We approach the wretchedness of crucifixion with rejoicing anticipation. At the cross of Jesus we experience the many and varied deaths of this life and lift up our heads and look up with joyous anticipation. Luke 21:28
The Holy Forty Martyrs exemplify the fact that the poor in spirit followers of Jesus live with unwavering commitment to that which is unseen by physical eyes.
The poor in spirit followers of Jesus know their true treasure is not made by human hands, measured in possessions, or received in this life.
The Holy Forty Martyrs, in prayer the night before their martyrdom, heard the voice of the Lord saying,
“He who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live. Be bold and have no fear of short-lived torment which soon passes; endure…that you may receive crowns.”
Today, just as our lives are unfolding, we rejoice in anticipation of a heavenly crown. The Bible details the heavenly crown with five unique descriptors:
- The Imperishable Crown – 1 Corinthians 9:24-25
- The Crown of Rejoicing – 1 Thessalonians 2:19
- The Crown of Righteousness – 2 Timothy 4:8
- The Crown of Glory – 1 Peter 5:4
- The Crown of Life – Revelation 2:10
John and Betty Stam
Born in 1906 in Albion, Michigan, she grew up in China, where her parents were missionaries. When she was seventeen years old, she came back to the United States for her last year of high school, followed by college and study at Moody Bible Institute.
On September 11, 1934, their daughter, Helen Priscilla, was born. Three months later, John and Betty, along with their infant daughter, were arrested by hostile Communist soldiers. After spending the first night in a local prison, they were forced to march twelve miles with the soldiers to another town. They finally stopped for the night at the home of a wealthy man who had fled. Before they left the next morning, Betty hid her baby in the house inside a small sleeping bag. Then, John and Betty were marched down the streets of the town, their hands tightly bound, stripped of their outer garments.
On their way to the site of the execution, a Christian shopkeeper tried to persuade the soldiers not to kill the couple. He, too, was dragged away to be killed. When John pled with the soldiers not to kill the man, the Communist leader ordered him to kneel, then beheaded him with a sword. Betty fell down bound at her husband’s side, no scream coming from her lips. Moments later, the same sword that had killed her husband ended her life.
Baby Helen was discovered thirty hours later by a local pastor. She was safe and warm, apparently none the worse for having gone all that time without milk. Inside her clothing, the pastor found extra diapers and two five-dollar bills that Betty had pinned there—just enough to provide for a rescue party to get her to safety.
John and Betty Stam’s bodies were taken, buried, with the following grave stones.
John Cornelius Stam, January 18, 1907, “That Christ may be glorified whether by life or by death.” Philippians 1:20
Elisabeth Scott Stam, February 22, 1906, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21
December 8, 1934, Miaosheo, Anhui, “Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life.” Revelation 2:10
- What is there in you that may distract you from the cross and crown?
- What fear may stop your commitment to the cross and the crown?
- What relationship may hinder you from the cross and the crown?
You may have brought your Palm Sunday frond formed into the shape of a cross or you may have received a palm frond cross when you entered today.
Would you be willing to “crucify” anything and everything that may hinder you, distract you, or stop you from pursuing the cross and the crown?
Write, on your palm frond cross, those things that are in your way of taking up your cross and receiving your crown.
- A friend?
- Past hurt?
As we worship and contemplate Jesus’ death on the cross and His call to us to anticipate, with joy, the crown on the other side of the cross, please feel free to move to the front and nail or pin your written declaration on the cross with the intent of remembering that Jesus cancels every hindrance by His death on the cross.
Andrew, feeling unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus, received his crown after being crucified with arms and legs apart.
Peter, also feeling unworthy to die similarly to Jesus, received his crown after being crucified upside down.
Jesus received His crown after being crucified on Golgotha’s rugged cross.
Betty Scott Stam, at eighteen years of age, expressed the desire of her soul in the following prayer.
Lord, I give up my own plans and purposes, all my own desires, hopes and ambitions, and I accept Thy will for my life. I give up myself, my life, my all, utterly to Thee, to be Thine forever. I hand over to Thy keeping all of my friendships; all the people whom I love are to take second place in my heart. Fill me now and seal me with Thy Spirit. Work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost. Amen.