When we consider the martyrs of the church throughout history, their devotion, dedication and sacrifice amaze and bless us. Rightly so, and their example encourages and challenges to love our Lord at any and every cost.
"They loved not their lives unto the death" (Revelation 12:11).
If we could speak to the martyrs, however, to a man and woman they would tell us that their devotion, dedication and sacrifice were not the reasons they were willing and able to face the cross, the pyre, and the gun. They would rather direct our attention to His devotion, dedication and sacrifice, that is, they would exalt the Lord Jesus Christ. In this, they would be absolutely correct.
"No man ever yet hateth his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it... I will dwell in them and walk in them... Always bearing about in our body the dying of the Lord Jesus" (Ephesians 5:29; II Corinthians 6:16; II Corinthians 4:10).
All genuine sacrifice in believers results from the dynamic presence of God's love "shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit" (Romans 5:5). We respond to that love in faith and devotion, of course, and to the degree we apprehend God's grace and truth forms the degree to which we live accordingly. Nevertheless, devotion to God and man expressed by us always flows from devotion to God and man revealed in us by the indwelling character and nature of the Lord Jesus. "I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (I Corinthians 15:10).
Martyrs' crowns will be cast at feet of the Lord Jesus no less than any others. Again, we do well to affirm our brothers and sisters who paid the last full measure of devotion. We glance at them with rightful respect. We gaze, however, upon the Lamb of God who formed His self sacrificial heart in all who, in any manner, give their lives for His glory. He is the motivation and power of all true love in us, and a long eternity will find us joining the throng around throne who declare the anthem of Christ only, Christ always, Christ forever...
"And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever."