Bring Back the Lifeboats 8/15/99

Luke 10:1, 2

Jesus Christ said, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Luke 10:2).

He later said, “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” (John 4:35).

Jesus Christ spoke of souls as being like a crop ready to be harvested. When a crop is ready to harvest it has to be harvested then or it is lost. The window of opportunity is well defined. There is a limited time in which to act.

Christ’s appeal is to avoid letting opportunity pass you by.

Have you ever heard of the novel “Futility,” by Morgan Robertson? It is the story of the sinking of the ocean liner the Titan that sinks because of hitting an iceberg on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.

Perhaps you are thinking I miss spoke when I said the Titan and meant to say the Titanic. I didn’t!

The Titan was 1,800 feet long, the Titanic, 1882 feet.

The Titan displaced 66,000 tons of water, the Titanic 70,000. Amazingly similar.

Both ships were triple-screw ocean liners that could travel up to 25 knots per hour and transport 3,000 passengers.

Perhaps you are wondering why Robertson wrote a novel so nearly like the real life event. The thing that makes this story so intriguing is that the Titanic sank on April 14, 1912. The story of the Titan was published in 1898, fourteen years before the Titanic sank.

It is amazing to think that a story written a decade in advance could so nearly forecast the real event. What is even more engaging is the idea that Bible prophecy written so long in advance can be so exact. When the Bible speaks it speaks truth. When Jesus spoke of there needing to be laborers sent into the harvest He knew the need and asserted our responsibility.

America is rapidly becoming a pagan nation. Before being offended look up the definition of “pagan” and then look around at our society. “The American College Dictionary” defines pagan in the following ways: “a people or community professing some other than the Christian religion.”

Even if you drop down to the second definition pagan still fits America. The second definition is: “one who is not a Christian, Jew, or Mohammedan.”

Drive through our own lovely community on a Sunday morning between 11:00 AM and noon and note the numbers of person not participating in religious worship.

In our wonderful community 67% of the people are unchurched. That is, they do not have a local church where they are a member.

When Christ said the field is white unto harvest he meant the crop is ripe and if not harvested it will spoil.

When a pagan nation turns its back on God it turns back to the gods of decadence. Some of these gods are humanism, secularism, and materialism. These three are flourishing.

All the time churches have the potential of reaching the lost for Christ. The salt is too often kept in the shaker and the light on an immovable lamp stand. My prayer is:
Set us afire Lord I pray,
While the world perishes,
We go our way purposely, passionless, day by day.
Set us afire Lord, stir us I pray.

In an interview this week with a reporter from “The Wall Street Journal” we discussed the many undertakings of modern churches. In conclusion I commented the primary role of the church is to propagate spiritual truths. The church is the only organization founded by Christ who commissioned it to “Go … tell.” Because of a failure to fulfill this role by members of many churches our society is sick and souls lost.

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). That was His mission, that is our assignment.

The Biblical record of those He saved is a grouping of the most unlikely prospects. Abraham a liar. Jacob a cheat. David an adulterer. Rahab a harlot. Peter a coward. Joseph of Aramethea a religious bigot. All, like each of us, unlikely converts.

The time for response is now. A man retired after 40 years on a job that required him to catch a bus at 7:30 AM. The first morning after retirement his wife served him eggs as usual. He said, “Honey, I don’t like eggs this way!’ “But,” she said, “I have served you eggs this way for 40 years. Why didn’t you tell me?” His reply, “I never had time.” Take time and make your commitment. Accept His offer of a spiritual rescue.

Jesus said, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

That is a mandate He placed upon the church. We are in the spiritual rescue business.

Millions have been captivated by the story of paternal neglect and an adulterous affair called Titanic. The movie captured the imagination and revived interest in this needless tragedy. The real life saga was even more intriguing than the story imagined in the film.

A trade magazine of the time, “The Shipbuilder,” labeled the Titanic “practically unsinkable.” On May 31, 1911, and employee of the White Star Shipbuilding Company said, “Not even God Himself could sink this ship.”

At the time of her launch the Titanic was the world’s largest movable man-made object.

The story of the sinking of the Titanic has striking parallel to the spiritual condition and pending circumstances of many people.

John Phillips was the radio operator on duty that April night. A nearby ship the Californian sent six radio messages to the Titanic warning of icebergs in her path. After the sixth warning he told the messenger from the Californian to “shut up.” Though warned the crew of the Titanic refused to change their course. Survivors say as Phillips faced death his arrogance disappeared and he was heard screaming,

“God forgive me … God forgive me!”

We Christians have heard the Bible lovingly warn of pending spiritual doom awaiting those not heeding its warning. Dare we neglect the loving warning to repent. Dare we refuse to change course spiritually.

