1. Midnight express
Lesson: Ezekiel 3:17.
At eleven o'clock on the night of July 6, 1881, 15- year-old Kate Shelley stood on the porch of her small home on the east bank of Honey Creek, Iowa, and watched the worst storm she had ever seen.
Wind howled, lightning flashed, thunder boomed, and rain came down in gale-whipped sheets. The usually placid creek was now a raging torrent beating against the railroad trestle. Then Kate saw the dim light of a freight engine round the curve beyond the west side of the bridge. She watched as it rolled onto the wooden trestle. There was a splintering crash, and the engine plunged into the swollen creek.
plunged into the swollen creek. Kate ran inside to tell her mother. "I've got to cross the creek to the station and stop the midnight express, or lots of people will die," she said. "There isn't much time. I must hurry."
"Don't go!" pleaded her mother. "You might die yourself!"
"I have to try," Kate insisted. "It is my duty. I can't simply stand here and watch the train fall into the water and listen to the screams of the dying people. I must go."
"Go then, but be careful," her mother said. "I'll be praying for you."
Kate ran out the door into the blinding storm. Slowly she crawled across the narrow catwalk that was still intact. Gale force winds threatened to blow her off the shaky ledge.
It seemed an eternity before she reached the other side. Once there, she raced to the station. Throwing open the door she shouted, "The bridge is out! Stop the express! Quick! The freight engine has gone into the creek!"
The stationmaster dashed outside and flagged the express train to a stop. Another minute and it would have been too late!
It is now minutes to midnight in this world's history. People are rushing down the track of life toward eternal death. They don't know the bridge is out. Someone must warn them before it is too late. God has given that message to you and me. It is our duty. If we do not do it, lives will surely be lost.
2. Swallowed by a whale
Lesson: Jonah 2:1.
On August 25, 1891, James Bartley was on board the ship Star of the East near the Falkland Islands when the crew spotted an eighty-foot sperm whale. James was one of the crewmen who went in rowboats to harpoon it. The whale was wounded and lashed out, almost overturning the boats. When the men returned to the ship with the dead whale they noticed that James Bartley was missing.
On August 26, when the men were removing blubber from the whale they were startled by a movement in the stomach. Cutting it open they discovered Bartley. He was unconscious, but after a bath of cold seawater he recovered and told his strange story.
He had been tossed from the rowboat by a flip of the whale's tail and had landed in its open mouth. The inside was soft and spongy, and James felt himself slipping along a smooth passage. Suddenly he found himself in what was like a tremendous sack, much larger than his body. All was completely dark. He felt around with his hand and came in contact with several fish that squirmed away at his touch.
For a short time James struggled and tried to call out, but breathing became difficult, and the heat was unbearable. His head began to ache terribly, and he felt he had only a few more moments to live. Then he lost consciousness until cold water was poured over him, and he found himself on the deck of the ship.
It must have been something like that for the prophet Jonah. There in the darkness, heat, and slime of the fish's stomach he knew that he would die unless God worked a miracle for him. He called out to God for deliverance, and the fish vomited him up on the beach in answer to prayer.
Sometimes you may feel that your life is in a real mess, but you cannot be in a worse situation than Jonah. If God could hear him from the stomach of a fish at the bottom of the sea, He will surely hear your prayer, wherever you are, and whatever your circumstances. Reach out to God in faith and He will deliver you.
Margarida F. Sarli works at the Ministerial Association as researcher and assistant at Shepherdess International.