Come back with me to the year AD 51. Look on as another Christian is about to be thrown to the lions in a Roman coliseum. This man has one last chance to publicly deny his faith in Jesus Christ, but he doesn’t. The waiting crowd heartily roars with delight. Once again, the grisly sight of flesh and bone will be strewn across the blood-soaked soil of the arena.
These Christians rarely disappointed the bloodthirsty mob. There were very few backsliders. Despite the entertainment it provided, the crowd was continually mystified about why anyone would willingly allow himself to be torn apart by ferocious lions when a simple nod of the head would free him to return to his beloved family. So, why is this man ready to be torn limb from limb by fearsome teeth?
The Reason for Great Faith
A few years earlier, this godless man had been in Athens on a business trip and had heard the gospel from the lips of an apostle preaching on Mars Hill. He heard the apostle say that his hearers had sinned against God, and therefore needed a Savior because God had “appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:31). He listened as this faithful apostle spoke of that “righteousness of God apart from the law” (Romans 3:21), and showed him that he was under God’s dreadful wrath.
As he stood among the crowd, he heard that Jesus of Nazareth had said, “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). The man had violated that commandment many times. He also heard that no thief or adulterer would inherit the kingdom of God, that “all liars shall have their part in the lake of fire,” and that He considered hatred to be murder. His conscience began to stir within him and remind him of his guilt. This Judgment Day of which the apostle preached would be a fearful thing. He began to feel a very real dread that he truly was under God’s wrath, and would end up in Hell. As he hung his head in a strange mix of sorrow and dread, he heard the preacher explain that this same Jesus of Nazareth had suffered and died on a Roman cross in his place. God Himself had provided a Savior, the Messiah, who took the sin of the world upon Himself. He paid for our sin by suffering and dying in our place. But death could not hold Him. After three days He burst from the grave, defeating death; and through faith in His name, eternal salvation was offered to all men.
This sinful man lifted his head in amazement that God would love him that much. He listened closely to hear what he should do. He was told simply to “repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15) and call on the name of the Lord. That’s what he did. He bowed his head once again and earnestly prayed, “God, forgive me for sinning against You. Jesus Christ, be my Lord and Savior…”
It was then that he discovered Almighty God was almighty indeed. God made him a new creature; he was born again, with a new heart and new desires. God wrote His Law on his heart and caused him to walk in His statutes. This man suddenly found that he thirsted for righteousness and wanted above all to please the God who gave him life. It was a miracle! One day he had no thoughts of God; the next day, the love of God was poured out in his heart and God’s Holy Spirit came to dwell in him. This gospel of salvation came to him in power, in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance.
This man, whose only concern had been for himself, instantly became possessed with an all-consuming passion to share the gospel of salvation with a dying world. But there was more. When he prayed, he had an inner conviction that God heard his every whisper. It was as though he had been given the gift of faith; he believed without effort. The name of Jesus was sweet to his ear, and Jesus Christ became more important to him than his own life. The cross he had been told about shone before him with the intensity of the noonday sun—he gloried in it. He found himself weeping at the thought that God in Christ would suffer in his place. Guilt no longer plagued his sinful heart; it had been removed as far as the east is from the west. Secret, sinful passions fell off his flesh like unwanted and rotting clothes. Truly, old things passed away, and all things became new.
So, why is this man ready to be torn limb from limb by ferocious teeth? It is because he came to actually know the God he once only knew about. This is why he, and multitudes more, were “faithful until death” (Revelation 2:10).
The Reality of Death
One day, you and I will also be thrown to the “lions.” If God allows us to live to a ripe old age, our bodies will become ravaged with time, and we will face the gaping teeth of death. Not many of us will have a peaceful demise.
“So, why is this man ready to be torn limb from limb by ferocious teeth? It is because he came to actually know the God he once only knew about.”
Such thoughts are not pleasant, but they are realistic. Are you ready? How deep is your faith in God? Can you say from your own conviction that the Holy Spirit has regenerated you? Does the evident fruit in your life reveal that you are born of God? Don’t give a quick answer. This question is far too important for you to give a thoughtless, “I’m okay; I believe in God,” or “I have given my heart to Jesus.” The Bible warns in Matthew 7:21–23 that there will be many who, on the Day of Judgment, will cry out to Jesus, “Lord, Lord,” but He will say to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” Can you imagine the horror of that happening to you?
If your heart gave out right now, how would you respond in those few moments that your life drained from you: in absolute trust, or total terror? Don’t deceive yourself any further by saying, “That will never happen to me.” Human nature tends to think that way, that death is something that happens to other people. But every single day 150,000 people die, and no doubt each of them, who are now in eternity, thought just like you—that death “will never happen to me.”
Consider Your Death
Please, think about the day death comes to you. Let your imagination work for you for a moment. A massive crowd of demons is calling for your blood. You stand helplessly in front of the vicious jaws of death; it opens wide its mouth. Can you face it with courage? Is your conversion experience that real? Are you ready?
Be wise. The Bible admonishes us, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5). If you are not, then don’t be like this godless world and leave yourself vulnerable to life’s ultimate terror. Get on your knees today, right now, and let the Ten Commandments search out your secret sins. Have you put God first? Have you made a god in your own image? Have you ever blasphemed His name, or looked with unclean sexual desires? Ask God to shine a spotlight on your heart and remind you of those “hidden” sins that you have thought and done, which He has seen. Nothing is hidden from His eyes; He even sees the darkness as pure light. Realize that if God gave you justice, you would end up in Hell for eternity.
We get only one chance in this life. Don’t blow it for eternity. Confess your sins to God. Name them. Be sorry for them. Plead with Him to open your understanding to the great truth that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Make your calling and election sure, until you can say with the apostle Paul, “To me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Then your love for God will become so real, you couldn’t deny Him even if you wanted to. That was the kind of unwavering faith that gave the courage to stand before lions. You and I need that same faith today.