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Day of the Christian Martyr 2022

Thankyou if you took part in this year’s Day of the Christian Martyrs. We have left all the resources available below for you to use throughout 2022 as you may like to incorporate some of the elements into a Church Service or Home Group on a different date more suitable to your calendar.


June 29 is the date on which some Christian churches have remembered the martyrdoms of the Apostles Peter and Paul.

Release International now uses this date to inspire and encourage Christians to remember modern-day martyrs for Christ and to pray for persecuted Christians.

This year we are delighted to welcome to the UK a Release International partner working in the West African country of Burkina Faso, Dr Susanna.

She will be speaking about the recent rise in Islamist attacks on Christians in that country in a short series of meetings in the Midlands and north of England.

But if you can’t get to any of those meetings we would encourage you to set aside some time in one of your own church services (perhaps close to June 29) to pray for persecuted Christians – and especially for the families of those who have paid the ultimate price for Christ and the gospel.

To help you do this we have provided various resources below. Please use as many of these as you need to put on a Day of the Christian Martyr service, or to include as part of a service.

Sermon Outline

Reading: 2 Timothy 4:1-8

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry.For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

Introduction

2 Timothy is probably the final letter of the Apostle Paul in our New Testament. As Paul writes to his friend, Pastor Timothy, he is aware that martyrdom awaits – in the near future. As such, the whole letter has something of a ‘last will and testament’ feel to it.

‘Preach the word’, he says to Timothy (verse 2). Preach the word in the face of false teaching and of those who reject the gospel and turn to made-made philosophies (verses 3 and 4). How do these last two verses reflect our world today? Such a stance runs the risk of incurring the world’s hatred and hostility. So what do we learn from Paul’s perspective in these verses?

  1. Faithfulness – not success
    Consider how we live in a culture that admires success – even worships it. But what is Paul calling Timothy to do? To be faithful – as he has been faithful. This is the point of the comparison with his own life, which is coming to an end (verse 7). By God’s grace Paul’s ‘race’ had been quite a long one; for some Christians it might be quite short (think of the first Christian martyr, Stephen). You could share the story of a modern-day martyr here.
  2. The gospel – not self
    Everything in this short letter is oriented toward the gospel. In chapter one Paul reminded Timothy of the wonderful grace of God, given us in Jesus Christ (1:10-11), a gospel for which Paul has suffered (1:12). Now Timothy is to be prepared to do the same (verse 5). How do persecuted Christians today demonstrate this same priority?
  3. The life to come – not this life
    We have all sorts of hopes in this life, short-term and longer-term. You could give some examples. But for the Christian the hope is ultimately for the age to come, not this life. Paul reminds Timothy of that here (verse 8).

Our Response

Do we have the same perspective as the Apostle Paul? Is our desire to be faithful and to live for Christ and the gospel? And do we have that desire for persecuted Christians? Those who have lost loved ones to martyrdom? Those who are in prison or who are oppressed? If our desire is for them (and us!) to ‘run the race’ faithfully, will we pray for them and seek to support them?

Pray – Encourage people to sign up for Voice magazine and other Release International information, in order to be informed and resourced to pray.

Give – Encourage people to give to Release International’s ministry to persecuted Christians around the world.


Click here to download this sermon as a pdf document.

Testimonies

Munshi (India)

From the time Munshi and his wife (pictured) became Christians members of their extended family as well as some of their neighbours had tried to persuade them to renounce Christ and return to Hinduism.

When he began sharing the gospel in his village Hindu extremists warned him to stop.

Eventually Munshi built a small house on agricultural land he owned, which was outside the main village. From there he began running Christian worship services.

One Friday afternoon, after a prayer meeting, Munshi was abducted by a group of Hindu extremists. He was taken into a nearby jungle area and shot dead.

When she heard the news Munshi’s wife Jaini fled from the village with her four young children. She took refuge in the home of a Christian family in another village. Her family and her late husband’s family prevented her from returning to the family home.

