Be Brave, Be Strong

October 26, 2016 | Winston Gosse

A massive explosion occurred on December 6, 1917 in the harbour of Halifax, Nova Scotia. At precisely 9:04 a.m. the French cargo ship SS Mont-Blanc, loaded with 2,400 tons of highly explosive wartime cargo, collided with the Norwegian ship SS Imo. Within twenty minutes, a fire ignited the explosives on the Mont-Blanc, resulting in a disaster causing horrific damage, injury and loss of life.

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Approximately 2,000 people were killed instantly due to collapsed structures, falling debris and fires. Another 9,000 or so were injured. Within a half-mile radius, nearly every structure in the path of the explosion was destroyed. A tsunami wave resulting from the blast came ashore and wiped out a settlement of the Mi'kmaq, an indigenous Canadian tribe (CBC.CA, "The Halifax Explosion," 2015).

The adjacent communities of Dartmouth and Richmond were greatly impacted as well. Many people at the time thought the explosion was the result of a German U-boat attack. The blast, estimated to have caused $545 million in damage (in 2014 Canadian dollars), has gone down in history as the largest man-made explosion prior to the development of nuclear weaponry.

As is often the case in disaster scenarios, individuals stand out who display heroic acts of courage and selflessness in dangerous situations. Such was the case that December morning in Halifax, when Vince Coleman, a railway dispatcher working less than a mile from the explosion, found out what the Mont-Blanc was carrying. Observing the burning ship just prior to the explosion, both he and his co-worker decided to run from what they knew would be a life-threatening situation. However, remembering that an incoming passenger train carrying upwards of 300 people was only minutes from the rail yard, Coleman turned back and sent an urgent Morse code message that saved the lives of the passengers.

The message sent has been reported in several variations. The Maritime Atlantic Museum reported this chilling version:

"Hold up the train. Ammunition ship afire in harbour making for Pier 6 and will explode. Guess this will be my last message. Good-bye boys" ( MaritimeMuseum.NovaScotia.CA, "Vincent Coleman and the Halifax Explosion," 2015).

Coleman continued to stay in the dispatch office sending out several additional messages. Coleman was killed in the massive explosion, but the heroism, courage and selflessness displayed that day in the face of imminent danger may well have been responsible for all incoming trains to Halifax coming to a screeching halt.

It has been said, "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear." The average individual will not likely end up in dramatic circumstances requiring such a courageous response as Mr. Coleman's, but this does not mean that courage is not part of the daily life of a God-fearing individual. The Apostle Paul instructed Timothy that one characteristic of the perilous end times would be people who have a "form of godliness but [deny] God's power" (2 Timothy 3:1, 5). Obeying God in this world takes courage. Trusting God despite the pressure to compromise takes courage. Becoming and remaining converted takes courage.

As the Apostle Paul stated, "Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong" (1 Corinthians 16:13).

Canadians, and indeed all the modern nations descended from ancient Israel, are going to experience trials in the not-too-distant future, which will be far more trying and impactful than the historic Halifax explosion of 1917. We will need to demonstrate the courage of Vince Coleman, who in his day performed a selfless work right to the end, saving hundreds from utter destruction.

And, because of individuals in our day who will be close to God, who will be courageous, resilient, standing strong, who will endure, who will be setting an example and who will be doing and supporting the very Work of Almighty God, God will save the world from "utter destruction" (Matthew 24:14, 21-22).

Will you be one of them? Will you "be brave and be strong"?

This commentary is an adaptation of the article Be Strong and of Good Courage originally published as part of the Oh Canada! section of the March-April 2015 Tomorrow's World. Click here to read this article in its original format. Also, be sure to read the informative article: Click True Christians Need Courage.

Stock media provided by ROSS KUMMER /