Ernest Gordon was serving as a captain in the British army during the Second World War when he was captured by the Japanese and marched with other prisoners into the Southeast Asian jungles. The prison camp, which was constructing a railroad bridge over the river Kwai, would eventually claim the lives of 80,000 men.
The prisoners were forced to work for hours in scorching temperatures, chopping their way through tangled jungles. Those who paused out of exhaustion were beaten to death by the guards.
…“Death was still with us,” writes Gordon. “But we were slowly being freed from its destructive grip. We were seeing for ourselves the sharp contrast between the forces that made for life and those that made for death. Selfishness, hatred, envy, jealousy, greed, self-indulgence, laziness and pride were all anti-life.
Love, heroism, self-sacrifice, sympathy, mercy, integrity and creative faith, on the other hand, were the essence of life, turning mere existence into living in its truest sense. These were the gifts of God to men. True, there was hatred. But there was also love. There was death. But there was also life. God had not left us. He was with us, calling us to live the divine life in fellowship.” In the valley of the shadow of death, Christ had risen…. So complete was the transformation of the men, so real the presence of Christ among them that they were able to reach out even to their captors with the love that had taken hold of them.
While still in the hands of their enemies, a train carrying Gordon and several others came alongside another boxcar at a stop in Burma. The entire car was filled with gravely wounded Japanese soldiers. They were left alone, without medical attention or company, as if abandoned refuse of war.
“They were in a shocking state,” Gordon recalls. “The wounded looked at us forlornly as they sat with their heads resting against the carriages waiting fatalistically for death…. These were our enemy.”
Without a word, many of the officers unbuckled their packs, took out part of their rations and a few rags, and with their canteens went over to the Japanese train. The guards tried to prevent them, but they pressed through, kneeling by the side of the injured men with food and water, cleaning their wounds.
Eighteen months earlier the same men of the river Kwai prison camp would have celebrated the humiliation and destruction of any on the side of their violent captors.
Yet Gordon explains, “We had experienced a moment of grace, there in the bloodstained railway cars. God had broken through the barriers of our prejudice and had given us the will to obey his command, ‘Thou shalt love.’”
Among a valley of dry bones, God had breathed men to life. In the trenches of despair and hatred, the inexplicable love of Christ called enemies—and men—to hope and forgiveness.
It is in the really tough trials of life that we learn the greatest graces of our Christians walk. Our chapters today reveal what David’s trials forged within him.
Here is what I see:
I Samuel chapter 31 sermon topics/ titles:
1. Even Kings Despair When They Rebel Against God.: I Sam. 31: 1-6
2. Two Portraits: Fleeing and Facing the Enemy: I Sam. 31:7-13
3. Honoring the Past: I Sam. 31: 11-13
II Samuel chapter 1 sermon topics/titles:
1. Don’t Be a Foolish Amalekite: II Sam. 1:1-16
2. Honoring Your Enemies: II Sam. 1: 17-27
3. Remember the Mighty Can Fall: II Sam. 1:27
Now tell me what you see. 🙂