Many contemporary Christians have never heard of a man named Polycarp. The early believers knew all about him because he was one of the first well-known martyrs of the Christian faith. In his youth he was a disciple of the Apostle John. For many years he served as Bishop of the church in Smyrna. During a wave of persecution in AD 155, when a mob demanded his death, Roman officials tried to save his life by offering him repeated chances to deny his faith in Christ. He refused each time. When given one final chance to save his own life, he replied in words that echo across the centuries:
“For 86 years I have served him, and he has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King who has saved me?”
As the soldiers prepared to nail him to the stake, he refused, saying, “Leave me as I am. For he who grants me to endure the fire will enable me also to remain on the pyre unmoved, without the security you desire from nails.” The fire was lit and Polycarp burned to death. As the flames consumed him, he was heard to pray, “I thank you, O Lord, that you have deemed me worthy this day and this hour to take up the cross of Christ with many witnesses.”
Death has no power over the believer who remains faithful.
April 24, 2016