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Salvation Is Of The Lord – Jonah 2:9

Category Articles
Date November 3, 2006

“Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me

1 was once lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved:

How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.

Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come;

‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.â€Â

(John Newton)

John the Baptist saw a dove and believed. James Whittaker saw a sea gull and believed. Who’s to say the One who sent the first didn’t send the second? James Whittaker was a member of a handpicked crew that flew a B-17 Flying Fortress plane captained by Eddie Rickenbacker. In October of 1942 Captain Rickenbacker and his crew were reported lost at sea somewhere over the Pacific Ocean The plane, which was out of radio range, ran out of fuel and crashed into the Ocean. The nine men spent the next month floating in three rafts. They battled with heat, storms and water. Sharks, some ten feet long, would ram their nine foot boats. After only eight days their rations were eaten or destroyed by saltwater. It would take a miracle for them to survive.

One morning after their daily devotions, Rickenbacker leaned his head back against the raft and pulled his hat over his eyes – and soon after a bird landed on his head. He peered out from under his hat and instinctively knew it must be a sea gull. Rickenbacker caught it and it provided food for the crew. In addition, the birds’ intestines were used for bait to catch fish, enabling the crew to survive to tell the story. A story about prayers offered and answered when there was no hope or help in sight. But there is another story about a One who came from a great distance to give His life a sacrifice for many. It is the story of salvation.

Weren’t we like the stranded crew of the plane? You may have heard the Rickenbacker story before, but Coren Schwenk knew the story very well, for she was engaged to the only crew member who did not survive, young Sgt. Alex Kacymarcyck. As a result of a 1985 reunion of the crew, Mrs. Schwenk learned that the widow of James Whittacker lived only eighty miles from her house, so the two women met and shared their stories.

The real miracle in the story was NOT that the bird landed on the head of Eddie Rickenbacker, but of the change in the heart of James Whittaker. The greatest event of that day was not the rescue of the crew, but the rescue of a soul because James Whittaker was an unbeliever. The plane crash didn’t change his unbelief, neither did the days facing death cause him to reconsider his destiny. In fact, Mrs Whittaker said, her husband grew irritated with John Bartak, another crew member, who continually read his Bible both privately and aloud.

But, James Whittaker’s protests didn’t stop John Bartak from reading, nor did Whittaker’s resistance stop the Word of God from penetrating his soul. Unknown to Whittaker the soil of his heart was being cultivated. For it was one morning after a bible reading that the sea gull landed on Captain Rickenbacker’s head. James, having witnessed the mercy and wonders of how the Lord answered prayer, became a believer. Isn’t that a mighty God who went to such lengths to save a soul?

At the time of the event, which was 1942, the rest of the world was occupied with Germany and Hitler. Every headline was reporting the actions of Roosevelt and Churchill, for the world was locked in a battle for freedom but the Lord was sending a gull to save a lost sinner.

This story illustrates how the Lord is able to save souls. Each person has a different experience to tell as to how the Lord changed their heart, but, we should remember that it isn’t the circumstances that matter; it is the God who orders the circumstances. It isn’t the words, but it is the God who speaks them. It wasn’t the mud that healed the eyes of the blind man; it was the finger of Jesus. The gull was not special, but the One who sent it was. The cross was not special or holy, but the One who was crucified on it was.

[This article was obtained from Evangelical Tract Distributors, Edmonton, Canada.]

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