I have a book on my shelf called Springs In the Valley, by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman. Recently I pulled it down and looked it over. It’s an oldie, published in 1939. The paper dustjacket is crackly, the pages yellowing, and that musty old-book smell reaches my nose as it lies in front of me. Just the kind of book I love.
Mrs. Cowman also authored Streams in the Desert, a similar and possibly more familiar book. Mr. and Mrs. Cowman’s story is fascinating. Springs In the Valley is a book of daily devotional thoughts incorporating Scripture, anecdotes, quotations, hymns, and poems. I am keeping the book open on my desk and spend a few minutes most days reading it. It’s one of those heart-warming resources that renews your love for Christ and your motivation to live for and serve Him. Here is one of the stories from its pages that challenged me. This account is known in Christian history as The 40 Martyrs of Sevaste.
They held their lives cheap.
Revelation 12:11, Weymouth
The persecution of the Christians during the reign of Marcus Aurelius was very bitter. The Emperor himself decreed the punishment of forty of the men who had refused to bow down to his image.
“Strip to the skin!” he commanded. They did so. “Now, go and stand on that frozen lake,” he commanded, “until you are prepared to abandon your Nazarene-God!”
And forty naked men marched out into that howling storm on a winter’s night. As they took their places on the ice they lifted up their voices and sang:
“Christ, forty wrestlers have come out to wrestle for Thee;
to win for Thee the victory; to win from Thee the crown.”
After a while, those standing by and watching noticed a disturbance among the men. One man had edged away, broken into a run, entered the temple and prostrated himself before the image of the Emperor.
The Captain of the Guard, who had witnessed the bravery of the men and whose heart had been touched by their teaching, tore off his helmet, threw down his spear, and disrobing himself, took up the cry as he took the place of the man who had weakened. The compensation was not slow in coming, for as the dawn broke there were forty corpses on the ice.
From Springs In the Valley, 280-281
How “cheaply” do you hold your life? Is it of more value to you than Christ? How will you respond when persecution comes? Who is watching, and may be won by the witness of your life, and of your death?