9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.
From the days of Stephen, the first martyr of the church, to today millions of people have been killed for their Christian faith. John tells us that one of the reasons Jesus has delayed his return is the completion of the number of God’s servants who will be killed for their faith. This is a sobering fact that should have us all considering our own lives and the comforts we enjoy. We are so blessed in so many ways and one of those ways is the relative freedom we have from the threat of death for our faith in Christ. We should be more thankful for that blessing. However, we should also be more mindful of the fact that this blessing can also be a curse. We can get comfortable with our comforts so much so that they can become an idol to us, so much so that we begin to believe that those comforts are a right instead of a privilege. They can actually distract us from heavenly truth and kingdom realities. The can lull us into complacency and forgetfulness to the reason we are really left on this earth – to make disciples of all nations, and sometimes that will require death – death of our hold on earthly goods, earthly comforts, and even death of our bodies. The number of martyrs is growing and will continue until the day it has been completed. Will you be in that number? Are you prepared to be numbered with the martyrs for Christ’s sake? These are tough questions. May God’s grace be with you as you struggle with them.
BONUS: Suggested reading – John Piper’s sermon “Doing Missions When Dying is Gain” – http://www.desiringgod.org/conference-messages/doing-missions-when-dying-is-gain