Q. When I read about the pain and suffering endured by past and present martyrs for the faith, especially those in the middle East suffering under ISIS, I wonder how they bear it. While praying I never have to suffer to that degree, I do wonder if the Lord in His great mercy grants some supernatural means to help them to rise above the physical pain. Or is their faith much stronger than that of most of us? Your thoughts, please.
A. There’s an old saying that goes, “Maximum trial, maximum grace.” It means the more we’re required to suffer for Him, the more ability God gives us to endure. I’m sure it applies to martyrdom as well.
Also, having read a work entitled “Foxe’s Book of Christian Martyrs”, I learned that early Christians counted it a great honor and blessing to give their lives for the Lord, and did so joyfully, even refusing to be released. They sang and praised God through some of the most prolonged and painful deaths anyone can experience.
In 1 Cor. 13:3 Paul mentioned surrendering his life to the flames (being burned at the stake) in a way that leads some to believe that dying as a martyr is a spiritual gift, a special power given to believers who are called to give their lives for their faith.
That must also be the case with those who willingly give themselves over to death in His name today. A study of Hebrews 11 is very helpful in understanding their faith, especially Hebrews 11:32-38. The hope of a better resurrection mentioned in Hebrews 11:35 is a reference to the crown of life, which the Lord will award to those who suffer persecution for His sake (James 1:12).
I believe if we honor God by surrendering our life for Him, He will not allow us to be dishonored at the moment of our death.
In Rev. 2:10 Jesus said, “Hold on, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”