“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 most famous speech in the history of our nation was delivered on November 19, 1863 at a cemetery in a small Pennsylvania town by President Abraham Lincoln. It was not a long speech – only 272 words lasting less than three minutes. In fact the speech was so short, photographers didn’t even get a picture.

But just what was it about that 3 minute speech that made it so very powerful?  Truly no one there that day expected the powerful impact that event and that speech would have on history. Those present that day remarked later that it didn’t appear to be a well-planned speech. Some even noted that it seemed he was still writing down just what he would say while waiting on the platform to be introduced.

So then, what was it that made that speech so famous? It was what had happened there only a few short months before in Gettysburg. You see, our nation was in a terrible civil war, and tens of millions of men had left their farms and families to fight for their cause; and although the Northern armies were larger in number and better equipped, the South was actually winning the war – and General Robert E. Lee had a plan to have his Southern armies fight their way into Washington, DC. – He knew that if he could attack and take the Nation’s capital, he knew that the North would have to surrender.

But just exactly what happened there at Gettysburg?

What happened in Gettysburg was not planned by anyone, but two large armies totaling almost 170,000 men literally came upon each other strictly by accident near this small town, Gettysburg, and the battle that took place over the next three days was the harshest single battle in the history of our Nation, with over 43,000 Union and Confederate soldiers killed or wounded.

The battlefield was a terrible picture of suffering and blood and death. According to one account a small creek running through the battlefield was literally turned red from the soldier’s shed blood. When a local schoolhouse was turned into a makeshift hospital for the wounded, the blood ran so deep they had to drill holes in the floor just for the blood to drain. On July 3, 1863, when the Battle of Gettysburg ended, there were so many graves there that they actually turned part of the battlefield into a cemetery.

So when Abraham Lincoln spoke that day to commemorate that Gettysburg Cemetery he felt whatever he said would not be enough. He said,

“We cannot consecrate this ground. 

The brave men living and dead who struggled here have 

consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.

 The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, 

but it can never forget what they did here…”

You see, it wasn’t what Abraham Lincoln said that day that made his speech so powerful – it was what the soldiers had done there – they had given their last full measure of devotion to a Nation they each loved enough to die for. This is the great task we have before us always – to remember, to honor, to never forget those who have given their last full measure of devotion.

Please do not forget, please do not forget. There is always a price to pay for freedom – that price has been paid.

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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