Theme: Do Not Be Alarmed
God is in control of the world now and until the end of time
“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”
We continue today with the story we began yesterday. We find Dr. Barnhouse on a train, traveling to Paris and back across France to the coast of London.
While he was on the train the French ordered mobilization. In those days every man in France had been through military service, was part of the army and knew what to do in case of an emergency. As soon as the order was received from Paris, mobilization was announced in every hamlet and village of the country, and there was an instant response.
Moreover, the tocsin sounded. In the Middle Ages, when few people knew how to read, Europe developed a code by which the church bells were used to alert the countryside of important events or dangers. The bells would tell when young people were being married, when a child was being baptized, when death had occurred. They also told of war.
This was the bell that was sounding from every tower in France as the Paris-bound train moved across the green fields. At every stop there were tragic scenes. Men by the hundreds were leaving their weeping wives and children and were boarding the train that would take them to their particular mobilization center and then on against the Germans. Many would never come back, and the towns through which the train was passing would later crumble under the bombs of the Allies as the western armies came with their own hard liberation years later.
An hour after Barnhouse reached Paris he was again on a train, this time speeding toward the coast. In the darkness—for it seemed very dark now—the train swung alongside the steamer, and within a few minutes the steamer moved out of the harbor toward England.
On board, the preacher made his way to the bridge and introduced himself to the captain. Together they listened to the radio reports. Hitler had invaded Danzig. The bombing was frightful. Chamberlain had called a meeting of his cabinet. If the Germans were not out of Danzig by eleven o’clock on Sunday morning, Chamberlain had said, war would be declared.
The captain, with British calmness, observed, “This time there will be no turning back. This is it.” Barnhouse went to his cabin for a few fitful hours of sleep and then got up again to go ashore in England. It was Friday, September 1, 1939.
Once again it was a beautiful day as the train carried the passengers across Kent to London. At Victoria Station Barnhouse took a taxi across the city to the station that serves the north of England. As he drew near he saw thousands of children lined up for immediate evacuation from London. He walked out among the children and saw a pitiful sight—children who, in the fear and commotion of the moment, were already victims of the war. One little child seemed to sum up the whole picture of this misery. He had been given some chocolate and had managed to smear it all over his face. He had wet his pants. And he had begun to cry, his cries an expression of misery mixed with terror. But nothing could be done. His case was but one little island of misery in the middle of a great continent of misery.
In time the train to the north left London, but it stopped constantly to allow troop trains and trains full of children to go past. The travelers reached Carlisle about midnight where they spent the night in the crowded lobby of the station hotel. Then there was another train, which took most of Saturday to push on to the coast. That night, when he should have been in Belfast at the dinner that was to open the series of meetings, the preacher stood at the edge of the water and gazed at Ireland across the gray-blue sea.
After dark the ship that was to take him to Ireland set off. The only light was the light coming from an automatic lighthouse, and one man remarked with a curse that the navy should shoot it out since the Germans could have used it for a landmark if they had been ready to fly over and bomb Ireland.
The steamer docked at Larne on the coast. Then another train made the run to Belfast, where it arrived at just after three in the morning. The committee that had arranged the meetings was waiting and they took Barnhouse through the lightless streets to his hotel. They said goodnight. Church was at eleven o’clock. They would be by to pick him up at ten-thirty in the morning. One of them said, “I hope you will have a good sermon. It may be the last that some of the men will ever hear.”
Barnhouse stood alone in his room, his luggage piled around him. Slowly he took a piece of paper that had been lying on a desk in the room and walked to the mantelpiece to write the outline of his sermon for that morning. He said later, “I stood there and prayed, and suddenly I thought of the perfect text for that hour.” Quickly he wrote the text followed by three or four thoughts that would be his subheads.
What was the mood among the French and British people Dr. Barnhouse encountered?
How can people find comfort in situations like this one?
Do you trust that God’s power and grace are sufficient to handle difficult situations in your life?
Is it difficult for you to accept that God’s perfect will for you may include personal suffering, pain and hardship? What does Scripture say about this?
In situations like this one people often ask how a good God can allow things so horrible to happen. What would you say? Study what the Bible has to say about war and sin.