I love spending quality time in God’s creation, the Great Outdoors. I also love capturing those moments with pictures and words. Stated another way, I love “framing time” with a camera and stories. I would like to inspire others to seek their own outside adventures and live an active life with no regrets, Above all else, my main goal is to see God’s hand in everything and share it. Welcome !
Just One Banana
It has been said that prayer is the believer’s vital breath and dynamic working force. It has also been said that prayer is the highest exercise of the human intellect.
At the end of a speech, President “Ike” Eisenhower once impressed upon his listeners that, “Prayer is still the mightiest force in the world and, when used by dedicated men and women, nothing in this world remains impossible.”
Considering that prayer is an honoring communion with the Creator of All and that through prayer, God gives us the privilege to be included in His actions upon the earth, I would have to strongly agree with every one of the previous statements.
Prayer truly is the most powerful force on earth, and, accordingly then, is the believer’s most formidable weapon, yet it is probably the most neglected and disregarded aspect of many Christians’ lives (myself included, which is why I started writing this article).
I have heard many excuses to defend the lack of prayer in a believer’s life. Some of the most often used and widely repeated include, “Why pray when God is in control and already knows what we need before we ask?”, “God doesn’t hear my prayers”, and “God is silent and never answers my prayers” (I, myself, have used all of them a time or two).
So how do we address those excuses?
The answer: Step by step with the Word of God.
Firstly, according to Scripture, it is a sin to not pray.
“As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right.” 1 Samuel 12:23 NIV
1 Thessalonians 5:17 NIV
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
Ephesians 6:18 NIV
Obviously, prayerlessness is a sin. Furthermore, we are instructed to pray continually so unless we are always in an attitude of prayer, due to inversional omission, we are sinning.
Secondly, it is true that the Father knows what we need before we ask (Ref. Mathew 6:8). He is omniscient — all knowing.
“Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.” Psalms 139:4 NIV
But it is also true that, “we have not, because we ask not!” (Ref. James 4:2).
Thirdly, God is in control and His sovereignty should never be in question.
“Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.”
Psalms 115:3 NIV
“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16:9 NIV
But in His extraordinary and magnificent ways, He has allowed us to participate in His actions through prayer.
Edward McKendree Bounds (1835 –1913), best known as E.M. Bounds, was a Methodist clergy, an attorney, and a well known writer. Amongst his writings, he authored nine books on the subject of prayer. He penned many thought provoking statements worthy of attention, but a brief one that declares much is, “God shapes the world by prayer.”
There are multiple events in the Bible that would never have happened without prayer.
The demon-possessed girl would never have been made whole if her mother had not cried out to Jesus (Ref. Mark 7:24-30).
The blind man outside Jericho cried, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Jesus stopped and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”
The blind man replied, “I want to see.”
Jesus said, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you!” (Ref. Luke 18:35-43)
Would either of those events happened without calling out to Jesus?
Fourthly, it is NOT true that God doesn’t hear our prayers. God hears every one of His childrens’ prayers. Every one!
“The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.”
Proverbs 15:29 NIV
“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.”
Psalms 34:17 NIV
“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”
Jeremiah 29:12 NIV
Fifthly, God answers prayer. He either answers “yes”, “no”, or “not yet”. Like an onion, there are several layers involved with addressing the excuse of “God is silent and never answers prayers.”
Our prayers won’t even go beyond the ceiling if we have unconfessed sin in our lives.
“If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;”
Psalms 66:18 NIV
“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”
Isaiah 59:2 NIV
Therefore, unresolved selfishness, bitterness, discord, and unforgiveness of others will make our prayers stutter, stumble, stall, and fall right from the start. No wonder so many of our prayers get the “silent” treatment!
We must understand that God is not a genie in a bottle. That being the case, unreasonable selfishness like asking for one million dollars or a fancy sports car will get a quick “no”, or, more likely, “silence” because we are offering a prayer based on the wrong motives.
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:3 NIV
Why would God answer a prayer that obviously goes against what He has already commanded us not to do in His Word?
If we continually pray with the wrong motivation, we will become very disappointed. Nothing but silence!
Prayer was never intended to align God to our will, but to align us to His will.
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”
1 John 5:14 NIV
According to His will, not ours — that’s the key. The best way to get a prayer answered then, is to be aligned to His will. And the fastest way to get a “yes” answer to prayer is to ask for the things He has already promised in His Holy Word (I.e. Wisdom, strength, forgiveness....).
Prayers for self-glorification or self-edification will likely crash on the floor. If, however, we pray for needs that will glorify God or allow the glorification of God through us or help deliver the gospel to attentive ears then an “affirm” answer becomes much more likely.
Effectual prayer must be accompanied by faith.
“But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”
James 1:6-7 NIV
Prayer is an interesting multifaceted subject — hence the reason there are thousands of books on the subject. There are many conditionals for effective prayer, but we should never make it so complicated that it becomes cumbersome. There is a wonderful peace to be found just walking and talking with the Savior in a sincere child-like faith. Yet, we do ourselves and others a huge disservice and ratchet-up our frustration level when we oversimplify prayer. Prayer is not simple (the length of this article supports that fact). Unfortunately, in recent generational times including inside churches, we have clamored for more entertainment and distractions and less time on our knees. As a result, prayer has been slighted and whittled down to mere minutes in a day. Effectual, fervent, and productive prayer is much more than passing a want-list to God. Prayer that changes lives is a time commitment with a lot of labor intensive work. In the truest sense, dedicated and faithful saints earn their distinguished titles as “prayer warriors” because the most successful prayers are very much like wrestling matches before God.
“Prayer in its highest form and grandest success assumes the attitude of a wrestler with God.” E. M. Bounds
On the “other side” of prayer, beyond our bowed heads, uttered words, and uplifted hearts — within the spiritual realm, there are many things we cannot fully comprehend. There are spiritual battles raging that can delay answers to our prayers. In point of fact, the spiritual struggle, beyond what we see, is very real.
In the Book of Daniel, we are offered a glimpse at the “other side” and the ongoing battles. In the tenth chapter of the Book, we are told that Daniel set his mind to gain the understanding of a revelatory message he had received. He persistently fasted and prayed for three weeks with no forthcoming answer (wrestling match, indeed). Finally, after the third week was over, Daniel received a vision and an angel declared, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.” (Ref. Daniel 10:12-13).
That is a very revealing glance into the spiritual realm that gives us some significant insight to the “other side” of prayer. Daniels’ words were heard on the first day, but it took twenty-one days and the extra help of Michael, the chief prince, for the answer to get through!
We must never forget that we are at war with the principalities of darkness — the evil forces in the spiritual realm. Therefore, we must do our part in prayer. We must be persistent and patient. Honestly, God could have provided an answer, but Satan and his minions might be working overtime to prevent the answer from coming through. How do we handle that? We keep praying and confidently proclaim victory through Christ. The answer will come. Don’t give up!
Some prayers need only be asked. Others require more effort and time and must be sought. Still, others require much persistence and patience with repetitious knocking on heaven’s door. That is exactly why Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Ref. Luke 11:9-10).
The “icing on the cake” is that whether God answers “yes”, “no”, or “not yet”, we can trust and rest assured that, in all things, He works for the good of those who love Him. (Ref. Romans 8:28)
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
It was impossible! There was no way a condemned prisoner of war would even get just one banana. There was no one that would dare defy the Kenpeitai — the Japanese secret police that specialized in silencing political opposition.
Although she had only been a missionary sharing the gospel to the people of Baliem Valley, New Guinea, and had never conducted espionage in her life, the Kenpeitai weren’t interested in the truth. They intended to take her head.
Like cockroaches, the evil Kenpeitai members thrived in their dark and despicable interrogation chambers. With incredible power and overruling authority, they were nearly untouchable which allowed them to unleash sadistic and brutal torture methods. Much like the Nazi Germany Gestapo, the Kenpeitai ruled via fear and intimidation. No one stood in their way. To defy them meant certain death.
With trepidation, she heard the footsteps of the guard approaching her cell door. The rattle and fumbling of the key in the lock cemented her fears. They had come for her. She would be beaten for sure. They would start with a cane and finish with their hands. Their favorite move was a karate chop to the base of her skull sending star-blazing pain through all her extremities. And then a sword would be unsheathed, she knew. She was finished emotionally and physically. In silent agony, she screamed, “Lord, I can’t take anymore!”
The guard pushed open the door. She cringed. He smiled. Then, suddenly, with a sweeping gesture of delight, he laid ninety-two bananas at her feet and then left.
In astonished disbelief, she wept. “Lord, forgive me; I’m so ashamed. I couldn’t trust You enough for even just one banana.”
God whispered to her heart, “That’s what I delight to do, My child —the exceeding abundance above anything you ask or think.”
She knew then that nothing was impossible for her God!
That amazing faith-filled missionary woman was named Darlene Deibler Rose. I have intentionally left out much of her dramatic story and certain key elements of the banana event because I feel that everyone should read her book, “Evidence Not Seen”. It is a book that redefines humble, sincere, dedicated, devout, and prayer-filled faith — a degree of faith that is a rarity, but deeply needed today!
“Ohhh, though God slay me, yet will I trust in Him...”.
Read the book and let the resulting internal challenges of faith commence.
Just One Banana
“Orang ini musti mati”
The words had been hastily written in chalk upon the solid door. They had persistently remained there, and she had seen them every time she was forcibly and vindictively ushered through the door. She had tried to forget them, but now, more than ever, they seemed to glare at her in a diabolically sinister and menacing way. Interpreted in English, the words meant, “This person must die”.
The scribbled ominous phrase clarified the answer to the question that the Interrogator, just moments before, had hissed, “You know the penalty don’t you, for espionage work in war time?”
The male guard inserted a key into the door and opened it revealing the very tight but familiar six-foot square room. In one corner, a rudely cut and jagged kerosene tin comprised the bathroom while in the other corner, two planks nailed to cross-beams served as the bed.
Unceremoniously, he shoved her from behind sending her stumbling back into her cell of confinement. For the last few months, the bleak room with white-plastered walls and ceramic tiled floors had been all she had known except for the frequent trips to the interrogation room. The many concealed scratches underneath the barred and boarded-up window despairingly reminded her of the slow-passing days of imprisonment.
Her face was bruised. Her body was beaten. But a simple and natural beauty was hidden underneath the dirt, grime, and unkemptness. Normally, a dark brunette with soft, fair skin— the harsh tropical sun, disease, malnourishment, and stress had lightened her cropped hair to an unappealing battleship-gray and mottled her skin. Her disheveled appearance was further enhanced by her over worn and tattered skirt that hung two-sizes too large on her thin meager frame. At only eighty-pounds, she had been starved into emaciated weakness.
She collapsed against the far wall and slid down to the floor, snuggling into the folds of her encircling skirt. Tormented with fever and disease, her body trembled violently. Exhaustion swooped low over her troubled mind. As the door slammed shut and the keyed lock turned, she began to cry. The tears flowed heavy clearing the dirt around her bruised cheeks. So much pain and hurt. Her heart was broken. Her life was broken. She had lost everything including her husband. Torn apart and widowed at twenty-six years old, she hadn’t even been able to say goodbye. Now, she was unjustly condemned, without a formal trial, as an American spy. Her fate — to be beheaded by a sword.
