Courage allows what is good, right and wise to guide us even in the presence of fear. It enters a particularly difficult day with hope. It knows that death is the most powerful of enemies, and the resurrection of Jesus has taken away its bite.
Among the many heroes of faith, the martyrs stand out. They take up a central place in our corporate identity because they so closely evoke Jesus’ faithfulness in the face of death. God honors the martyrs even to the point that he uses their deaths as a countdown to Jesus’ return.
They [those “slain for the word of God”] 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?” 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. (Rev 6:10–11)
God measures time by the blood of martyrs. I have not measured time this way. I focus on the return of Jesus in terms of how long I have to wait to escape intensifying day-to-day struggles.
Pause on this for a moment and assume that our beliefs make a difference in how we live today. Second-coming-as-escape creates a certain lifestyle. We expect threats of hard times; we also expect that those threats will never quite reach us. Jesus will come in the nick of time. But if this is our belief, then suffering and trouble take us by surprise. And when suffering and trouble persist, Jesus doesn’t seem to be listening. Didn’t he promise to spare us trouble? The result is not so much that faith is ship wrecked as it becomes obsolete. Then we take matters into our own hands as we try to build a more comfortable world for ourselves.