It was A.D. 111. The governor of Bithynia was a lawful man named, Pliny, the younger. He wanted a peaceful reign, but it was not to be. Christianity was the problem. It was so prevalent in his province that the idol temples were all but abandoned. Christianity was catching on like wildfire. Something had to be done.
So being a conscientious governor he sought to arrest Christians. Some held firm to their faith and some recanted to save their necks. Yet, something bothered Pliny. Having arrested many believers, he began to see their faith as harmless. So he wrote the emperor, Trajan, and asked him if he should continue the crackdown. Trajan said it all depended. He said if Christians showed up in his court, he should require them to recant or die. But he also said that Pliny should not go out “head hunting,” so to speak.
Nobody knows who turned him in, but somebody, for whatever reason, accused the Bishop, Ignatius, of crimes against the state. He was a believer. So, in keeping with what he had been told, Pliny tried him and sentenced him to die.
Since great festivities were being planned in Rome, he was sent to the capital so that his death could be a source of amusement for people during the party. On his way to Rome, he was allowed many Christian visitors and some of them vowed to write letters to Rome to secure his release from death. They may have succeeded, but Ignatius refused. He wrote to them:
I fear your kindness, which may harm me. You may be able to achieve what you plan . . .
He believed that through this ultimate sacrifice he will begin to be a disciple, so he wants the Christians in Rome to pray not that he be freed, but that he will have the strength to face the trial. He wrote further:
If you remain silent about me, I shall become a word of God. But if you allow yourselves to be swayed by the love in which you hold my flesh, I shall again be no more than a human voice.
So he went to Rome and ultimately to his appointment with the lions because he was a man of faith and he refused to give in. That’s what it takes to be successful in the face of this world’s challenge. You must be a man of faith, but if you want to be successful in the face of this world’s challenge you must also be a man or a woman of