I just got done reading Jesus Freaks by the band dc Talk and the "Voice of the Martyrs" organization. It's basically a compilation of short stories about Christian martyrs throughout history, starting with Stephen, the first Christian martyr. The most recent account is in the early 2-THOUs. The stories aren't told chronologically.
I am amazed at what some people endured just to say that they believed in Jesus as their savior. Many were jailed and tortured, and just about all the stories in the book end in death. Often, the actions of the martyrs are said to have influenced people who saw them die or were imprisoned with them. I guess it would be powerful to see someone who is not afraid of dying because they know that the Lord is with them. That's hard for me to imagine.
Another recurring theme was "praying for your enemy." So many of these people would pray for their torturers, hoping that they would encounter God's love. This would be going on WHILE they were being tortured. They weren't scared to die, and they (by and large) would not renounce their faith. I can see how such courage is possible in the case of the apostles who walked with Jesus during his time on earth, but I guess it takes more faith for someone who has never had physical contact with Him to make such a grave commitment.
After reading this book, I almost feel inadequate. Not that I aspire to martyr myself, but what have I ever done in the name of God? I don't go around trying to evangelize people; I especially think that it would be super hard to endure torture when all I had to do to get out of it is to deny my Savior. But then I would feel really bad about it later. Maybe once put in that position, I would receive divine fortification of my mind, body, and soul. I've never seen angels or heard the voice of the Almighty or anything extraordinary to prepare me to handle a situation like the ones that most of the martyrs in this book faced. Maybe that just says that my faith is weak. Or maybe it's like when I look at someone else playing with their open wound...I think that it's gross, perhaps even nauseating...but if it was my wound, then I would be playing with it just like they are...