- Rick LoPresti
Sir Ernest Shackleton was a British Antarctic Explorer in the early 20th century. He tried twice to be the first to reach the South Pole, and he got to within 97miles. After he was beaten to that goal, he decided to attempt to be the first to cross the entire continent on foot. He made his plans, arranged the financing, and gathered his crew. He bought a ship called the Polaris, and renamed it the Endurance, after his family motto "By Endurance We Conquer". He and his crew of 27 men sailed from England on August 1, 1914. They stopped in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and then at a small whaling station on South Georgia Island before heading for their destination on November 5, 1914. There were unusually high amounts of pack ice, and the ship got trapped in the ice on January 24, 1915 just 60 miles from land. Several attempts to free the ship were unsuccessful, and they realized they were going to have to spend the Antarctic winter on the ship stuck in the ice of the Weddell Sea. They were surrounded by 900,000 square miles of frozen sea with no way out, no way to contact the outside world, no rescue coming, and months of frigid cold and darkness ahead of them. Their hope was that in the spring the ice would break up and free the ship so they could continue.
When spring came, the ice did begin to break up; but instead of freeing the Endurance, it began to crush her. The ship fought back. It was one of the strongest wooden ships in the world at the time, but it could not survive the intense pressure. On October 27, 1915, Shackleton gave the order to abandon ship. They were now forced to live on the ice floe. They were 1,200 miles from the nearest people, and 182 miles from the nearest land. The ship sank on November 21, 1915. They had salvaged 3 life boats and a few other limited supplies from the ship before it went down. Their new plan was to wait for the ice to break up enough to launch the life boats and make for one of several small islands at the tip of the continent. They hoped the currents and winds would take them far enough north before then to make this journey possible.
On April 9, 1916 the life boats were launched, and after a 6 day journey they reached Elephant Island. Although they were finally on solid land again, this place offered no hope of rescue. The only course of action available was to take the largest life boat, named the James Caird, across 850 miles of open ocean through the Drake Passage, the roughest seas on earth, in a desperate attempt to return to the whaling station on South Georgia Island. Shackleton took 5 men with him, and left the 22 others on the island with a letter which closed with this line, "Convey my love to my people, and say I tried by best." They sailed on April 24, 1916. They arrived on South Georgia Island on May 10. However, they were forced to land on the opposite side of the island of the whaling station. They had to cross the mountainous, glaciered, uncharted interior of the island on foot. They completed a non-stop hike in 36 hours.
Now they turned to rescuing the men left on Elephant Island. The ice blocked 3 attempts over 4 months. Finally, the crew was rescued on August 30, 1916, over 2 years after they had sailed from England. The entire crew was saved. It is impossible to recount here all of the details of what these men endured, but you can read about it for yourself. Although they never achieved their original goal of crossing Antarctica, their ability to endure turned a failure into a great triumph which in many ways was a far greater accomplishment.
Anyone who believes there is a heaven and a hell would be expected to say they would rather go to heaven than hell. There are many aspects of what it takes to get there. Faith, obedience to the gospel, and a righteous life are fundamentals. One ingredient without which anyone will make it is endurance. This is not a word that makes people shout with joy and excitement, but it is essential. Jesus said, "he that endureth to the end shall be saved (Mt 10:22, Mt 24:13)." God has endurance. He and His mercy, glory, goodness, truth, righteousness, praise, name, dominion, meat, longsuffering, love, and word all endure according to the Bible. His people must also have endurance. So what is it? It is simply outlasting adversity. We must endure persecutions, tribulations, hardness, all things, afflictions, chastening, temptation, and grief according to the Bible. A failure to endure is a failure to finish our course. Jesus endured the cross (Heb 12:2-3). How did He do it? He kept Himself focused on the fact that it was temporary, but what He was accomplishing was eternal. He was focused on the prize coming after the adversity. We must have the hope of the word of God in our hearts to endure. Without it we will wither under pressure (Mk 4:17). Satan does not attack out strengths. He attacks our weaknesses. He tries to weary us first (Dan 7:25). That is what the enemy of the people of God does (Deut 25:18, Jud 4:21, 2Sam 17:2). God promises to strengthen the weary (Is 28:12, Is 40:30-31, Is 50:4, Jer 31:25). He promises that our endurance will not be in vain (Gal 6:9, 2Thes 3:13).
Ernest Shackleton became an example and inspiration for generations to come of endurance and leadership. When we avoid being self-absorbed in our difficulties, we can see that we not only must endure for our own sake, but we can be like Jesus who endured for the sake of others.