Long, long ago a very old man stood before the Roman proconsul in Smyrna who literally held over him the power of life or death. Old Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, had been taught by the Apostle John and had known many others who had walked physically with the Lord Jesus Christ and with their own eyes had seen the risen Lord.
The proconsul urged Polycarp, “Have a regard for your age. Swear by Caesar. Swear, and I will dismiss you. Revile Christ.”
The old man replied, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me wrong. How can I now blaspheme my King that has saved me?” And he was burned at the stake rather than deny the Lord.
What a waste! What a senseless sacrifice! Unless, of course, Jesus Christ really is the risen Son of God and truly offers glorious life that never ends.
In some ways, and probably more often than we think, although most of us will never know what it’s like to stand before the authorities and be forced to make such a stark choice, we do indeed meet each day the same decision old Polycarp faced. In attitude and action, do we confess the name of Jesus as Lord or do we deny Him?
To bow quietly before the Lord and spend some time in prayer. What an absolute waste of time! Unless, of course, God really is the Father who delights to hear our prayers and who will always answer with our very best interests at heart.
To roll out of a warm bed on a cold Sunday morning (or whenever) and head down to church to meet with others who love Christ Jesus and honor Him as Lord. What a waste of time and effort! Unless, of course, the Son of God really did walk up a hill carrying a cross for you. For me.
To write a check to a good church doing good work in the name of Christ, an offering to the Lord of the “first fruits” of your hard work. What a complete waste of money! And just think how much nicer your car or house or clothes could be if you didn’t! Ridiculous! Maddening! Unless, of course, God really is God. And God really does own the cattle on a thousand hills. And God really is the Giver of all good gifts and everything we have is really his. And we really believe that it is impossible to out-give our giving God.
If I faced the decision of Polycarp—to choose to die for Christ or not—what would I choose?
I think I can know.
I think the answer is all wrapped up in the answer to this question: Have I chosen right now, in actions and attitudes large and small, to live for the Lord?
And I don’t have to wonder about that. I can know.
So what do you think? Maybe all this faith stuff is just a waste of time and money. But if Jesus really is Lord, unbelief will turn out to be a very ugly mistake. It’s not a mistake I want to make.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org