The Voice of the Martyrs

May 2,  2021 | The Voice of Martyrs | Life in the Arena | Hebrews 11

Highlights:
• Following Jesus requires radical obedience. It is costly;
• Whatever you see as the highest value is what you will make the greatest sacrifices to obtain;
• Most of our obedience WILL NOT be rewarded in this life.

The writer of Hebrews is writing to a group of believers who were experiencing severe persecution because they were followers of Jesus. They were losing their homes, jobs, being run out of their own communities. Many were being abandoned by their families.

Imprisonment, alienation, and their lives were even threatened. Some of these believers were abandoning their faith because of the suffering. The book of Hebrews was written to give confidence in the Gospel and the sufficiency of Jesus. These believers were being encouraged not to give up and to stand strong in the faith.

Hebrews 11 is called the Hall of Faith. It is describing what genuine faith looks like.

It is a record of the men and women in history who persevered in the face of difficulty, who took courageous steps of faith to be obedient to Jesus. Some faced enemies, armies, suffering, rejection, and even death. They serve as a testimony of faith in the arena.

“And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection…” (Hebrews 11:32-35a)

Now when we get through this list, our response is YES and AMEN! Bring it on! Defeating enemies, enforcing justice, obtaining promises, mighty in war, quenching fire, escaping death & resurrection! All of this comes through adversity but they come out victorious, but that’s not the entire list.

“… Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:35b-40)

This is also the outcome, some defeated the enemy by faith and others were put to death by the enemy by the very same faith!

During this series we have seen the furnace of fire, the den of lions, the council of death but now I want us to hear the voice of martyrs. A martyr is someone who dies for the faith. The writer of Hebrews includes these incredible stories of martyrs because their death gives testimony of the unshakable faith that is required to stand in the arena. So let’s listen to the voice of the martyrs:

Following Jesus is COSTLY • following Jesus requires radical obedience. In these later verses, we see that this cost also means intense opposition, suffering, and even death. Why would the writer of this book use stories of suffering and martyrdom to encourage these suffering Christians? It is because the stories of these men and women testify that following Jesus is costly. The author wants these believers to remember that they are not the first ones to suffer for Jesus, and they will not be the last. Persecution is not unusual but actually normal for following Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:12 says: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” If a godly life is your desire, persecution will follow.

Most of our obedience WILL NOT be rewarded in this life • We must understand that while God’s promises find their yes in Jesus, not all of them will be obtained on this side of eternity. The Old Testament saints lived in anticipation of all that would be theirs when Jesus arrived. Now we live with anticipation of what will be ours upon Jesus’ return!

Jesus is more valuable than everything in the world • The believers in Hebrews 11 were faithful because they believed that Jesus offered something that was more precious than everything else in this life! Earlier on in this chapter, these saints are described as seeking a “greater city” or a greater “home.” Verse 24 describes Moses as, “though He was the grandson of Pharaoh. He chose to abandon his life of privilege and wealth to be identified and suffer with the people of God.” Verse 26 says that “He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” What is the reward? Jesus! Moses recognized that Jesus was of greater value than everything that was His in Egypt! It was a better treasure to be mistreated with Jesus than to have the world’s pleasures without Him! Here is a fact: Whatever you see as the highest value is what you will make the greatest sacrifices to obtain. When Jesus becomes the highest value of your life, when He becomes what you treasure more than anything else, then there is nothing in this world you would not be willing to sacrifice to serve Him and advance His mission.