Updated: Jan 31, 2020
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth...
In the book of Romans, we read the apostle Paul's bold declaration of being unashamed of the gospel of Christ. Paul made quite a few bold statements in the Bible such as "dying to self" and "knowing nothing but Jesus and Him crucified." Here we are in the 21st century and we act as though going to Church on Sunday morning instead of sleeping in is "dying to self." Somehow, having a faith based decal on our car or sharing a Bible scripture on Facebook is the equivalent of us being unashamed of our Savior. If we were to look back over the last two-thousand years in Christian history, we would see the gruesome pain and torment that came upon the men and women of God who lived unashamed of Christ Jesus. Sadly, many look upon our modern-day example of Christianity and see no more than a feeble, unconvincing crowd with a jaded approach to their religion. While pagan nations all over the world think nothing of flying into buildings, or strapping bombs to their chest - all in the name of their god - the victorious Christians who serve the only true God have been reduced to a compromised and cowardly people who are lifeless in their belief and powerless in their living. While the ungodly and the wicked die for a statue or animal or human being, we as Christians can’t even live for the God who has always been and always will be.
Something has to change.
Many years ago, I read the story of a woman in Christian history, and her story completely changed my life. Her name was Maeyken Wens.
Maeyken Wens was a young woman who lived in the late 1500's, in Antwerp, Belgium. She was the wife of a minister and mother of two sons. She was loved by all who knew her and was considered a devout, God-fearing woman of the faith. On a spring day in April, in 1573, Maeyken was apprehended and subjected to torture in an attempt to persuade her to renounce her belief, which differed from the Catholic teaching on baptism and the Lord’s Supper, among other things. Confined in prison, she was continually pressed and demanded to apostatize her faith. She refused.
She wrote many letters in the following months.
In a letter to her husband, Mattheus, she wrote: We ought to thank the Lord in adversity as well as in that which is agreeable to the flesh; for if the Lord takes all from us, He takes from us no more than what He has lent us, for it belongs to us no longer….Oh that I could always thank the Lord as well when the flesh suffers adversity, as when it prospers - then we can thank the Lord indeed…Truly the Lord has said, "He that does not forsake everything is not worthy of me;" for the Lord well knew that it would come hard to the flesh. But I hope that the Lord will also help me through even as He has helped many, and for which I can simply trust Him. Oh, how easy it is to be a Christian, so long as the flesh is not put to the trial, or nothing has to be relinquished; then it is an easy thing to be a Christian.
Through months of severe torture, she continued to remain steadfast and unmovable. Her faith did not falter throughout physical torments, and no matter how many tried to persuade her to renounce the name of Christ, she would not be swayed. After six months, her sentence finally came. She was to be burned at the stake in the public square of the prison. The execution was to be carried out within twenty-four hours. Though many would have begged for mercy, she did not.
Though trembling in the flesh, Maeyken was fearless in spirit. That night, she wrote a final farewell. To a faithful friend and fellow Christian, she wrote: I was so full of joy that I should not be able to express it with the mouth, the Lord be forever praised for, the great grace He has shown me, who has feared so much. Oh, what a strong God we have, compared with what we see the wicked have. Oh, let us have good courage....
To her eldest son, Adriaen, she wrote: Oh, regard not the great multitude, or the ancient custom, but look at the little flock, which is persecuted for the word of the Lord, for the good persecute none, but are persecuted.…My dear son, be not afraid of this suffering; it is nothing compared to that which shall endure forever. The Lord takes away all fear…
The following morning, she was brought out for her execution.
To prevent her from testifying to the crowd or singing songs of praise, her tongue was fastened to her palate with an iron screw.
While the witnesses gathered, she was placed at the stake and then burned to ashes. Her son, Adriaen, was among the onlookers, however he lost consciousness and remained on the ground until the execution had been carried out. When he awoke, he went to the place where his mother had been burnt and dug into the ashes until he found the screw which had held fastened his mother’s tongue shut. He kept it in remembrance of her.
Are we so full of bold devotion to Jesus Christ that if we were martyred, our lips would have to be screwed shut to prevent us from outwardly praising His name? I struggle to say yes. It goes without saying that women like Maeyken Wens had something that modern Christians lack. While we boast of our faithful attendance at Church, people like Maeyken risk everything simply by believing. While we shy away from persecution, they welcome it as a privilege. While we think of every plea bargain and loophole to prevent any discomfort, they unashamedly stand firm upon the Word of God that says “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us.”
Martyrdom may not be our crown, but may our prayer yet still be, "God, make me a woman worthy of a martyr's crown."
Psalm 68:35 ...the God of Israel is He that giveth strength and power unto his people. Blessed be God.
Psalms 66:16 Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.