One of America’s greatest heroes is a man named Louis Zamperini. He was an Olympic distance runner, a World War II prisoner of war survivor, and an inspirational speaker. He died this past year on July 2nd at the age of 97. His life story has been told in a new film titled Unbroken, which was directed by Angelina Jolie and is set to be released in December 2014.
While the movie focuses on Louis’ life as an Olympic track star, a soldier, and a prisoner of war, it does not focus on a very important part of Louis’ life — how he came to believe in Jesus Christ as his Savior and how he found peace and satisfaction in his life. Back in 2003, Louis told his story on CBN.
As the son of Italian immigrants, he said he was constantly teased in school, and his “whole life became a life of getting even.” He was quite a trouble-maker as a young man — stealing beer, cheating in school, and constantly getting into fights. One day, his brother, who was the chief of police, and his school’s principal got together and convinced Louis to take up track, and that is how he became a world famous distance runner.
In 1941, Louis enlisted in the U.S. Army and was shortly thereafter sent to the Pacific theater during World War II. During a search-and-rescue mission, Louis and his fellow crew members crashed into the ocean. After 27 days on a lifeboat at sea, they were attacked by a Japanese plane. Miraculously, none of the three men was hit by a single bullet. On day 47, the three survivors landed on the Marshall Islands and were captured by Japanese forces. Louis was moved around to several prisoner-of-war camps until the end of the war when he came home to a hero’s welcome.
Back in the United States, Louis fell in love with Cynthia Applewhite and proposed to her only ten days after their first meeting. They married, and the couple had a little girl. However, Louis started having nightmares about his time as a prisoner of the Japanese. He often woke up thinking he was strangling one of the prison camp captains who was especially cruel to him. One night, he nearly strangled his wife in his sleep. During this time, he had also begun drinking heavily again.
One day, someone talked Louis’ wife, Cynthia, into going to hear evangelist Billy Graham. Cynthia went to the event and gave her life to Jesus Christ. However, when she came home to share the good news with her husband, he refused to attend a meeting with her.
Louis admitted that with his drinking and his mental anguish, his wife had every right to divorce him. However, she told him, “Because of my conversion, I’m not gonna get a divorce.” Louis was happy about that and eventually decided to go to a Billy Graham meeting with his wife.
Louis said Billy Graham “talked about one person only, the person of Jesus Christ, for 30 minutes. He read the Scriptures. ‘For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.’ ‘The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ Well, I knew I was a sinner but I didn’t like the idea of someone else reminding me. If anyone had ever asked me if I believed that Christ was the Son of God, I would have said yes. My whole life I believed it, but [in] the heart [I didn't]. I knew somehow if I’d believed it in my heart, my life would have been different. So I knew I didn’t possess the Savior but I still didn’t want to do it. I think the best description to that is the Bible says that men prefer darkness rather than light. Here I was preferring my rotten life to the light. Then I started having a flashback to the life raft and prison camp, all those thousands and thousands of prayers — ‘God spare my life through the war, and I’ll seek You and serve You.’ I kept thinking I came back from the war alive, and I never even thought about those prayers. I never tried to keep one prayer.”
That night, Louis gave his life to Christ. He said, “I got off my knees and somehow I knew I was through getting drunk. I knew it. I also knew that I forgave all my guards. I think proof of that is I had nightmares every night about [them] since the war. The night I made my decision for Christ, I haven’t had a nightmare since — 1949 till now! That is some kind of a miracle.”
Louis eventually went back to Japan and spoke with many of his former captors. Some of them even gave their lives to Christ as well. Louis said, “I believe with all of my heart that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord and who are called according to His purpose. Christ told us in the Scripture, ‘I am the way, I am the truth, and I am the life.’ Christ is the way to God. People are always seeking truth; the truth is Christ, and He’s the life. I think our eternal life starts now by faith in Jesus Christ. That is the strength we live by, and death no longer has a sting…not to the Christian.”
Dear friend, Louis Zamperini’s story is indeed an inspirational one. But, I want you to notice that Louis did not find complete peace or satisfaction through his great accomplishments as a distance runner or as a war hero. He found his greatest peace and satisfaction when he gave his life to Jesus Christ. Louis is not alone in that experience. Many accomplished and successful people have stated that their greatest satisfaction comes from knowing Jesus Christ as their Savior and being loved unconditionally by God.
You can have the same peace and satisfaction in your heart and life today if you will simply do as Louis Zam-pe-ri-ni did and give your life to Jesus Christ. God wants to have a relationship with you. He wants to fill the empty place in your heart that you have sought so long to fill. He can do this today if you accept His Son, Jesus Christ, as your Lord and Saviour. When you become a follower of Jesus Christ, the Bible tells us that Christ comes to live inside of us. With Christ living inside of you, you will have the peace, love, joy, happiness, and fulfillment that you desire. On top of that, you will have eternal life, and you will go to Heaven to be with God after you die.
Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Are you willing to make the simple decision to trust Jesus Christ as your Saviour today? The Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”
The Bible also tells us in Romans 10:9 and 13: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
If you want to be saved right now, you can pray a short prayer to let God know that you are making this all-important decision. Just repeat after me and mean it from your heart.
Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today and forever so that I can have your peace and assurance about my life today and my eternal future. Amen.
If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! Congratulations on doing the most important thing in life and that is receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light Society.com and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door.”
Believe by faith. Share the faith. And keep the faith! God Bless You!
MUSICAL SELECTION: “Broken” by Lecrae (ft. Kari Jobe)