EVANSTON, Ill. (BP)–After three days, trapped 240 feet underground in a flooded coal mine near Somerset, Pa., nine miners stepped out, one by one, into the floodlit night. Those of us who couldn’t go to bed until the last one was rescued will never forget the wonderful relief as the capsule emerged with the final miner.
Only a few hours earlier, the drillers had managed to lower a two-way radio into the chamber and were thrilled to hear that all nine were alive. Not surprisingly, the miners expressed a keen interest in getting out.
How like salvation it was. Trapped in darkness, the helpless men yearned for deliverance. A narrow but utterly necessary and sufficient way was provided, and they grasped it. Their minds were filled with the vision of light and love and life above.
How strange it is that many are indifferent or hostile to rescue. Just imagine the drillers’ getting these radio responses to their breakthrough:
1. “No way I’m getting into that capsule. It’s too confining.”
2. “I think I’ll pass. It’s pretty exciting down here, and life up there sounds so boring.”
3. “No thanks. They made me third watch captain, and I’m finally somebody. I’m afraid I’ll be a nobody up there.”
4. “I’m not really interested. There’s a lot of this mine I want to explore.”
5. “If that loser down the block is up there, I want no part of it.”
6. “What’s all the fuss? We’ll all end up there anyway.”
7. “I’m not coming up until you persuade me it’s an interfaith rescue team.”
8. “I won’t come unless I can bring my gear up with me.”
9. “Naw, I’ll just dig or swim out on my own.”
10. “Some of the guys down here are skeptical. What do I know? I’d better hold off.”
As crazy as these sound, we hear such things from the spiritually lost, and some from the backslidden. And so the apostle Paul wrote, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” He was oriented on the light and sound from above.
Yes, he was happy to stay on earth (in the mine) as long as God pleased, that he might be a servant and blessing to others trapped below. But, unlike many others, he never confused the mine with home. “Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ ….”
Television coverage was full of talk of prayer, miracles and the goodness of God. Still, there surely were lost people on the scene. Their hearts were fixed on mine rescue. They were indifferent to earth rescue; God had lowered the capsule, and they paid it no mind.
The paper reports that the operation took place on land adjacent to a rural Lutheran church. Perhaps one of the crusty old drillers, a jaded newsman or a desperate relative wandered into that church, slumped down in a pew, lifted a hymnal from the rack and humbly received the message of Martin Luther’s “If God Had Not Been on Our Side.” It concerns the persecution of Christians on earth, but it points to the one who rescues us from every evil and gives us eternal freedom from sin, want, fear, confusion and suffering:
Their furious wrath, did God permit,
Would surely have consumed us
And as a deep and yawning pit
With life and limb entombed us.
Like men o’er whom dark waters roll
Their wrath could have engulfed our soul
And, like a flood, o’erwhelmed us.
Blest be the Lord, who foiled their threat
That they could not devour us;
Our souls, like birds, escaped their net,
They could not overpower us.
The snare is broken — we are free!
Our help is ever, Lord, in Thee,
Who madest earth and heaven.
Entombment. Dark waters. God’s deliverance. Now that’s a rescue. And how might men escape should they neglect it?
Coppenger is pastor of Evanston (Ill.) Baptist Church.