Her emotions threatened to drain her completely. Like a breached dam, the copious tears flooded her hazel eyes and poured forth. She succumbed to the tidal wave of emotions and sobbed hard between ragged breaths. She cried until her skirt was saturated with salty wetness. She wept until foreboding darkness invaded the room.
“But My child, My grace is sufficient for thee. Not was nor shall be, but it IS sufficient.”
The whispered words echoed in her ears with warm familiarity. She knew the Voice and felt the presence of her Blessed Savior. The words filled the cracks in her broken heart and strengthened her soul. She knew that the Almighty had wrapped His loving arms around Her. She found solace and courage in His loving companionship. She cuddled close. Resting in His arms, she finally drifted off to sleep.
In the coming week, awaiting her execution, she found enough strength to pull herself up to the lintel above the door. Using the window sill and the door knob as footrests, she precariously peered through the small opening out onto the open courtyard below.
As she deeply inhaled the refreshing air blowing off the nearby Java Sea, she noticed several native female prisoners enjoying the open communal area. One particular native woman caught her eye. With darting eyes and suspicious movements, the native woman eased towards a vine-shrouded fence. Soon, as the guard’s attention was diverted, an unknown hand holding a bunch of bananas mysteriously appeared from behind the vines. The native woman snatched the bananas, and then quickly hid them in her sarong. Nonchalant and casual finesse marked her movement away from the fence. She had gotten away with it. Better than gold or silver; a bunch of beautiful bananas were her’s to enjoy. Ohhhh, what a reward — even just one banana!
Weakened from balancing and gripping the girder above the door, the condemned woman dropped from her perch to the tiled floor. Visibly shaking from exhaustion, malnourishment, and insatiable desire, she kneeled down and prayed. “Lord, I’m not asking You for a whole bunch like that woman has. I just want one banana.” In pleading and humbled sincerity, she cried, “Lord, just one banana.”
(To be continued....)
A FAITH Worth Having
Battered and dejected, the skeletonized man was barely able to stand on his own. His six-foot tall frame had been starved to the extreme with loose skin hanging off bone. At a mere ninety-seven pounds, his emaciated and haggard form wavered in unsteadiness. Naked, except for a ragged and woefully inadequate loincloth, the man was covered in filth, scars, and coagulated blood. Unkempt, greasy hair hung matted upon his bony shoulders and blended into his grimy, untrimmed beard. His withered face accented by protruding cheekbones and hollowed eyes, displayed nothing but abject humility. In his current despairing form, the man presented the lowest level to which humanity could be stripped.
He stood in stark solemness with no remorse, acutely aware that his “Good Samaritan” act was ultimately responsible for his fast approaching death. Around him, four enraged Japanese guards with reddened eyes and clinched fists prepared their attack. They had pumped themselves into a killing frenzy, feeding off each other’s contemptuous disgust for their prey. Their blood boiled with fury against the silent shadow-of-a-man at the center of their kill circle. Wild screams erupted from each of the guards moments before they swarmed upon the pitiful figure. Other prisoners cringed in horror and helplessness as they watched the barbarous gang attack commence. Each punch and kick were laced with the brutality of hatred and the power of lethality. The gaunt figure collapsed beneath the onslaught. The man’s weak body shook in convulsive tremors with each thunderous impact. Like a storm surge upon a rocky coastline, the pain from one hit barely registered before another crashed into his weakened frame. Each hammering thud took the man closer to the edge of abysmal blackness. At first, he tried to ward off the inevitable, but the cold darkness of unconsciousness had a haunting lure. Like a siren’s song, it offered a seductive alternative — the termination of pain. Slowly, he succumbed to the melody and allowed himself to advance to the precipice. With each spastic breath, the pain lessened, and the groans dwindled into faint whimpers. Then, finally, the pounding thuds were met with silence as he rolled off the edge into the enveloping blackness of unconsciousness.
It seemed like only a moment that he lingered in the peacefulness offered in the chasm of unawareness. A bucket of cold water poured over his head shocked his system and yanked him begrudgingly back to the harshness of reality. His attackers lifted him back to his feet so they could resume their excessive disciplinary action. The man’s body was already badly bruised and cut. Even with his little supportive muscle tissue, noticeable swelling began to register, sweeping up his legs, back, and arms. His sunken eyes seemed to totally disappear as swelling puffed his eyebrows and inflated around his cheekbones. Through his blurry vision, the man detected the flurry of more swings as his assailants restarted the beating. Uppercuts to the abdomen, crosses to the jaw, and wild hay makers to the temple. He shuddered as his knees buckled. Then he toppled to the dirt, where kicks dominated and multiplied with a vengeance. In sincere gratitude, he, once again, found solace in the rift of unconsciousness as he slipped away a second time. However, his enemies were persistent. They had not finished their heinous act, so another bucket of cold water was harshly administered.
No longer at the edge of consciousness, the man was teetering on the brink of death. He knew, with another attack, his body would join the thousands of others that had been unceremoniously dumped into a jungle-concealed and bamboo-lined mass grave. He would not be the first, nor the last. Yet, he accepted God’s will and had no fear. As helpless as a newborn kitten to control his own fate, the man turned to his unyielding faith and lifted his heart in prayer. “Dear Father I am ready to go or stay at Your command.”
Suddenly, bolstered by a Divine Presence that embraced him with unfathomable love, he felt a wonderful resurgence of strength throughout his body. Despite the years of suffering as a prisoner of war — the forced labor, the lack of sleep, the heat, the horrible sickness, the untreated jungle diseases, the skin ulcers, the worm infested rice, the lack of water, the filth, the maggots, the stench, and the death - despite all of it; the man found himself surrounded by the impenetrable love of the Blessed Savior. With a peace that radiated forth through the blood and grime, the pummeled and beaten man smiled. The other prisoners witnessed the shocking event and described it, aptly, as a “heavenly smile”.
