The Romans murdered Peter in Nero’s circus. Andrew was stoned and crucified. James, the leader of the church in Jerusalem, was pushed off the temple by the religious leaders, survived the fall, stoned and eventually killed him with a club.
James, son of Zebedee, was beheaded. Thomas was struck with a lance. Paul, author a large part of the New Testament and the replacement for Judas Iscariot, was beheaded by the Romans.
Jude was was either clubbed to death, hacked to pieces with an ax or crucified. Simon was probably crucified as well. Bartholomew was either cast into the sea to drown, crucified or skinned alive. Matthew was stabbed to death and Philip was either beheaded or crucified.
As you can see, the apostles weren’t playing any games. People have the tendency to become honest when faced with death. If they lived a lie and get the opportunity to save themselves, why wouldn’t they? No one will die if death means losing everything they hold dear In life. Yet except John, all the disciples were slaughtered for their beliefs.
The New Testament is filled with stories of courage and faith. Peter stood up and preached to a huge crowd who was making fun of them just a few moments earlier. We hear of arrests, miracles and incredible suffering throughout all of the members of the early church.
We read their account and start dreaming of revival in the city, miracles in the streets and faith in Washington. But then we get scared of the process. We return to “reality” and ignore the dream of God we just lived through. We think of them and us, it’s the Apostles and the Christians of today.
We have read Paul’s letters, studied Peter’s wisdom and were captivated by John’s eloquence. But those guys had no idea that their writing would be compiled into scripture. For them, they simply wrote letters.
We declare the Apostles holy and their status unattainable. We see their miracles but often don’t see their progress. If we read the Bible carefully we see that they were regular guys, just like us. They started as Babies in the faith but ended up shaking this world to the core.
None of the apostles were superhuman. They had their fears and struggles just as much as we do. We doubt God’s goodness and we ask about the evil in this world. We wonder how someone as small as us is able to make a difference. We forget the good that he has done in the past and doubt the future.
But so did they. The apostles often didn’t get what Jesus was talking about (Mark 8:14-16) nor did they trust in his abilities (John 13:21-29). Even after he demonstrated his powers, they still wavered and doubted (Matthew 20:17-19). And when the Romans came for him, all of his disciples abandoned him (Mark 14:50).
But over time, they came into their destiny. They stumbled and fell but they didn’t give up. They had faith in what God spoke to them and simply moved on with the plan.
What set them apart from most of us was that they understood why Christ came on this earth. He gave simple men an identity and a purpose. A reason to live and a reason to die. The assurance of being loved set them free to realize their destiny for this life. The apostles lived the lives they were created for because their actions were in line with their inner lives.
Doubt is part of human nature, but we can learn from those who went before us. The greatest men and women in church history experienced doubt, yet at the end, they all died for him. We have only one life to give and we can either waste it like most people or become like the Apostles and spill our lives for Him.