One of the greatest honors I believe in the Christian life is to die as a martyr for Christ, to so stand for your faith that even in the face of death you do not budge, you do not surrender, you do not in any way deny Christ. You hold fast your faith until the very end knowing that when you die you will earn a martyrs crown. Many Christians around the world from China to Africa, from Pakistan to Brazil are right now dying for their faith in Christ, and doing so with pride and honor, pleased to know that they've been deemed worthy to die for the name of Jesus.
However, did you know that you don't actually have to die physically to be a martyr for Christ? I'm not talking about running around shooting or killing people and dying like a fool the way the Islamics do it. No, dying physically in the name of Jesus is only ONE of the ways in which you can be a martyr for Christ. I know that doesn't make sense. How can one live and still be a martyr when the latter, by definition requires death.
Philippians 1:21 (KJV) - "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
Galatians 2:20 (KJV) - "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."
To be a true martyr of Christ, you have to die to self. Yes, it's not a physical death, but it is death. Our old man must die. The person we were must die. We must be a new creature in Christ. Those who God chooses to die physically for Him have already died to themselves, so long before their physical lives are taken, they have already died to themselves. Yes, there is a special honor afforded to those who physically give up their lives in the name of Christ. However, these same martyrs, killed as they were for their faith, were already martyrs long before they died.
Now, before I go much further, let me state this. Being a Christian martyr DOES NOT involve killing yourself. You DO NOT get a crown for that, nor likely will you get much of anything except a strong consternation from Christ. You are not to take a life, including your own, under any circumstances save one, and one alone: Self Defense. So if you're not either defending yourself or a loved one, and you take a life, including your own, you're a murderer, plain and simple.
Christ wants you to save lives, not destroy them. He wants you to lead them to Him, not to Hell. So you should always seek to live for Christ in all things, and only accept death if that is God's will for you. Not YOUR will, but His alone. And if it is His will that you should die, it will be Him who will choose the time and place, and not you. Again, if you have a hand in the taking of any life outside of self defense, including your own, then you are a murderer, plain and simple.
That is why I say that to be a martyr for Christ you must be so sold out to Him that you've died to your old self, to the ways you used to live, to the things you used to do, and even to any real control over your life. You're not an automaton. You're a willing, obedient servant to Christ. Even so, your will is no longer your own. To live totally sold out to whatever Christ wants, be that something as simple as reading your bible even though you don't have the time for it, or dying on the streets of Baghdad for proclaiming the Gospel, is what it means to be a martyr in Christ's eyes.
So why would I equate the two together under the same banner? Well, does a dead man have a will of his own? No. His body goes wherever others take it. We should be the same. We who are saved, born again, called out believes, should know without a doubt that our lives are not our own, nor our will. Once we are saved we are dead to our old selves, but alive in Christ. Our wills for our own lives died with our old self. This means that we should no longer try and exercise our own wills over our lives. We are dead to this world, and as dead men we should do as dead men do. We should move, not of our own wills, but rather in whatever way the Spirit of God tells us to move, and we should do it without complaint, without reservation, without hesitation.
That is what it means to be a martyr for Christ. To live not of our own will, but His and His alone, and should that complete and total sacrifice mean that we must also surrender our physical lives, then we should do so gladly, as even our bodies are not our own, but they are here for the service of God to be used however He should will. So what are you doing today? Are you living for yourself, your hobbies, your work, your freetime? Or are you willing to give all that up, to sacrifice for Christ, and to live as a true martyr, or are you going to live for yourself and ignore what Christ has for you?
Live the life of a martyr, completely and totally dead to self and selfish ambitions, surrendered entirely to Christ and His perfect will for your life.