The Japanese guards were smitten with disbelief as they acknowledged the prisoner’s smile. How could a man so close to death offer a smile? The guards’ incredulous looks morphed into furious rage. How dare this useless rubble offer a smile as retribution for punishment? In the Japanese soldiers’ minds, it was a disparaging act of defiance, and an utter mockery of discipline. It confirmed the sentence of death upon the disrespectful prisoner. The guards were, now more than ever, determined to kill the pathetic man.
Shrieking in violence, the guards stormed the prisoner. Rushing forward with fists raised to hammer down upon their helpless victim, the guards unexpectedly skidded to a stop three feet away. Puzzled looks washed over the guards’ faces as they attempted to move forward. As if protected by an invisible hedge, the man could not be reached. Perplexed, the guards retreated and strengthened their resolve for another simultaneous attack. All four guards charged forward again. Merciless screams of bitterness and rage spilled out from the guards’ mouths. Twelve feet — ten, eight, five, and then, abruptly, at three feet, the guards slid to another stop. They knew not what it was, but there was something protecting the prisoner. It was like an invisible Shield that could not be penetrated. It was a Power and a Presence that could not be explained. Despite their efforts, they could not touch the prisoner.
At that moment, the frail figure realized that the companionship of the Son of God had never been more precious and real in all of his life. Surrounded by an impregnable Force, the wobbly and grungy man stood humbly secure in the loving and fortified embrace of the Almighty.
Baffled and confused, the guards outward demeanor changed. Unable to complete their nefarious act, they succumbed to befuddled inward reflection. There was nothing in the physical realm that could explain what had happened. They could not comprehend it. Nor could they believe it. With looks of bewildered dismay, the guards trudged away into the jungle leaving their swaying prey still standing.
The other prisoners rallied to the man’s aid, and carried him to a hospital tent. As some administered to his injuries, they exclaimed, “This is a God worth trusting.” While throughout the prisoner camp, many others declared, “This is a faith worth having!”
When I wrote this story referencing the captive’s own detailed account, I had envisioned writing about God’s great power and presence. But, as oftentimes is the case, what I envision and what actually gets typed go different directions. Some would say that’s a good thing. Others would say, “No wonder he doesn’t make sense!” Be that as it may, I try not to force stories into predetermined topics. I do my best to let them flow and progress on their own. Like cream rising to the top, the topic of the story eventually surfaces.
Although this story does involve God’s magnificent power and presence, I found that there was a daily-applicable spiritual lesson rising to the top. The “elephant in the room” question that seemed to continually glare at me with a “stink-eye” and slap me with it’s trunk while writing was — “What causes Divine activity to be released in our lives?”
So, I started digging and found a wonderful verse of Scripture. The fact that it comes from Habakkuk hints at the length of time I spent digging!
“See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright— but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness —”
Habakkuk 2:4 NIV
(Ref. Romans 1:17)
Does not the prisoner’s story fit that Scripture perfectly? Not only does the verse describe the story accurately, but it answers the “elephant in the room” question.
Another beautiful verse that links well with the prisoner’s story and answers the glaring question is:
“who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:5 NIV
Notice, closely, that both verses mention faith. The righteous person will live by their FAITH, and through FAITH we are shielded by God’s power. Additionally, what did the prisoners throughout the camp declare?
“This is a FAITH worth having!”
Obviously, the answer to “What causes Divine activity to be released in our lives?” is simply — FAITH.
It’s all about FAITH, but there is a huge difference between declaring that we have faith in God and REALLY having FAITH in God supported by actions. In other words, do we just “talk the talk” or do we actually “walk the walk”?
In the Book of James it is written, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:17 NIV
James the Just, the brother of Jesus and the author of the Book of James, is not known for dancing around the truth. The penned letter of James is full of obligatory challenges that cut deeply into the heart of the believer. Case in point, James writes, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” James 2:19 NIV
That is “in your face” Scripture that doesn’t beat around the bush. James is basically stating that to simply believe in God is demon-like faith because even demons know there is a God and tremble. It is not enough to believe. It is not enough to just talk about our faith and have knowledge of God. Even Satan and his minions are knowledgeable about God. They know exactly who the Son of God is and what He can do. But are they saved from the dismal Abyss?
Within all of the synoptic Gospels of Mathew, Mark, and Luke, there is a relevant illustration described as “Jesus restores a demon-possessed man” (Mathew 8:28-34, Mark 5:1-20, Luke 8:26-39).
Briefly summarizing the passages, Jesus and His disciples arrived in the region of Gerasenes, where, from a distance, a demon-possessed man ran towards them and fell on his knees in front of Jesus. He shouted, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?”
Jesus then asked, “What is your name?”
“Legion,” the man answered because he was filled with so many impure spirits. The demons repeatedly begged Jesus not to order them into the Abyss.
Then Jesus cast the numerous demons into a herd of swine. The herd of about two thousand pigs committed “Sooie-cide” and drowned in the lake (HaHa....I have to fit those classic one-liners in when I can...).
Take note that the demons knew exactly who Jesus was (Son of the Most High God), and they were very knowledgeable about what He could do. Yet, it is understood that demons do not have saving faith!
Genuine saving faith must encompass actions that support what we believe. Do we pray? Do we REALLY pray? Do we study the Word? Do we trust that God is in control? Do we trust that the Master can calm every storm?
