I read a story today that truly made me stop and think. It was the story of the a group of Christian martyrs known as the Holy Forty or the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste. For those of you who don't know the story, in 316 Emperor Licinius of the Eastern Roman Empire proclaimed it to be illegal to be a Christian. This of course was in direct retaliation to Emperor Constantine's, of the Western Roman Empire, legalization of Christianity in 313. The penalty for being a Christian under the rule of Licinius was death. All Christians of the Eastern Empire were to renounce there faith or be tortured and eventually killed. Many Christian renounced there faith. But there were some who didn't. In particular there was a group of forty soldiers who refused to renounce there faith. So according to the law they were tortured extensively.
Classic Roman torture technique were used. Hooks were stuck in the sides of the men and there flesh was pulled off. But the men held strong. They encouraged each other. They kept the faith no matter how much pain they experianced. The men were so resilient that Emperor Licinius developed a new form of torture and execution. He took the men to the town of Sebaste and had them stripped naked and forced on a frozen lake. They could either freeze to death of renounce there faith. When the men heard of the new punishment they rejoiced. They praised God that they would soon be in communion with Him. There are several variations of the what happened next. Regardless, all forty men died. They paid the ultimate price.
I read this story with feelings of humility coming over me. I try to place myself in those mens shoes but I cannot fathom how it must have been. I think have trivial my problems are. But I am reminded that the same Holy Spirit that strengthened those men is the same Holy Spirit that dwells and strengthens me. That the power of Christ can strengthen us to endure more than we ever thought we could.
How often do I quench this powerful Spirit in my life? How often does God call us to be great witnesses for the kingdom like these men and we don't live it out. I know this is a common occurrence in my life. Do I let God sanctify me in my life? Is it not simply allowing God to help us die to our sinful nature? Do we try to make it more complicated that that? We must follow the conviction of the Holy Spirit. These men allowed themselves to be Sanctified to the point of where it took them to the point of Glorification. That is the end result of anyone's Christian life. We must not quench the work the Holy Ghost in us. We must work constantly towards our eventual glorification with Christ. The only thing stopping Christ from purifying your life is yourself. He has given us the ability to overcome and we must simply live in it. I Peter 1:13-15 (RSV) Therefore gird up your minds, be sober, set your hope fully upon the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all you conduct,