I have to admit I felt a bit uneasy when I first saw this book several years ago. dc Talk were a hugely popular Christian band, and their “Jesus Freak” album is widely recognised as one of the all-time great CCM albums. So to see a book branded with the dc talk name and Jesus Freak design made the cynic in me wonder whether this was simply an attempt to sell merchandise on the back of the success of the album.
But when I opened it up and discovered it to be a book of stories about martyrs, my opinion changed. For martyrdom is a subject that, unlike dc Talk, is not “cool” in any way. This is in effect, a modern day “Foxe’s book of Martyrs”.
Each story is told in just a page or two. It includes stories from the Bible, from the Roman persecution of the church, through to the time of the Reformation, through to Communist persecution of believers, and contemporary persecution of Christians in Islamic countries. It is full of Scripture verses as well as quotes from persecuted Christians and extracts from the hymns that sustained them through their suffering.
Many of the stories are shocking and horrific, and yet the peace and joy so often displayed by the believers is a powerful testimony to the grace of God at work in their lives. Not all the stories are of actual martyrdom, several are of imprisonment and torture.
This will not make for comfortable reading. I wouldn’t even put it in the “inspiring” category. “Challenging” would perhaps be a better word. When I consider how much these believers were willing to sacrifice for their faith in Jesus, many of whom could simply have escaped pain by denying their beliefs, it puts to shame my timidity in sharing my own faith with others. These believers stand as a shining example of total devotion to Christ, and what it means to live with an eternal perspective.
There is a second volume available. Details of the books can be found at this website.