But if not …

by Jefferson David Tant

In late May of 1940, during World War II, the German army had overrun the tiny European nation of Belgium.  As Hitler's tanks and troops marched across Belgium, they pushed the defenders--British, French, and Belgian troops--toward the sea. Finally, the Allied forces of Great Britain, France, and Belgium were cornered at a seaport in northern France called Dunkirk.  It looked as though all 338,000 of them would be wiped out by Hitler's approaching armies.

As the situation seemed more desperate, I have read that the British Navy was reluctant to send ships to evacuate the soldiers, as it seemed the Navy would be destroyed, and thus all would be lost.
The German Air Force was dropping leaflets showing a map of the area, indicating the soldiers were surrounded by the sea and the German Army, and they should lay down their arms and surrender.

Back in Britain, as the British people waited anxiously, a simple three-word message was transmitted from the doomed armies at Dunkirk: "But if not." Suddenly, the island nation of Great Britain sprang into action.  Eight hundred boats of every size and description were called into action.  Every battleship, gunboat, fishing boat, motorboat, yacht -- even rowboats! -- journeyed across the English Channel to help rescue those troops from Dunkirk and return them all safely to Britain — 338,000 soldiers!

What was it about that three-word message?  How could three short words--only eight letters--start all that? How many today would recognize the source of those three words? The Miracle of Dunkirk happened because the British people recognized a phrase from the Bible.  They recognized the phrase from the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who trusted in God, even when the king threatened to throw them into a fiery furnace for refusing to worship an idol.  And the British people knew that their troops were saying, "We will not give up, even if we die."

Their inspiration came from Daniel 3:13-18:

"Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Then they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said unto them, Is it of purpose, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, that ye serve not my god, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made, well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that god that shall deliver you out of my hands? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of thy hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

You may never be thrown into a fiery furnace, nor be backed into a corner by thousands of tanks and troops. But there will be times in your life when you will be challenged by our archenemy Satan when you will have to choose between doing the right thing and giving in to sin. You’ll face hard times when doing the right thing will be hard or embarrassing. At such times remember that doing right is right even when it is hard and when it seems there is no immediate reward. God can deliver you and may reward you for doing right at that moment, but if not, it’s still right to do right. Our reward will come in due time.

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