Emotionally enter into that event with me. At 11:40 PM, April 14, 1912, a giant iceberg scraped the starboard side of the ship, showered ice on the deck, and ripped open six water-tight compartments. Even then most passengers remained unconvinced the ship was about to sink.

Suddenly resentment over an inconvenience turned to disaster. Passengers realized their peril when rescue flairs were fired in the night air.

Charles Pellegrino, a survivor, said, “The water sparkled for miles around. Lifeboats could be seen on it… In that cave of man-made light, minds, too, were illuminated. Everyone understood the message of the rockets without being told.”

860 members of the crew and approximately 3,500 passengers soon knew they faced potential death.

The wealthiest man in the world, John Astor, tried unsuccessfully to force his way into a lifeboat. His wealth could not save him.

Daniel Buckley tried to disguise himself as a woman in order to get into a lifeboat. His costume failed him and he perished.

Mrs. Isador Straus, whose husband owned Macy’s Department Store refused to leave her husband and refused to get in a lifeboat.

Bruce Ismay, part owner of the Titanic and the man responsible for putting lifeboats on the ship crawled into a lifeboat leaving women and children to drown.

Above the scrams and shouts of the panicky crowd could be heard the voice of John Harper shouting, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Many of the 1,522 men, women, and children left on board screamed their way toward awesome silence.

Amid the confusion most lifeboats pulled away from the sinking ship only partially filled as others struggled to survive. Over the speaker system could be heard the voice of the captain pleading, “Bring back the lifeboats!” They didn’t.

Today many are in no less peril spiritually than those passengers were physically. The job of the church is that of the lifeboats. Those in the lifeboat, the true church of Christ, are safe. Friends without Christ are spiritually perishing.

Circumstances give the impression those safe in the lifeboat appear satisfied and reluctant to rescue others.

Today the message to the church on behalf of the lost in society is, “Bring back the lifeboats.” It is an appeal to get involved in saving souls. The rescue mission of the church is to engage in soul winning.

The story of Christ’s saving grace is simple and illustrated many ways.

Our prosperous economy and highly entertaining society seems to provide security affording as much comfort as that professed by the makers of the Titanic. Never has the message of salvation been more available and ignored. The response is often the same as that of the radio operator on the Titanic, “Shut up!”

There is a double grief illustrated by the Titanic.

One, there were those on board who thought the ship to be unsinkable and therefore ignored the alarm warnings. They had a false trust. Some today think things will always be as good as they are now. A false sense of security exists in our society as many trust in materialism and secularism for security.

On the Titanic that night seven bells marked the hour of 11:30 P.M. as the newest, largest, and most luxurious ocean liner of all times plowed its way from Southampton to New York. Earlier in the evening a communication had come into the Marconi shack from the S.S. Mesaba up ahead: “Saw heavy pack ice and a great number of large icebergs. Also field ice.” The wireless operator on the Titanic was so busy that he shoved the message under a paperweight and their it remained unheeded.

The false sense of security of those on board, typical of those today who trust in material goods, is mirrored by the conduct of Charlotte Cardeza, Philadelphia banking millionairess. She and her maid, valet, 14 trunks, 4 suitcases, and three crates of minor luggage were comfortable in their $25,600 three-room suite when they felt the impact. They ignored the danger in light of their opulent quarters and perished. They failed to heed the warnings. Theirs was a false sense of security.

Days after the disaster the body of John Astor was recovered. In the pocket of the wealthiest man in the world was $4,250 cash. Trust in riches did not save him physically, nor will it save us spiritually.

Second, is the heartbreak found in the indifference of many in the lifeboats who are reluctant to attempt to rescue others. I want to appeal to this church, “Bring back the lifeboats.”

Archibald Gracie remembers the night this way: “The wails and groans of the suffering, the shrieks of the terror-stricken, the awful gasping for breath of those in the throes of drowning —– none of us will forget to our dying day.” Dare we ignore the signs of those spiritually perishing and not bring back the lifeboats. Collectively, let’s dedicate ourselves to the rescue mission at hand.

At 2:20 A.M. the Titanic began her slow descent to the ocean floor. The icy waters of the North Atlantic, in the dark of night, swallowed the ship as souls perished while those who could have saved many relished their own safety refusing to bring back the lifeboats. May it not be true of us.

Back in Southampton, England friends and family members awaited news from the reported sinking. Outside the offices of the White Star Steamship Company was posted a sign reporting on passengers. There were two columns headed: “Saved” and “Lost.” Every person’s name appeared under one or the other. In heaven there will be only two lists, no optional ones, only two: SAVED and LOST. Under which heading is yours presently?

Living in an agricultural society Jesus used familiar terms to describe the two groups: “And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25: 33, 34).

He continued, “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:” (Matthew 25:41).

In which group are you?