“…Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.”
Living as a middle class American in the 21st century, I know nothing of persecution. Embedded with a sinful tendency to question, “Why me, God?” at the slightest hint of discomfort, it is good for me to be reminded of what suffering truly is. This week as I read a book entitled From Grief to Glory by James Bruce, I was impressed anew with how abnormal a relatively safe and comfortable existence is in the scope of Christian history.
In his book, James Bruce records the following example of one believer who understood well that he was only a stranger passing through this world. For those of us who live surrounded by earthly comforts, the words of John Bradford serve as a powerful encouragement to keep our minds set on things above (Col. 3:2), that we too may have the strength to follow our Lord to the very end:
During an awful time of persecution in the middle of the sixteenth century, God raised up a remnant of men and women in England who were valiant for truth and for the cause of Christ. One of these godly men, John Bradford, wrote a letter to a woman to encourage her knowing that her son would soon be chained to a stake and die a fiery death. The woman was his own mother, and he the son. The following are selections from his letter:
My most dear mother,
In the compassion of Christ I heartily pray and beseech you to be thankful for me unto God, who now takes me unto Himself. I die not, my good mother, as a thief, a murderer, or adulterer; but I die as a witness of Christ, His gospel, and truth, which I have confessed. I thank God, though I am imprisoned, I am even willing to confirm it by fire. Therefore, my good and most dear mother, give thanks for me to God, that He has made your son to be a witness of His glory. Pray often and continually to God the Father, through Christ; hearken to the Scriptures; serve God after His Word, and not after custom; carry Christ’s cross, as He shall lay it upon your back; forgive them that kill me; pray for them, for they know not what they do; commit my cause to God our Father; be mindful of both your daughters, to help them as you can.
I have nothing to give you or to leave behind for you, except that I pray to God my Father, for His Christ’s sake, that He would bless you and keep you from evil. May He give you patience; may He make you thankful, for me and for yourself, that He will take your child to witness His truthfulness. I confess to the whole world that I die and leave this life, in hope of one much better, which I look for at the hands of God my Father through the merits of His dear Son, Jesus Christ.
So, my dear mother, I say my last farewell to you in this life, beseeching the almighty and eternal Father, by Christ, to grant that we may meet in the life to come, where we shall give Him continual thanks and praise for ever and ever. Amen.
Your son in the Lord,
[From Grief to Glory, pp. 61-62]
Photo: Courtney Francis