The Greatest Sacrifice

For far too long when I read the pages of Scripture and encountered the faith of the martyrs, I glossed over the sacrifice, my eyes accustomed to the story.  John the Baptist was killed to satisfy a woman's bitterness at his insistence to preach the truth.  Stephen was stoned while praying for those who hurled the rocks.  Paul was beaten and left for dead, yet got up and preached again, and again, and again...only to be beheaded. 

I could appreciate the courage of their faith, but rarely stopped to empathize, to put myself in their sandals that traveled to take the gospel to one more people group, one more person in need of the truth.

My inability to empathize ended the day I met  a man who is now a dear friend of our family's.  That same friend is tying on the disciple's sandals and embarking once again on a journey to a nation hostile to the name of Jesus.  The danger is real, and it is intense. 

This friend will never have his name in lights.  He can't even have a Facebook account.  It's too dangerous to associate his name with the believers he helps or even the country he travels to.

He will never  be wealthy.  Every penny he brings in goes to sustain believers who will never know the extravagance that was at my dinner table this evening.  The "sandals" he will wear throughout his months long trip are the same pair he has worn for five years, pieced together time and again with glue.

When he embraces his family and steps on the plane this week, he will do so with the knowledge he might never see their faces again.  If he is caught preaching the name of Jesus, his wife and children could spend the rest of their lives not knowing how it ended.

And I am humbled by this man, who without fame or fortune, could be called "the least of these," yet is one of the greatest men I have ever known. 

I am sobered to know it could be my son who steps on a plane one day, if the Lord calls his name. 

And I am grateful that if my son receives that kind of call, he will not only have the heroes in Scripture as an example, but he will have another set of footprints to follow.  Footprints left by a man who counted it all joy and followed his Jesus, no matter the cost.

Author's Note:  Are you wondering what you can do, in the here and in the now?  Spend a moment praying for this man and all the nameless and faceless others who suffer for the name of Jesus.  Pray that the Holy Spirit ministers fresh grace, peace, and courage to their hearts.  Pray that their sufferings will reap great rewards in the Kingdom.  And pray if you are ever in their "sandals," you will follow in the same courage they show to their King day after day.