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Sunday, May 5, 2013

“40 Brave Soldiers for Christ”

The book Jesus Freaks recounts the story of The Thundering Legion. In the winter of 320 AD in Sebaste Armenia, the eastern portion of the Roman Empire (modern day Turkey), 40 Roman soldiers who had given their hearts to Jesus were confronted with a demand to make offerings to Roman pagan gods. Their story is a testimony to the strength of the Jesus’ joy and its impact on others.

The Roman governor stood resolutely before the forty Roman soldiers of the Thundering Legion. “I command you to make an offering to the roman gods. If you will not, you will be stripped of your military status.”

The forty soldiers all believed firmly in the Lord Jesus. They knew they must not deny Him or sacrifice to the Roman idols, no matter what the governor would do to them.

Camdidus spoke for the legion, “Nothing is dearer or of greater honor to us than Christ our God.”

The governor then tried other tactics to get them to deny their faith. First he offered them money and imperial honors. Then he threatened them with torments and torture with the rack and with fire.

Camdidus replied, “You offer us money that remains behind and glory that fades away. You seek to make us friends of the Emperor, but alienate us from the true King. We desire one gift, the crown of righteousness. We are anxious for one glory, the glory of the heavenly kingdom. We love honors, those of heaven. You threaten fearful torments and call our godliness a crime, but you will not find us fainthearted or attached to this life or easily stricken with terror. For the love of God, we are prepared to endure any kind of torture.”

The governor was enraged. Now he wanted them to die a slow, painful death. They were stripped naked and herded to the middle of a frozen lake. He set soldiers to guard them to prevent any from coming to shore and escaping.

The forty encouraged each other as though they were going to battle. “How many of our companions in arms fell on the battle front, showing themselves loyal to an earthly king? Is it possible for us to fail to sacrifice our lives in faithfulness to the true King? Let us not turn aside, O warriors, let us not turn our backs in flight from the devil.” They spent the night courageously bearing their pain and rejoicing in the hope of soon being with the Lord. [One account states the soldiers sang the words Forty brave soldiers for Christ, forty brave soldiers for Christ over and over as they endured their persecution.]

To increase the torment of the Christians, baths of hot water were put around the lake. With these the governor hoped to weaken the firm resolve of the freezing men. He told them, “You may come ashore when you are ready to deny your faith.” In the end, one of [the forty] did weaken, came off the ice, and got into a warm bath.

When one of the guards on the shore saw him desert, he himself took the place of the traitor. Surprising everyone with the suddenness of his conversion, he threw off his clothes, and ran to join the naked ones on the ice, crying out loudly, “I am a Christian!”[1]

“Forty brave soldiers for Christ,” could you, would you sing that song in the face of persecution? When the hot baths of this world are paraded before you, will you stay the course and be sustained by Jesus’ joy, or will you run from your Savior to the comfort of this world? What would you do, what will you do? I pray you choose to say, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.”

 



[1] DC Talk and voice of the Martyrs, Jesus Freaks, (Tulsa, OK: Albury Pubs., 1999) pgs. 96-97.

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