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Editor’s Note: Yesterday, December 7th, 2016, marked the 76th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. In remembrance of that world-changing event, this devotion is posted to tell one of God’s great redemptive stories from the battle for the Pacific.
All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name. — Acts 10:43
Sgt. Jacob Daniel DeShazer was a crew member in the legendary Doolittle Raiders, a team of 80 brave military servicemen who volunteered to bomb Tokyo in retaliation for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. DeShazer was among those captured by the Japanese Army after bailing out of his plane over Japanese-occupied China. He spent 40 months in captivity, 34 months of it in solitary confinement, and was the victim of cruel torture and starvation. In his own words, DeShazer said, “My hatred for the enemy nearly drove me crazy. . . My thoughts turned toward what I heard about Christianity changing hatred between human beings into real brotherly love and I was gripped with a strange longing to examine the Christian’s Bible to see if I could find the secret. I begged my captors to get a Bible for me. At last, in the month of May, 1944, a guard brought me the book, but told me I could have it only for three weeks. I eagerly began to read its pages. Chapter after chapter gripped my heart.”
Particularly fascinating to DeShazer was his reading of the prophets in the Old Testament. Six times he read through their writings, and focused on the mention of a divine Redeemer to come, one born in human flesh. Then he went on to the New Testament and found there the fulfillment of those prophecies in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. — Romans 10:9,10
On June 8, 1944, DeShazer confessed his sins and received the forgiveness and salvation promised him in God’s word. Even though he remained in prison for more than a year, he was freed from hatred—free to love. He wrote the following in a post-war tract, “I Was a Prisoner of Japan”: “How my heart rejoiced in my newness of spiritual life, even though my body was suffering so terribly from the physical beatings and lack of food! But suddenly I discovered that God had given me new spiritual eyes and that when I looked at the enemy officers and guards who had starved and beaten my companions and me so cruelly, I found my bitter hatred for them changed to loving pity.”
But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you . . . love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. — Luke 6:27-28,35
With his new-found faith, DeShazer was anxious to “try out” the principles which he had been studying in Scripture, particularly the command to love your enemies. One day he was particularly mistreated by a cruel guard. He decided that the next morning he would greet that guard without bitterness and say “Good morning!” in Japanese. God gave DeShazer the grace to continue with that new treatment, and after a week the guard who had been so mean actually gave him extra food. DeShazer was grateful and decided that God’s way really worked!
Then Jesus came to them and said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.” — Matthew 28:18-20
Physical freedom came for DeShazer and other prisoners-of-war on August 20, 1945. Returning to his home in Oregon, DeShazer began seminary training shortly thereafter at Seattle Pacific College, married, and returned to Japan as a missionary. He served with his family as Free Methodist missionaries in Japan for thirty years, planting 23 churches. Many thousands of Japanese responded to this former POW’s invitation to receive Christ as Lord and Savior—but probably the most notable was Mitsuo Fuchida.
Fuchida was handed DeShazer’s tract “I Was a Prisoner of Japan” in a train station after the war’s end. Commander Fuchida led the Japanese air fleet which bombed Pearl Harbor, the man who had called “Tora! Tora! Tora!” After reading the tract, Fuchida, like DeShazer, was moved by Jesus’ cry from the cross, “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) In September of 1949, Fuchida accepted Christ as Savior, was baptized in 1951, and went on to become a missionary in Asia.
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. — Acts 20:24
Over the next years, Fuchida and DeShazer spoke to many crowds together and individually, sharing their testimony of the power of Jesus Christ to transform lives. Fuchida’s desire was for people to remember him for the message of his changed heart more than the memory of the Pearl Harbor attack. In 1970 Fuchida wrote in his testimony “From Pearl Harbor to Calvary”: “He is the only One who was powerful enough to change my life and inspire it with His thoughts. He was the only answer to Jake DeShazer’s tormented life. He is the only answer for young people today.” Mitsuo Fuchida died in 1976 at the age of 74, and Jake DeShazer died in 2008 at the age of 95. Two former enemies now together in Heaven.
Does this story speak to you? Are you in a prison of hatred or bitterness? Do you hope for relief? The answers are in the person of Jesus Christ, and written in the words of Scripture and on the hearts of true followers of Christ. It is level ground at the foot of the cross . . . and we are all sinners. We all need forgiveness of sin, all of us. Take the time to repent and to turn your life over to Him.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. — John 3:16,17
Questions to Share:
1. What did you read about Sgt. DeShazer and Commander Fuchida that particularly inspired you?
2. Which of the six Scriptures highlighted spoke to you in a way which inspired you to know more about the Lord?