When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.
- Genesis 5:21-24
As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.
- 2 Kings 2:11
“Nevel Adams, from Waco, Texas, who was sitting with the group,
revealed his true feelings, ‘If anyone needed God, it’s now!’
“A soldier cursed a blue streak. Nevel walked over and asked him, ‘Do you know where the wicked go after death?’
“’They go to hell,’ was the standard answer.
“’And what is hell?’ Nevel asked. ‘Can you tell me that?’
“’A pitful of fire!’
“’And should you like to fall in that pit and be burned there forever?’
“’What must you do to avoid it?’
“’Well, Nevel, I must stay in good health and not die.’
“Nevel shook his head and walked into the sunshine.”
- Abie Abraham, Oh, God, Where Are You?
The two Scripture references are of the two people who did not die the first death. These are the only two people in recorded history to not die. These two great men of faith were distinguished by their faith. Yet, many non-believers, who lack faith, think they can be the odds.
Most likely, we will all pass away. We need to prepare. Nevel Adams, in the quote, was referring to the second death (Revelation 20:14), but the young soldier wasn’t buying Adams’ argument.
The quote today is from Abie Abraham’s book, Oh, God, Where Are You? It is an autobiographical story about Staff Sgt. Abraham and his life before the Japanese invaded the Philippines, during the war from Bataan to the Death March to two different POW camps to liberation, and finally as he becomes the “Ghost of Bataan,” working with the local people to find the bodies of those who died along the road in the Death March.
Since Memorial Day is approaching, I thought it appropriate to ponder life and death in combat, through Memorial Day, but look at amazing faith at the same time. What better way to do so than to read a book by the Ghost of Bataan while he reminisces. He admits that some of the ‘conversations’ were typical and not word-for-word accurate. You couldn’t blame him for getting a few facts wrong over the years. But S/Sgt. Abraham, at the time, took many notes, risking his life. He buried the notes each time the Japanese inspected his barracks in the POW camp. They would have destroyed the notes an killed him. His notes became the closure that many soldiers’ loved ones needed – to know why their son wasn’t coming home.
It is interesting that Abraham noted the name of the believer from Waco, Texas and never mentions the name of the atheist who was verbally attacking him.
It is said that there are no atheists in foxholes. No one knows the origin of this statement, but some theorize that William Thomas Cummings, a chaplain during the Battle of Bataan, used it in one of his sermons. Maybe Abie Abraham attended the service when the words were spoken. Abraham mentions him several times in the book. Father Cummings, as a prisoner being taken to Japan, died aboard a ship when the ship sank.
Yet, this prisoner of war who argued with Nevel Adams was not convinced, regardless of Father Cummings’ claim. In talking with veterans of World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, and the Gulf Wars, I have gotten a wide range of responses. From believing until turning away from God after they survived the hell of war to being strongly against the idea of a God until they saw death approaching them and then cried out for salvation. The trials of our lives test our faith, or lack of it.
Along the Death March, Abraham describes how sudden death could come, to some a relief. Note that the soldiers on Bataan had been trapped with few provisions. They were weak and starving before the march began. If you could not keep pace with the others and started lagging behind, you were quickly killed by whatever means was available at the time. In the POW camps of the Philippines, malaria and dysentery killed more than the sword or gun. Medicine was nearly non-existent. Starvation took its toll also.
Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who did not come back home to their families.
In a way, Abraham’s book allows those who were killed to live on in print, a reminder that a soldier is someone’s son, and now in some cases their daughter.
But getting to the young soldier’s argument with Nevel Adams. Can we really continue to live, thus avoiding the decision of whether or not we should believe?
It never seems to work that way. For those thinking that they have put off the decision for later, you are wrong. You have decided against God. It is not a simple concept of believing that Jesus existed or that He died for our sins. We must trust Him to be our Lord, our all-powerful commander-in-chief. You will remain on the outside, looking in, until you accept Jesus as your Savior. It does you no good to argue that you had not decided. Even now, in peacetime, you could die from a massive stroke or heart attack or a car wreck – today. You could be gone in the blink of an eye.
Nothing is ever said of the young soldier after this encounter. Did he try to escape and was killed? Did he starve to death? Did he die of any of the diseases that killed so many in the camps? Or is he still living, nearing the age of 100 years old?
We do not know the time or place. The time to accept Jesus as your Savior is now.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.