Why Are There Martyrs?

Chris asked, “If God provides for all of our needs, why are there martyrs? How are their needs being met?”

I love good questions. And these are good questions.

For this post we’ll have to work our way backwards. I’ll answer the second question first, because that will in turn answer the first question.

So let’s begin with the answer to the second question by focusing on the notion of “need”. For example, when the Apostle Paul writes, “And my God will meet all your needs” (Phil 4:19a), what is he saying?

Paul, appears to be saying, “With God, you will never be needy.” But that can’t be accurate because, in Philippians 4:12 Paul writes,

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

We see that for Paul there were times when he was clearly in need. So how can he write, “And my God will meet all your needs”?

The answer has to do with Paul’s “secret of being content in any and every situation”. What was Paul’s secret?  The answer is in the next verse,

I can do all this through [Christ] who gives me strength. (Phil 4:13)

Paul is saying that there have been times of need and times of abundance, but because he has Jesus, he has the strength to be content in all situations.

Now, understanding this is important because Paul uses the same logic in Philippians 4:19. The entire verse actually reads:

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Similar to Philippians 4:12-13, Paul is saying two things:

  1. God promises to meet your needs
  2. But, God will meet your needs through Jesus Christ.

What does all this have to do with our original questions about martyrs?

Everything.

The Apostle Paul understood that Jesus Christ is the only thing you need. If you have Jesus you have everything. Because, as he writes in Colossians, “Christ… is your life” (Colossians 3:14).

Paul knew that Jesus gives you life (John 14:6; 17:3). Jesus sustains your life (Colossians 1:17). Jesus directs your life (Ephesians 2:10). Jesus provides purpose to your life (Colossians 1:16). And Jesus demands your life (Matthew 16:25). Thus to have Jesus is to have no other need. Or as Pastor Tullian Tchividjian famously put it, “Jesus + Nothing = Everything”.

So now let’s apply this to Christian martyrs.

When Christians are killed for their faith (martyred), God actually supplies all their needs. Because God is giving them Jesus Christ. Paul knew this, when he wrote, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”(Phil 1:21). Paul looked forward to death because he knew that after death he would instantly enter into the full presence of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 5:8). Therefore, he would not lose anything, but instead gain everything.

There is no such thing as a needy martyr. Because Jesus Christ fulfills every need. When we die we get all of Christ. We therefore, lose nothing, and gain everything.

God allows Christians to be martyred, because their deaths proclaim one simple and glorious truth—to have Jesus Christ is to have everything.

Reader Question: How is it that God has predestined me, and yet, I have free will?

kayak_in_the_river-wide

Imagine you’re kayaking down a river. What choices are available to you?

First, there are choices concerning what you’d like to do in the kayak. How you would like to sit. What you would like to think about. If you’d like to sing like a rock star.

Then there are the choices concerning what you’d like to do with the kayak as you paddle down the river.  You can choose to turn right or left. You can choose to go with the current or against it. Or you can choose simply to spin in circles for a while.

But of course there is also a river.  And ultimately that river determines where you end up.  You clearly have some say in your experience of the ride, but, in the end, there is a destination waiting for you.

If free will is the actions of a man kayaking down a river, predestination is the river.

Predestination says your destiny is determined and free will says you are able to make many choices before you get there.

So the answer to the question “how is it that God has predestined me, and yet, I have free will?” is that God, by His mercy and grace, according to His good pleasure, called you out of a “river” leading to death, and set you in a “river”  leading to life, by which you would be led to Him (John 6:44), see your need for Him, desire to know Him, follow Him, and ultimately do the good works prepared for you by Him (Ephesians 2:10).

This does not impede your free will because you, like the man in the kayak, have, at every point, choices available to you.  You have choices over what you’d like to do with yourself (thoughts, physical actions, etc.), and you have choices concerning how you would like to steer your life (how you interact with and react to people and situations which come into your life).

Yes, there is a destination, and yes, God assures that you will get there because, at the end of the day, God has chosen you.  And salvation (every part of it) is chiefly about God and not you (Ephesians 1:3-14).

Actually, your whole life is not about you, but about God’s work through you.  This is why, as we journey down the river of life, God the Father has given His children a Guide, called the Holy Spirit, whose job it is to point us and conform us to the Master, God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  And it is why the chief end of man is to glorify God (make Him known) and enjoy Him forever.  For it is God’s joy to see His children participate in the revealing of Himself to all people.

Thus, the doctrine of predestination is not so much a doctrine about limited choices as it is a doctrine about God’s grace.

 

What are your thoughts about free will and predestination?