Each November there is a day designated across the United States as the "National Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Saints", a day which churches remember and honor those individuals who have made the ultimate sacrifice because of their faith in Christ.

   One of the early martyrs for the faith was Polycarp, a convert of the apostle John, who was burned at the stake in Smyrna in A.D. 155. He had been a Christian for eighty-six years. When the proconsul told him to deny his faith, Polycarp answered, "Eighty-six years I have served him, and He has done me no harm. Why should I forsake Him now?"

   The procunsul then threatened to cast him in with the wild beasts, but Polycarp answered, "Call them!" He was then warned that he might be burned at the stake. Even that failed to move him. He responded, "You threaten me with fire which burns only for a moment, but you are ignorant of the fire of eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly".

   Polycarp's final words were: "O Father of Thy beloved and blessed Son, Jesus Christ! I bless Thee that Thou has counted me worthy of this day, and of this hour, to receive my portion in the number of the martyrs, in the cup of Christ."

   Persecution for who we believe in continues even today. When we are persecuted and belittled for our faith, we would do well to remember the words of the apostle James, when he wrote "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance... Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him" (James 1:3, 12 NIV).

   Just as those who have suffered and gone on before us have received their crown from our Lord, we can be assured that, as we are persecuted in this world, God has crowns of righteousness in store for His children who profess Him in the face of hardship.


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