A Roman emperor 1900 years ago wrote a letter proclaiming the power of God and made my day! My faith just received a power boost that was sorely needed. His words were buried deep in the bible software I use, among the many thousands of useless documents. But by divine appointment I just happened to search the word “host” and then clicked on this epistle written by Marcus Aurelius – the very same guy who dies early in the movie “Gladiator”.
Imagine you are the leader of an army; you are outnumbered 197 to one; you are on foot 780 miles from supply lines; you’re starving and dehydrated, having run out of food and water for five days. You’re a pagan and you’ve prayed to the various gods you’ve grown up to worship and got nowhere. In desperation you remember that there are these crazy people called Christians among your men who worship a different god. Your country consider them weirdos and persecutes them. But 977,000 enemy soldiers and barbarians are about to have you and your 20,000 men for lunch. Sound like a scene out of the movie Gladiator? Not exactly. But the same Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius is leading a tiny force into insurmountable odds. The year 153AD.
Bear in mind that this is fact not fiction. It is told by a public edict by the emperor of a huge empire proclaiming that the God of these Christians just gave him an impossible victory. He proclaims that from that moment on persecution and prosecution of Christians would be punishable by death by burning.
Now, here it is Anno Domini 2,010 and we Christian believers in the Western world have become disbelievers! We pray disbelieving prayers, expecting nothing! We pray to a distant, uncaring god – small g! Those of us who “believe” in miracles mostly pray but expect little or nothing to happen. Half the Church thinks that miracles and a God who takes our side mightily ended with the death of the disciples of Jesus. The other half “believes” in the power of God, but the results are almost the same.
This quote just stands out powerfully: “And simultaneously with their casting themselves on the ground, and praying to God (a God of whom I am ignorant), water poured from heaven, upon us most refreshingly cool, but upon the enemies of Rome a withering hail. And immediately we recognised the presence of God following on the prayer-a God unconquerable and indestructible. Founding upon this, then, let us pardon such as are Christians, lest they pray for and obtain such a weapon against ourselves.”
God, I pray that your Holy Spirit would renew our minds, soften our hearts to BELIEVE Your Word in its entirety. Both the easy parts and the hard parts. Let us today resolve to pray expecting great miracles. Let us “cast ourselves to the ground” in prayer, for ourselves and your Church to walk in purity and victory. To obey your commissions and commands in the power of Your Holy Spirit! Bring it God!!!
Here is the document in its entirety. Well worth reading for yourself.
Epistle of Marcus Aurelius
“Epistle of Marcus Aurelius to the Senate, in Which He Testifies that the Christians Were the Cause of His Victory.
The Emperor Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Germanicus, Parthicus, Sarmaticus, to the People of Rome, and to the sacred Senate greeting: I explained to you my grand design, and what advantages I gained on the confines of Germany, with much labour and suffering, in consequence of the circumstance that I was surrounded by the enemy; I myself being shut up in Carnuntum by seventy-four cohorts, nine miles off. And the enemy being at hand, the scouts pointed out to us, and our general Pompeianus showed us that there was close on us a mass of a mixed multitude of 977,000 men, which indeed we saw; and I was shut up by this vast host, having with me only a battalion composed of the first, tenth, double and marine legions. Having then examined my own position, and my host, with respect to the vast mass of barbarians and of the enemy, I quickly betook myself to prayer to the gods of my country. But being disregarded by them, I summoned those who among us go by the name of Christians. And having made inquiry, I discovered a great number and vast host of them, and raged against them, which was by no means becoming; for afterwards I learned their power. Wherefore they began the battle, not by preparing weapons, nor arms, nor bugles; for such preparation is hateful to them, on account of the God they bear about in their conscience. Therefore it is probable that those whom we suppose to be atheists, have God as their ruling power entrenched in their conscience. For having cast themselves on the ground, they prayed not only for me, but also for the whole army as it stood, that they might be delivered from the present thirst and famine. For during five days we had got no water, because there was none; for we were in the heart of Germany, and in the enemy’s territory. And simultaneously with their casting themselves on the ground, and praying to God (a God of whom I am ignorant), water poured from heaven, upon us most refreshingly cool, but upon the enemies of Rome a withering hail. And immediately we recognised the presence of God following on the prayer-a God unconquerable and indestructible. Founding upon this, then, let us pardon such as are Christians, lest they pray for and obtain such a weapon against ourselves. And I counsel that no such person be accused on the ground of his being a Christian. But if any one be found laying to the charge of a Christian that he is a Christian, I desire that it be made manifest that he who is accused as a Christian, and acknowledges that he is one, is accused of nothing else than only this, that he is a Christian; but that he who arraigns him be burned alive. And I further desire, that he who is entrusted with the government of the province shall not compel the Christian, who confesses and certifies such a matter, to retract; neither shall he commit him. And I desire that these things be confirmed by a decree of the Senate. And I command this my edict to be published in the Forum of Trajan, in order that it may be read. The prefect Vitrasius Pollio will see that it be transmitted to all the provinces round about, and that no one who wishes to make use of or to possess it be hindered from obtaining a copy from the document I now publish.”
(from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1, PC Study Bible, Copyright © 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)