June 22nd 2009

Enduring To The End

“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved”
Matthew 24:13 (KJV)

 The world is facing some pretty tough times at the moment-economic catastrophes, international terrorism, natural disasters, racial strife, and political upheaval. Even worse from our point of view is the apparent loss of Christian belief by so many in today’s secular societies. These are trials we’ve seen prophesied in our bibles for years. As “Christian soldiers”, our orders in Matthew 24:13 are to “endure to the end and be saved”-however much the world’s spiritual and physical problems proliferate. Not easy, but vital for our calling by the Ruler of the entire universe.

Sometimes physical examples can encourage us and we can be reminded how it will all work out for the best.

I have in front of me an early 1930s article from The Times which tells such a story. During a period of rebellion in China, an unarmed British merchant ship, the SS Wantung, under the command of Captain S. H. Bates (trained at Hull’s Trinity House sea-going college and well-known, even as a young midshipman, for always carrying a bible in his pocket) was trapped in a port on the Yangtze River by rebellious Chinese soldiers under a fierce warlord. Shades of today’s Somalian pirates, they demanded one million Mexican dollars to release the vessel. Captain Bates managed to send a radioed plea for help to the Royal Navy, which had a gunboat stationed many days away. Captain. Bates, his English officers and Chinese crew, all held prisoner on board the ship under extreme conditions, just had to wait it out. The men had been ordered to patiently await rescue and not to panic and make the situation worse. As befits his nickname of “The Preacher”, the ship’s master had encouraged them to place their lives in the care of a Higher Power during this dangerous standoff. Eventually a naval gunship was seen approaching far away down river and the Chinese rebels opened fire with everything they’d got. On first sight of the Royal Navy, many of Captain Bates’ officers and crew jumped into the water and tried to swim towards the rescuers even though they were still some distance away.

Many who disobeyed their orders in this way were shot in the water by Chinese marksmen. Captain Bates himself was slightly wounded in the crossfire caused when his men panicked. It took a few more days for the Royal Navy to take command of the situation and finally to release Captain Bates and the remaining crew of the SS Wantung. Truly his strong faith helped him to “endure to the end” and he was saved, as were those of his crew who heeded their instructions.

My article describes how he was sent back to England to recover from his wound and decorated for bravery by the King at Buckingham Palace. He later served with distinction in the Royal Navy in WW2, both in the Far East (Ceylon, now Sri Lanka) and also in the far West (of Scotland).

Whatever conditions we face now or in the future, God tells us not to “bail out”, but to put our trust and reliance totally in Him and we will be delivered spiritually as well as physically. He truly is the Master of the Universe and will provide for His children.

PS. How did I happen to have that old newspaper article? Well I’m proud of the fact that I was named after “The Preacher” who endured to the end-Captain Stuart Harcourt Bates was my favourite uncle!

Prayer
Great God in Heaven, help us in these times of great trial to have constant faith and trust in you and your deliverance and please give us the strength we need to persevere in our calling. We thank you for all your promises and for the wonderful future you have revealed to us
Amen

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