What is more precious than life? Well, not much. Want some proof?
If you have a serious form of cancer, and the only way to stay alive is to undergo expensive and physically debilitating chemotherapy treatments; many will still pay the money and undergo the pain in exchange for length of days. Life is more valuable than money or comfort.
If you are in your home, and it is burning to the ground around you, you will leave your possessions (even if they are uninsured) to remove yourself and your family from the property. Life is more valuable than possessions.
We could go on with other examples, but you get the point. We value life. And we should. People are created in the image of God, so they have intrinsic value and worth. Your life matters … and so does mine.
However, human life is not the ONLY thing that matters. In fact, it is not even what matters MOST. Like the examples I give above, a couple of other extreme examples will demonstrate what I mean.
In 155 AD, Polycarp (the Bishop of Smyrna) was arrested because of his unwillingness to worship a human Caesar as god. Threatened with his life, Polycarp stayed true to his faith and said, “Eighty-six years I have served Him (Jesus), and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” Polycarp was burned at a stake and stabbed to death with a spear because of His faith in Jesus. To Polycarp, his life was not what was most precious to him. He would rather die with Christ, than live in disobedience.
In 177AD a young woman named Blandina was arrested under similar circumstances to Polycarp. She was tortured viciously and coerced to try to convince her to renege her faith in Christ. She refused to deny Jesus, and as a result was thrown to wild animals for the sport of the watching crowd. To Blandina, her life was not more important than her connection to Jesus Christ.
Though these stories are from long ago, this storyline echoes through every generation (including our own). Followers of Jesus for 2,000 years have indicated that there was something more valuable than their life — Jesus Christ. This was not just an idea they said, it was something they were willing to pay for with the ultimate price.
And so, fellow Christian, let me ask you: Is Jesus more valuable to you than your life? More valuable to you than your stuff? More valuable to you than your reputation? More valuable to you than your position in society or the marketplace?
For the majority of Christ followers over the years, their lives have not ended in martyrdom, but Jesus asks all of us to consider the cost as we follow Him. Will we lay down our lives for His name? Our desires for His direction? Our programs for His plan?
Now, what could possibly convince someone to follow Christ, even unto death? In what way is this even remotely a circumstance we might be able to endure? Especially as 21st century American Christians who are programmed to care for ourselves above all, why would we supplant our self-preservation for His proclamation?
We find the answer to this question in Revelation 2:8-11 in the example of the church in Smyrna. This Sunday at Wildwood in part 4 of our “Lord of the Church” series, we will see how Jesus encourages them to hold up in the face of intense persecution … and how that challenges us as well.
Additionally, we will be sharing an update on our church plant partner in Lagoa De Sao Francisco, Brazil and present an opportunity for you and I to continue to support the work there. Hope to see you Sunday, January 23 in our 8:30, 9:45, or 11:00 services or online in the stream.