Lady Jane and the Sting: Facing the Ultimate Danger without Fear

Jerusha Agen Fighting Fear 21 Comments

tower-of-london2 (800x600)She knew if she told the truth, she would die.

She told the truth anyway. And she died.

She was only sixteen years old.

When I began to read the book, Eight Women of Faith by Michael G. Haykin, I knew little about Lady Jane Grey.  I had a vague sense that she was one of the victims of the power struggle for the throne in English history.

But I had no idea I was about to meet a hero that would challenge the way I face some of my worst fears.

Condemned to death by her own cousin, Mary I (otherwise known as “Bloody Mary”), Jane waits for her final fate in the Tower of London. Still hoping Mary might change her mind, Jane could possibly have a chance if she were to convert to Roman Catholicism, Mary’s favored religion.

In our day, an era in which contemporary evangelicals too often claim that doctrine doesn’t matter, many evangelical churchgoers might easily make such a theological compromise, for far less than to save their own lives.

But Lady Jane Grey knew doctrine is important. She believed in right doctrine so strongly that she was willing to die for the truths found in Scripture.

So when a Benedictine monk was sent to convert Jane to Catholicism, Jane knew the stakes were high. But instead of being conquered by fear and simply giving in to the monk’s persuasive arguments, Jane stood firm.

In the fascinating debate that is recorded for our study, she fearlessly rebutted every one of the monk’s points with Scriptural truth, driving home her greatest point—that salvation is by faith alone.

Martin-LutherWhen Jane was eventually led to her execution and stood awaiting death, she still didn’t balk. Instead, she boldly spoke to the crowd gathered to watch. She told all present that she looked “to be saved by no other mean, but only by the mercy of God, in the blood of his only Son Jesus Christ.” She recited Scripture and, before the last, expressed a prayer for the monk who had interrogated her, telling the man that she prayed God would reward him for his “kindness” to her.

Reading the true story of this remarkable woman—teenager really—I am awed, inspired, and flabbergasted. How did she do it? How could she face such a terrible predicament without compromise and, most remarkably, without fear?

She must have had a wonderful childhood that prepared her for such a moment. Ideal parents and early training in the Lord might have adequately armed her to face such a fate.

But no, her history reveals that she was the daughter of greedy, power-hungry parents who manipulated Jane, even to the point of verbal and physical abuse. They beat her to force her into a marriage she didn’t want. They similarly pressured her into accepting the crown, which allowed her to be Queen of England for nine days before she became Mary’s target.

Thankfully, when Jane was young, her parents had sent her away from their toxic environment to live with her aunt, Queen Katherine (Henry VIII’s last wife, widowed a short time later by his death). Katherine Parr was a strong Christian and her influence led Jane to accept Christ as Lord and Savior at an early age.

Jane had to return to her parents, however, and the life there was brutal. She had no godly example in her home life, no encouragement to grow in her faith and boldness to declare it. Instead, she was surrounded by enemies on every side, even within her own family.

So where did her courage come from? How could she face so much and then death without doubting God’s goodness, without taking the easy path of recanting her faith?

In all honesty, I don’t know if I could do what she did. Certainly, I think I would experience much more fear than Jane seems to have felt. How was she so brave?

Bible-open (800x600)Jane gives us the answer herself in a letter she wrote in her Greek New Testament for her younger sister, Katherine. She writes about the Bible that, “if you with a good mind read it, and with an earnest desire follow it, it shall bring you to an immortal and everlasting life. It will teach you to live and learn you to die.”

Clearly, Jane’s study of Scripture had done just that for her. She had learned how to live and how to die, without fear and to God’s glory.

Jane knew from Scripture that God was in control of her temporal circumstances, horrible as they were, but her ultimate comfort came from knowing He was in control of her eternity. She wrote in that same letter to her sister, “I am assured that I shall for losing of a mortal life, win an immortal life.”

She knew the God of the Bible and she believed He was and is what Scripture proclaims. That He is a God of mercy and love, He is mighty to save, and He will redeem those who put their faith in His free gift of salvation.

Jane knew that what is done in this life carries no weight in light of eternity. Works will fade away. But the promises of God to save His children who trust Him, even through fire, will be fulfilled from everlasting to everlasting.

