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WHEN TO SAVE A DROWNING MAN
Watchman Nee tells the story of his stay in China with twenty other Christians. The bathing accommodations were inadequate in the home where they were lodging, so they went for a daily dip in the river.
On one occasion, one of the men got a cramp in his leg and began sinking fast. Mr. Nee motioned to one of the other men, who was an excellent swimmer, about the drowning man. To his astonishment, however, the man did not move. He just stood there and watched the drowning man.
Mr. Nee was agitated, but the swimmer was calm and collected. Meanwhile, the voice of the drowning man grew fainter and more desperate. Mr. Nee hated the swimmer who just stood and watched on the shore when he could have jumped into the river and rescued the drowning man. As the drowning man went under for what looked like the last time, the swimmer was there in a moment, and both were soon safely on shore.
After the rescue, Mr. Nee chewed out the swimmer, accusing him of loving his life too much and being selfish. The response of the swimmer revealed, however, he knew what he was doing. He told Watchman that if he had gone too soon, the drowning man would have put a death grip on him and they would have both drowned in the river, and he was right. He told Mr. Nee that a drowning man cannot be saved until he is utterly exhausted and ceases to make the slightest effort to save himself.
Such is the case with our salvation. When we stop trying to save ourselves, then the Lord can step in and save us when we yield to Him. When you see the struggle that is a sign that youíre sensitive to sin and that is where God can help you.
(From a sermon by Daniel Darling, The Monster Inside - Saying No To Yourself, 2/1/2011)
Sermon Central Staff
WHO SAVED ME?
During a terrible storm at sea that threatened every moment to carry the ship to the bottom, one of the shipís crew was doing something on the deck when a great sea struck the ship and went fairly over the deck, striking this man with great force, disabling him and carrying him into the mad waters.
Although he was a good swimmer, he was so disabled that he could only keep above water. They saw him lifting up his imploring hands through the white foam, signifying his desire for help. But the Captain said, "Donít lower a boat, for no small boat can live in this sea, in this terrific storm. We cannot save the man. The most we can do is to save the ship."
The vessel was bearing farther and farther from the helpless man. Once more they saw his imploring hands come up among the white caps further off, which moved all hearts that witnessed it. Still the Captain said a small boat must not be lowered, as it could not live a moment among these wild billows.
But one man who was an expert swimmer, was so moved by the imploring signals of the drowning man, that he threw off his loose garments, saying: "I will save that man, or die with him."
So plunging into the surging deep, he struggled so bravely with the mad waters, that he reached the poor man just as his strength had gone; he had given up and was filling with water, and sinking down unconscious. He grasped him, and strange to tell, he brought him so near the ship that a small boat was lowered, and both men were taken up and laid down upon the deck. The one that had been swept overboard, entirely unconscious and his deliverer nearly so. Appliances were used and both were brought to consciousness.
As soon as the rescued man opened his eyes and found he was not in the ocean, his first words were: "Who saved me?"
He was pointed to his deliverer still lying on the deck in his wet clothes. He crept to his deliverer, and putting his arms around his feet, and in the most tender and heart moving tone of voice cried out: "Iím your servant, Iím your servant." He felt that he could never do enough for him.
Let me ask all who read this incident, would you not put your arms about the bleeding feet of your great Deliverer and say from a full heart: "Jesus, Iím your servant, Iím your servant. Ask anything of me, Jesus, and I will do it the best I can."
(From a sermon by Jimmy Haile, My Fatherís Business, 9/29/2011)
BE LIKE MIKE...?
Gary Thomas, in his book Authentic Faith, describes a friend of his named Mike. He met Mike when he went to college. Mike was a leader among students. He had everything: a contagious personality, athletic ability, good looks, and natural appeal. And everybody wanted to be around Mike. Everybody wanted to be Mike.
But a few years after college, Mike suffered a brain hemorrhage, and, as a result, he lost everything: his handsome appearance was gone, his voice was slurred, he couldnít teach any more. Everything that others admired in Mike was now taken from him.
His treatment required months of grueling therapy, but eventually he was able to function again. The devastating effect on his body was paralleled by an equally powerful change in his spirit. He still attracted followers, but he was no longer focused on himself. He was focused on God. Gary Thomas says, "In college, when I was around Mike, I wanted to be like Mike. Now, after spending time with Mike, I want to be more like Jesus."
THE GRADUATION GIFT
A young man was getting ready to graduate from college. For many months he had admired a beautiful sports car in a dealers showroom, and knowing that his father could well afford it, he told him that was all he wanted. As Graduation Day approached, the young man awaited signs that his father had purchased the car. Finally, on the morning of his graduation, his father called him into his private study.
His father told him how proud he was to have such a fine son, and told him how much he loved him. He handed his son a beautiful wrapped gift box. Curious, but somewhat disappointed, the young man opened the box and found a lovely, leather bound Bible, with the young manís name embossed in gold.
