Stories of Heroes

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A collection of excerpts from “The Complete Book of Christian Heroes: Over 200 Stories of Courageous People Who Suffered for Jesus” (Dave and Neta Jackson, Tyndale House, 2005)

Adrian Corneliss
Holland, 1552

Dear friends, I have always been careful not to know much, so that in case I should be arrested, I might not have much to tell. This issue is sadly overlooked by some of you, who continually inquire after this or that person, and have your feelings hurt if you are not given the desired information. Oh, dear friends, if you only knew what suffering it can mean if you are imprisoned.  You would not make such inquires. Accept this admonition in a good spirit, for I write it in love. All the torture I have suffered was inflicted upon me, to make me inform on others. Believe me—the less you know, the less you have to answer.

The 40 Martyrs of Sebaste
Armenia, 320 AD

Edict of Milan (313) mandated toleration of Christians, but Licinius (who ruled the East Roman empire while Constantine ruled the West) demanded all his legions offer sacrifices to pagan gods. A unit in lesser Armenia (Sivas, Turkey today) refused. They were put on the frozen pond in a March winter, naked. Hot baths and fires waited them on the shores if they would recant.  The 40 believers stripped themselves, marched voluntarily onto the ice singing songs and praying loudly: “Lord, we are forty who are engaged in this combat; grant that we may be forty crowned, and that no one will be wanting in this sacred number.” 

One gave in, went to shore, was put in a hot bath, and promptly died from shock. A soldier on shore watching the shivering 39 saw brilliant angels descend from heaven to crown each one.  Overcome, he stripped off his clothes and ran to join the others who were overjoyed that their prayer for 40 faithful witnesses would be answered.

The next morning the soldiers sorted through the dead, frozen bodies, putting them on a cart to be taken and burned. They found the youngest one of the martyrs somehow still alive, breathing slightly. They set him aside, thinking once he revived he would recant. His mother was there and he indicated with a feeble wave of his hand that he wanted to be placed on the cart with the 39 corpses. “Go, go my son,” she cried. “Proceed to the end of this happy journey with your companions, so you will not be missing from those who present themselves before God.” Then with uncommon strength, she picked him up and put him into the wagon with his brothers.

Jonathan and Rosalind Goforth
China, 1900

Five of their 11 children died. A powerful evangelist, Jonathan became known as the “flaming preacher” sometimes speaking to 25,000 at a time. But the Goforths also used what they called “open house” evangelism, inviting the curious Chinese people into their home to view their Western ways and kitchen stove, sewing machine, and organ. But before they would take a group of fifty people through the house, Rosalind would preach to the women and Jonathan would preach to the men. In this way, they made many converts.

NOTE: When we talk about “wide sowing,” we do not mean there is only one way to share the gospel, but that there are many ways, and we must be open to all of them as the Spirit leads. “Wide sowing” is the umbrella that shelters a variety of means. The point is to be constantly sharing the gospel whether to 25,000 as a flaming preacher or to 50 in your home or to one on the street.

Last Words of Bishop James Hannington
Uganda, 1885

Go tell your master that I have purchased the road to Uganda with my blood.

Robert Wright
Japan, 1930

He worked full time in a drugstore, attempting to access Japan as a tentmaker. Wright soon realized that full-time employment left precious little time for language study or sharing the gospel. He moved to Tokyo and devoted himself to full-time language learning and gospel sharing.

NOTE: It is not our position that tent-making is a necessary evil. Our position is that tent-making is a means, not an end. The means must be done well and for the glory of God, but the end is disciples made and gathered in indigenous churches. Our means must propel us to that end.

Rome, August 10, 258 AD

Emperor Valerian issued an edict that all Christian leaders be put to death and their property confiscated. Sixtus II, bishop of Rome, was executed, and deacon Lawrence called out to him as he was led to his execution: “Will you go to heaven and leave me behind?” Sextus replied: “Be comforted, you will follow me in three days.”

The Roman prefect, knowing Lawrence was responsible for the church finance and thinking it was much gold, arrested Lawrence and asked for it. Lawrence admitted the church was very rich and asked for three days to collect its treasure. Lawrence promptly dispersed the money of the church over the next three days and then gathered all the poor, widows, and orphans of the congregation and on the appointed day brought them before the prefect saying: “These are the treasures of the church.”