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:54

death-is-swallowed-up-in-victory-graphic(resize50percentGIF)We Christians often speak glibly about eternal life, but how often do we draw courage from the assurance of our eternal destination? If we were in a situation like Jane’s, we would then see the importance of knowing what comes for us after death. And the reality is, we will all face death at some point, whether by execution, disease, accident, or another fate.

It will take meeting death around the next corner for some of us to realize how important our immortality, our heavenly reward, really is. Believe me, I’m definitely in this camp of people who’d rather not think about death or even the afterlife most of the time.

But, as Jane’s story and Scripture shows, I’m missing out on a tremendous source of courage in clinging to God’s promises for my eternity.

On my own strength, I could never stand firm and hold to my faith when faced with death. On my own, I would give in to my fears well before that point. But in God’s power, I could hold fast. If I truly understood and believed the glory and bliss that God has in store for me and every Christian after death, I would, like Jane, have the courage to fearlessly face any threat to my life.

If you’re like me and struggle with fears of danger and death, take hold of this hope that I’m reaching to grasp—we need not fear what lies ahead. Instead, we need to be like Lady Jane Grey. We have to study the Scriptures and make the truth and promises of God the foundation for our lives and deaths.

I believe that you and I will find, as Jane did, that our fear is obliterated in the light of “an immortal and everlasting life” with Jesus Christ our Savior.

(If you aren’t sure you have eternal life, check out this post I wrote for Emily Conrad’s blog to find out how you can have assurance of salvation.)

What would you do in Jane’s situation? Does your eternal destiny give you courage? Please share!

Eight-women-of-faithI’m giving away a free print copy of Eight Women of Faith! This wonderful book shares more of Lady Jane’s inspiring story as well as those of seven other Christian women. Simply leave a comment below to enter the giveaway! (Winner randomly selected and notified Sept. 11; Winner must have Continental U. S. mailing address.)

Throughout history, women have been crucial to the growth and flourishing of the church.

Historian Michael A.G. Haykin highlights the lives of eight of these women who changed the course of history, showing how they lived out their unique callings despite challenges and opposition–inspiring modern men and women to imitate their godly examples today.

You’ll read about the lives of: Jane Grey, Margaret Baxter, Anne Dutton, Sarah Edwards, Anne Steele, Esther Edwards Burr, Ann Judson, and Jane Austen.

Comments 21

  1. Angela Arndt

    How terrifying for her and I cannot imagine being put to such a trial at that age. Lady Jane Grey’s faith must have been tested so many times when she was being interrogated.

    By the way Mary I was around 20, she was bullied by her father to change her beliefs. She caved and signed documents agreeing that he, Henry VIII, was head of the Church of England.

    Interesting, eh?

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      Jerusha Agen

      Wow, I didn’t know that about Queen Mary, Angie! So sad that she, too, was a victim of politics and abuse at a young age. Interesting how she gave in and Jane did not, isn’t it? Only through the power and strength of God, I’m sure Jane would say. Amazing!

  2. Emily Conrad

    That takes sisterly rivalry to a whole new level. I agree hers is a convicting story. May we all cling to Jesus and His grace so tightly! Thanks for the link over to the blog. Your post over there on perfect love casting out fear will encourage believers, too!

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  3. MJ

    I am so inspired by Lady Jane’s story and testimony every time I read them. She was an amazing example to us all. Some days it’s hard to let the eternal perspective win out over the in-your-face, tangible, earthly fears that we face. But with God’s help, Lady Jane’s courage can be ours, too, founded out the great hope we have in Jesus.

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      Jerusha Agen

      Well said, MJ. I definitely fall into the trap of disregarding the eternal in the seemingly more “real” presence of the temporal, especially when it comes to earthly fears. But, praise be to God, we CAN have the courage of Jane through Jesus! Thanks for this encouragement, MJ.

  4. Damon J. Gray

    The events of “conversion” experienced (and refused) by both Mary and Jane are described with precision by Peter. The truth of scripture is borne out repeatedly if we simply watch life unfold around us.

    Peter has been describing the fiery trials that will come to the believers, and casts that against the glorious future reality that awaits them.