Angrily, he raised his voice to his father and said, "With all your money you give me a BIble?" and stormed out of the house, leaving the Bible.
Many years passed and the young man was very successful in business. He had a beautiful home and wonderful family, but realized his father was very old and thought perhaps he should go to him. He had not seen him since that graduation day. But before he could make arrangements, he received a telegram telling him his father had passed away, and willed all of his possessions to his son. He needed to come home immediately and take care of things.
When he arrived at his fatherís house, sudden sadness and regret filled his heart.
He began to search through his fatherís important papers and saw the still new Bible, just as he had left it years ago. With tears, he opened the Bible and began to turn the pages.
His father has carefully underlined a verse, Matthew 7:11, "And if ye, being evil, know how t...
THE LUKEWARM SHEEP
Now, for the sake of my illustration, I want to break a flock of sheep down into 3 groups.
1. The first group of sheep had DECIDED to look to Shepherd & follow Him wherever He leads.
These are the "Good sheep" who follow the "Good Shepherd. Jesus said: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." John 10:27 KJV
2. The 2nd group wants nothing to do with the Shepherd. They want to run their lives their own way and they deliberately DECIDE to walk away from Him. These are the pagans and atheists of society. They don't want to hear Jesus' voice... they don't want to follow.
3. But the 3rd group DECIDES that they like the Shepherd. They want to hang out with Him... but they don't want to get TOO close to Him. They still want to keep their options open. They want to look for their own grass once in a while. They want to nibble at a little of this and a little of that....
George Orwell once observed: "On the whole human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time."
That's the problem with this 3rd group of sheep.
They like being close to Jesus... just not too much, and not just all the time. And because they have this "loose" connection to the shepherd they're the ones who end up wandering off. They're the ones that end up getting lost. They're just close enough to the Shepherd to feel secure. And just far enough away to not hear His voice.
"My sheep hear my voice... and they follow me." says Jesus. John 10:27
And so, they wander off into their own little world, and they end up getting hurt and making bad decisions. And those bad decisions cause them pain and heartache.
As Proverbs 13:15 says, "...the way of transgressors is hard." (KJV)
Because they've chosen NOT to listen to the Good Shepherd and to follow Him closely, they are without the protection of that Shepherd and open to the attacks of Satan and this world.
A number of years ago, Dr. Waltke, a seminary professor, & three pastors, one of which was Charles Swindol toured the mother church of the First Church of Christ Scientist in downtown Boston. The four were unknown to the elderly lady who was going to give them a tour. They didnít tell her who they were, at least not at first. She showed them several interesting things on the main floor. When they got to the pipe organ she began to talk about their doctrine & especially their belief about no judgment in the life beyond. Dr. Waltke waited for just the right moment & then very casually asked: "But, Maíam, doesnít it say somewhere in the Bible, íIt is appointed unto man once to die & after that, the judgment?" The scholar could have quoted Hebrews 9:27 in the Greek, but he was so gracious & tactful. Swindol confessed he was thinking, "Go for it Bruce. Now weíve got her where we want her!" Without a pause, the lady simply ask, "Would you like to see the second floor?" Dr. Waltke said, "We surely would, thank you." She smiled, somewhat relieved, & started to lead the men up a flight of stairs. Swindol recalled he couldnít believe it. He was thinking, "No, donít let her get away. Make her answer your question!" He pulled on the scholarís arm & said in a low voice, "Hey, why didnít you nail the lady? Why didnít you press the point & not let her get away until she answered?" Swindol said he replied, "But, Chuck, that wouldnít have been fair. That wouldnít have been very loving, either- now would it?" Swindol said, "Wham, the quiet rebuke left me reeling. I shall never forget that moment. And to complete the story, youíll be interested to know that in less than 20 minutes he was sitting with the woman alone, gently speaking to her about the Lord Jesus Christ. She sat in rapt attention. He, the gracious servant, had won a hearing by being kind.
I was riding one of our Shetland ponies, Trigger or Sugarfoot. They were prone to buck you off from time to time and one of those occasions occurred. Well, as I hit the ground I heard someone call my name, ďBruce.Ē I rolled over to see who it was and no one did I see. However, when I looked back the pony had just stepped where I rolled from. In Godís grace, He was teaching me to learn to listen to His voice and to trust Him to protect me. God was teaching me to depend upon Him for the help I would need in living life.
WHOSE BOY ARE YOU?
One of the great preachers of our time is Dr. Fred Craddock. Craddock tells a story about vacationing with his wife one summer in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. One night they found a quiet little restaurant, where they looked forward to a private meal. While they were waiting for their food, they noticed a distinguished looking, white-haired man moving from table to table, visiting with the guests. Craddock leaned over and whispered to his wife, "I hope he doesnít come over here." He didnít want anyone intruding on their privacy. But sure enough, the man did come over to their table. "Where you folks from?" he asked in a friendly voice.
"Oklahoma," Craddock answered.
"Splendid state, I hear, although Iíve never been there," the stranger said. "What do you do for a living?"