As a further expounding but unrelated example;
I could tie a one-hundred foot rope to a tree and throw it over a cliff. I could stand there all day and talk about rappelling down that cliff. I could don my equipment, take a selfie vying for more likes and followers, and make everyone believe that I am a courageous adventurer. I could point at the tree and say that it’s a strong anchor. I could point at the knot that I tied and brag about it’s security. I could point at the rope and believe that it’s long enough. But all of my exhibitions and words are nothing more than demon-like faith. It is not genuine faith until I hook onto the rope, and then put all my weight on that anchor and knot. When I go over the edge and put all my trust in the rigging then, and only then, have I demonstrated proof-in-the-pudding faith that supports what I believe. In the spiritual realm, that could then be called Divine-interceding faith which is a faith that makes a difference and counts for something. It’s a strong faith that makes bystanders take note and wins souls for Christ. It’s a faith that releases Divine action. It’s a faith worth having!
“You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” James 2:24 NIV
That puny helpless man that came so close to death in the jungles of Thailand, but found refuge under the shadow of the Almighty was full of genuine soul-saving and mountain-moving faith. He walked the walk everyday despite his epic trials and seemingly dismal future. He prayed constantly. He studied the Bible methodically. He memorized Scripture regularly. He steadily held hands with the Savior, and relied on the Master moment by moment. He risked himself to care for others often. He even volunteered to nurse in a cholera camp where the mortality rate was so high, it literally was just an isolated “death camp”. (In the horrible sanitary conditions of a jungle POW camp without proper treatment, cholera was extremely contagious and deadly. Volunteering to care for the infected in those kinds of conditions was like signing your own death warrant).
That feeble prisoner that wielded hero-like and action-packed faith was named Daniel C. Snaddon.
In November 1940, Mr. Snaddon became a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps. Unfortunately, on February 15, 1942, in the largest surrender of British-led forces in history, Dan Snaddon, amongst 80,000 others, became prisoners of war as the Fall of Singapore to the Japanese shook the world. Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister at the time, called it the “worst disaster” in British military history.
It is impossible to describe the severe trials and extreme conditions that Dan Snaddon was subjected to throughout his years of captivity. During World War II, the Japanese had very little regard for prisoners. In their society, it was considered dishonorable and an egregious act of weakness to surrender. Hence, prisoners were not treated well and were oftentimes killed. It is not necessary to look further than the Bataan Death March to understand the flagrant cruelty that encompassed that era. Although not part of the death march, Dan Snaddon was forced into hard labor on the construction of the “Railway of Death” from Bangkok to the borders of Burma. There are many estimates regarding the number of civilians and POWs that died in the project’s construction (no source provides definitive numbers). But the number most often offered is around 105,000 deaths. Using that number, approximately 405 men died for every mile of track built. Higher numbers could easily be projected since it has also been said that for every railroad tie that was laid, it cost one man’s life....(I’m not sure about the “Railway of Death”, but in the United States, there are over 3,000 railroad ties per mile of track!)
Mr. Snaddon provides a small glimpse at his life as a POW and the “Railway of Death” atrocities in his excellent but sometimes graphic book, “Through the Valley of the Shadow”(1). I have found my own faith challenged to the point of tears as I have read through his personal story (It is only through the grace of God that a man could endure and experience so much and still come out mentally unscathed. Every laborious step of every heart-wrenching day had to be taken hand in hand with Christ). His account has challenged me to complain less, to pray and study more, and to do more for the Kingdom of God through the Power of Christ living in me.
Of course, each and every one of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Savior have His resurrection Power available to us, but the real question always becomes — Is our FAITH worthy of that Power?
In point of fact, the degree of faith exhibited by Dan Snaddon made him a fortress through adversity that sustained him through unimaginable darkness. Personally, I hope none of us ever have our faith tested to that height of severity. However, Snaddon’s life testimony confirms that the Will of God will never take us where the Grace of God will not protect us. His story also proves that the God who preserved the Hebrew children in the fiery furnace still lives. It upholds that the Power that surrounded Elisha at Dothan still defends. And it validates that the Presence that protected Daniel in the lion’s den still reigns. Amen!
In 1959, Dan Snaddon followed the call into full-time service for God. For an additional 50 years, “Brother Dan” served the Master.
Whether administering care in a cholera camp, preaching the Word to fellow prisoners in POW camps, or having forbidden prayer meetings under darkened bamboo shelters, brother Dan’s ministry saved hundreds of lost souls in the jungles of Thailand. As Christians, I wonder — Have we been that devoted and brave amidst COVID-19? Will we be that committed to Christ when the next storm comes along? Or do our fears overcome our faith?
Later on in his life, whether behind a pulpit or behind written words, brother Dan continued to stubbornly serve the Kingdom of God. As a result, his ministry saved hundreds, if not thousands, of lost souls throughout Canada and the United States. Imagine the treasures in heaven that he amassed. What an admirable servant of God!
Dan Snaddon’s life was spared countless times through unbelievable odds due to his strong relationship and faith in the loving Savior. Brother Dan counted each miraculous occasion as just more time and more opportunities to serve the Lord. And so he did, faithfully, until May 16, 2009, when God finally pronounced that Dan Snaddon’s earthly work was done — just ten days shy of turning 95 years old.
No matter what trials or storms prevail, may we live the same way — in constant companionship with the Son of God. May the precious Son of God’s Power and Presence become as real and impactful to each of us in our allotted time here on earth. Let us pray for it. Let us strive for it. Let us dedicate ourselves to it. May the mighty fire of revival fall as His Presence embraces each and every one of us.
Truly, it is a FAITH worth having!
