Miracle on the River Kwai

Captain Ernest Gordon was a company commander in the British army during the Second World War. He was captured by the Japanese and spent three years as their prisoner. During his captivity Captain Gordon – or simply “Ernie” to his friend – was forced to work building the infamous Thai-Burma railway line, including the bridge over the River Kwai.

In his autobiographical book “Miracle on the River Kwai” Ernie Gordon recounts how the barbarous treatment by their Japanese captors had caused the behaviour of the prisoners to degenerate. These British prisoners-of-war were starting to be cruel and malicious to each other, but then one afternoon something terrible happened. One of the shovels was discovered to be missing on the work site, and the Japanese officer in charge of the unit was furious. He ordered that the person who stole the shovel to come forward otherwise he would execute every last one of them there and then. It was obvious the Japanese commanding officer meant what he said as he pulled out his pistol.

Unexpectedly, one of the Scottish soldiers stepped forward. The Japanese officer put his gun away, picked up one of the remaining shovels, and beat the man to death with it.

When the violent execution was over, the other prisoners-of-war picked up their friend’s body and carried it to their next tool check. They planned to bury their friend’s body at the end of the day when they were given permission. As they again counted the tools they discovered that all the shovels were there. A mistake had been made in the previous tool count and actually no shovel had been stolen.

News of the soldier’s death travelled rapidly through the whole camp. An innocent man had willingly volunteered to die in order to save others.

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Captain Ernest Gordon’s book was made into a major film in 2002

The episode had an overwhelming impact on the entire prison camp. The prisoners-of-war stopped mirroring their captors’ degrading behaviour and they began to treat each other with kindness, just like brothers should.

The result of one man’s sacrifice for others created a miracle

Captain Ernest Gordon says he became a Christian in that P.O.W. camp, and when he returned from the war he became a minister of the Gospel. It was the examples of Christ-in-Action during his imprisonment – just like the fellow soldier who willingly died for others – that convinced Ernie of God’s sacrifice for each of us. Captain Gordon experienced the transforming power of sacrificial love.

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Captain Gordon became a Christian in the Japanese prison camp and went on to become a church minister – working with Martin Luther King in the 1960’s to advance the civil rights movement.

Jesus says in the the Gospel of Mark: “For I did not come to be served, but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many.” And our Saviour willingly died so you and I might live life more abundantly.

Sacrificial love has a transforming power. Won’t you accept the sacrificial love your Creator has for you, and come to the cross of Jesus Christ?



Click here to read the fascinating story of someone who dared take Communion alongside the Duke of Wellington.


About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and lives on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

Want to read more inspirational stories of faith from this series? Click here to read the inspiring story of an impoverished monk who stopped the carnage in Rome’s Colloseum 

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The Saving of John Paton

During the nineteenth century John Paton was a Christian missionary to New Hebrides in the South Pacific – a group of fourteen islands we know today as Vanuatu.

A native of Scotland, John arrived in this mission field in 1858, accompanied by his young wife. But only a few months later tropical fever would kill both her and their young son. Despite this tragedy John continued to work on the islands for decades. As a minister, educator, and a developer of small industries for the locals, he strongly advocated against the practice of slavery in the region.

One evening some hostile natives surrounded the minister’s house and were intent on murdering John and his second wife, along with their young children. As you might expect a pastoral family to do, the Patons prayed. They stayed awake all during that terror-filled night requesting God might deliver them. When daylight finally came they were amazed and relieved to see their attackers leaving. Of course they thanked the Lord for His deliverance.

A year later, the chief of the tribe who had surrounded the Paton family that night was converted to Christ. Remembering what had happened, John asked the chief what had kept him from burning down the house and killing them all. The chief was surprised by the the question and replied: “Well… we couldn’t attack because of the hundreds men who were surrounding your house.” John Paton was shocked because he knew they were alone that night. The chief then said he was afraid to attack because all the warriors were much bigger than his men, and were wearing shining garments with swords and spears circling. The chief said he was sorry and was very glad John had organised the shining warriors to protect his family.

John Paton discovered he and his family were saved that night a year previously because God had sent a heavenly army to protect them.


There’s a similar story in the Bible where an opposing army surrounds the city where the prophet Elisha is staying. Elisha tells those close enough to hear: “Don’t be afraid….Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16).

Elisha then prays to God that his colleague might see more clearly – and the eyes of Elisha’s servant are spiritually opened to see why Elisha told him not to be afraid. Something then happens to the servant’s eyes and he sees what Elisha had known all along – the servant sees an even bigger army of God’s angels surrounding the enemy, and these angels were ready to protect those who stayed faithful to God.


Do you ever feel under attack? Is there a difficulty or a disaster weighing down heavily upon you? Keep faithful, keep praying, and know with confidence your Creator is surrounding you with all the heavenly help you need.

May the opening words to the 46th Psalm in the Bible be of comfort to you:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times trouble.”


Click here to read a story of another faithful Scot – a dog named “Greyfriars Bobby” who waited by the grave of his owner for fourteen years.


About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and lives on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

Want to read more inspirational stories of faith from this series? Click here to read the fascinating story of a European king’s funeral and how in death we are all the same.

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