Day One – A Letter to the Faithful who Faced the Arena

Written from Caesarea Maritima, Israel

NO SHRINKING BACK

You don’t know me, brothers and sisters.  As a matter of fact, you probably would have never dreamed of a day when someone living centuries after you would stand here and think of you, but I want you to know that today I did.  My feet stood where you may have stood and my skin felt the freshness of the salt air as the breeze lapped the same stones where people sat to cheer and mock you as you were persecuted, brutalized, and killed for your faith.  The beauty of the coastline couldn’t erase the image of your suffering in my mind.  So, I want you to know that you made a difference.  Your willingness to stand FIRM for what you believed in, even in the face of terrifying death has challenged and moved me.  I pray I’ll never forget.

I stood in the place where his palace rose from the rocky coastline, bathed in splendor and lavish riches.  Herod the Great, not good because of his legacy of kind acts, but for the enormity of the impact he made.  Surely you looked out over that scene and prayed for the future of those who would come after you.  It must have seemed like his rule would end a whole movement of Truth and stop it from growing.  Yet, your faithfulness gave us an example to follow, a challenge to live by, and the Gospel DID spread, even reaching my heart centuries later and continents away…

32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For,

“In just a little while,
    he who is coming will come
    and will not delay.”[f]

38 And,

“But my righteous[g] one will live by faith.
    And I take no pleasure
    in the one who shrinks back.”[h]

39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.”  Hebrews 10:32-39

Oh, how I pray I won’t be one of those who “shrinks back” when my faith is challenged or questioned.  I wonder what I would do with a gun to my head, the  terrifying threat shot at me like a piercing blow to the core of my being, “Renounce Christ or die…”

My prayer is that I’d do what you did.  I’d persevere and remember that I have something better and eternal to hope in.

You were the take-away from the day today, a reminder to live my faith and stand firm without wavering, to continue to follow Jesus beyond my personal weaknesses and limitations — even if I don’t get my way.  In just a little while, He’s coming back and I’ll thank you face to face.  When you took your last glimpse of the ocean and breathed your last breath in this place, you left an indelible mark on this world. It wasn’t just magnificent beauty there, but a legacy of faith despite darkness.

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