“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 today who are down on America because of the present difficult conditions in our country. They believe that life in America should always be easy and prosperous, and when things get tough, they want to complain.

But those who believe that the history of America has always been a soft bed of roses and that most all before us have had an easy road – these folks are sorely mistaken. In fact, to the contrary – studies of our U.S. history show quite clear the substantial difficulties and hardships we have faced in our nation, and have overcome.

But, here’s the question – what part does each of us play today? What part must each of us play today to help keep America great? And is it all just about getting up every day and going to work? Actually no, the greatness of America or any nation is not just about work or vocation – it’s more about this ideal of virtue. Now that’s certainly not a word we hear much today, but our founding fathers believed that virtue in our America was a necessity for our success as a nation.

But just what is virtue? According to Webster’s Dictionary, virtue is the “characteristic of promoting the collective wellbeing of society; and that our virtues actually originate from our inner most thoughts and desires.” Simply said, to successfully function in this world today, each individual must have a deeply rooted core of underlying values that drive and direct who we are.

And here’s the interesting part of virtue – our virtues are most often not tried or tested during easy times in our lives. In fact, it is actually quite the opposite.

I recently came across the writings of Abigail Adams, the wife of our second U.S. President, John Adams, and one of her quotes certainly caught my attention. Regarding virtue, Abigail Adams said this:

“It is not in the calm still of life that great characters are formed – it is the great necessities of life that call out great virtues.”

Abigail Adams wrote these words over 200 years ago when people spoke a little differently, so her words may be a little hard to follow, but in our own way of speaking today, this is what Mrs. Adams was saying:

“When life is easy; when you are safe and peaceful and secure in your circumstance; that is not the place where great character is formed. It is only during times of great hardship and difficulty that you grow in character and learn who you truly are inside.”

And, believe me, Abigail Adams knew much about hardship and difficulty and challenge, so she was speaking from a position of authority,

The message here? Let us work hard, let us strive to grow and prosper in our work, but let us realize that our greatness is not in our labor or our economy or our vocation; our strength as a person, as a nation, is in our ideals, our character, our virtues. And great virtues come from circumstances of great necessity. Therefore, let us see hardship not as a wall to block us from moving forward, but as a series of steps in a stairway to take us to a higher level in our lives.

And this is my prayer today for our America – that our present hardships as a nation, as a people – that they make us a better people – the great and good America that we should be.

Don’t Stop Praying!

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.

Featured Image: By Ildar Sagdejev (Specious) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4386851

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