Between the 26th May and the 2nd June 1940 – eighty years ago this month – one third of a million soldiers both of the British Expeditionary Force in France, and the French army, were taken from the beaches of Dunkirk, in what the British Prime Minister of the day, Winston Churchill, called “A miracle of deliverance.” He had expected less than 20,000 to be rescued but, in the event, most of the troops who were making their last stand on the coast of Belgium, were repatriated.
It was indeed a miracle and it was also an answer to prayer. King George VI had requested that Sunday, 26 May should be observed as a National Day of Prayer. In a stirring broadcast, he called on the people of Britain and of the (then) Empire to commit their cause to God. Together with members of the Cabinet, the King attended Westminster Abbey, whilst millions of his subjects in all parts of the Commonwealth and Empire flocked to the churches to join in prayer. The whole nation was at prayer on that Sunday. The scene outside Westminster Abbey was remarkable—photographs show long queues of people who could not even get in, the Abbey was so crowded! In its hour of need, the people turned to God. And their cry did not go unanswered.
Why do I mention all this?
In The first Chapter of Paul’s letter to the Colossian church, he tells them that they should give thanks to the Father, “who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Every believer in Christ can identify with the soldiers evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk. Delivered and transferred! Without Christ our situation was dire – stranded without hope. But his death on the cross has both bought us back and brought us back! So firstly, recognise that your salvation is a miracle of deliverance.
Secondly, understand that such miracles are a result of prayer. Someone prayed for you. At times like this, when our country stands in great need, believers are called to stand in the gap and be people of prayer. As a nation, we may have forsaken the Lord, but God is still at work. Our prayer should be not only that He would have mercy on us and stem the onslaught of the virus, but much more – that the people would turn again to the Saviour, that hearts would be awakened and that revival would come to the land. These are days of opportunity.
Finally, ask God to show us as a church how we may of spiritual and practical help, not only during this time of medical emergency but during the period of economic hardship that will undoubtedly follow.
My mother spoke to me about her memories of the first Sunday after the bulk of soldiers had been landed on the south coast of England. It was the 2nd June 1940. She lived with her mother, my grandmother, in the town of Salisbury, near to the South coast and close to a large army base. When the soldiers landed in Southampton, they were put on trains to return either home, or to their base. But the situation was confused and many were left just wandering the streets with nowhere to go. Gran ran what was called in those days a ‘milk bar’ – the nearest equivalent to today’s coffee shop. She wanted to help, but it was Sunday and the family were staunch Methodists. Never had they opened the milk bar on the Sabbath. But my mother told me that Gran declared – “we cannot have these boys just wandering the streets – we have to help them!” So they broke with tradition and had mercy on those in need – on a Sunday!
The world has changed. We may be called upon as a church to do things we have never done before, or do what we have always done in a different way. My grandmother never normally opened her milk bar on a Sunday but she recalled Jesus’ teaching on the Sabbath well enough to understand that at that time, it was the right thing to do. What new thing is God calling us as a church to do to meet the spiritual and practical needs of the new world we are living in?
So, recognise that your salvation is a miracle of deliverance. Understand that God used prayer in accomplishing this miracle and be a pray-er for other’s salvation. And ask God to show us as a church how we can best be used by Him at this time to minister to each other and our fellow citizens, for their spiritual welfare and for His glory.
God bless you this week. Keep the officers in prayer as we meet on Thursday. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have a need.
Jon, for the Elders