    “…to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:4, NASB)

    With that background, Peter then tells the purpose of the trial. They are not without intent:

    “…so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:7-9, NASB)

    Our faith, Lady Jane’s faith, is proved genuine through these trials. The pretender finds it an easy thing to bail when confrontation shows up at the door. Such was the case with Mary, and Mary subsequently pressed others to cave as she did. Jane was having none of it. For those with a genuine faith (1 Peter 1:7) the likelihood of relenting and denying faith is inversely proportional to that of the pretender holding to and defending faith.

    Our faith is purified and proved genuine by the trial, and the result is praise, glory, and honor to God (look at us today!), and the outcome of faith – the salvation of our souls.

    Beautiful story! Thank you for sharing Jerusha.

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      Jerusha Agen

      Beautiful words, Damon! Thank you for adding these Scriptures to the conversation. Praise the Lord that He will bring a good purpose out of everything, even the suffering and deaths of His children in martyrdom. The testing of our faith does indeed produce perseverance and, if we suffer unto death, a great reward awaits us in eternity! I know I couldn’t face such a fate on my own, but I pray that in God’s enabling, I would be able to, as you said of Lady Jane, have my faith proved genuine through the trial. There is SO much encouragement in the passages you shared. Thanks for joining the conversation!

  5. Patricia Bradley

    How have I missed knowing about Jane? Thank you for an inspiring post. Jane had the courage of those men we saw on TV who were about to be beheaded by ISIS. I believe God gives His martyrs the peace and strength to face death at the time they need it.

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      Jerusha Agen

      So glad this post introduced you to Jane, Pat! I hoped more people might hear of her inspiring story through this post. 🙂 Yes, we definitely need to hear these kinds of true stories now that we’re seeing more persecution of Christians, thanks to media shrinking our world so that we can now actually see more of what’s going on outside our safe haven. You’re so right, the Lord does indeed give His children the courage and grace they need, when they need it. I cling to that promise. Thanks for joining the conversation, Pat!

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      Jerusha Agen

      I know what you mean, Patty. I feel the same way. And she was only sixteen! But then I remember that the only reason she had so much strength in the face of death was because she had Jesus as her Savior, the power of the Holy Spirit inside her, and the courage that comes from assurance of her eternal life and glory. So you and I can have that courage, too, if we have that assurance that we are saved! 🙂 Thanks for joining the conversation today, Patty!

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      Jerusha Agen

      Isn’t it an amazing story, Helene? So glad you could learn of Jane through this post. Such an inspiration. Yes, she was absolutely stalwart in her stance on the doctrine of Scripture, no matter what. We need more people like her today, but I guess that begins with us. 🙂 Thanks for joining the conversation, Helene!

  6. Katie A. Sanders

    Wow. What an amazing story of courage—especially for one so young and facing such extreme opposition! The little I’ve heard about the “nine-day queen” has always intrigued me, but I never knew her entire story until today. I really needed to hear it, as I’m facing a situation where I must speak boldly for the truth. Thanks for sharing Lady Jane’s story, Jerusha, and your own struggles with fear of death. Looks like we’re next-door neighbors at Camp Denying Death and Evading Eternity. 😉

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      Jerusha Agen

      Haha, sadly that might be true, Katie. Though I hope to march out of that camp of denial and fear soon. 🙂 I’m sorry to hear you’re in a tough position that requires you to speak boldly. On the other hand, I probably shouldn’t be sorry, since God uses such circumstances in awesome ways in our lives and the lives of others! I pray you feel His strength and courage as you speak boldly for Him!

  7. Marjorie

    Thank you for sharing this story, Jerusha. I had heard of Lady Jane but didn’t know her story. This morning I was reading the Voice of the Martyrs magazine and was marveling at the faith and courage of so many Christians in the middle East and other places who have been persecuted and yet stand firm in their faith, going right back to preaching and sharing the gospel. Praise God for the strength He gives to face those situations and may we remember those persecuted Christians in prayer daily!

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      Jerusha Agen

      Thanks for this reminder, Marjorie, of how important it is to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are facing persecution in our times. Such prayer is so powerful, to shape us as well as encourage fellow believers. Yes, praise the Lord for His amazing strength! Thanks for joining the conversation, Marjorie!

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      Jerusha Agen

      I’m so excited you got to learn more about Lady Jane and her amazing story here, Dena! God really used her and continues to do so wherever her story is told and remembered. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

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