Have you ever heard of Hiroo Onoda? He was briefly mentioned in a book I was reading. His story is quite fascinating, and curiosity naturally led me to google him to find out more. He was a Second Lieutenant in the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. But what is intriguing about his account is that he did not surrender when the war ended and held out for almost 30 years.
The story goes that he was sent to the Philippines on a mission in 1944. When the war ended in 1945, he was in hiding with three other soldiers in the mountains and continuing to engage in guerrilla activities. Leaflets saying, “The war ended on August 15. Come down from the mountains!” were left by nationals but ignored by Onoda and his men. Later, leaflets were dropped from the air, including an order of surrender from a Japanese general, and these, too, were considered counterfeit by Onoda. Seven years later, letters and family pictures were dropped, pleading with them to surrender, but still, the soldiers, thinking it was all fabricated, maintained their resolve not to surrender. The three men with Onoda were eventually arrested or killed, and Onoda found himself alone and officially declared dead in 1959. It wasn’t until 1974 when a man by the name of Norio Suzuki discovered him. Onoda still refused to surrender without orders from a superior officer. So, his former commanding officer, who had transitioned back to civilian life as a bookseller, flew to the Philippines to give Onoda the orders to cease all military activity. His nearly 30-year hold-out had finally come to an end. In his autobiography, he writes, “Suddenly everything went black. A storm raged inside me. I felt like a fool for having been so tense and cautious on the way here. Worse than that, what had I been doing for all these years?”* But what happened to this man next? He would return to life in Japan that would be far different from what he left many years ago. When reality had fully sunk in, how did he feel spending 30 years of his life, fighting a war that was long over?**
The reason why this story resonated with me is because it pictured the spiritual war we are in. One might comment that Onoda was a good soldier, maintaining his ground, but I’m not contesting his ability as a soldier. The sad reality was no matter how firm his resolve was to continue fighting, there was no longer any need to fight. So it is with some of us. We fight, stand our ground and insist we are right, while “leaflets” of God’s word is dropping all around us, telling us to surrender. So, what are the things we are not surrendering to The Lord? Our family, our children, our friends, our money, our possessions, our dreams, our future. Are we fighting for our way when God has made it obvious by our circumstances and by His word that we ought to trust in His way?
Perhaps, it’s not even the daily surrender that Christians face, but that you have never raised the white flag to the One who created you. How long will you wait? Jesus Christ has overcome the world and those who believe in Him have done the same. “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5). We are His enemies, but when we humbly submit to Him, He will take us in as His own and bless us with spiritual riches beyond imagination. Even Onoda did not receive such a reception when he gave up his war.
How long will you hold out? It is time to surrender. The war is over, and Christ has won the victory.