“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?

Not long after the Boston Tea Party, the British government set into place a number of new Act and Rules and Taxes intended to break the backs and spirits of the colonists. In response, the colonists appointed representative to try and speak to the British authorities to reconsider and repeal the laws – but they would not listen. So, the colonists were forced to form groups of men to defend their cities. These defenders had to be ready, prepared to fight in a minute’s notice – so they came to be known as “Minutemen”; and it wasn’t long until those Minutemen were called to their assigned task.

You see, the British had plans to occupy Bunker Hill because of its strategic position. It was across the Charles River from the city of Boston and they knew that from this vantage point they can more easily capture that city and the surrounding area. But before the British could take that Hill, the Minutemen of Boston found out their plan. Under the leadership of General William Prescott, the Minutemen moved up to Bunker Hill to defend it. They began to dig ditches and build great walls of dirt to protect them from the British onslaught which would surely come.

When the British military leaders discovered what these Minutemen were doing, they began to shower Bunker Hill with their powerful cannons from their battleships in the harbor. During this onslaught the Minutemen faithfully continued in their work building up the dirt walls. Even as the Redcoats formed their columns below and the massive British forces began to move into a position to attack, even then the digging still continued.

Then, as the church bell struck three o’clock, thousands of British soldiers began to move up Bunker Hill. As the Minutemen watched the columns of Redcoats move closer and closer and heard the beatings of the war drums, all they could do was to pray that somehow God would deliver them from certain defeat and death. But General Prescott watched and waited as the massive army moved up higher, closer; he knew that this army of volunteers had only a limited amount of ammunition and could not fire until they literally saw the whites of the British soldier’s eyes.

And then, what seemed at the final moment, Prescott gave the order, “fire”, and the whole top of Bunker Hill exploded in a sheet of gunfire. The British army was devastated with as many as nine and ten soldiers in each company wounded or dead. As they pulled back down the Hill, some of the colonists sighed in relief, “Was the battle now over?”

But after only a brief time to reorganize, the British drums began to beat again and a new fresh line of Redcoats made their way up the Hill, literally walking over their own dead and wounded. This time Prescott held back his order to fire until the British soldiers were even closer – twice as close as before – then came the order again, “fire”, and almost the entire British front rank was destroyed. Those who could move back down the Hill.

The Minuteman checked their ammunition – it was almost gone. They passed around what was left of their ammo and waited to see what would happen.  There was a slight pause, a time to think, a time to reflect on one’s life and death, a time to try, a time to wonder, “Was it really worth all this? Was the British rule really that bad?”

In far too short a moment the wait was over. Unbelievably, the British army was preparing for a third attack. With bayonets drawn and attached, the Redcoats removed their heavy field packs, and this time when the word was given to attack, they came on the run with their bayonets leveled.

The Minutemen fired the last of their ammo, but this time the British soldiers would not be stopped. They came up into the trenches, and as they did, the Minutemen with bayonets fought hand to hand while those with ammo left stood back and took aim – there was death everywhere. The Minutemen stood their ground until, finally, General Prescott ordered those still alive and able to pull back down the Hill – the Battle for Bunker Hill was over. The British had taken Bunker Hill, but at a terrible price. Of the 2,200 British soldiers fighting, almost half had been killed or wounded – 441 Minutemen had died, but they had proven to the British and to themselves that with God’s help they could stand toe to toe against the most powerful army in the world.

But was it the guns and weapons that saved the colonists that day? Was it all just as simple as “Whoever has the most guns wins?” The Minutemen knew the answer. One of the Minutemen, a corporal Amos Farnsworth, after the battle wrote these words in his diary. He said, “Oh the goodness of God for saving my life. Although they fell on my right hand and on my left, what a wonderful act of deliverance God gave to me. God, lead me to never distrust Thee. May I never trust solely in my arm of flesh.” Corporal Farnsworth knew just who had saved him.

You see, it’s the powerful Hand of Almighty God that keeps our nation going, and I believe the reason we are suffering so much in our nation today is because we have pushed Him aside as a nation; and I believe that if we do not remedy this now and put Him back in his rightful place as the true Father of our nation, sadly, soon, we will be through.

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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