“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?

The place – Philadelphia. It was hot and humid.

The date – July 4th, 1776.

The Second Continental Congress was meeting and what they were about to decide was historic.

When the Second Continental Congress met, there was great debate about declaring independence. Most of the colonists wanted independence, but there was still a large percentage of the people who wanted to remain British. After all, they had the protection of the British Army, the most powerful army in the world, and most of their ancestors were still of English descent.

The Congress was also undecided – but the actions of King George had brought them to this crossroad to concede to the kings demands or to fight. The colonists had been subjected to excessive taxes; further, King George had stationed a standing army in the colonies. Through all of this, the colonists had no say or representation before the king – in simple words – they felt bullied.

To protest these excessive taxes colonists organized a widespread boycott of British goods. tensions grew as more troops were sent to Boston in New York City. This made the people furious. Then on March 5th, 1770, as Boston civilians challenged a group of soldiers, the soldiers fired – and five were dead. This came to be called the Boston Massacre. As word of this event spread, the people became more scared and angrier – but King George persisted – he was determined to bring them in line. He closed the port of Boston, restricted trade, and forced the people to house and feed the British soldiers with no compensation. This seemed to be the last straw.

On September 4th, 1774 delegates from 12 colonies met for the first Continental Congress. They wanted a peaceful settlement with King George, but when they brought their request to him, his response was simply this – the colonist either submit to British rule or be crushed by the British Army – the colonists refused. In a tactical move to disarm the colonies, on April, 19th 1775, British armies tried to take the military supplies of the Massachusetts militia – and without a formal army or a call to arms, the people bravely took up their guns and turned back the British army.

So, on this day, July 4th, 1776, as the delegates wiped the sweat from their brows, they had much to consider. If they declared independence, could they stand up against the mighty power of the British Empire? Speeches and debates continued until finally, there weren’t enough votes to pass the Declaration of Independence. Even though they didn’t sign that document until weeks later, each delegate realized that signing would be at their own risk, and that it could lead to imprisonment or death, they would be branded by the king as outlaws and a bounty would be placed on their heads.

But one of the signers, Charles Carroll, when asked if anyone would know just who he was, he decided not only to sign his name, but the town in which he lived. You see, these men were dedicated and determined to stand up regardless of the consequences. They were willing to give their lives for the very ideals and principles which we now take for granted. Today, as we celebrate our independence. Let us not forget the sacrifice the great sacrifice that was made for our America. Let us stand up, speak out; but also let us spend much time on our knees, praying that Almighty God will not give up on us.

Have a wonderful Independence Day, and don’t forget to fly your flag.

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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