Rescuing the shipwrecked
If you had the chance to save someone's life, would you reach out and help them?
Imagine you're in a shipwreck. The raging torrents of the sea have smashed your ship and now just pieces of floating debris remain. The rain hammers down on you and the waves toss you over and over.
You reach out for something - anything that will help you stay afloat, to stop you being swept down to your death. Your hand grabs something firm. You pull yourself closer to it. It's a lifeboat.
You climb up and into the little boat and let out a huge sigh of relief. The rain is still pouring down, and the waves are still rocky, but are so much safer and better than when you were out there on your own.
But you weren't the only one on the ship. There were hundreds, thousands on board - now they're helplessly gasping for breath. It's only a matter of time before their bodies give up, before they drown.
You have a choice: do you paddle on and try and make your way to dry land, or do you call out to those drowning around you, and help them get onto the lifeboat so that they, like you, can be saved?
A life or death situation
The situation I've described is an illustration of what things are like for us Christians. Of course, like any analogy it does fall down in some respects, but I think the main idea is true. All humans are in a shipwreck - ever since humankind fell at the garden of Eden we've all been dying, drowning because of our sin. But some of us have been rescued and are on that lifeboat - God has shown mercy and love and has rescued us from our drowning. We're not back on dry land yet - we still experience hardships, but we can find comfort in the fact that we are safe in the arms of Christ and will one day be taken to be with him forever.
But there's others around us who are still drowning. They're desperately trying to survive on their own but they know, deep down, that death is inevitable. Some of them see the lifeboat, they see what Christ offers and they come onboard. Some see in your face that something has happened to help you find comfort in the storm, but they can't see the lifeboat, they can't see Christ. Others don't even seem to notice you're there at all, and are instead intent on saving themselves, or even more bizarrely, pointlessly chasing after money and other treasures from the ship as they slowly come closer and closer to death.
It's an eternal life or death situation, and you have the chance to tell these people of how they can be saved. Will you?
Will you reach out to help?
I don't know about you, but I find this whole illustration really confronting because it makes me realize that telling others about the salvation I've found in Jesus is not a big enough priority in my life. All too often I shy away from sharing my faith - even mentioning it - with non-Christian friends because I'm afraid of awkwardness or ridicule or rejection. People seem to be getting on fine on their own. I forget that they are drowning. I forget that unless they experience God's saving grace they will spend eternity in hell.
The book of Acts follows some men and women who did share their faith in Christ, who saw those who hadn’t come to faith as drowning in their sin and in need of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Peter and John were on trial in Jerusalem, but boldly told everyone listening of Jesus the Saviour: "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12, NIV).
- Stephen, was being stoned to death for proclaiming Christ, but still felt compassion for his killers , crying out: "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." (Acts 7:60, NIV).
- Paul and Silas, were in jail and saw that the jailer earnestly wanted to be saved from sin, and told him: "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved - you and your household." (Acts 16:31).
We need to be more like these early Christians and see that people without Christ are drowning and need to be told of the salvation that can be found in Jesus Christ our Lord.
It's an eternal life or death situation. So are you going to get out there and tell people the gospel?