Hebrews 11:1-2 – Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. (NIV)
Each year on the 24th of April, a remembrance day is held around the world to commemorate the genocide of over one million Armenians in 1915 because of their refusal to deny Jesus Christ and worship Allah. An Armenian who was the lone survivor of his family was Armen Arakelian, my father.
In our home, the genocide of the Armenians was highlighted in an unusual way. Whenever my dad talked about this tragic part of his life, he did so by giving public speeches along with his personal testimony, solely for the purpose of inviting his listeners to come to the Saviour for the redemption of their souls. And many times, we, as a family, went along to listen and learn. However, years later, when I share my dad's story, some people are surprised that it took a long time for me to fully appreciate that period of my father's life. Now, I have come to the realization that his experiences have given my family a tremendous heritage, steeped in the ancient riches of the Christian faith.
Interestingly, our heritage began long before the birth of my father. Tradition tells us that the apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew first brought Christianity to the land of the Armenians in the first century. Moreover, in Acts 11:26b (NIV), the Scripture tells us that "the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch" (modern day Antakya, Turkey). Even so, it would take another 200 years before Armenia would become the first country to adopt Christianity as a state religion in AD 301. The Armenians were steadfast in their devotion to Jesus Christ; their suffering for their faith serves as an outstanding example to us today.
An important biblical concept comes to mind when I reflect on the early church history of the Armenians who died for their faith and my father who lived for his faith. A significant verse, one of my dad's favourites, spells out this concept:
Luke 9:62 – Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." (NIV)
Thus, in serving Christ, we should ask ourselves: Are we moving forward, unswervingly, confident and strong with our faith in Him? Or, are we so shaken with the events occurring in our world today that we falter in the face of these challenges?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank You for those who have gone before us. Their testimony and steadfast faith in You have inspired us. We ask that You would help us in our commitment, as we seek to serve You and look to You for confidence and strength. In Jesus' holy name, we pray. Amen.