Heroes Among Us
On Veterans Day, I often consider the privilege I had many years ago, spending the day with WWII hero, Louis Zamperini. Our 700 Club crew traveled to his home in California, where I interviewed him regarding his book, Devil at my Heels. His wartime struggle for survival would later receive greater attention in Laura Hillenbrand’s bestselling book, Unbroken, and Angelina Jolie’s film of the same title. Zamperini endured trauma that is nearly unbelievable. His military plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean. He survived weeks in a life raft surrounded by sharks and remained alive in part by catching albatross. Then was captured by the Japanese and sent to camps where he was tortured and nearly starved. Prior to the Allied victory, he received especially brutal treatment from a Japanese Officer nicknamed, “The Bird.”
Upon his return to the United States, Louis coped with the war raging in his soul by leaning on alcohol to medicate himself. An evening spent at a Billy Graham crusade changed his life, as he accepted Christ into his restless heart, stopped using booze, and even forgave his captors. He later traveled to Japan to do so in person. Americans have come to celebrate the grit, survival, and tender heart of Zamperini, yet the day he and I spent together he said he was, “no hero.” A grateful nation disagrees and counts his death a few years ago as a loss for this country.
We are surrounded by heroes like this every day—our veterans. True, they may not have fallen from a crashing plane into the vast ocean below. Or been sent to POW camps to be tortured. However, those in uniform have sacrificed in a way the civilian world can never appreciate or understand. Consider a father hugging his wife and children on the morning of a six-month deployment. Or a young woman heading overseas for a second tour, once again missing Christmas with her family. The band of brothers in tight quarters on a submarine, with limited contact to the outside world, and not seeing the sun for weeks. Or those on the battlefront heading to potential death, as they take the fight for freedom to a vulnerable part of the world in need of their courage and skill. Or the one who returns home with life-changing injuries, praying an amputation will not be necessary. Our veterans. So many will never be known by an adoring public. People won’t be aware of the difficulty returning service men and women have trying to sleep through the night, being kept awake by nightmares, or the wounds suffered in battle. Our veterans, our heroes.
Do you know a military family? Can you consider a way to honor and show gratitude for the sacrifice they make each day? If you’re like me, you often see veterans wearing a baseball cap stating the war they served in, and what branch of the Armed Forces they’re a part of. I have never regretted thanking these folks and showing them honor, for putting others before themselves. A Scripture passage I value is 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NIV):
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.
So many veterans have been living examples of this high calling—courageously standing for others with strength and love. It largely goes unrecognized. Giving honor to our veterans is important and simple. Remember, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act” (Proverbs 3:27). Receiving honor from a grateful American is not too much to ask.
Proverbs 16:9 9In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.
16:25 25There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.
We often go through life guessing which way is best. A man who wants to please the LORD will ask for His direction and help in decisions. Sometimes the answer comes clearly, and at other times there seems to be no answer at all. Yet because of our situation, we must make the choice we think is best. Scripture declares that the LORD has already planned our steps. He has ordained each day of our life to teach us and draw us closer to Himself. We often fret over our decisions, but what a peace to know that when we choose what we believe to be the LORD’s will, we will either have His instruction that we have made a mistake or we will go on in the steps He has already ordered.
The other side of this coin is the second verse above, which is repeated in the proverbs. To go by what looks good or seems right to oneself may end in disaster. Only God can see all the consequences from a decision. We need to take the time to seek God’s direction. Just because it looks good to men, or even may be a success in the eyes of the world, doesn’t mean it is good for you. So what are we to do?
Commit your way to the LORD. Seek to know His will. Get the counsel of godly people. Make your decision with a heart surrendered to God. Then, trust that if you have erred, the LORD will make it clear to you and show you how to correct your error. It is not as if God cannot get through to us. As long as we have a surrendered heart that is listening, He can make His will clear to us.
Consider: If you are seeking to know God’s will, He can make it known to you. Until He does, keep going in the direction He has led you so far.
The Thanksgiving Factor
In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
In the classic autobiography, The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom tells of her sufferings at the hands of the Nazis during the evil reign of Adolph Hitler. Corrie and her sister, Betsie, were incarcerated at the Nazi concentration camp, Ravensbruck, and experienced terrible atrocities there. On one occasion, they were forced to disrobe before the German soldiers. In that awful, humiliating moment, an amazing discovery came to Corrie’s mind: “They took Jesus’ clothes too. He hung naked for me.” When she relayed that wondrous thought to Betsie, she gasped and said, “Oh, Corrie, and I never thanked Him for it.”
One of the things that made Corrie and Betsie such dynamic Christians was the fact that the chose to see life from God’s perspective. In the worst of situations, they found new insights to praise and thank God.
The Bible tells us that we are to give thanks in everything, the good things AND the bad things. In Psalm 50:23, God says, “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me.” In the hard times, thanksgiving is difficult. It is definitely a sacrifice to thank God in a Nazi concentration camp, but it is so very necessary. Thanksgiving honors God, and when you and I honor God, He honors us (1 Samuel 2:30).
How is your thanksgiving factor? Are you facing tough times? Have you been griping and complaining about the things in your life that are hard, lonely and frustrating? Why not try praising and thanking God for your difficulty. He knows about it, He is over it, and He cares for you. Without question, He has a purpose in every trial and tribulation. Start today to live a life of thanksgiving. If you will do it, I promise you on the authority of the Word of God, your attitude will change, the people around you will be blessed, and Jesus Christ will be glorified and honored.
Healing for the wounded
“He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3
Suggested Further Reading: Isaiah 57:15-21
Poor sinner, breathe thy wish to him, let thy sigh come before him, for “he healeth the broken in heart.” There thou liest wounded on the plain. “Is there no physician?” thou criest; “Is there none?” Around thee lie thy fellow-sufferers, but they are as helpless as thyself. Thy mournful cry cometh back without an answer, and space alone hears thy groan. Ah! The battle-field of sin has one kind visitor; it is not abandoned to the vultures of remorse and despair. I hear footsteps approaching; they are the gentle footsteps of Jehovah. With a heart full of mercy, he is hasting to his repenting child. In his hands there are no thunders, in his eyes no anger, on his lips no threatening. See how he bows himself over the mangled heart! Hear how he speaks! “Come, now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” And if the patient dreads to look in the face of the mighty being who addresses him, the same loving mouth whispers, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for my name’s sake.” See how he washes every wound with sacred water from the side of Jesus; mark how he spreads the ointment of forgiving grace, and binds around each wound the fair white linen, which is the righteousness of saints. Does the mourner faint under the operation? He puts medicine to his lips, exclaiming, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love.” Yes, it is true—most true—neither dream nor fiction, “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” How condescending is the Lord of heaven, thus to visit poor forsaken man.
For meditation: Physical health is desirable, but short-lived; spiritual health is far more to be desired and will last for ever (3 John 2). We can live for a while with physical illness, but the unbeliever will die eternally with spiritual disease.