps especially to our 21st century American ears).  But we need to consider that this is just one of the countless stories, throughout the history of humankind, of Christians suffering unjust persecution and even martyrdom for the name, sake, and glory of Christ.  Suffering for Christ should not seem strange to us (see Matt.10:16-22; Jn.16:1-4; Acts 14:22; 2Tim.3:12; 1Pet.4:12-16), nor should we think that it is to be avoided at all cost (see Rom.8:18-18; 2Cor.4:8-12; Phil.3:8-11; 1Pet.4:13-14).

Together in and for Christ,
Pastor David

Scripture Readings for the Week (Monday – Sunday ~ Week #5):
Genesis 16-19; Joshua 21-24; Psalm 12-14; Job 9-10; Isaiah 23-28; Matthew 11-13; Romans 9-10
Recommended Reading:
“Suffering and the Sovereignty of God” by John Piper | Justin Taylor

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