The prefect was not amused and ordered Lawrence roasted alive on a gridiron. Lawrence submitted bravely and in the middle of his torture said to his executioner: “You may turn me over now. I am done on this side.” Then he used his last breath to pray for all the people of Rome.

Louise Chapman Robinson of Nazarene Missionary Society
*Found this in the papers of an African Pastor in Zimbabwe after he was martyred (origin uncertain)*

I am part of a fellowship of the unashamed. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line.  The decision has been made. I’m a disciple of His and I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. 

My past is redeemed. My present makes sense. My future is secure. I’m done and finished with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, or first, or tops, or recognized, or praised, or rewarded. I live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by Holy Spirit power.

My face is set. My gait is fast. My goal is heaven. My road may be narrow, my way rough, my companions few, but my guide is reliable and my mission is clear. 

I will not be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed.

I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice or hesitate in the presence of the adversary. I will not negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. 

I won’t give up, shut up, or let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and preached up for the cause of Christ. 

I am a disciple of Jesus. I must give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He comes. And when He does come for His own, He’ll have no problems recognizing me. My colors will be clear. 

Egypt, 254
*From his book: The Necessity, Essence, and Kinds of Martyrdom. Section 5*

In Psalm 116 there is written this rhetorical question: What shall I render to the Lord for all the things He hath rendered to me? And then follows the reply… “I will take the chalice of salvation and I will call upon the name of the Lord.” The “chalice of salvation” is the usual term used for martyrdom, as we see from the Gospel. There the Lord answers them that wish for a higher honor in sitting on the right and on the left of Jesus in His Kingdom, saying: “Can you drink the chalice I shall drink?” He calls martyrdom a chalice, as is evident again from the words: “Father if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will but as Thou wilt.”

Pastor Rafiq (not his real name)
Bangladesh, 2002

He worked for 16 years to evangelize Muslims. He was taken from the house to be shot, but the gun did not fire. Rather a bright light descends from heaven and the assassins run away.

Another assassin is given $900 to kill Pastor Rafiq. He raises the gun to shoot and his arm freezes, paralyzed. The assassin begins to cry in fear. Rafiq prays and the man’s arm is healed, and the man comes to Jesus.

Rafiq says, “The highest good we can do to anybody is to share the gospel message that can save their soul.

Mary Slessor
Africa, 1915 

A gang of ruffians blocked her way as she went to teach Sunday school (in Scotland when she was young). A bully held a lead weight on a rope that he swung closer and closer to her head. Mary didn’t flinch. The lead weight grazed her forehead. She didn’t blink but invited the bully to go to Sunday School with her.

“This lassie’s got game, boys!” said the bully as he stepped aside and led his gang behind Mary to Sunday school. The bully got saved and became a supporter of Mary’s work in Africa.

John and Betty Stam
China, 1934

The Stams were arrested by communists and taken from their room and ordered to leave behind their baby Helen. John and Betty were then decapitated. Chinese Christians found baby Helen, crying with a bag packed beside her. A clean gown, several clean diapers, and two five-dollar bills were pinned to her clothes.

NOTE: Hearing about the martyrdom of John and Betty Stam during a memorial service at Moody Bible Institute, 700 young people stood to dedicate their lives to missionary service.

When Southern Presbyterian missionary E. H. Hamilton heard about the martyrdom of Jack Vinson in China in 1931, he wrote: 

Afraid? Of what?
To feel the spirit’s glad release?
To pass from pain to perfect peace,
The strife and strain of life to cease?
Afraid—of that?

Afraid? Of what?
Afraid to see the Savior’s face?
To hear His welcome and to trace,
The glory gleam from wounds of grace?
Afraid—of that?

Afraid? Of what?
A flash, a crash, a pierced heart;
Darkness, light, O Heaven’s art!
A wound of His a counterpart!
Afraid—of that?

Afraid? Of what?
To do by death what life could not –
Baptize with blood a stony plot,
Till souls shall blossom from the spot
Afraid—of that?


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