Authored by Tad Spurlock
(1) Snaddon, Daniel C. “Through the Valley of the Shadow”
(It is difficult to find Daniel Snaddon’s book. There are copies out there including on-line versions, but one must look -- if interested, there is another easier to find book describing Snaddon’s miraculous story called;
Enlow, David R. “Singapore Survivor”. Good News, 1963)
The United States Navy A-4 Skyhawk jet streaked through the hazy humid sky at nearly 600 miles per hour. It banked hard left leaving a vapor trail spiraling off it’s delta-wing tips as it maneuvered to attack. The pilot nudged the nose over and slightly adjusted course for a bombing run over Hanoi, Vietnam. He had one thought, “Hit the power plant hard and get out fast!” Unfortunately, unbeknownst to the pilot, a hidden threat lay camouflaged in the dense jungle foliage two thousand feet below. It was ready to strike with rocketing fury. The peril had been hastily relocated by the Vietnamese Communists (Viet Cong) under the cover of darkness several nights before. Now, the lethal weapon had acquired a signal on the fast moving A-4. Sickeningly, the surface-to-air missile locked-on just as the A-4 zipped overhead. A boiling explosion of thrust erupted behind the fins of the sleek supersonic projectile. Capable of speeds over Mach 3, the deadly missile launched the gap to the A-4 in mere seconds. With little warning to maneuver defensively, the pilot shuttered as the hurtling missile slammed into the right wing. Debris flashed through the sky, a violent twisting tornadic fireball of metal. The pilot instinctively reached for the ejection handle and radioed “I’m hit!” He pulled the handle and suddenly felt the abrupt force as the seat rocketed into the wind stream. In a dizzying array of forces, the pilot slammed into the tumbling wreckage of the dying aircraft. The results of the impact broke both arms and his right knee and left him spinning into the dark tunnel of unconsciousness. Fortunately, his parachute automatically deployed slowing his acceleration towards earth. The pull of gravity continued waging war with his limp body as he drifted aimlessly towards unknown dangers below.
Water slapped the pilot’s face as his lungs vied for air. His brain slowly reeled him back to consciousness as his body thrashed and began struggling to survive. At the abysmal edge of drowning, he clinched his life vest activation cord with his teeth and yanked it. Averting the immediate crisis, the pilot then realized the shocking pain racking his entire body. His physical circumstances, alone, threatened to drown him in raging despair.
With haunting trepidation, the awareness of his exact location dawned upon him with sickening certainty. He was floating in the middle of Truc Bach Lake. Unable to swim, he knew there was no escape. Bobbing like a cork awaiting the enemy to grab the bait, his capture was imminent. It wouldn’t take long, he conceded, for he was in the middle of a lake that rests in the middle of the city of Hanoi. His fate was sealed.
It was October 26, 1967 when Lieutenant Commander John McCain became a prisoner of war. Under torturous conditions that stretched the limits of mind and body, John McCain survived over five years of internment. He was released in 1972, and the rest of his story is widely known.
While I was reading about McCain’s prisoner of war experience, one particular interrogation stood out to me. It grabbed my attention, not because of brutality or sadistic torture methods, but because of the topic of the questions. There was one Vietnamese interrogator that was very interested in American customs. Specifically, the young Vietnamese wanted McCain to explain the significance of Easter. Of course, McCain offered up the description of Christ’s Passion. The young interrogator eyed McCain with suspicious disdain as McCain described Christ’s resurrection. Then the interrogator barked incredulously, “You say He was dead three days. He came back to life?”
The interrogator left the room for a minute and then returned with an outraged demeanor. He yelled angrily, “McCain, the officer here say you tell nothing but lies! Go back to your room.”(1)
As always, thoughts started rolling around in my head like a raft tossed about in a storm driven sea. What if? What if the resurrection of Christ was a lie? What would that mean? What significance does the resurrection have for us? As Christians, what would we lose? What if?
Interestingly, the Apostle Paul asked the same “what if” question in First Corinthians.
“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”
1 Corinthians 15:14 NIV
Kapow! Without Christ’s resurrection, our faith is useless. Ouch! Right from the start, we take a big hit. As Christians, we would lose all of our present and future hope. It would be utterly futile to participate in any religious activities because they would hold no meaning. Church would have no value. All religious activities from baptism to communion would be nothing more than empty gestures. If Christ had not risen from the dead, all preaching would be pointless. All sermons would be full of hot air - just men or women talking to hear themselves talk. Every Christian message presented everywhere would mean absolutely nothing. Every Christian book ever written or read would be better used to start a fire. This article would not be worth my time or yours. Every Christian song and every Gospel tract would be considered null and void. They would be nothing more than meaningless words promoting empty promises.
At first glance, the resurrection seems to be only part of the story of Jesus Christ. So what’s the big deal? If we only assume that the resurrection was a lie, then we still have Christ’s virgin birth, His earthly ministry including His teachings and many miracles, and His crucifixion for our sins. However, without His resurrection, believing all of those other things would be for nought. Without the resurrection, the power and glory of Christ as the Son of God would not be reflected. Even our salvation would be woefully inadequate and dismissed. Jesus nailed to the cross demonstrated His love for us, but it was the resurrection that authenticates that His sacrifice was worthy to cover all of our sins for all time. Without His resurrection, we would still be in our sins.
“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”
1 Corinthians 15:17 NIV
That little nugget simply means that if we still believe there is a God, then we will have to recount to Him every evil thing we’ve done and every sin we’ve hidden in the closet of our lives. Then we will be held accountable and pay the price ourselves. Yikes!
Furthermore, without the resurrection, Paul writes that the apostles of Christ are nothing but hypocritical deceivers. Their teachings are pockmarked with holes, which identifies them as false witnesses.
“More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.”
1 Corinthians 15:15 NIV
Finally, without the resurrection, all of our loved ones that have perished before us are simply lost, gone forever. Our grandparents, parents, siblings, spouses, children, and friends whom we’ve hoped to see again someday will never be seen again. They have passed into oblivion. If it is actually true that our Savior did not rise again on the third day, then everyone we have known will never be more than memories for us until we finally decay into the earth ourselves.
“Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.”
