Sermon Illustrations

John Hull in his book "Pivotal Prayer" shares a story about a man who brought revival to a sinking ship:

A widowed Scottish minister named John Harper and his six-year-old daughter were on board the Titanic the tragic night it sank. When the ship began to sink, Harper, traveling second class, handed his daughter to an officer on an upper deck, who put her into a lifeboat. He then began to help those on his deck. Others were doing this as well, but Harper’s assistance was unique because of his instructions, heard over and over during the chaos: ‘Women and children and the unsaved into the lifeboats first. Women and children and the unsaved into the lifeboats first.’ John Harper recognized that moment as the threshold of eternity. He was ready to face God, but knew that many on board were not. As a minister, Harper’s lips had often declared God’s love for the lost. Now his life jacket declared it as an ultimate act. When he came upon a man without a life jacket, Harper took off his own and put it on the man. Later, floating in the emptiness of the dark chilling waters, a survivor came within sight of a man struggling to stay afloat. It was John Harper. Rather than asking for help, Harper called out to the man, ‘Are you saved?’ ‘No,’ came the answer. ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved,’ Harper said. The man’s reply was one of silence as they drifted out of sight of one another. A little later, the main spied Harper again, and again Harper called out to him. ‘Are you saved now?’ Again the answer, ‘No, I can’t honestly say that I am.’ Again the refrain, weaker but still clear, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.’ Then silence, as John Harper slipped below the surface and into the arms of God. Later, in a meeting in Ontario, Canada, the survivor stood up and told this story. He ended with these words: ‘Shortly after he went down, and there, alone in the night with two miles of water under me, I believed.’ Paul wrote to the church at Rome, ‘If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’ (Rom. 10:9). John Harper proclaimed these words to anyone who would listen as he treaded the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean that fateful night. These were not the words of a lunatic fearing death, but of a man who understood that eternity for him and others was just around the corner. He was ready, and he wanted others to be ready as well. John Harper knew that people don’t just drift to heaven. They need to be told about Jesus and then must receive Him into their lives. He shared with those fearful passengers that Jesus loved them and that He would save them from their sins and for eternity. He wanted them to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and receive Him into their lives. He wanted them to pray the most important pivotal prayer they could ever pray” (pages 214, 215).