What we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will give us later (Romans 8:18).
They are known as the 40 martyrs of Sebaste.
In the year 320, Constantine was Emperor of the West and Licinius of the East. Licinius, under pressure from Constantine, had agreed to legalize Christianity in his territory, and the two made an alliance (cemented by the marriage of Licinius to Constantia the sister of Constantine), but now Licinius broke the alliance and made a new attempt to suppress Christianity. He ordered his soldiers to renounce their faith in Christ or suffer the punishment of a cruel death.
In the "Thundering Legion," stationed near Sebaste in Armenia (now Sivas in Turkey), 40 soldiers refused, and when promises, threats, and beatings failed to shake their commitment to Christ, they were stripped naked one evening and herded onto the middle of a frozen lake, and told, "You may come ashore when you are ready to deny your faith."
To tempt them, fires were built on shore, with warm baths, blankets, clothing, and hot food and drink close by. The mother of the youngest soldier was present and encouraged her son from the bank.
These Christian warriors bravely replied, "You can have our armor and even our bodies, but our hearts' allegiance belongs to Jesus Christ." They refused to renounce their Savior, who had died for them. Instead, they huddled close together and sang a song of victory.
As night deepened, 39 men stood firm, but one broke and ran to the shore. Then a remarkable thing happened.
The officer in charge of guarding these men had secretly come to believe in Christ. He then replaced the man who had broken rank and walked out onto the ice. He threw off his clothes and confessed his faith in Christ.
At sunrise the roman soldiers found 40 frozen men who gave their all for the cause of their Lord.
We still have what some scholars believe to be an authentic eyewitness account of their martyrdom. It includes farewell messages to their family and friends written shortly before their deaths.
Dear friends, if your Christian walk ever seems weary and you may encounter opposition, remember "the 40 martyrs of Sebaste" and how blessed you are.
Or think of the apostle Paul, who wrote about his "troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger" (2 Corinthians 6:4-5, NIV).
Or think of our glorious Savior, who "was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.... He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth" (Isaiah 53:5-6, KJV).
Yours for fulfilling the Great Commission each year until our Lord returns,
The late Dr. Bill Bright was Founder and President/Chairman Emeritus of Campus Crusade for Christ, an organization which began as a campus ministry in 1951 and now has more than 27,000 full-time staff and up to 500,000 trained volunteer staff in 196 countries in areas representing 99.6 percent of the world's population. In the past 50 years, Campus Crusade for Christ has seen approximately 6 billion exposures to the gospel worldwide. The film, "JESUS," which Bright conceived and funded through Campus Crusade for Christ, is the most widely translated and viewed film of any type ever produced. Since its use began in 1980, the film has been translated into 839 languages and viewed or listened to by over 5.7 billion people in 228 countries. Dr. Bright was also the author of more than fifty books. Visit campuscrusade.com for more details
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