AM I A SOLDIER OF THE CROSS?
Isaac Watts, 1674–1748
Endure hardship with us like a good solder of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. (2 Timothy 2:3, 4)
The Church founded by Christ has been built on the blood of martyrs. It has been estimated that at least 50 million persons have had a martyr’s death since the crucifixion of our Lord. Even today, in our 20th century civilized culture, large numbers of believers live under conditions of harassment and persecution.
According to historical tradition, many of Christ’s disciples and followers were persecuted by enemies of their Master with the following fates:
Matthew—suffered martyrdom by being slain in the city of Ethiopia.
Mark—died at Alexandria, after being dragged through the streets of that city.
Luke—hanged on an olive tree in the classic land of Greece.
John—put in boiling oil. Afterward branded at Patmos.
Peter—crucified at Rome with his head downward.
James the Lesser—thrown from a pinnacle of the temple, then beaten to death.
Andrew—bound to a cross, where he preached to his persecutors until he died.
Jude—shot to death with arrows.
Matthias—first stoned and then beheaded.
Barnabas of the Gentiles—stoned to death at Salonica.
Paul—after various tortures and persecutions, beheaded at Rome by Emperor Nero.
In Isaac Watts’ time, much persecution was inflicted upon the English Dissenters—those who had split from the official, state Anglican church. Stalwarts such as Isaac Watts became resolute and fearless in their proclamation and defense of the gospel. “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” was written in 1724, following a sermon by Watts titled “Holy Fortitude or Remedies Against Fears.” These words are still a challenge for us today:
Am I a soldier of the cross? A foll’wer of the Lamb? And shall I fear to own His cause or blush to speak His name?
Must I be carried to the skies on flow’ry beds of ease, while others fought to win the prize and sailed thru bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood? Is this vile world a friend to grace, to help me on to God?
Sure I must fight if I would reign—Increase my courage, Lord! I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, supported by Thy Word.
For Today: 1 Corinthians 16:13; Ephesians 6:10–20; 1 Timothy 6:12; Jude 3
Even now, pray for those who are suffering for Christ and the work of the gospel in difficult areas around the world. Reflect on these musical questions—