Benjamin Watson, Tight End for the New Orleans Saints, recently issued a powerful response to the persecution of Christians at the hands of the Islamic State, and around the world, arguing that all believers must be willing to face martyrdom for their faith.
On Saturday, Watson shared his prayerful thoughts on Facebook: "The images keep flooding our timelines and news feeds. Men being burned alive or beheaded by masked assassins. Stories of families on the run, fleeing their homes while they are pillaged and burned. Their testimonies hold a familiar chord. "Convert, Pay or Die!" he wrote.
The NFL star referenced heroes of the faith, including the apostles Stephen and Paul, who experienced severe torture and death at the hands of the violent emperor Nero, to remind readers that Christianity has continued to spread despite overwhelming adversity because "men and woman, empowered by the Holy Spirit stood strong in the face of certain death; some being delivered and others falling."
Citing the immense persecution experienced by Christians in North Korea, China, Nigeria, and Cuba, Watson wrote, " As I sit here in a 21st century United States, I can't help but wonder when we too will face martyrdom for our faith. Rest assured, fellow Americans, if it hasn't already, our day WILL COME."
However, the athlete reminds believers that there is hope to be found in the promises of Jesus Christ.
"My only hope in such trying times is the power of the Holy Spirit. He is the X factor," Watson writes. "He will give us the strength, words, and vision when our backs are against the wall. Jesus promised the believer many things. Eternal life, abundant life, peace, purpose and forgiveness to name a few. He also promises that they, like him, WILL be betrayed, hated and persecuted, even to death. (Luke 21:12-19)."
In concluding his message, Watson urges Christians to pray for those persecuted for their faith and stand firm on their beliefs despite opposition, as Christ will soon return.
"We must remember as terrible as things are and will become, they are simply signs pointing to one thing; His Imminent Return," he writes, "When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." Luke 21:28. Lord be with us."
Watson's powerful message resounded with readers, who "liked" his post nearly 14,000 times and shared it another 6,000 times.
"You have spoken such true words. I pray that we wake up from our slumber. So many are blinded. Thank you for these words!!" wrote a commenter named Tammy Renee.
"What an encouraging Word straight from The Book! These are perilous times for sure with even more to come but God has given us His Word to let us know all that is to come so that we can be prepared and encouraged to know that Holy Spirit is with us to help and guide us and at the appointed time Jesus will return!!! To God be the Glory!!" added Denise Campbell.
This is not the first time the 34 year old football player had addressed a societal issue from a Biblical perspective. In November, he took to social media to issue a response to the events occurring in Ferguson, MO, in which police officer Darren Wilson was acquitted in the death of a black teenager, Michael Brown.
After expressing his sorrow at the incident, Watson reminded readers that sin is at the root of all evil in the world, including abuse of authority, racial prejudice, and lying. Therefore, he added, Christians should find encouragement in the blood of Jesus Christ, which covers even the worst of sins.
"God has provided a solution for sin through his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind," Watson wrote. "One that's capable of looking past the outward and seeing what's truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It's the Gospel. So, finally, I'M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope."