Courage to Stand Up
By DANNY MINTON
Frank “Foo” Fujita graduated from Abilene High School in the late 1930s. He planned to be a cartoonist when World War II broke out, sending his life in a different direction. At seventeen years old, weighing 105 pounds, Frank “Foo” Fujita decided to join the service. He walked into the recruitment office underage and underweight. To enter, a young man had to be eighteen and weigh at least 135 pounds. As “Foo,” a nickname he received in high school, wrote in his biography, the recruiter asked him how much he weighed. He told him 105 pounds. The recruiter told him to go outside and come back in again. When he entered, he asked him how much he weighed. Foo told him he weighed 105 pounds. Again the recruiter told him to go outside and come back in again. When he entered, the recruiter questioned him, “How much do you weigh?” Foo answered 135 pounds. The recruiter answered, “That’s what I thought,” and Foo became a recruit in the National Guard.
In November of 1941, his unit was deployed to the Philippines, arriving at Java Island in January 1942. The Japanese outnumbered the Dutch, British, and American troops, and the Americans faced retreat and leaving the island. Foo’s unit did not make the rendezvous and remained stranded and eventually captured by the Japanese forces in March 1942. Foo would remain a prisoner of war for the next three and a half years.
Foo was the son of a Japanese father from Nagasaki, Japan, and an American mother. His features and skin color resembled more his father than his mother, which would worry him from the start of his imprisonment. He faced abuse both physically and verbally at every camp. Why would a Japanese man be fighting for the enemy? He expected to be beaten at any time and forced to pledge allegiance to the Emperor of Japan. However, Foo loved America and never waivered in his respect and love for his country. With strength and courage, he endured the insults and beatings. When made to help with propaganda, Foo made sure that what he wrote was so bad the Japanese wouldn’t use it. Not once with the beatings and abuse did he ever denounce his American citizenship. The last words in his biography, “God bless America!” Frank “Foo” Fujita exemplifies what he believed.
As I read Foo’s story, I thought about the Christians centuries before who faced similar persecution. They stood before courts, judges, and soldiers, demanding that they denounce Jesus giving allegiance to Caeser. Before them lived the prophets of the Old Testament, men persecuted for preaching the words of God, imploring people to repent and turn back to him. The writer or Hebrews expresses it this way. “And others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, they were tempted, they were slain with the sword: they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves, and the holes of the earth. Hebrews 11:36-38 (ASV)
Have you ever considered if you have the courage to stand up for Jesus when faced with physical or verbal abuse? In this country, we may not feel physical abuse for being a Christian. However, there is verbal anger and feelings thrown at us. Most of the time, we remain quiet, afraid to express God’s will for fear of conflict. We don’t stand up for God’s word since it is not what people want to hear. So what do we do? We keep quiet while Satan uses his resources to yell and speak out his ways. When God’s voice is kept silent, people will follow what they hear.
As we sit in our silence, people in other parts of the world speak up and die for Jesus. Bibles make their way into prohibited places by those who know the penalty if caught. In many countries, groups of Christians meet in secret to worship and talk about the Lord. They produce a voice that abuse cannot silence. Many have given up family and others their lives to remain faithful to God and the mission of taking Jesus to the world.
What does it take to have the courage to stand up for what one believes when faced with opposition? We would not hesitate to stand up to someone who began to criticize our spouse, parents, or children. We’d speak up without fear of what anyone would say in retaliation. We would not be deterred by what someone might do or say back. You can say what you want about me, and I’ll “turn the other cheek. “However, you say something or harm my family, and I’ll stand behind and with them. What gives us that courage to stand up?”
The question finds its answer in words written in the book of Deuteronomy. In chapter 31, a hundred and twenty-year-old Moses calls the people of Israel together concerning the task of taking the promised land. During his speech, he encourages the people with these words. “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 (NASB)
Fear and hesitation come when we pay more attention to what the comeback may be than we do about that for which we stand. When we believe in the message for which we stand, we find that we can withstand anything thrown back at us. Our strength in standing up for God comes from trusting that He walks beside us at all times. Reminding ourselves of who stands beside us helps us stand with courage before those we face. There will be those who oppose us; however, as Paul stated in Romans 8, “If God is for us, who is against us.” If we believe in what we stand for, nothing will keep us from standing up and proclaiming it boldly, no matter the consequences.
We stand up for our families because we love and believe in them. Foo was able to stand firm because of his love of country and expected the support of his fellow soldiers. When the war was over, he had an officer who looked him up to shake the hand of a true patriot. If we can bravely stand up for Jesus, it will honor him in the eyes of others. One day we will hear those words, “Well done, My good and faithful servant!”
“But in all these things, we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39 (NASB)
(Note: Frank Fujita tells his story in his biography, “FOO: THE SECRET PRISON DIARY OF FRANK ‘FOO’ FUJITA.”)
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