The year was 1943. A young pilot was flying his Corsair above the scattered islands of the Pacific. Suddenly, the Zeroes came out of the sun! One of them was on this young mans tail before he knew it. He rolled his plane over and dove for the deck, back up again, turning, twisting, diving, doing everythingbut he had an expert fighter pilot on his tail! There came at last a burst of machine gun fire that pierced not only his plane, but his body.
Mortally wounded, the young pilot managed somehow to bring his disabled plane into something vaguely resembling a landing on one of the jungle islands of the South Pacific. He crawled out, barely, from the plane to get away in case it exploded. Five days later his body was found. When they pried open his fingers, there was a scrap of paper on which he had written his last words: When peace like a river.... That was all.
When peace like a river
attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea
Whatever my lot,
Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well
with my soul.
Here was a young man who somewherewhether in his home, his church, perhaps in the Air Forcelearned that when we know who holds the future, then whatever comes, even the worst is transformed into a blessing.
We need to know who holds our future, and we need to know Him as our own Savior and Lord. John Wesley made that discovery when he heard a layman in a London church reading a sermon by Martin Luther. That message told him it was possible to know for sure that one could have eternal life only when one trusted in the Christ, who suffered and died to pay for our sins.
Wesley went home and wrote these words in his journal: "Indeed, we need to turn from trust in our own good deeds, our own religiosity, our own morality, and our own accomplishments and, instead, place our trust in the Savior who suffered and died to pay for our transgressions and to purchase for us a place in Heaven."
How blessed, indeed, is that assurance of eternal life. Many people, however, are satisfied with merely a hope. They hope that everything will turn out all right. That is really very foolish. It would be as foolish as a pilot who set out over the ocean in his airplane, going hundreds and hundreds of miles, hoping that somewhere out there, there just might be an aircraft carrier to land on. How foolish, indeed, that pilot would be.
Yet, how many of us fly our lives right over the edge of the abyss of eternity, hoping that maybe somewhere there will be a safe landing for us. That is not the way it needs to be. We can know for sure. We can experience a new beginning in our hearts when we trust in Christ. We can know it most definitely!
D. James Kennedy, Ph.D., is senior minister of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, and president of Coral Ridge Ministries, an international Christian broadcast outreach