1 Corinthians 15:18 NIV
At this point, we, as Christians, should find ourselves struggling to comprehend this “what if” scenario. With no resurrection, utter despair and darkness seems to unfold and collapse upon us. In the next verse, the Apostle Paul punctuates that exact sentiment with an exclamation point.
“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
1 Corinthians 15:19 NIV
I read a headline the other day entitled, “Seminary President Admits to Not Believing in Christ’s Resurrection”. It matters little where or who it was. It matters much more that the President of a prominent educational institution that primarily educates students in Scripture, Theology, and Biblical studies to prepare them for Christian ministry does not believe in a fundamentally important tenet of Christianity. Despite how many letters precede or follow their names, resurrection unbelievers are people to be most pitied.
How important is the resurrection of Christ? It is the pinnacle and climatic ending to God’s great plan of redemption for us through His Son’s earthly ministry. Every event in the life of Jesus on earth has critical importance and are inextricably linked together as a whole. Taking one event away leaves gaping chasms that cannot be crossed within Scripture. Irreconcilable differences emerge within the Word of God as a result. For example, the virgin birth was necessary in order for Christ to be who He was in order to do what He did for us upon the cross. To accept one part of His story as truth and another part as fiction, is to disconnect the transmission from the engine or to remove the wheels from the vehicle. Every part is needed or we don’t move. To believe otherwise is to fall prey to the evil one who not only roams about as a lion but also masquerades as an angel of light.
Without Christ’s victory over death, our loss, as believers, is staggering. The resurrection is vitally important, and, to us Christians, it should mean everything because it declares that our victorious story in Him and through Him is just beginning.
What if there was no resurrection? Forget it! It’s no longer a legitimate question or concern.
The Word of God is truth and stands in power just as our Lord and Savior stands outside an empty tomb. The stone has been undeniably rolled away!
“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
1 Corinthians 15:20 NIV
Have a happy and glorious Easter. Our risen Savior is alive!
(1) Faith of My Fathers by John McCain with Mark Salter (Random House, 1999)
Joint Personnel Recovery Center declassified reports, 1971-72
It was a desperate and loathsome time. Fear seemed to tighten it’s satanic coils around the young man’s chest with every breath. He struggled to remain calm in the suffocating darkness, but his lungs burned and his muscles twitched with panic induced terror. He was alone, and straining to keep his emotions from overcoming his rational senses. With each gulp of air, he swallowed hard to force the wretched bile of dread back to the depths of his empty stomach. The cave he had slipped into was not much bigger than an enlarged hole. There could have been all kinds of venomous snakes and insects in the foreboding blackness, but the young man thought nothing of the creepy-crawly things. At this point, death via a lethal dose of venom was more of a pleasantry and welcomed thought.
Very little light reached the back of the den-like cave despite it’s diminutive size. Only the mouth of the cave’s entrance was illuminated by the persistent rays of light permeating the depths of the jungle foliage. The young man swallowed hard as he listened intently. The pulsating in his chest echoed in voluminous cadence that seemed to betray his desperately needed stealthiness. He wished for complete silence, but had little control over the throbbing in his own ears. Like a constant war drum beating, he was sure his pounding heart would surrender his position. He had heard random gunshots throughout the day. They had been drawing ever closer. His imagination didn’t need any more prodding as he envisioned the grizzly scenes being acted out beyond his immediate gloomy surroundings. He tried not to think about it, but he knew that every reverberating gunshot hinted at another one of his buddies’ execution. The ones being shot were the lucky ones, he imagined. Some executions were silent except for the muffled screams. Those were the ones where a swing of a sword severed a mans’ hands, feet, or head. Sometimes the swing didn’t slice all the way through, and sometimes the swing wasn’t accurate at all. Shockingly gruesome, the horrors of war always seemed to unmask the evil hidden deep in humanity. The young soldier shook his head in an attempt to clear the horrible images, but only succeeded in launching droplets of sweat into the darkness. He gripped his M1 Garand semi-automatic rifle harder. There was enough ammunition left to fight for a few seconds, but then it was over. He knew, then, the end would come quickly. He grimly anticipated several enemy grenades dropping into his lap through the mouth of the cave. His death would be swift that way, he acknowledged. Better than a beheading, he reasoned. Yet, it was agonizingly hard to accept his own death. He wanted to live. He wanted to see his wife and family again. He wanted to experience children, a job, and growing old. He wanted to go home. At only twenty-three years of age, there was so much more of life to live. He sighed heavily. Nothing short of a miracle could save him now. There was nothing more he could do. He had fought hard. He had no regrets other than the dire circumstances he had been thrown into beyond his control.
When the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions landed on the beaches of Saipan, the fighting had been intense. Chaos and thick jungles led to Division and Unit separations during the assault. Most of his unit had stayed intact while pushing hard against the Japanese strongholds littered along the slopes of Mount Tapochau, but in the end, incurring heavy losses, his unit broke into stragglers. Individual soldiers, low on ammunition, amidst a fortified enemy, left each man as easy prey. The vengeance of the Japanese soldiers was brutally unleashed against each surviving Marine. Slowly, each man was being hunted and killed. Prisoners were not being taken. As a young leatherneck answering the call of duty, the young man had charged uphill vehemently, but now, like most of his friends that were still breathing, he was fleeing and hiding to stay alive. It was a game of cat and mouse, but his time was nearly expired. He had eluded the enemy longer than he thought possible, but now he was trapped along a high ridge with Japanese soldiers scouring along both flanks. Finding a small cave, he had accepted it as his final stand. Probably, with morbid reflection, it would serve as his final resting spot. It was just a matter of time before the Japanese found him. He could hear the enemy shouting in the jungle below. He could hear the enemy shouting on the ridge line above. They were closing in. Nearing his concealed underground spot, they were methodically searching every crack and crevice.
