“But If Not”

By Dick Lambert

It was May of 1940. The dreaded German Panzar Division had swept across Europe and had the British Army pinned down at Dunkirk. The British and French generals thought that the narrow twisting roads and paths through the Ardennes forest were too small to allow the mass movement of the large German tanks and machinery. However German general Heinz Guderian managed to maneuver the large tank force through the Ardennes and was ready to strike. The German planes were bombing and strafing and with the huge tank force in place, the British and French armies would be lucky to last a day.

God Works in the Affairs of Men

The British commander was able to get a communiqué back to Britain that consisted of just three words, “but if not”! Those three words sparked a surge of courage, determination and down right grit throughout the British military and the entire civilian population. Those three words brought about the bravest, most unorthodox successful rescue of any army in the pages of history. Admiral Ramsey was chosen to attempt the Dunkirk rescue. He ordered all civilian fishing, pleasure and commercial craft between 30 and 100 feet in length to report to Dover to join the Naval ships for the rescue. Some 850 craft arrived and the civilian owners and their crews volunteered to man their craft. They had only one day to complete the rescue which would be only 45,000 of the approximately 365,000 troops. They departed from Dover and something unexplainable happened. Just as General Guderian was ready to surround and attack with his large tank force, Hitler ordered him to stop at the outskirts of Dunkirk. Guderian was furious. Instead of one day and 45,000, Admiral Ramsey had 9 days and rescued 338,226 British and French troops and brought them back to Dover.

Do You Recognize Those Three Words?

Why did three simple words move the British to such gallant action against overwhelming odds? Do your recognize those three words, “but if not”? They are from Daniel 3:18. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego refused to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar set up. In a rage he ordered the fiery furnace to be heated seven times hotter than normal and then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego were to be bound and thrown into the furnace. They said, “0 King, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of thine hand 0 King, But if not’ be it known unto thee 0 King, that we will not serve thy gods nor worship the golden image which thou has set up.” God delivered them from the fiery furnace. Read Daniel 3.

Notice that the British were familiar with the Bible and their army turned to the Bible for strength and courage when it looked like they were doomed. They turned to the God of heaven believing that he could deliver them, but if not, let it be known they wouldn’t fall down before Hitler’s Panzar Division.

The British, the Americans and people in other countries turned to the Bible and to prayer for strength and courage during the second world war. They revered God and had an appreciation for his word. Romans 15:4 had a very real meaning for them as they learned first hand that everything written in the past was written to teach that through endurance and encouragement of the Scriptures they might have hope. This was the only hope that they had.

53 Years Later

Fifty-three years have passed and people no longer turn to the Bible for hope and guidance. The wisdom of man has replaced the wisdom of God, secular humanism has re-placed Bible precepts and situation ethics (“no absolutes”) has replaced “thus saith the Lord.” These philosophies teach that man is supreme, there is no right or wrong, and everything is relative depending on the person and the circumstance.

Now folks can tell you who is leading the pennant race but they can’t tell you who lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. They can quote batting averages but they can’t quote Scripture. They can tell you who won the NFL championship but they can’t tell you about Jesus and the Christ who won the victory over death. They can tell you all about the NBA stars but they can’t tell you about the star in the east that was seen by the wise men. Small children can sing lyrics and quote word for word the beer advertisements on the sports channels but they can’t quote John 3:16. Folks don’t recognize “but if not” any more and kids don’t know who Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego are.

God Gave Parents the Responsibility to Teach Their Kids

In God’s wisdom he gave parents the responsibility to teach their children about him, his Son the Christ, the Scriptures and to love and discipline them (Deut. 6; 2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15). When parents did this and taught them moral and ethical behavior, respect and politeness at home, the kids grew up to be good citizens with an appreciation for God and his Word. They in turn taught those things to their children. When parents depend on someone else (the baby sitter, the church or the school) to do this for them, it just doesn’t get done and everyone suffers  the kids, the parents, and society. Baby sitters don’t have the same interest as parents, the school teaches a humanistic philosophy and at the very most kids are at church only 3 to 4 hours a week which isn’t enough time to teach them what they should know. What our kids learn today shapes their destiny tomorrow and determines the character of the next generation.