Matthew Tagwi (Nigeria)

Matthew Tagwi (pictured) had been an ordained minister just three months when he was shot dead by Islamist militants in Nigeria’s Plateau State.

Matthew had been posted to Nsah village with his pregnant wife Rose and their two young daughters. Rose was at an antenatal check up in another town on the day Fulani herdsmen attacked the village. They headed straight to the pastor’s house, called him out by name and shot him dead.

Because of lockdown restrictions in place at the time Matthew was buried the following day. His wife was not even allowed to attend the funeral. Rose subsequently gave birth to another daughter, who she named ‘Patience’. Sadly, however, Patience later died.

Responding to the martyrdom of her husband she later said, ‘The evil men think killing a pastor will stop the gospel. Nothing will stop the gospel of Christ. My prayer is that his killers will get to know the Jesus I know. I do forgive them and will pray that the Lord saves their souls.’


Click here to download these two testimonies as a pdf document.

Prayer Points

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

Almighty God,
We thank you for our brothers and sisters in Christ
who have been faithful to you, even unto death.

Their testimony continues to resound in our world.
Thank you for the eternal victory that our Lord Jesus has secured,
which gives their sacrifice purpose and meaning.
Amen.


A Prayer for the families of Christian martyrs

Father God, we pray for the families of those
who have been martyred for Christ and the gospel.
Wives and husbands, sons and daughters,
mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters.
They also have paid a high cost.

Comfort, protect and provide for them, we pray.
Grant them the grace to forgive and to pray
for those who would persecute them.
May they continue to know your peace
and the assurance of your love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen


A Prayer for the ministry of Release International

Heavenly Father,
As we remember those who have paid the ultimate price
for their faithfulness to Christ,
we pray for the ministry of Release International
and the partners it supports.
Grant them the grace and the resources
to strengthen, to encourage, and to care for
families who have lost loved ones
and for churches who have lost pastors.
Continue to build your church in these difficult places;
and we pray this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.


Click here to download these prayers as a pdf document.

Hymns and songs

Ten Thousand Reasons

(Refrain)
Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before, O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing your song again
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

(Refrain)

You’re rich in love and You’re slow to anger
Your name is great and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness, I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find

(Refrain)

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still, my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore

(Refrain)

Words: Matt Redman, Jonas Myrin


For all the saints

For all the saints, who from their labours rest,
who thee by faith before the world confessed,
thy name, O Jesus, be forever blessed,
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou in the darkness, drear, their one true light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For Martyrs, who with rapture-kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
Singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Words: Rt Rev William Walsham How (1823 – 1897)
Music: Ralph Vaughan Williams


How Long?

As we bring our songs of love today
Do you hear a sound more glorious?
Like the mighty roar of ocean waves
Many witnesses surround us

It’s a harmony of costly praise
From the lips of those who suffer
Of sighs and tears and martyrs’ prayers
Until this age is over.

How long, Lord, till you come?
How long till the earth
Is filled with your song?
How long until your justice
Shines like the sun?
How long, Lord, till you come?
How long till the earth
Is filled with your song?
How long, how long?

Lord, help us to live worthy of
Our sisters and our brothers
Who love you more than their own lives
Who worship as they suffer

To embrace the scandal of the cross
Not ashamed to tell your story
To count all earthly gain as loss
To know you and your glory

How long, Lord, till you come?
How long till the earth
Is filled with your song?
How long until your justice
Shines like the sun?
How long, Lord, till you come?
How long till the whole world hears
And the work is done
Until at last we see you return?
How long, Lord till you come
How long till the earth
Is filled with your song?
How long, how long?
How long, how long?
How long, how long?

Words and music: Graham Kendrick


Click here to download these songs and hymns as a pdf document.

If you would like to make a donation to help the families of Christian martyrs you can easily do so online using the options opposite.