Sermon Illustrations


One of the most tragic stories of WW2 involves the tale of the survivors of the sunken USS Indianapolis. The ship went down in the last days of the war and the survivors remained unaccounted for five days. Many were in the water for that time with nothing more than a life preserver, and no provisions. Most died from exposure, injuries, dehydration and most horrific - sharks which attacked the men day and night.

On the afternoon of their fourth day in the ocean they were spotted by a pontoon plane that landed and loaded 56 survivors inside the plan awaiting rescue from ships that were now racing to the scene. The following words are taken from David Harell's book describing the final hours when these desperate men waited for rescue.

"While nestled among my wet and shivering shipmates, clinging to life in the darkness, I remember seeing the dim glow of a light outside the plane. At first I didn't give it much thought; too weary to even care. But after a while, the light grew brighter. Then someone -- probably one of the crewmen -- announced that the light coming through the doorway was emanating from the destroyer USS Doyle that was slowly but surely coming to get us. Knowing this, that glow took on a new dimension. Its rays beamed a light of hope that pierced the cold darkness of death. Speaking to survivors some years later, Lt. Marks poignantly described this fascinating phenomenon that occurred over the four to five hours we quietly waited as the Doyle made its way to us:

'In an operation where so many things went wrong, where so many people didn't get the word, and where many of those who did get it failed to appreciate the situation, the perception of Lt. Cdr. W. Graham Claytor in command of the Doyle was a shining exception. As he steamed through the gathering dusk, still more than a hundred miles away, he intercepted the radio conversation between me and the Ventura search plane. He knew that there might be enemy submarines ahead, because I had warned him of them, and he didn't know what sort of situation he was heading into; but he had the perception to know that somewhere up ahead men were clinging to life with their last ounce of strength, and that with darkness come cold, loneliness and despair. It is in the hours of darkness that most men give up the fight, and he felt that if there was something that he could do to give these men hope, to let them know that help was on its way, maybe they would summon the courage and the strength to hang on a few more hours.

I will never forget how dark were the early hours of that night. There was no moon, and the starlight was obscured by clouds. And even though we were near the equator, the wind whipped up and it was cold. We had long since dispensed the last drop of water, and scores of badly injured men, stacked three deep in the fuselage and ranged far out on both wings, were softly crying with thirst and with pain. And then, far out on the horizon, there was a light!

No matter the warning of submarines. No matter the unknown dangers of the night, the USS Doyle turned on her big twenty-four inch searchlight and pointed it straight up to reflect off the bottom of the clouds two thousand feet up in the sky. And it stayed on! For hour after hour it shone as a beacon of hope in the sky. The results on our own plane were electrifying. To the men who cried for water we would say, "Look! See that light! It's a destroyer on its way. There's water and doctors and rescue coming soon!" And men would settle back in hope to gaze upon that lovely light. And out around us, where men were struggling to survive their fifth night in the water, there were scores of you who saw the light and summoned up that one last ounce of strength to last till rescue came.'"

We are all lost at sea, waiting for rescue. The light of Christ is our hope! He is racing toward us ready to save us.

Related Sermon Illustrations

Related Sermons