Our Kids Are Taught Secular Humanism At School

The public schools used to reinforce what parents taught their kids at home. They demanded respect, basic moral behavior and disciplined the children. The school day started with the pledge of allegiance to the flag and prayer to the God of heaven. That is no longer the case. Instead of helping, the schools have become part of the problem. Many schools start the day with a weapons search, a drug check and have a discipline problem from the very start of the day. The curriculum used to teach moral lessons, honesty and good citizenship along with academics. Now the schools allow practicing homosexuals to teach and influence our children, against the wishes of parents. They want to teach our kindergarten kids sex education, teach them that man came from monkey and give them condoms when they are in Junior High and High School. They counsel the kids that abortion is the answer to unwanted pregnancy, but won’t teach abstinence as an alternative to prevent disease and pregnancy because that is said to be a religious teaching.

Where Is This Teaching Taking Us?

We need look no further than the morning newspaper to see the results of such teaching. In August 1993, a Marion County judge ordered the population of the Marion County jail to be cut in half because they were double the capacity and still needed more room. Articles in the Indianapolis Star and News reported that the crimes of murder, assault, theft, rape and fraud have increased. Health sources re-ported that abortions and teenage pregnancies are both increasing. Syphilis is in the epidemic stage in Marion County with 15 to 19-year-old girls having the highest infection rate. The dreaded disease AIDS is increasing in all groups of people, both male and female. Surely the Proverb writer was right when he said, “the way of the transgressor is hard” (Prov. 13:15).

Mainline denominations cannot decide if homosexuality is sin or an alternate lifestyle to be accepted. Some have now appointed homosexuals to preaching positions as well as appointing women to preaching and leadership rolls. Many of them use entertainment and recreation events to promote church growth. Such ideas as these come from the minds of men not from the mind of God. Search the

Scriptures as you may and you don’t find even a hint of such things. We dare not feel smug and say this could never happen to us, because there are congregations that are already having problems with some of these things.

Hosea told Israel, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” The last of the verse says, “seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children” (4:6). First Israel, then Judah forgot God and went to their destruction just as the prophets of God had warned. In Romans 1 we read that the Gentiles changed the truth of God into a lie. They didn’t retain God in their knowledge and he gave them over to their reprobate minds. Folks in our day lack the knowledge of God and have changed the truth for a lie. We are trodding down the same road that led Israel, Judah and the Gentiles to destruction and, in fact, we are only a few steps behind them.

Is There Any Hope?

Our only hope is in God not man. “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord and whose hope is in the Lord” (Jer. 17:7). During the last 53 years man has turned away from God and turned to his own philosophies which have brought about the moral decline and degradation of our nation. Humanistic practices are described in Jeremiah 10:23 and 17:9. He says man’s heart is deceitful, he is desperately wicked and it is not in man to direct his steps. We read of the ultimate result of secular humanism in Proverbs 14:12. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Only the word of God can be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. His commandments are our lamp, his law is our light and his reproofs are instruction for righteous living (Psa. 119:105; 6:23). The word of God is all sufficient to change man’s heart and bring him to repentance. Faith, trust and hope come by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). This is the turning to the Lord and forsaking the ways of men that Isaiah talks about (Isa. 55:7).

The early church turned the world upside down by preaching the gospel. In the early 1800s there was a great movement to restore the church to its original state. Men wanted to return to the Bible for authority and let it be their only rule of faith and practice. They wanted to be Christians only, not some kind of a Christian and they became known as men and women of the word. No longer is that the case. The church has become comfortable, complacement and has lost its zeal to teach all folks of all nations.

Unless we change our priorities and give up those things that keep us from diligent Bible study there will be no hope! If we once again become known as men and women of the word with a desire to evangelize the world, starting with our neighbor, then there will be hope. Perhaps once again folks will recognize “but if not” and children will know who Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego are!

Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 18, p. 10-11
September 15, 1994