When you think of buckling to pressure, consider St. Polycarp who lived in Rome sometime between 67 and 155 AD. He was a Bishop in Smyrna. He was arrested as an old man and sentenced to be burned at the stake for his devotion to Christ. When Polycarp heard that the Roman mobs wanted to arrest him for his faith, he was not in the least upset, and was happy to stay in the city, but eventually he was persuaded to leave. He went to friends in the nearby country, where as usual he spent the whole time, day and night, in prayer for all people and for the churches throughout the world. Three days before he was arrested, while he was praying, he had a vision of the pillow under his head in flames. He said prophetically to those who were with him, ” I will be burnt alive.” Those who were looking for him were coming near, so he left for another house. They immediately followed him, and when they could not find him, they seized two young men from his own household and tortured them into confession. The police and horsemen came with the young men at suppertime on the Friday with their usual weapons, as if coming out against a robber. That evening, they found him lying down in the upper room of a cottage. He could have escaped but he refused saying, “God’s will be done.” When he heard that they had come, he went down and spoke with them. They were amazed at his age and steadfastness, and some of them said. “Why did we go to so much trouble to capture a man like this?” Immediately he called for food and drink for them, and asked for an hour to pray uninterrupted. They agreed, and he stood and prayed, so full of the grace of God, that he could not stop for two hours. The men were astounded and many of them regretted coming to arrest such a godly and venerable an old man. When he finished praying… they put him on a donkey, and took him into the city. As Polycarp was being taken into the arena, a voice came to him from heaven: “Be strong, Polycarp and play the man!” No one saw who had spoken, but other Christians who were there heard the voice. When the crowd heard that Polycarp had been captured, there was an uproar. The Roman Proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp. On hearing that he was, he tried to persuade him to apostatize, saying, “Have respect for your old age, swear by the fortune of Caesar. Repent, and denounce Christ. Polycarp looked grimly at the wicked heathen multitude in the stadium. The Roman proconsul took pity on Polycarp and urged him to recant. All he had to do was say, “Caesar is Lord,” and offer a little bit of incense to Caesar’s statue, and he would live. Polycarp’s response was --- “Eighty-six years I have served Christ, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior who saved me?” “I have wild animals here,” the Proconsul said. “I will throw you to them if you do not repent.” “Call them,” Polycarp replied. “It is unthinkable for me to repent from what is good to turn to what is evil. I will be glad though to be changed from evil to righteousness.” The proconsul said: “If you despise the animals, I will have you burned.” Polycarp replied: “You threaten me with fire which burns for an hour, and is then extinguished, but you know nothing of the fire of the coming judgment and eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. Why are you waiting? Bring on whatever you want.” So he was taken to the place of execution and they simply bound him with his hands behind him like a distinguished ram chosen from a great flock for sacrifice. Ready to be an acceptable burnt-offering to God, he looked up to heaven, and said, “O Lord God Almighty, the Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the knowledge of you, the God of angels, powers and every creature, and of all the righteous who live before you, I give you thanks that you count me worthy to be numbered among your martyrs, sharing the cup of Christ and the resurrection to eternal life, both of soul and body, through the immortality of the Holy Spirit. May I be received this day as an acceptable sacrifice, as you, the true God, have predestined, revealed to me, and now fulfilled. I praise you for all these things, I bless you and glorify you, along with the everlasting Jesus Christ, your beloved Son. To you, with him, through the Holy Ghost, be glory both now and forever. Amen.” When the guards realized they had no nails or rope to affix him to the post, Polycarp assured them that no restraint was necessary — that Jesus would empower him to bear the flames. Then the fire was lit, and the flame blazed furiously. The ones there who were privileged to witness it saw a great miracle. The fire shaped itself into the form of an arch, like the sail of a ship when filled with the wind, and formed a circle around the body of Polycarp. Inside it, he looked not like flesh that is burnt, but like bread that is baked, or gold and silver glowing in a furnace. And people around him smelt a sweet scent, like frankincense or precious spices. When the guards realized that Polycarp could not be burned, they stabbed him with a spear—and the blood that ran down extinguished the flames.
Polycarp was one of many who refused to deny Christ and died a Martyr. Do you know any modern-day Polycarps who refuse to deny Him no matter the persecution which comes their way?