"I teach homiletics at the graduate seminary of Phillips University," Craddock replied.
"Oh, so you teach preachers how to preach, do you? Well, Iíve got a story to tell you." And with that, the gentleman pulled up a chair and sat down at the table with Craddock and his wife.
Dr. Craddock said he groaned inwardly and thought to himself, "Oh, no! Here comes another preacher story! It seems like everybody has at least one."
The man stuck out his hand. "Iím Ben Hooper," he said. "I was born not far from here across the mountains. My mother wasnít married when I was born, so I had a pretty hard time. When I started to school, my classmates had a name for me, and it wasnít a very nice name. I used to go off by myself at recess and lunch time because the things they said to me cut me so deep. What was worse was going to town on Saturday afternoons and feeling like every eye was burning a hole through me, wondering just who my father was.
"When I was about 12 years old, a new preacher came to our church. I would always go in late and slip out early. But one day the preacher said the benediction so fast I got caught and had to walk out with the crowd. I could feel every eye in the church on me. Just about the time I got to the door I felt a big hand on my shoulder. I looked up and the preacher was looking right at me. ĎWho are you, son? Whose boy are you?í he asked. I felt this big weight coming down on me. It was like a big black cloud. Even the preacher was putting me down. But as he looked down at me, studying my face, he began to smile a big smile of recognition. ĎWait a minute!í he said. ĎI know who you are. I see the family resemblance now...
The captain of the ship looked into the dark night and saw faint lights in the distance. Immediately he told his signalman to send a message: "Alter your course 10 degrees south." Promptly a return message was received: "Alter your course 10 degrees north."
The captain was angered; his command had been ignored. So he sent a second message: "Alter your course 10 degrees south--I am the captain!" Soon another message was received: "Alter your course 10 degrees north--I am a seaman third class Jones."
Immediately the captain sent a third message, knowing the fear it would evoke: "Alter your course 10 degrees south--I am a battleship." Then the reply came: "Alter your course 10 degrees north--I am a lighthouse." There are plenty of voices shouting at us through the fog. We need the clear and solid voice of a lighthouse in our lives Ė a friend who is there with the right advice about where to go and how to get there.
So if the kingdom of heaven is so valuable, why doesnít everybody do everything they can to be a part of it? I think itís because value is often in the eye of the beholder. What has value and what doesnít is really up to personal interpretation. What some people think are valuable have no value at all to others. Several years ago I used to heat our house with wood. Every fall I would go out and cut wood with my friend Roger Raether and Bob Bosma. I never liked cutting wood because it was a lot of back breaking work but I liked the price. It was free except for the labor so we would take a Saturday here and there in the fall to cut wood and pile it up for the winter. In addition to cutting wood I used to get the wood scraps from a store called ďThe Wooden Bird.Ē They make beautiful hand carved bird decoys and animal decoys out of wood. Every decoy costs from 50 to 250 bucks and they are really nice decorative pieces to put on the mantle. Their shop used to be right here in St. Boni so every couple of weeks I would stop in and pick up their leftover wood scraps to burn in my wood burner. Right before Thanksgiving I stopped in to pick up a load of scraps. I walked in the front door and told them I was there to pick up the wood. The man wheeled out two bins like usual to the loading doors and helped me load them in the truck. Usually the wood was just chunks of pine but this time they looked like decoys. I asked him if he was sure that he was giving me the right wood because they were unpainted decoys. I noticed that they had a few cracks in them so I figured they were throwing them away because of the cracks. The man insisted that I had the right stuff and waved me goodbye. I took my load of wood and promised that I would bring his carts back as soon as I got the chance. He told me there was no hurry and I could even bring them back after Thanksgiving. I went home and unloaded the decoys in a big pile in the basement. The wood burner was low so I grabbed a handful of decoys and threw them in the furnace. That dry pine burned nice and hot so I threw in a few more to ward of the cold. Then I went back to work. After work I went home and reloaded the furnace with decoys and had just enough time to bring back the carts before they closed for the long weekend. When I pulled up in my truck two men ran out of the building and demanded that I bring back the decoys. I asked why and with urgency in his voice he told me that I had taken their entire inventory of Christmas decoys worth tens of thousands of dollars by mistake. He went on and on about calling the police and trying to find my vehicle and driving around for the past three hours in a complete panic because I had taken their entire Christmas inventory of decoys worth thousands of dollars by mistake. I pointed at the guy who gave them to me and he just gave me the deer in the headlights look and walked back into the building. Then the manager said do you still have them because they are incredibly valuable. Each decoy had taken them over a week to make and they needed to get them back. Rather stunned I told them that I had burned a few of them but would bring the rest back. Then I went home and carefully loaded a few hundred decoys back into the bins and brought them back to the Wooden Bird. Value is often in the eye of the beholder. The decoys had no value to me other than a little heat. But to the Wooden bird, the decoys were worth tens of thousands of dollars.