Thursday, July 22, 2004
When I'm in a new city, I don't usually make visiting a local cemetery one of my sightseeing priorities. But I did during my recent ministry trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia. I visited the cemetery where 121 passengers of the doomed Titanic are buried; many with names still unknown. Not long after the midnight radio transmission, "Have struck iceberg," three telegraph cable repair ships were dispatched from Halifax to make the 500-mile trip to the collision site to pick up the bodies of victims. In a way, the aftermath of the sinking of the Titanic is a tale of two ships. One was the Carpathia, the ship that rescued hundreds who had made it into lifeboats, later taking them into New York Harbor. The Carpathia carried a ship full of rescued people. But not the Mackay Bennett, the first funeral ship to arrive at the scene of the sinking. All they found was 328 people, floating in their lifejackets, frozen to death. The first one they found was a little two-year-old boy, floating face up. They were devastated. By the time they sailed into Halifax Harbor with every church bell in town tolling, there were three long rows of bodies on their deck - every one a person who did not have to die. Those lifeboats had been half empty. But as the people in the water cried out for help, the people in the lifeboats just kept rowing away. So one ship carried those who had been rescued. The other ship carried those no one cared enough to rescue.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Room in Your Lifeboat."
Those people in the water died, not because the Titanic sank, but because the people who were already saved wouldn't go back for those who were dying. Dear God, is that us - the already saved, secure in our half-empty lifeboat, doing nothing about the spiritually dying people all around us? We're enjoying the fellowship of the folks already in the lifeboat, singing our lifeboat songs, maybe even making the lifeboat bigger or more comfortable for us. But our coworkers, our fellow students, our neighbors who don't have a relationship with Jesus - the only one who can forgive their sin - they just go on living and dying without Him.
Our word for today from the Word of God paints a portrait of stark contrast as it describes the destinations of those who were rescued and those who never were. It's in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10. "When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with His powerful angels ... He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and the majesty of His power." Think about it! Those are real people, condemned to pay for the sins Jesus already paid for on the cross - some because they didn't take what Jesus died to give them, and others because no one ever told them how.
The Bible goes on to describe this as the day when "He comes to be glorified in His holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed." Don't you want the people you know, the people you love to be there? Then whatever has kept you from telling them about Jesus - your fears, your inadequacy, your hang-ups - can they possibly be as important as rescuing someone who's dying?
In a sense, eternity will be a place where the ones someone rescued will sail to one port where there will be celebration and reunion. While those no one rescued will go to another port where there is only death and sorrow. You've got room in your lifeboat and there's still time. Won't you spend the rest of your life pulling as many dying people into that lifeboat as you can?