Military history is filled with tales of heroism and self-sacrifice, but that of Australian Edward “Teddy” Sheean stands out among them.
Now, almost 78 years after the then 18-year-old sailor provided cover for his comrades to escape the Japanese planes overhead, Sheean has been awarded the Victoria Cross, the British Commonwealth’s highest honor for military valor.
Edward “Teddy” Sheean, right, was an ordinary seaman serving on HMAS Armidale during WWII. He died, but 49 of his shipmates escaped with their lives because of Teddy’s almost unreal heroism during a Japanese aerial attack on his ship.
His shipmates said after the battle that they could see the bullets from the teenager’s machine gun whizzing up through the water as he went down with his ship, firing to the end.
On December 1, 1942, Sheean was a gunner’s mate on the corvette HMAS Armidale, when it came under attack during an operation near the Japanese-occupied city of Timor.
“Sheean was wounded but, rather than abandon ship, he strapped himself to his Oerlikon (anti-aircraft gun) and began to engage the attacking aircraft even as the ship sunk beneath him. He shot down two planes, and crewmates recall seeing tracer rising from beneath the surface as Sheean was dragged under the water, firing to the end,” the Australian War Memorial says.
The 49 who survived were plucked from the Timor Sea a week after the sinking. Each owed his life to the 18-year-old gunner’s mate.
The 18-year-old Sheean is now a legend in Australia, with monuments and tributes to him around the country. The Australian Navy has even named a submarine for him, the only ship it has ever named after a seaman with as low a rank as Sheean.
Highest honors, but Sheean himself will never know. Isn’t it sad, when the hero can only be recognized in death?
What a contrast with God’s heroes of faith! God’s heroes will rise and live again. Each one will be able to ENJOY through eternal the ages to come the glory of their service, not like Sheean who is an honored dead. The honor for God’s heroes is waiting, and SURE. Christ will bring it! The promise is:
Romans 2:7 7eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality;
Eternal life, plus everything else that God has to offer!
Have you thought about the meaning in Jesus’ promise of a crown of LIFE? Yes, not honor in death but in LIFE! This was the promise He made to the potential heroes he addressed in His latest letter to the church at Smyrna:
Revelation 2:10 10Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Jesus said, You be faithful, faithful to the end, faithful to death, and I will over power that death. I will give you a crown of LIFE!
There was nothing for them to fear.
It is very clear in this text who the “devil” is—their persecutors, their opposers. This “devil” would throw some of them into prison, and they would be tested.
What about the 10 days? Numbers like this are used sometimes in Scripture to suggest a period of time, a time not defined. It wouldn’t be over in a day, but neither would it last for centuries. Whatever the time, they were to hold on. “Be faithful unto death.”
What about the honor awaiting them? The crown laid up for them? Yes, it would come. They would be God’s heroes, receiving the HIGHEST HONORS. Their heroism would not end in death but in LIFE, unending LIFE when they would be resurrected at the return of Christ.
Now let’s think about one of God’s most zealous heroes, the apostle Paul. Hundreds of others owe their life to his courage and perseverance. Worthy of the highest honors for his valor, he also died at the hand of the enemy. When his life was taken, he was still firing and fighting. Who saw it? Who made the record? God’s angels. Paul himself was sure of it. He wrote to Timothy:
2 Timothy 4:6–8 6For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
When would Paul receive his honors? At the appearing of Jesus Christ. And he would not be honored alone. He would be honored with “all them also that love his appearing.”
What about the apostle Peter? We know he also died fighting for his Master. And he also was looking forward to the reward. When he testified to his position among them, he included himself among those who would be “partakers of the glory.” Think what that means: to partake of the “glory” to come! He advised his brethren to think like him.
1 Peter 5:1–4 1The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed:
It was not something anyone of them had THEN, but glory that would be revealed in the future, as Peter goes on to say:
4… when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
When the time is right, when the time for honor comes.
The apostle John also included himself among those to be honored. In the introduction to Jesus’ last message from heaven, which John was writing down, John said of himself:
Revelation 1:9 9I, John, [who am] both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
John said he was their “brother and companion” in the “tribulation and kingdom”—the suffering and the coming kingdom.
Another passage in Revelation tells of the time when high honor will be given to God’s faithful servants the prophets and the saints. And again, the honor will be in LIFE, not death. First we learn the time from Revelation 11:15.
Revelation 11:15 15Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”
Christ is reigning, and the angels are rejoicing that the time has come for the high honors to be given. What do they say? Rev. 11:17,
17… “We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come, Because You have taken Your great power and reigned. 18…And the time [has come] that they should be judged, And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, And those who fear Your name, small and great, And should destroy those who destroy the earth.”
This is the time all have been waiting for, when all—they and we—will be rewarded together. Their reward will be LIFE! Not death but ETERNAL LIFE! A crown of LIFE.
There are many heroes who gave their lives in war that others might live. We are indebted to these men and women for their bravery and sacrifice. Such are these who made America the cradle where God’s truth might live again after being silenced for 1260 years. Let us be thankful!
But consider warriors of a different kind of war who go into battle fighting for their own life and the life of others. Their only defense is what the Lord provides: a girdle of truth, breastplate of righteousness, and feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. But above all these weapons is the shield of faith to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And don’t forget to take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Thus armed, men and women braved the battle against sin and they won an overwhelming victory.
Are we fearful? With God on our side and following His orders as a good soldier, there is nothing to fear.
Jesus, our great commander, gives the marching orders, “Be faithful unto death.” If faithful, He will break the bonds of death and give you a crown of life that will never end. What greater incentive than this to be among the heroes of faith Jesus will honor at His return.
This is the “better” plan, the Day of fulfilling the promise, the great crowning Day that all have waited for, that Hebrews 11 describes:
Hebrews 11:39–40 39And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: 40God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
All will receive the crown of LIFE together because they were faithful.
Faithful all the way to the end. What a Day that will Be!