I read a poem recently; it’s an old poem, first published almost two hundred years ago. It’s a beautiful tale, and a true one, of a young French boy on a navy ship, who had gone with his father on the day that a battle broke out between the French and the English.
by Felicia Hemans
The boy stood on the burning deck,
Whence all but he had fled;
The flame that lit the battle’s wreck,
Shone round him o’er the dead.
Yet beautiful and bright he stood,
As born to rule the storm;
A creature of heroic blood,
A proud, though childlike form.
The flames rolled on – he would not go,
Without his father’s word;
That father, faint in death below,
His voice no longer heard.
He called aloud – ‘Say, father, say
If yet my task is done?’
He knew not that the chieftain lay
Unconscious of his son.
‘Speak, father!’ once again he cried,
‘If I may yet be gone!’
– And but the booming shots replied,
And fast the flames rolled on.
Upon his brow he felt their breath
And in his waving hair;
And look’d from that lone post of death,
In still yet brave despair.
And shouted but once more aloud,
‘My father! must I stay?’
While o’er him fast, through sail and shroud,
The wreathing fires made way.
They wrapped the ship in splendour wild,
They caught the flag on high,
And streamed above the gallant child,
Like banners in the sky.
There came a burst of thunder sound –
The boy – oh! where was he?
Ask of the winds that far around
With fragments strewed the sea!
With mast, and helm, and pennon fair,
That well had borne their part,
But the noblest thing which perished there,
Was that young faithful heart.
This is true faithfulness! And as I read, the story reminded me of another. In another province of Cambodia, several hours from the one where I lived and worked, a Cambodian friend of mine was working as a church planter. He lived at the church, but spent his days–and some nights–in the villages in the remotest parts of the province. Many of these humble communities lacked the conveniences that the bigger towns held, such as running water, electricity, and cell service. These are where some of the poorest live, working day-to-day to put food on their mats. And some of these, especially the young people, welcomed the gospel.
I had the privilege of attending a baptism in this province once–the biggest baptism I’ve ever attended. Almost fifty were baptized, primarily young people from those remote villages. And hearing their stories made the event even more special, because every one of them had faced opposition even before reaching the waters of baptism. Many had resistance and threats from their families. Some were experiencing issues with their teachers for refusing to attend classes on Sabbath. Several seniors had been told they would fail their exams and wouldn’t graduate high school, but they took a stand anyway.
Yes; each of those young people faced huge opposition as they stepped into the water. But no threats could hold back the joy of knowing God’s acceptance and love. They stood, as it were, alongside Daniel’s friends at the fiery furnace as they faced the king and said, “our God, whom we serve, is able to deliver us from the fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand.” I imagine here a pause, as the breeze brings another blast of smoke, and the young men glance again toward the furnace before adding, “But if not, –even if God doesn’t deliver us– we will never disobey Him.”
That is the faithfulness these young people had, and which I wish for you, and me, as well. And, by the way, God rewarded their faith; several, at least, did graduate from high school in spite of the threats of their teachers. Thus God strengthens their faith for the next trials– for certainly more will come, and by God’s grace, they will remain faithful, no matter what.