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            “During this [twentieth] century alone, more Christians have been killed for their faith than in all the previous centuries combined.”[1] Martyrdom occurs when the combination of both steadfast faith and disheartening evil collide resulting in the loss of life. Paul validates how the qualities of martyrs develop through joy, endurance-producing character, and hope made known through love. This love beckons forgiveness resulting in the restoration of communion with God.

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).[2]


            The apostle Paul first mentions the quality of “rejoicing in our suffering.” George Fox, a Quaker in the 1600’s, was imprisoned multiple times for his faith along with other Quakers who would end up being martyred in their imprisonment. While in prayer seeking consolation from the Lord from hardship George was encouraged by the Spirit when He said, “‘There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition,’ and when I heard it my heart I did leap for joy.”[3]

            Jesus outpours His love for mankind through salvation upon the cross considering such suffering as “the joy that was set before Him,” (Hebrews 12:2b).[4] This salvific work of Christ gives aid to me when I encounter suffering so that I too may be joyful through a reliance of faith that reveals a loving, present, and joyful Savior who stands with me in my time of need.

Endurance That Produces Character

            Florea was beaten to the point of paralysis while being imprisoned for his faith in Christ in Romania. He would die, a martyr with Christ-like character in prison. Amid this suffering, Florea’s heart and mind were focused upon God’s perspective producing an other’s focused mentality. His nine-year-old son’s response in being told that he should grow up to be a nice Christian responded, “I would rather become a sufferer for Christ like my father.”[5]

             “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).[6] Even in Florea’s paralytic state, his faith provided endurance that truly produced a character of strength amongst weakness that I can follow in trusting God’s strength and not my own. It is in these moments of weakness that I can trust in God’s power to guide me through any hardship.


            “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).[7] It is not a matter of if you will be persecuted for Christ, but rather when. Fear takes place by hope is misplaced. So, when suffering hardships arise misplaced hope grounds its foundation on the temporal whims of circumstance. When these circumstances change for the worse fear takes hold, but hope placed upon the eternal loving Savior relies upon an unchanging loving God.

In 1555 Dr. Nicholas Ridley would be burned at the stake for his faith. However, although being faced with death, he was not filled with fear. His hope-filled expectation of what was to come caused him to compare his upcoming hardship to the glorious hope that he had. “Though my breakfast in the morning will be somewhat sharp and painful, I am sure my supper in the evening will be most pleasant and sweet.”[8]

Likewise, in 1681 Donald Cargill would be beheaded for his declaration that Christ was the head of the Church. Upon walking up the stand to meet his death, Cargill was not filled with fear, but rather hope. “The Lord knows I go up this ladder with less fear and anxiety than I ever entered the pulpit to preach.”[9]

Cargill differentiates the fear of God from the fear of man and their connection to hope. Fearing God does not leave an individual disheartened of unknowns, but rather trusts these unknowns to an omniscient God while being reckoned with the responsibility of living out God’s calling. I have found myself underprepared for a sermon in the past and God has provided in my weakness His strength. However, this does not negate the vital importance of the fear of God coupled with the joyful hope that I should have when I enter the pulpit.


Faith produces steadfast hope that concludes in practical love. “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love,” (1 Corinthians 13:13).[10] Love is the conclusion and driving force behind suffering, for it follows the outreaching arms of Christ.

Jesus Himself exemplifies love in its purity upon the cross revealing love is not just for the friend, but also for the hostile persecutor. “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:44).[11]

Suffering produces opportunities to love others in the way Christ loves them. God’s love defeats sin and rectifies hate continually transforming individuals in this world to become like Him in His suffering love. Such an individual is seen in 1968 in the Soviet Union. This woman’s husband was recently martyred leaving her alone with their many children, yet she is able to say, “We would like an easing of our conditions, but not a full ceasing of the oppression. We fear that liberty would make us lose the burning love of Christ.”[12]

This burning love of Christ is not a thought that God’s love for her would extinguish without suffering, but rather her love for God and love for those whom God loves would be lacking. Suffering provides a refining fire to love, and my prayer is God would continue to do whatever it takes to make my love more like that of my Savior’s.


            Christ’s example upon the cross offers forgiveness in the very presence of suffering. This forgiveness extends practical love providing the foundation of the Gospel to be lived. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32).[13]

Pastor Li suffered many imprisonments, beatings, and torture for his faith in China. “But he continues to preach, and never speaks ill of those who so often arrested him and caused him great suffering. ‘I will preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ until I die,’ Li has vowed.”[14] Li loves others practically by extending the forgiveness of Christ by sharing the Gospel with the very people who imprison, beat, and torture him.

The Gospel transforms lives to become like Christ. Chiu-Chin-Hsiu and Ho-Hsiu-Tzu received Christ as their Lord upon hearing the truths of the Gospel from their pastor. When asked to renounce their faith they could not give up what had brought their life so much peace, hope, and love. Their pastor was told if he renounced Christ and shot these two young women that he would be freed. He agreed.

However, before he pulled the trigger these two shared their testimony of their journey coming to Christ and how God used their pastor to bring them to salvation. Together they possessed the very attitude of Christ upon the cross facing their death voicing their loving forgiveness to the offender and gratefulness that they were able to receive the Gospel. They ended this time of testimony stating, “We die with gratitude.”[15] Their pastor then shot them both killing them and was then immediately shot by the Communist guards watching over them.

Forgiveness is practical, but for it to take place an offense must be made. The call to forgive as Christ forgives is to forgive based upon love and grace and not the efforts of the offender. Chiu-Chin-Hsiu and Ho-Hsiu-Tzu forgave their pastor who was their executioner while he was sinning revealing the fulfilment of Christ-like character in the life of the martyr: love. These testimonies of martyred faith joyfully suffer endurance producing character through the hope of Christ made evident through His love and forgiveness. Oh Lord, may I live to do the same.


Foxe, John. The New Foxe's Book of Martyrs. Bridge Logos Publishers, 2001.

[1] John Foxe, The New Foxe's Book of Martyrs (Bridge Logos Publishers, 2001) 323.

[2] Romans 5:3-5 (ESV).

[3] John Foxe, The New Foxe's Book of Martyrs (Bridge Logos Publishers, 2001) 315.

[4] Hebrews 12:2 (ESV).

[5] Foxe, 337.

[6] 2 Corinthians 12:10 (ESV).

[7] 2 Timothy 3:12 (ESV).

[8] John Foxe, The New Foxe's Book of Martyrs (Bridge Logos Publishers, 2001) 214.

[9] Ibid., 311.

[10] 1 Corinthians 13:13 (ESV).

[11] Matthew 5:44 (ESV).

[12] John Foxe, The New Foxe's Book of Martyrs (Bridge Logos Publishers, 2001) 329.

[13] Ephesians 4:32 (ESV).

[14] John Foxe, The New Foxe's Book of Martyrs (Bridge Logos Publishers, 2001) 391

[15] Ibid., 339.