Dear Wake Up Family:
On the 1st day of April 2002, a 96-year-old man quietly passed away in a soldier’s nursing home on the south coast of Finland. He was a small man, only standing five feet tall, who had been a farmer in his prime. In his youth, however, many decades earlier, Simo Hayha was called to serve his country’s military during the Finnish-Soviet winter war of 1939; where, over a period of only 98 days, he reportedly took the lives of over 500 men in defense of his homeland. During that short time period, he became a national hero and known throughout the world as the greatest sniper who ever lived.
Unfortunately for Simo, in the final week of the war, an enemy’s bullet hit him in the face. Fellow soldiers later found his body and, believing him dead, placed him with other corpses to be buried. Hours after the battle though, a soldier noticed his twitching leg amongst the piled bodies and rushed Simo to the hospital. Despite having lost his upper jaw, most of his lower jaw, and the whole of his left cheek, he regained consciousness after seven days. His injuries required 26 surgeries to mend the damage, although his face remained scarred and disfigured the rest of his life.
At the end of the war, Simo was promoted from the rank of corporal to second lieutenant as a reward for his service—the single biggest promotion ever given in the Finnish army. Out of gratitude, his nation also gave him a farm. But not everyone was grateful. While he never reveled in his military service and rarely talked about the war, he received death threats from fanatical groups until the day he died for what he had done defending his country.
I share his story, not to glamorize killing or war, but to emphasize this man’s attitude in the face of almost certain death. Not long before he died, Simo was asked if he regretted taking the lives of so many men. Notice what he said, “I did what I was told to do, as well as I could.”
When Simo was called to service I’m sure he was afraid. Judges 6 says when Gideon was called to war he was afraid. I expect Moses was afraid when asked to confront Pharaoh and his army. 1 Kings 19 says Elijah was afraid and ran when confronted by a powerful woman. And I’m certain the 144,000 will be afraid, humanly speaking, until the Lord gives them the courage to do what He asks them to do—even to death.
Larry used to say, “But why concentrate on the flood folks? Concentrate on the ark. Why be afraid? We’re going home!”
The Bible says of the redeemed, “These are the ones who died in the great tribulation. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white. ‘That is why they stand in front of God’s throne and serve him day and night…. They will never again be hungry or thirsty…. For the Lamb… will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.’” (Revelation 7:14–17)
I not only want to hear the Lord tell me, “Well done good and faithful servant,” I want to be able to say when asked about my experience on this sinful planet, “I did what I was told to do, as well as I could.”