Hope in the Word
Bible Reading: Psalm 119:47, 74, 81, 114,147; Romans 15:4
Romans 15:4, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
One of my favorite conversion stories is that of Jacob DeShazer. One of WW2’s “Doolittle Raiders,” Jacob was imprisoned in a Japanese prison camp after being captured in China. Together with his fellow captives Jacob endured harsh and life-threatening mistreatment and abuse. Jacob responded in kind to the abuse he suffered. On one occasion, when commanded by a guard to “Hurry up,” he responded, “Go jump in a lake.” His response earned him a strike on his head. Jacob retaliated by kicking the guard in the stomach. The guard then hit Jacob with a steel scabbard. So Jacob took a pail of dirty mop water and threw it at the guard. Jacob was fortunate not to be killed, other men were killed for less.
Some books were brought to the prison camp and amongst them was a Bible. Jacob was told by a guard that he could have the Bible for three weeks. The Hope-imparting Word of God was brought to that dark, foreboding, lifeless and loveless place. Jacob eagerly read its pages. He devoured chapter after chapter. He read from the prophets, and was fascinated by the prophecies which spoke of a coming Redeemer. He read in the New Testament of the birth of Jesus Christ, the One of whom the prophecies spoke. On June 8th, 1944 he was reading through Romans when he came across Romans 10:9. He read of God’s promise of salvation to those who confess and believe in the Lord Jesus. He trusted in Jesus and was saved. God’s Word worked to impart hope to a hopeless man in a hopeless place.
He later wrote of his experience, “How my heart rejoiced in the newness of spiritual life, even though my body was suffering so terribly from the physical beatings and lack of food. But suddenly I discovered that God had given me new spiritual eyes, and that when I looked at the Japanese officers and guards who had starved and beaten me and my companions so cruelly, I found my bitter hatred for them changed to loving pity…I read in my Bible that while those who crucified Jesus on the cross had beaten him and spit upon him before he was nailed to the cross, he tenderly prayed in his moment of excruciating suffering, ‘Father, forgive them for they know now what they do.’ And now from the depths of my heart, I too prayed for God to forgive my torturers.”
Through the influence of His Word God worked to radically change Jacob. Jacob learned to love his captors. Even before his release, he sensed a call from God to return to Japan as a Christian missionary. And that’s what ultimately happened. The former captive attended Seattle Pacific College and while there met and married his wife. Six years and eight months after he had set out to fly to Japan, he returned to Japan to share the good news with the Japanese people. The DeShazers ministered Christ’s love there for thirty years. One high spot in his ministry came when Captain Kato (the guard who had given the prisoners a Bible) became a Christian.
One day, in Jacob’s life, the hope imparting Word fell on the good soil of his receptive heart. Life was thereby imparted to his sin-dead soul. The good fruit of God’s love blossomed and bore fruit in unimaginable fashion. The Word of God is powerful to save and transform (1 Thessalonians 2:13). And powerful to bring hope to the hopeless! Jacob was proof of that, as are the innumerable souls who have likewise responded to the truth. Is your soul thirsting for encouragement? There’s a plentiful supply bound up in God’s inspired Word.
Through the Encouragement of the Scriptures We Have Hope
Lord Jesus. Praise You for the day when You opened our eyes to the truth of the gospel! We were without You and without hope in this world, but then You spoke to us through Your Word and it worked to bring hope to our hope-needy souls! It is as a beacon of light shining forth even into the darkest places. Forgive us that we’re all too prone to forget the treasure that is ours in its soul-encouraging truth! Forgive us that we too often times neglect it! May the Spirit work to lead us to the one sure source whereby our thirst for hope can be fully satiated! Even as we marvel at its ability to mightily work within us! Amen!