Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Matthew 10:38
In ad 155, the early church father Polycarp was threatened with death by fire for his faith in Christ. He replied, “For eighty and six years I have been his servant, and he has done me no wrong. And how can I now blaspheme my king who saved me?” Polycarp’s response can be an inspiration for us when we face extreme trial because of our faith in Jesus, our King.
Just hours before Jesus’ death, Peter boldly pledged his allegiance to Christ: “I will lay down my life for you” (John 13:37). Jesus, who knew Peter better than Peter knew himself, replied, “Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” (v. 38). However, after Jesus’ resurrection, the same one who’d denied Him began to serve Him courageously and would eventually glorify Him through his own death (see 21:16–19).
Are you a Polycarp or a Peter? Most of us, if we’re honest, are more of a Peter with a “courage outage”—a failure to speak or act honorably as a believer in Jesus. Such occasions—whether in a classroom, boardroom, or breakroom—needn’t indelibly define us. When those failures occur, we must prayerfully dust ourselves off and turn to Jesus, the One who died for us and lives for us. He’ll help us to be faithful to Him and courageously live for Him daily in difficult places.
When do you need extra doses of courage to stand for Jesus? What do you find helpful in your witness for Him?
Heavenly Father, forgive me when I shrink back in fear and betray You by my words or actions. I need Your strength to live boldly as a believer in Jesus.
Peter’s words to Jesus in John 13:37 show his misunderstanding of who his teacher really was. He sincerely intended to lay his life down for his king—but not if that king went willingly to his death. Peter was prepared to fight Roman oppressors, and he did. Or at least tried to.
In John 18—not long after Jesus had told Peter that he’d deny Him—they stood together in a garden surrounded by Roman soldiers. As if to prove his willingness to die for Jesus, Peter leapt into action, swinging a sword and attacking one of the men.
The disciples—and many believers in Jesus in the years since—didn’t understand His mission. He came not to gain power, dominance, and control but to set all those things aside. As John would write years later in the last book of the Bible, our King isn’t a conquering lion, but a slain lamb (Revelation 5:5–6).