“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?

It is said that during the darkest hours of our lives, during our most difficult times, that these are the times we are to dig the deepest inside ourselves to find out who we really are, and how much strength and determination we really have. It’s a measure of our lives some call “Grit”.

Early on in our Nation’s early life, an article appeared in a newspaper, author unknown, simply signed “a free man”, which came to be known later as the “Oath of a Free Man”.

This oath spoke of a grateful people, grateful for those who were fighting for our cause of freedom. It spoke about the guardians of America, of honor and valor, and of sacrifice. Part of that oath says this:

“Although your private concerns may call for your assistance at home, yet the voice of your country is still louder. Never was a cause more important or more glorious than that which you are engaged in. Not only your wives and children, but humanity at large, the world of mankind, is interested in it; for if tyranny should prevail in this great country, liberty will expire throughout the world. He that is a soldier in defense of such a cause needs no title, for his post is a post of honor and, although not an emperor, yet he should wear a crown of glory, and blessed will be his memory.”

Yes, it’s during the darkest hours that we find out just who we are as as a person and as a Nation – and today in America is that time.

During our nation’s history many creeds and pledges and oaths have been written during those times to remind us just who we are and what we are to strive to be. One such writing is what’s called “The American Creed” written by William Tyler Page in 1917 during our First World War. It speaks of freedom, equality, justice and sacrificed; and it ends with this powerful pledge:

“I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies.”

That pretty much says it all.

There was another creed written in 1946 by Francis Cardinal Spellman, who had been ministering to the troops in World War II in Europe and Asia – and after seeing the Great Spiritual Needs of the American troops in war he wrote these words:

“I believe in America and her high destiny under God to stand before the people of the earth as a shining example of unselfish devotion to the ideals that have made us a great nation: the Christian ideals of liberty and harmonious unity, built upon a respect for God’s image in man, and every man’s right to life, liberty, and happiness.”

But just what about this word, “happiness”? There’s a lot of talk today about happiness, and some have come to truly believe that it is somehow our government’s responsibility, its duty, to make us happy – that we are, somehow, owed something. Many Americans today, have just unplugged from any real personal responsibility to our Nation, and have instead decided to take everything that they can while giving nothing back.

The truth is this: when our founding fathers spoke of the “pursuit of happiness”, they believed that our government’s job was to give us a nation that was safe and just so that we could pursue our own happinessbut finding true happiness is up to each of us!

In 1914, on June 14th, our National Flag Day, our Secretary of Interior, Franklin Lane, was delivering a speech to a group, and he pointed to the flag flying that day, and he asked this question:

“What does our American flag say to us? Simply and powerfully this:

‘I am what you make me, nothing more. I swing before your eyes as a bright gleam of color and as a symbol of yourself”.

Let us each determine today this day to begin doing and being and working with all of the grit that we can muster up – to make our flag, our Nation, a powerful symbol of ourselves!

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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