Acts 7:58-60 “And cast him out of the city, and stoned him:  and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.  And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.  And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”

Luke 23:34, 47 “Then said Jesus, Father forgive them; for they know not what they do.  And they parted his raiment, and cast lots … Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man.”

Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer were faithful 16thCentury Christians in an England that was hostile to many believers.  Their faith caused both to be executed side-by-side by burning at the stake.  When questioned about whether he would stay faithful during the tortuous fire that would take his life, Ridley stated “So long as the breath is in my body, I will never deny my Lord Christ and His known truth.” Indeed, he stayed true to this statement with the help of his friend Latimer.

As the fire was lit beneath their feet, Latimer stated the following famous thought to his friend Ridley: “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man.  We shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England as I trust shall never be put out.”  Their faith in the midst of a life-draining trial provided a template for the faithful who watched them burn and a thought-provoking example for those who were judging the validity of their gospel message.  The Sauls and the Centurions of England were watching and listening, judging and learning.  

The trials faced by Christians in today’s American society pale in comparison to those faced by the martyrs of the past, though there are places in this sin-stained world where current persecution comes in the form of medieval torture.  Yet, when Christians go through any challenges, trials, and persecutions, the world is watching.  Our faith provides a template for the faithful who watch us respond and a thought-provoking example for those who are judging the validity of our gospel message.  The Sauls and the Centurions of today are watching and listening, judging and learning.

PLEASE PRAY FOR AMERICAN CHRISTIANS TO FAITHFULLY ENDURE CHALLENGES, AND PLAY THE MAN IN OUR DAY. The Sauls and the Centurions around us are paying attention to the way we carry our flame of faith.