Nantucket, Massachusetts is located next to important shipping lanes running along the East Coast. Toward the end of the 1800s, sailing ships were in their heyday. Nantucket Island saw hundreds of vessels passing by each day—all navigating without the advantages of modern technology. Treacherous shoals and stormy weather led to over 700 shipwrecks in the surrounding waters of Nantucket, causing the area to be dubbed “a graveyard of the Atlantic.”
Prior to the advent of organized life-saving, sailors involved in a wreck were likely to perish. Even if fortunate enough to make it to shore, the limited shelter offered by the dunes didn’t significantly improve the sailor’s chances of survival. Faced with the large number of shipwrecks and loss of life, the people of the surrounding communities began efforts to save the lives of shipwreck victims. They built lifesaving huts along the shores, gave swimming lessons to Boston public school students, produced instructional posters on resuscitation methods, and developed volunteer life-savers that would row out to the ships to rescue shipwrecked sailors. They were incredibly brave and heroic men.
On March 31, 1879, a violent storm swept across Nantucket Sound, bringing powerful winds, freezing rain, snow, and heavy fog. By April 1, over sixty-eight vessels lay wrecked or disabled around the island. This led to the largest rescue effort in the island’s history.
Captain Thomas F. Sandsbury and his crew of volunteer lifesavers rowed their surfboat toward the schooner John W. Hail. They rescued the crew and rowed them back to the safety of the shore. Then they went back out to the stormy sea and made their way to the schooner Emma J. Edwards. She was rolling from side to side. Her masts would thrash the sea with every turn, making it impossible to get near her. A sole survivor was visible. George Coffin tied a line around his waist to prevent himself from being swept away and jumped from the surfboat. George Coffin rescued the survivor.
For thirty-two consecutive hours Sandsbury and his crew endured the hardships of the storm and moving from wreck to wreck they rescued more than a dozen sailors. Other crews were doing the same. By the time the storm began to break, Nantucket’s volunteers had rescued over forty sailors. The U.S. Congress recognized the courage of Sandsbury. Captain Sandsbury was given a gold medal and silver medals were awarded to each of his crew. There’s a museum dedicated to all these brave men that served as lifesavers (www.nantucketlifesavingmuseum.com).
The motto of this group was: “You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back.” Though they were never paid, they never lacked for volunteers. They risked everything to save lives.
The apostle Paul was a man like that. He was willing to risk everything for the sake of the gospel.
Related Sermon Illustrations
Contributed by Bud Brown on Oct 14, 2004
Legend has it that when the famous frontiersman Davy Crockett was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1827, a newspaper reporter asked him if he’d ever been lost. Crockett had grown up in the woods and wilderness of middle and western Tennessee and was often gone out on hunting trips ...read more
Contributed by Kenneth Squires on Sep 30, 2005
Do you know that you already have the gift of a consuming passion for hungering and thirsting? You activate it when you surrender your life to the Spirit’s working. Billy Graham was asked, “What is the most important ...read more
Contributed by D. Greg Ebie on Nov 20, 2004
TRUST IS A LEARNED BEHAVIOR. Susie is one of the most trustworthy people I know; I trust her with my life. Imagine she is in a long line at the bank. The individual behind her is holding $1,000 cash with a completed deposit ticket. This person is obviously anxious and in a hurry, so Susie ...read more
Contributed by Bruce Willis on Jan 2, 2007
Bob had been a Christian for about 6 years and had come to Dallas to head up a major city wide evangelistic campaign, hosting a daily radio program and working with some of the largest churches in America. He was beginning to think he was close to reaching the ultimate in Christian maturity - ...read more
Contributed by Paul Wallace on Oct 13, 2005
What is the first thought that comes to your mind at the name of Jesus? How would you describe his character or emotional makeup? What is your image of Jesus as a man? Isn’t He sort of meek and mild? One man said “I mean the pictures I have of him show a gentle guy with children all around. ...read more
Contributed by Paul Davidson on Jun 12, 2017
Christianity is not something that can be chosen from a buffet of religious options… It's a realization that we're guilty… It's a relationship forged in repentance... It's a life of loving service & obedience to the One whose mercy & grace set us free.
Contributed by Richard Tow on Dec 14, 2017
Have you ever faced a situation that you wondered whether anything could be done to fix it? God tells Ezekiel what to do about the condition of his nation. God stirs his faith for action. Ezekiel responds. How would God direct us to respond to our impossi
Contributed by Kraig Pullam on Feb 17, 2014
God takes the disadvantages of our dead ends and uses them as an opportunity to propel His plan into the spectrum of His greater glory and our greater good, as seen in the discourse between the disciples and Christ prior to His ascension.