“I'll leave you. Everything is in order within me.”
2 Timothy 4:6-8
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
Strafed by four Stuka dive-bombers, whilst fleeing on foot from a successful raid, the Jewish soldier, mortally wounded in both the shoulder and abdomen, died thirteen hours later in the arms of his battle comrade, breathing out these last words before his departure: “I'll leave you. Everything is in order within me.” This French professor of philosophy was working in Tunisia at the outbreak of WWII. Re-assigned to Libya, after the signing of the French-German Armistice he quickly defected to then British-held Palestine to join the Free French forces gathered in that area. Volunteering for front line service, the reconstituting of various ‘bands of brothers’ eventually placed him, a trainee officer, with the rank of corporal in the Free French unit of the newly formed Special Air Service. This thoughtful, profitably philosophical and heavily decorated individual was killed on his fourth combat mission and buried three times: In the dessert; in Egypt and in the SAS War Memorial cemetery in his home country of France. Surely, a man buried three times might have at least three things to say to the living today? I think so.
First, this Philosopher, commenting on the war and both his part in it, and it in him, says: “I need not complain about the war. Because of her, I have had to learn to live through anything. Because of her, you could say I have benefited, very greatly benefited even, than that of the life that I have led without her. It is on the contrary peace, that is the situation, the career that had been artificial and dangerous for my progress……….” Here then is a man who testifies of the benefits of suffering. Here is a man who testifies of the treasures of conflict. Here is a man who can compare both war and peace and while longing for the latter, never the less, acknowledges the vitality of the vista he then presently viewed. He echoes the apostle Paul and his testimony to all of these on the front line of real spiritual conflict, who, should also take comfort in learning of the eternal benefits of involvement of such a warfare: “ Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:1-5
Secondly, this Philosopher, who would have lived longer in peace time but seemingly fuller in wartime, testified that he was ready for departure. For him, all temporal situations were as in order as they could be and I suspect that more importantly, all eternal preparations were in his heart and mind also in good order. He was ready to live and fight. He was ready to die. Are you?
The third thing that this thrice buried thinking man leaves us is his most audacious of prayers. His comrade in arms, you see, before burying the shattered body of André Louis Arthur Zirnheld, removed all personal effects from the corpse and out of the front heart pocket of the blood stained battle blouse he pulled a damp red piece of crumpled paper, the words of which have been adopted by many a band of special forces soldiers, and many a man of war who has finally stood alone with that direction changing board of decision made up of God Almighty, his own personal mortality and the definite glories to come from a life well spent. Maybe, in the prayer for today, you can make these same words yours?
Remember: ‘Who dares wins.’
Listen:- And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. "And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. Acts 20:22-25
Pray: - Father, help me neither to be stupid nor presumptuous. Father, help me not to invoke wisdom and preparation as excuses for disobedience and cowardice. Father, in all things help me to be obedient to the leadings of Your Holy Spirit and then Lord, as each step on the way is committed you in acknowledgement of our need and Your grace, direct our paths for Your glory and our safety in Jesus name, Amen and amen.
André Louis Arthur Zirnheld - French paratrooper, Free French Air Force, French Squadron, Special Air Service. [March 7, 1913 - June 27, 1942]