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The Two Ships

A Talk at the Monday Club

By Lee Bridges

All scripture citations are to the NIV-UK unless otherwise indicated.

TWO SHIPS lay side by side some ten years ago in the River Fal in Cornwall. Their history and background could not have been more diverse. One of them was ‘The Redeemer’ – a missionary boat, used in bygone years by people carrying the Gospel far and wide. The other had been impounded for drug smuggling, having brought into the country drugs to a street value of £9m.
 
Two ships – two very different functions. One devoted to the Lord’s service and the blessing of others by giving them the message of hope for eternal life through faith in the Saviour, the other dedicated to the accumulation of selfish riches at the expense of the well-being of others and at the risk of sickness, ruin and death for the vulnerable victims of drug abuse.
 
St. Paul, as the Apostle to the Gentiles, became a seasoned sailor as he journeyed through South-East Asia and into Europe, suffering shipwreck on three occasions.
Since that early witness work, countless Christians have set sail for distant places, obeying the Lord’s commission to go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.
 
To some of us (and I include myself), a seemingly endless journey across a vast expanse of ocean, may seem to be a terrifying prospect. How many found their courage faltering and doubted the wisdom of the enterprise? The hardships and discomforts of the voyage, and uncertainty as to the challenges ahead, tested their faith to the uttermost, but they trusted that Jesus was their Captain; He was at the helm, and He would bring them to a their chosen destination, to do the work of an evangelist.
 
That work was in essence the teaching of the Gospel. But as world populations increased and the curse bit ever deeper into the lives of the hungry, the sick and the vulnerable, the loving hearts of the missionaries led them to focus primarily on the physical needs of the world’s poor, with a compassion they felt Jesus Himself had exercised and taught.
 
What About Us?
Are you a good sailor? A life on the ocean wave is not for me, as I can be seasick on a pond! But while not called to the ends of the earth, we are in a sense on a special journey under our ship’s Captain, and our mission is still to bear witness to the Truth and to do good to all people as we have opportunity. Simple as this may seem, it is not a luxury cruise. It is a working journey through the Christian life, and yes, sometimes we are sick on the way. We are bound to have our trials and testings, to fail often and to feel that we fall short of the standard set by our Captain.
 
Perhaps we are not articulate in explaining our faith to others. We may lack the courage to challenge unbelievers, feeling they will talk us down. Perhaps even we find doubts creep in and wonder if the wise according to this world have a point. Yet we haven’t abandoned ship. We still see Jesus at the helm, and we have by experience developed a conviction that only God’s plan of salvation has the total cure for a selfish and sin-sick world, and this inevitably manifests itself in our lifestyle and general conduct, which in itself is a witness to unbelievers.
 
The Other Boat
Drug abuse is so widespread these days that many of us have knowledge of someone addicted to this dangerous habit. The driving need to ‘get stoned’ or ‘get high’ has brought grief to millions, while making millionaires of the drug peddlers.
Alcohol and tobacco can also be addictive. The simple explanation for simple folk like us is that indulgence affects the brain and tends to blot out for a while the boredom, the anxieties, the inhibitions and the miseries of daily living that mark the lives of so many. Liquid or powdered happiness is their costly answer.
 
Christian Happiness
An oblique suggestion was once made that as Christian believers, we too are seeking to escape the drudgery of daily life with a pleasant tranquiliser, or possibly a powerful stimulant. Karl Marx, German philosopher and revolutionary, taught that ‘Religion is the opium of the people.’ His suggestion was that religion is like a drug, dulling the mind to reality, being based on fanciful expectations and superstition, rather than on the truth.
 
We can perhaps sympathise with many who regard church services as meaningless ritual intended to impress and awe the uneducated. The pomp and ceremony of the great ecclesiastical establishments bears little resemblance to the simple gatherings of believers in the early Church. But for some the ritual observance has a ‘feel-good’ factor, something the scornful would see as the opiate, the quick fix of the simple-minded.
 
Those of us who favour and follow a less showy form of worship do not escape the occasional mockery. Some superstition and misunderstanding has doubtless crept into the Christian faith, and many followers have failed to ‘prove all things’ and ‘hold fast to that which is good’ (1 Thessalonians 5: 21, King James Version). A fine example was set by the believers in Berea: ‘Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true’ (Acts 17: 11). St. Peter also exhorts us to be as sure as we can that we know what we believe: ‘Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander’ (1 Peter 3: 15, 17).
 
Our faith in Jesus is not a powerful drug which gives us a ‘quick fix’. God gives us a complete cure — not immediately, as we have many lessons to learn in this life before being made ready for His promised Kingdom. So we remain aboard the ship of faith, confident that our Captain will bring us to our desired haven. May fair winds follow us all!
 

If, on a quiet sea, toward Heaven we calmly sail,
With grateful hearts, O God, to Thee,
We’ll own the favouring gale,
With grateful hearts, O God, to Thee,
We’ll own the favouring gale.

But should the surges rise, and rest delay to come,
Blest be the tempest, kind the storm,
Which drives us nearer home,
Blest be the tempest, kind the storm,
Which drives us nearer home.

Soon shall our doubts and fears all yield to Thy control;
Thy tender mercies shall illume
The midnight of the soul,
Thy tender mercies shall illume
The midnight of the soul.

Teach us, in every state, to make Thy will our own;
And when the joys of sense depart,
To live by faith alone,
And when the joys of sense depart,
To live by faith alone.

                                           — August M. Toplady (1740-1778)

 

 

Copyright June 2009 ukbiblestudents.co.uk

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