The young Marine stared at the narrow opening and pushed himself hard against the back of the cave. He wished he could disappear. He fully expected an alert Japanese soldier to poke his gun into the mouth of the cave and spray bullets into the darkness at any second. The young Marine eyed a spider busily weaving a web at the cave’s opening. He silently wished the spider was building an impenetrable brick wall instead. With a look of defeated acceptance, he noted that the spider web offered nothing to stop the enemy’s grenades or supersonic hot metal. Plastered against the dampness of Saipan’s humus rich soil, in the inhospitable blackness of approaching death, the young man closed his eyes and did the only thing he could. He prayed. “I can’t, but God, You can!”
There are very few condensed phrases that capture the whole of the Gospel quite like, “I can’t, but God, You can.”
I personally believe that one of the greatest truths proclaimed in the Word of God besides the deity of Christ is that of the New Covenant. As an alternate way of living, the New Covenant defines a life lived with uttermost faith in Christ. It is a life no longer under the law, but under grace (Romans 6:14). Paul, the Apostle, referenced this New Covenant when he wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NIV). The prophet, Ezekiel, also foretold and alluded to the New Covenant when he wrote that the Sovereign Lord would provide a new heart and a new spirit. Through Ezekiel, God declared, “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27 NIV).
Thus, as predicted, Jesus Christ came to fulfill the Law of Moses, and rightfully take the role as mediator and guarantor of a better covenant, the New Covenant (Mathew 5:17).
So what does all that mean as we try to apply it to our daily lives?
It means that as long as we try to live a life for God based on self effort and self sufficiency, we are operating on the premise of the Old Covenant. And that, my friends, won’t get us very far. The New (and better) Covenant mode of operation is to let Christ do His best through us. That is a huge difference in perspective, but it makes all the difference in the world. Our best will eventually, if not continually, disappoint, but God’s best will always surpass, if not illustriously exceed. The impossible becomes possible. It is when we reach the “end of ourselves”, having exhausted all our energy and resources, that we finally exclaim, “I can’t!” That’s when God says, “Exactly! I never said that you could, I only said that I would.”
Effectively, Paul wrote the same thing in Second Corinthians.
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us,” 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 NIV
In extreme conditions beyond their ability to endure and despairing of life itself, Paul points out that there was nothing of themselves that they could rely upon. Basically, Paul said, “I can’t!” Then, graciously, the “but God” part of the equation followed, and, miraculously, Paul and his associates were delivered from deadly peril.
A few verses later Paul declares, “Our sufficiency is not of ourselves, but our sufficiency comes from God.” (2 Corinthians 3:5)
“I can’t, but God can!” shoots an arrow straight into the heart of legalism. Truly successful service for the Kingdom of God will never be about what we accomplish, but about what God accomplishes through us. The New Covenant message should ring loud and clear - “Not I, but Christ in me”. We can do all things through Christ, and upon Him, alone, we set our hope as we march forward victoriously in His triumphal procession.
Shadows of movement flirted at the mouth of the cave. Hushed footsteps fell against dampened soil while covertness was lost to loose pebbles, jungle debris, and whispering dialog. The young Marine counted at least three separate voices just outside the cave opening. He readied his aim at the spider resting in the center of it’s completed web. The silky string pattern undulated in the tropical breeze. It was a wonder that the spider had completed the laborious task so quickly. Yet, at this dire moment, the young Marine had little appreciation for the spider. The dripping despair of the brevity of life was weeping out of his pores. His eyes burned with the liquidity of tears and sweat. His sentence of death was fast approaching. He expected the worst, but refused to cower in fear. He would die facing the enemy and would fight to the end.
Frightened, the spider aggressively positioned it’s front legs in defense. The hand of the enemy approached the web. The young Marine’s trigger finger pulled taunt. He held his breath. Another hand appeared and touched the web. Having it’s bluff called, the spider hurriedly crawled to the perimeter of the web and disappeared into a rock crevice. Then voices intermingled into gibberish as the Japanese soldiers eased away from the cave. The young Marine let out his breath as his pursuers moved further down the ridge line.
The young Marine dropped to his knees in disbelief. The undisturbed and intact spider web had fooled the enemy into believing that no one was hiding in the small cave. Riddled with emotions, the young Marine began to cry. “I couldn’t, but God, You did! You delivered me via a spider web stronger than a brick wall.”
P.S. I have heard and/or read about the spider web story a few times. Each time it has been served with different locales, modified characters, and etched with various historical events. Those attributes hint at legend instead of truth. I’ve even read a tale where David was saved from King Sauls’ soldiers in such a manner (not described in the Bible by the way). However, the following passage of Scripture is in the Bible;
“Such is the destiny of all who forget God; so perishes the hope of the godless. What they trust in is fragile; what they rely on is a spider’s web. They lean on the web, but it gives way; they cling to it, but it does not hold.” Job 8:13-15 NIV
I find that paradoxically interesting because God loves to manifest His power through weakness. The Lord told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV).
So in the Book of Job, we read Scripture specifically detailing the weakness and fragility of a spider web and relating it to the destiny of the godless who lean upon it. Wouldn’t it be ironic, with twists of humor, if God validated deliverance through the use of it?
The story of the spider web might very well be an urban legend. Although, many times, legends are built from elemental truths. Personally, the story speaks volumes to me because I’ve experienced Divine Intervention in a similar way. If not for God’s mighty hand of protection on a ridge line one night in Nevada, I would not be writing this today. I can personally testify that when I reached the end of myself and cried, “I can’t!”, God responded with a miraculous “I will!”. As someone once said, “Faith is seeing the invisible, believing the incredible, and receiving the impossible!” I certainly agree with that sentiment and annunciate it with a resolute Amen!