By Michael Pursley
Back in the fourth century, a young man lived in a remote village in the company of men given to vows of silence and prayer. His name was Telemachus. He was a poor and deformed young man, of slight build, who spent most of his time praying or silently tending the garden from which he and his brothers obtained their sustenance.
One day, while he was working in the garden, Telemachus believed he heard the voice of God telling him to go to Rome. Because he was devoted to doing God’s will, he packed his belongings for the trip to Rome. The brothers who had taken him in and felt responsible for his care broke their silence and begged him not to go.
“You will never make it to Rome, Telemachus,” they told him; “you are too weak.” His friends brought up other reasons also, valid reasons: he had no food, no money, no clothes, and nowhere to stay when he would get there. “Why, you don’t even know what God wants you to do when you get to Rome!” they cried out at him.
But Telemachus was not to be dissuaded.
No matter what you may think about Telemachus’ experience, about what he felt or about what he saw, the young man believed that God had spoken to him and had directed him to go to Rome.
So, armed with only his faith and trust in God and what little food the brothers could provide (about two weeks’ worth, if he wasn’t robbed), Telemachus set off on foot for Rome.
Barely alive and struggling to stay on his feet weeks after his food had run out, Telemachus finally arrived at Rome, utterly spent, having traveled most of the way on foot.
As he arrived at the city gates, people were streaming into the city. Telemachus had never been to a city before, and he was amazed at the sights. Having no idea what to do nor where to go, he found himself being carried along with the crowd.
What Telemachus did not know was that he had arrived at Rome during a festival time. The Romans and their victorious army were celebrating a triumph over the Goths, and Telemachus found himself swept into the great Colosseum. As he struggled to take in the great building and the enormous crowd, he saw gladiators enter and stand before the Emperor.
“We who are about to die salute you,” the gladiators declared, and Telemachus realized they were going to fight to the death for the entertainment of the crowd.
Telemachus could not help himself, and he cried out, “In the name of Christ, Stop!” The tumult of the crowd roared around him, and his voice was lost in the deafening noise.
In the name of Christ, Stop!
As the games began, Telemachus desperately made his way down the aisle and through the crowd, climbed over the wall, and dropped to the floor of the arena. Suddenly the crowds saw a scrawny figure making his way out to the gladiators and repeating—no, begging over and over again,
“In the name of Christ, Stop! In the name of Christ, stop!”
At first the crowds thought it was part of the entertainment, and at first they were amused. Gradually, however, the people realized Telemachus was not part of the show, and they grew belligerent and angry. As he was distracting the gladiators, pleading, “In the name of Christ, Stop!” one of them plunged his sword into Telemachus’ body. As Telemachus fell to the sand of the arena in death, his last words were, “Please, in the name of Christ, Stop!”
And suddenly, a strange thing happened…
The gladiators stood looking at the tiny form lying in the sand, stunned. Silence fell over the Colosseum. Then, someplace high in the upper tiers, an individual made his way to an exit and left. Others followed, and before long, in dead silence, everyone had left the Colosseum.
That was the last battle between gladiators in the Roman Colosseum. Never again did men kill each other for the entertainment of the crowd.
My dear fellow Christian, there are times when things happen to us, and we have no idea what God is doing. It may appear that our lives seem pointless. Sometimes we may feel as if the work God has given us to do is foolish—as silly as bathing in the River Jordan seemed to Naaman—offering no chance for success.
The success of our lives, however, is not for us to judge. Our abilities may be slight; our backgrounds may be tarnished; our health might fail, and we may seem to be tottering on the edge of the grave. These circumstances, though, matter not to God. He is the author and finisher of our faith and of our lives; He will give us the strength for the task He has given.
In the face of impossible obstacles, our job is to pray and to trust His word. When we are His, even if it seems to us that all our strength and efforts fail, we will have actually triumphed in Christ Jesus no matter how pitiful the outcome may appear.
“For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
May God direct you and give you courage, and may he give you a servant’s heart, as he did to Telemachus.