Despite their fatal injuries, and with the knowledge that they would die in the compartment, the men responded well to the order to transfer the steering of the ship to the starboard control. Rowland stayed on the phone with Blaskis as the men completed the task and then he listened as each of them died. Blaskis told him when Ogring and Fasth died and then slowly Blaskis became silent.
Rowland put down the phone and cried. He cried from frustration because there was nothing that he could do. He also cried because he admired the men’s determination and bravery. The men’s obedience in the face of death allowed the ship and thousands of shipmates to be saved.
The chapter relating their story ends with these words, “They were sailors to the end. They never begged for mercy. They never whined. They never whimpered.”
As I read the story, I was struck by those last words. My mind went to the duty that the men carried out. My mind went to the obedience to orders in spite of fatal injuries. It went to the many excuses the men had to not obey the order.
The three men carried out their duties knowing full well they would soon be dead. It was, as are so many stories of war, the ultimate sacrifice, the giving of one’s own life for the greater cause.
There are a number of ways in which a story like this illustrates Biblical truths. A reading of 2 Timothy, chapter 2 reminds us of our duty as soldiers of Christ. “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” vv1-5
According to these verses, a soldier of Christ endures hardship for the sake of Christ. He does not entangle himself in daily civilian affairs because that would distract him from his higher duty to please Christ. Commitment and obedience are in view. Doing what needs to be done, no matter the suffering that is required.
The men in our story were motivated by a commitment to a cause, to a military code. They were motivated by a duty to obey their commanding officer.
As soldiers of Christ the motivation for our commitment comes from…where? Verses 8 – 10 of 2 Timothy make it very clear. “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
– Paul’s suffering was due to his commitment to Jesus Christ. (“Suffering” in this verse refers to misfortunes and trials endured because of one’s faith in Christ.)
– Paul endures these hardships willingly because he knows that the Word of God is not bound, but rather that it has the power to change men’s lives. Paul knew that God’s Word cannot be chained or hindered by human force. He knew that the Word of God would act upon men’s hearts and consciences.
– Paul endures all suffering so that the elect could obtain salvation through Jesus Christ.
May we, as soldiers of Jesus Christ, dutifully endure hardship for the sake of the elect, knowing that the Word of God is not bound and that it will act on men’s hearts. May our duty and commitment and obedience be uncluttered by daily affairs and main we be singularly focused on glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ.