“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?

There are some in American today who would want to convince us that we should think first of ourselves and that “nice guys finish last”. Oh really! Consider the story of James Cash Penney.

James Penney was born in 1875 and grew up on a small farm in Kentucky. But the family fell on hard times when his father lost his job, and as a teenage boy James had to quit school and work to help support his family. But James Penny had learned early on from his parents the great need to be self-reliant, self-disciplined, and, most of all, to trust in God. But his parents had taught him something else which would help to form the very foundation of his entire life – they taught him how to treat people. His mother and father taught James to treat other people the very way he would want to be treated himself. It’s a teaching of Jesus Christ found in the Bible we all know as the “Golden Rule”.

So, armed with a determined spirit of faith in God and a heart to treat other people kind and fair, James Cash Penney as a young boy entered the world of business. He began to work as a store clerk, faithfully contributing his earnings to his family’s needs. Eventually he did finish his schooling and after finishing high school he worked a number of jobs, until he moved to Colorado and bought a butcher shop. And Penney’s own personal convictions were immediately put to the test. He was told that to keep his biggest account, a local hotel, he must deliver liquor to the hotel chef every week. Well, James did not believe in the consumption of alcohol, so he refused to make the deliveries, and he lost his biggest customer – and his business failed – but James Penny never regretted standing for his own convictions.

In 1899, James was rewarded for his hard work and tireless ambition. He was given the opportunity to partner with two men in the ownership of some small dry goods stores they called the “Golden Rule Stores”.

Penney’s philosophy for his new store was to treat customers the way he would want to be treated; to charge a fair price for quality merchandise, and to charge one price to all customers, regardless of their social status. In 1904, he opened another store and then another, until in July, 1912, James Penny had a chain of 34 stores. By now, he had established what he called “The Penney Idea”, which was, he said, “his company’s mission statement”, and the centerpiece was a promise to his customers – honor, confidence, service, and cooperation.

In 1946, James Penny retired with 1612 stores in his chain. And, of course, we all know the chain of stores – the J.C. Penney Company. You see, the J.C. Penney stores we all know and love started with one small boy’s foundation belief and conviction – to treat people, all people, with respect and dignity; to work hard, to conduct himself in a respectable way, and, with God’s Help, to serve others.

Years later, Penney explained, “In setting up a business under the name of the Golden Rule, I was publicly binding myself and my business relations to a Principle which had been a real and intimate part of my family upbringing. To me, this sign on the store was much more than a trade name. We took our slogan, ‘Golden Rule Store’, with strict literalness. Our idea was to make money and build business through serving the community with fair dealings and honest value”.

Wow, what a testimony! Wouldn’t it be great if today, all in America longed for a heart that practices the Golden Rule?

Tell me what you think.

God bless you!

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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