Leah Sharibu took her stand on February 19, 2018 as a witness for Christ before the fearful looking men, the Boko Haram. They threatened her and requested her to renounce Christ. At that moment, I wondered what was going on in her mind. For her to summon courage to say; I won’t deny Jesus, it was a costly decision she made. It cost her the freedom she deserves and made her to remain with her abductors. Her bold stand for Christ reminds us of heroes of faith who stood their grounds in difficult times.
• Polycarp was the Bishop of Smyrna (today known as Izmir in Turkey). He was one of the few living disciples of the apostle John, who was the ‘beloved disciple’ of Jesus. He was a strong defender of pure faith. He stood his grounds against false teachers. When persecution broke out in Smyrna and he was arrested, the proconsul urged him to save his life by cursing Jesus. He refused. He said, “Eighty-six years I have served him, and he never did any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me? The proconsul was not satisfied then urged him to swear by Caesar. This time Polycarp replied, “Since you pretend not to know who and what I am, hear me declare with boldness: I am a Christian.”
The proconsul threatened to burn him alive. Courageously, undeterred, he said, “You threaten me with fire which burns for a little while and is soon extinguished. You do not know the coming fire of judgment and eternal punishment reserved for the ungodly. What are you waiting for? Do what your wish.” What courage? Before the flames ignited, Polycarp lifted his voice and said, “O Lord God Almighty. . . I bless You that You have counted me worthy of this day. . . for this reason, and for all things, I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you.”
• William Tyndale, a brilliant Oxford graduate, gifted linguist, fluent in French, Greek, Hebrew, German, Italian, Latin and Spanish, in addition to English. He was the first person to translate the Bible into English from its original Greek and Hebrew. Tyndale disagreed with a clergyman that felt the clergy were the only one qualified to read and correctly interpret the Scripture. Tyndale responded: I defy the Pope, and all his laws; and if God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scripture than thou doest.” Eventually, he was charged of heresy and condemned to be burned to death. On October 6, 1536, Tyndale “was strangled to death while tied at the stake, and then his body was burned.” His final word spoken at stake with fervent zeal, and a loud voice were “Lord! Open the King of England’s eyes. That was history. Three years later, Henry VIII published his English “Great Bible” based on Tyndale’s work. His work also formed the basis of all subsequent English translations of the Bible, including the King James’s version of 1611. That’s history.
Today, we are remembering this people of old as another like them; Leah stood her ground and refused to be intimidated. The Bible says, “. . . and you shall be my witnesses. . .” Who will be the next witness? YOU?