“Dying For What You Believe In”

Is there anything that you feel strongly enough about that you would die for it? A cause, a belief? Few of us today in American really know much of anything about sacrificing to the point of death, but there are stories in history that tell us amazing accounts of those who have suffered and died for a cause or belief. One such story took place in 328 A.D. in a city high in the icy mountains of Armenia.

It was a bitterly cold winter, and in the middle of that winter an order came from the Roman emperor that every man, woman, and child under the rule of his empire must bow down to him as a god.

Now there was a powerful force of Roman soldiers in that Armenian city known as the “Thundering Legion”, and their reputation as a powerful military force was well known throughout all the Roman Empire. But the emperor was not satisfied with just their military service – he wanted each soldier to bow down to him.

But, when the time came for each soldier to bow down, 40 could not. They were faithful soldiers, but they were Christians – they could not obey the emperor’s order to make him their god. They said, “We can only worship the one true God.”

Well, when the word of these 40 soldiers refusing to bow down and worship him was received by the emperor, his command back was simple, “Bow down to me, reject your Christian God, or die”. But the 40 soldiers did not bow down – so the decision was made that they would die.

But how should they die? Should they be fed to the hungry lions? Should they be burned at the stake? These were both terrible ways to die, but an even more cruel death was prescribed –

they were to be frozen to death in the bitter cold winter.

So, they took the 40 soldiers to a frozen lake in the middle of a terrible winter storm. They stripped them of all their clothing and left them to freeze to death.

But the general in charge did not want to lose these 40 good soldiers. He said, “Simply bow down to the emperor and save your life?” But they would not.

The other soldiers taunted and laughed at them saying, “soon you will be back; you will bow down”. But the laughing stopped when these 40 Christians bravely walked barefoot across the icy freezing lake.

Well, through the night the soldiers lit a fire and cooked food to tempt the Christians to give up. But the Christians prayed to God to make them brave, and they began to shout,

“Here die 40 men for Christ”!

The freezing bitter cold night went on until finally, the cold was too much for one of the men. He staggered back to the fire and agreed to denounce his God and to bow down to the emperor. But the remaining 39 Christians would not give in, even though they were literally freezing to death.

Then, amazingly, something happened that they could not believe – one of the Roman soldiers sitting by the fire, having watched the bravery and courage and faith of these dying Christians, he stood before the general and uttered these words,

“I will take that man’s place – I will be a Christian.”

As the general watched in amazement, this Roman soldier removed his clothing and walked onto the icy lake to join the other 39.

Well, the Roman soldiers sat by that fire all night long, and the last thing they said they could remember hearing through the howl of that terrible freezing winter storm was the now 40 Christian men shouting,

“Here die 40 men for Christ”.

In the morning, sadly, there were 40 frozen bodies; men who had sacrificed and died for their faith and belief in Christ.

A full 350 years later, in the chapel in the forum of Rome, there was dedicated to these 40 soldiers a plaque, a simple plaque which still hangs there today. It has these powerful words engraved on it,

“Here Die 40 Men for Christ”.

 

What cause would you be willing to die for?

I was talking with a group just the other night, and I asked what happens to a person when they tell a lie; and how are they seen by others once they are caught in a lie?

One in the group piped right up; he said “When I was a boy growing up, my dad told me that if a person tells a lie, they are then marked, even branded, as a liar”.

I said, “Wow, is that true? Whenever you tell one lie, you’re from that point on considered to be a liar?” He thought for a moment, and then said quite emphatically, “Yep, a person who lies is a liar”.

Okay, so maybe that’s an extreme, but does one lie make you a liar?

Well, what is the definition of a liar?

Mr. Webster says that a liar is “a person who tells a lie”.

But, does that mean that once a person tells a lie, then for ever more they are a liar? That’s for each person who hears the lie told to decide, but we do know this-

once you lie, once people know that you are capable of telling a lie, they will find it hard to believe your future words; and, the more that you lie, the harder it is for you to ever be believed again.

That’s a lot to think about, but this part is true –

we all must learn that we cannot allow dishonesty and untruthfulness to be in our lives – its’ consequence is perhaps the most destructive enemy you will face in your life.

Back in the early 1800’s, long before any of us were born, there was a young man named Abraham who landed his first real, steady job – he was a clerk in a general store. Now, being a clerk in a store back in those days was much different than it is today – 1) there were no computers to help keep the records straight, 2) there were no calculators to make sure the accuracy of any sales transaction (there weren’t even the old fashioned adding machines – a person had to be able to actually add and subtract ACCURATELY in their head); 3) but, most of all, there were no security cameras or ways to make sure that a clerk was doing the right thing in his job – so a person did not get a job unless they could be trusted.

Well, this young man, Abe, was quite excited about his new job and his prospects for the future.

But, one day something happened – a woman came into the store, bought some goods, laid down her money, and left. He was pleased with the sale, but later when the store had closed the young man counted the sales for the day, and discovered that the woman had paid too much for her purchase. That really bothered him, but it could easily be fixed. The next day he could send word out to her by her neighbors of the overpayment; he could even wait until she came back into the store at some future time – then give her the money.

But he still was bothered – he had her money, and he didn’t like that.

So, that night, after the store closed, Abraham walked to her house and gave the woman her change. After that, when word got around of just what the young man had done, he was then given the nickname, “Honest Abe”.

Now, you might be saying, “What was the big deal anyway; he took a few minutes before he went home that night, drove his car by her house and gave her the corrected change – why was that such a big deal?

Good question – let’s look closer at the facts of the case.

  1. Remember, there were no computers or electronic store records to catch errors, so it would be very easy for someone to get away with giving wrong change – after all, how could anyone prove it?
  2. One part not mentioned yet was the size of the “wrong change” error – it was a little over 6 cents. You say, “six cents? Six pennies? That’s nothing, I see pennies on the ground all of the time, and I don’t even bother to pick them up”. Now, remember that this was long ago, and a penny was worth more then, than it is now today, but it was still a very small amount. But doesn’t that make Abe’s effort even more honorable – it wasn’t the size of the money amount – it was the principle of the fact – he wanted to get her money back to her no matter how small that amount might be. A small amount could be easily forgotten by all, but it mattered to Abe.
  3. One other important part – the distance to the woman’s house was, get this, four miles; and, of course, Abraham had no car, not even a bicycle – they weren’t even invented yet. Four miles – when’s the last time that you walked four miles? At night? On a dark road with no street lamps?

Getting the picture now? Of course, you are.

And this young man, this young Abraham, he went on to be the 16th president of our United States – his name was Abraham Lincoln.

And just how long did this nickname, “Honest” Abe stick with him? It never left, and we still call him that today.

Oh, the power of an Honest Word!

About Jerry Stewart

I am a story teller. Since 1998, I have been telling the true stories of our nation and those Americans gone before us.  To say the least, these stories have been well received by Americans, both young and old.  So, here’s where the stories have taken me.  In 1998, I was broadcasting my stories on just one radio station in Washington State.  Today, from Texas 15 years later, these programs are now broadcast through a syndicated radio network to over 400 radio stations all across America, with literally millions of listeners.

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