June 26, 2014 • By Ed Wrather
Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. - Colossians 4:1-4 NKJV.
Surely he will never be shaken; the righteous will be in everlasting remembrance. He will not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is established; He will not be afraid, until he sees his desire upon his enemies. - Psalm 112:6-8 NKJV.
You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. - 2 Timothy 2:3 NKJV.
Phillip Coon, a survivor of the WWII Bataan Death March of April 1942, has passed away. 75,000 men who surrendered to the Japanese were forced to march 60 miles through the jungle to prison camps. Only 54,000 survived the punishing march. Coon says that if he slowed down, or looked behind, or stopped, a soldier with a sharp stick would jab him in his side. He said that he could hear the screams of men behind him who could not keep up or had fallen that were either bayoneted or shot. After reaching the prison camp, he was forced to work in a copper mine and lost 55lbs during the three years of being a POW weighing only 90lbs when he was freed. How did Phillip Coon survive those horrific conditions? Coon says it was “Because of his faith and because he knew people back home were praying for him.” Coon was a Native American and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief George Tiger said this about Coon, “He certainly had a tremendous amount of faith.” (Tulsa World 06.25.14; Daily Oklahoman 06.26.14; New York Daily News 10.22.13; Indiancountrynewsmedianetwork 09.07.11)
The things that some people have endured are, I think, almost beyond belief for those of us who have lived our lives in safety and some degree of comfort. We hear the stories of people who have endured persecution for their faith. We hear the stories of those who have endured harsh captivity during war. We hear the stories of those who have endured severe mistreatment even during peacetime. Do we really understand, comprehend, what these people have gone through and that many are going through? I am amazed at how God has given so many the strength to endure horrific things and situations, even for years. But I know that I do not really understand, do not really perceive the true level of suffering that these people have suffered.
Psalm 112:6-8 could have been words penned by Phillip Coon. Phillip and others that went through the horrific Bataan Death March (One of my wife’s uncles was also a survivor of the Death March, her Mother’s brother-in-law.) surely received “evil tidings.” Those “evil tidings” kept on coming for three years. How was Phillip able to continue on? Reportedly he had a “tremendous amount of faith.” He was a man of prayer and he could feel the prayers of many lifting him up, sustaining him.
The apostle Paul while chained to a Roman soldier knew the value of prayer, of his prayers and of the prayers of others. The captivity of Paul was not as severe at the time of his writing Colossians as that endured by some, but Christian tradition indicates that Paul later was martyred for his faith by beheading. Through the apostle Paul, God gives us instructions for dealing with the “evil tidings” and suffering we may encounter in life. Prayer is of vital importance, our own prayers and the prayers of others. Paul, I think, would say to believers suffering today what he said to Timothy, “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” The Psalmist would add that the believer should not be afraid, being steadfast and trusting in the Lord while waiting for God’s deliverance to come. No matter what “evil tidings” may come let us soldier on!