Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Polycarp and Praise

I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever; in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.”
Psalm 89:1-2

"Polycarp of Smyrna was a prominent pastor who had personally known the apostle John. When several Christians were executed at the arena in Smyrna- a city in modern Turkey- the crowd began to chant, 'Find Polycarp!' When confronted, the elderly pastor surrendered peacefully. At the judgment seat the Roman governor said, 'Have respect for your old age. Say "Away with the atheists!"' [Christians were sometimes called atheists by the Romans because they didn't believe in the Roman pantheon of gods.] Polycarp slowly surveyed the throng that surrounded him. Pointing to the very people who considered him to be an atheist because he rejected Roman gods Polycarp said, 'Away with the atheists!' Turning back to the governor, Polycarp declared, 'Eighty-six years, I have served Christ, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my king, the one who has saved me? Polycarp was burned alive" (*Jones, Christian History Made Easy, p17).

More than 1800 years after his death Polycarp remains one of the most remembered Christian martyrs. Polycarp is remembered not because of the horrible way in which he died, but because of his admirable faithfulness and steadfast love for the Lord. He's remembered because in the face of certain death, he bravely and convincingly remained true to his God. 

Men like Polycarp are few and far between. Even our everyday interactions with people confirm that faithfulness is a rare human quality. Proverbs 20:6 says, "Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?" 

So let us take a moment to rejoice today that God is not like men. As the psalmist says God's faithfulness is established in the heavens and his steadfast love is built up forever. God will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). To this kind of faithfulness there are only two right responses. 

First, God's faithfulness merits our praise. As the psalmist says, "Sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with [your] mouth make known [God's] faithfulness to all generations." When was the last time you praised God for the fact that He is always on your side? When did you last brag on God's relentless, never stopping, never giving up love for His children?  

Second, God's faithfulness deserves faithful love in return. We should all emulate the steadfast commitment to God that Polycarp demonstrated so many years ago. Be unwavering in your love for the Lord! Be steadfast in your commitment to Him. And when you feel your feet beginning to slip, remind yourself (as Polycarp did) of God's faithfulness to you. May God's faithfulness inspire you to new heights of service to your King.   

Jones, Timothy Paul, Christian History Made Easy. Rose Publishing: Torrance, CA. 2009. 

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