You can learn a lot about a man, about a religion, about a movement, by what his followers accomplish, overcome, and perform after his death. Upon Christ's death, he was resurrected, in which he then passed on to his closest followers his wisdom, his love, and the great commission to preach the good news, before He ascended to heaven to be one with his Father. The story, however, does not end there, that is but the beginning of a new testament which we live to today.
The faithfulness and belief of Stephen permitted him to perform many great wonders and signs for the people of Jerusalem, but this upset certain powerful religious leaders of the day who rose up and argued against Stephen, but were unable to refute or to overcome the wisdom of Stephen. This, however, did not stop them by convincing others to falsely contend that Stephen had blasphemed against Moses and God, in a time in which such blasphemy could result in capital punishment. This ultimately led to a fatal confrontation, in which the crowd stoned Stephen to death, a death in which Stephen proclaimed: "…Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." In which the unjustified martyrdom of Stephen echoed the martyrdom of Christ.
James believed in Christ's divinity only after His resurrection and later became a pillar of the church that was created, because he was a man that lived his faith in the actions and the accomplishments that he made. James was quite clear that true faith produces true deeds, that you cannot talk out of both sides of your mouth, that you will ultimately be all of one thing or all of another thing, but not both at the same time. James was clear that we are to be doers of the word that merely hearing the words and agreeing with them was not good enough. For his belief, James, suffered martyrdom, "… he killed James the brother of John with the sword."
"So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs." (John 21:15). "And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church…"
(Matthew 16:18). The Holy Roman Catholic Church holds forth Peter, the rock of our faith, to have been their first pope. Peter who denied our Lord, three times, who disappointed our Lord on so many occasions was also a man that was after our Lord's heart. Peter wore his faith on his sleeve, and was always willing to face the truth and the consequences of the truth, so that he left his former way of being a doubter and denier, to become a true rock of a believer who feared no man on this earth and would demonstrate his faith by performing works and miracles on behalf of Christ. He too suffered martyrdom, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. 19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God…"
Paul, formerly known as Saul, was a great persecutor of the Christian faith until on the road of Damascus he saw and felt the truth of Christ himself. Paul, thereby, by the grace of God transformed himself into a new man, a man of zeal for the true faith, of determination, of works, of persistence, of wisdom, of miracles, of unjustified imprisonment and bodily harm, in which nothing short of death itself would stop him. It was Paul that authored thirteen of the New Testament epistles and Paul too suffered martyrdom. "Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness."
Each of these great men suffered for their faith, suffered onto death, onto execution. In Christianity, there are no shortcuts; we live, however, in what is considered to be a more enlightened age, in which Christians are often respected and treated well, but not in every country, nor in every circumstance. The true measure of a man's faith rests in his willingness to testify to the truth, to suffer deprivations for that truth, and to recognize that one's physical life is no match for our eternal life.