by Bill Thomas
A ship fights to stay afloat on the Pacific in a storm. Used to illustrate the gospel.
Down the Columbia River from Portland Oregon, over the bar - a dangerous section at the mouth of the river, where the big rush of water from the river meets the incoming ocean waves - and out onto the great Pacific Ocean steamed the Alaskan. The weather was fair, the barometer steady as the ship turned south. The voyage of several hundred miles to San Francisco, California where the ship was to be refitted had a peaceful beginning.
The Alaskan was the kind of ship called a side wheeler. It had masts for sailing, but it also had two giant paddle wheels on both sides mid ship which was its main type of propulsion. The paddle wheels were driven by a big steam engine. The boat was long, had low sides, many portholes in the numerous passenger cabins, and had a shallow draft and was designed for transporting people and goods up and down the Columbia River, or the protected inland waters of Puget Sound.
The Alaskan was designed for a specific purpose - carrying passengers and freight on inland seas. It was not designed to travel the open ocean especially not the rough seas of the Pacific Northwest.You too, were designed for a purpose,and that purpose is to know and love God. You were not designed to go through life without Him. Your heart was designed to find its rest in Him. Your mouth to proclaim his goodness.Your mind to understand his truths. Your soul was created to love all things that he loves and to hunger and thirst after righteousness. The reason there is so much emptiness and bitterness in the world today is so many people are attempting to make the passage through life without God.
Nature abhors a vacuum, and when people don't give God the place he deserves in their hearts, their lives fill up pretty fast with sin. Sinners might experience a period of "smooth sailing"in their lives, buts sooner than later they run into storms.
After steaming several hours down the coast a giant storm blew in. Big waves and high winds relentlessly battered the Alaskan. The storm tossed and turned the Alaskan so much that its paddle wheels were often out of the water and the ship could make very little headway. The superstructure of the ship, or the part of the ship built above decks, was smashed by a wave and much of it washed overboard. Water ran down into the hold of the ship through cracks in the damaged ship. Crew members desperately stuffed mattresses into cracks to stem the inrushing water. They thought if they could just buy some precious time, the storm might let up, and they could make it to a safe harbor. But despite their best attempts, the mattresses didn't stop the water from pouring in.
Do you know that going through this life without a relationship with God is full of pain and travail? The Bible says,"The way of the transgressor is hard." Multitudes of troubled souls who are alive today can attest to that fact. They realize something is wrong, but instead of coming to The Lord Jesus who can give them true relief they try to apply quick fixes to keep the pain and emptiness out of their lives. They try to stuff all sorts of things like alcohol, immorality, drug use, avarice, vanity and other like things into the cracks in their lives only to find that none of these things can keep out the inrushing emptiness and pain. Listen, there is a better way, and that way is to repent of your sins and place your faith in The Lord Jesus Christ. This way is not a quick fix because it requires a change in the depths of the heart.
The captain of the Alaskan knew the ship was in danger because the hold was filling up with water. The four lifeboats were lowered over the side and most of the crew members got into them. The lifeboats were connected one to another and to the Alaskan by a tow line. Five of the crew including the captain, the chief engineer, and steward remained on board in a brave attempt to keep the Alaskan afloat. Just as the crew abandoned the ship,the captain saw what appeared to be a tug boat pulling a barge behind it attached by a long cable. The sight of the distant tug gave the captain a little ray of hope. He loaded his flare gun and shot two green flares high into the air overhead. When they exploded they illuminated the stormy clouds with a green light for several seconds. The flares were the universal signal that a ship was in distress. However, the tug pulling a heavy barge could only proceed very slowly. Men were working on the barge and cutting it loose was would have almost certainly meant their death. The tug boat captain changed course and headed towards the flares, but it would be hours before he could get there. Along the sparsely populated coast it is doubtful anyone else saw the distress signal.
Are you in distress because of sin? Are you wondering if there is anyone in the world you can turn to for help? Then wonder no more. There is one who will always hear. Call out to the Sinner's Friend - the one who gave his life on the cross that he might save you. Thank God that there has never been a sinner in the history of the world that has ever sent up a heartfelt prayer to God for salvation that wasn't heard. The moment there is the spark of genuine faith in the heart The Lord Jesus will draw near to that person to help them along.
The men were in a dangerous predicament. They were far from shore in a raging sea, with winds and currents overpowering them, and no one coming soon to their aid. Danger was everywhere, and they didn't have many choices remaining to them.
Perhaps you feel like you are running out of options, or choices, in life too. When persons run headlong into sin their choices in life become limited. Sin exercises a narrowing, debilitating influence over the lives of them that are taken up by it. It limits their spiritual vision, making them dull of heart, or even spiritually blind. In their blindness they may have great difficulty seeing the possibility that God that loves them, and is ready to receive them if they turn back to Him. Please know that as long as you are alive, you have the ability to turn to the Savior of Sinners and make him your choice. No matter how godless a person may have lived, if they fall at the Savior's feet, He will receive them to himself.
Life is so uncertain. Don't put off the decision to accept Christ until a more favorable moment. If you wait it may become forever too late. Once this life is over the opportunity to choose Christ will be forever closed. At death, God will confirm each person in their decision they made in this life to either believe in, or reject his Son. Those who have believed on Jesus Christ will go on loving him for all eternity in heaven. While those who have rejected the message of his grace will be confirmed in the terrible hardness of their hearts and sent away to the outer darkness of hell.
For several hours the ship took a terrible beating in the storm. When it looked like it must sink at any moment the captain cut the line to the lifeboats and let them drift away. There now was no way for the men on board to get off the ship. About an hour and a half later the Alaskan sunk to the bottom of the sea. Three of the four lifeboats made it to safety. The fourth one perished at sea. Of the five men who remained on board, three of them survived by clinging to floating debris for over thirty hours until the tug boat searching for survivors found them. News accounts later reported 21 men died in the disaster. The number of dead may have been actually higher because of undocumented stowaways.
The ill-fated Alaskan now sits in watery grave with many other ships that will never be raised or refitted for action at the bottom of the Pacific. These ships may not be raised , but not so every person who has lived and died since the dawn of time. They will be raised again. Bodies will be made anew; and souls and bodies will be reunited. The righteous will be raised to a state of incorruptibility. In their bodies they will be raised to enjoy the glories of heaven forever. "I am the resurrection and the life," The Lord Jesus said, "he that believeth on me though he was dead yet shall he live."What a wonderful refitting of our mortal bodies the resurrection will be for all those who believe! They need refitting because our current mortal bodies couldn't handle joys of heaven.
Not so the wicked and those who have rejected God's grace. They too will be raised again. Their bodies and souls will be reunited to stand before God for judgment. Because they refused God's offer of grace they will be banned for all eternity from his presence.
God doesn't want any to perish but all to come and receive the gift of eternal life.Only by coming to Christ will your heart will ever find the rest it craves. Don't go through life a stranger to his love and grace, but come to Him by faith who said, "I will never leave you or forsake you." When you safely reach the shores of heaven you will never be sorry you did!