Summary: Challenging Christians to the Mission of evangelism, and putting it first.
A Patient Urgency
Nov. 2/3, 2002
"Everyone seemed confident that the ship was all right," recalled first-class passenger Henry Sleeper Harper. At last, however, the call came for all passengers to come up on deck wearing their life belts, and soon after midnight, Captain Smith directed crew members to ready the 16 wooden lifeboats and four collapsible boats. The noise on deck was horrendous as steam was released to ease pressure on the Titanic’s boilers. Over the din, Lightoller shouted to the Captain for permission to begin loading the boats, and the Captain nodded his agreement.
Many women were reluctant to leave their husbands and the apparent safety of the huge ship for a 70-foot drop down to the dark ocean in the tiny wooden boats. Some had to be forcefully picked up and dropped into the lifeboats by crew members. Very few of the boats were loaded to their capacity with passengers.
At 12:45, Quartermaster George Rowe fired distress rockets as lifeboat 7 was lowered with only 28 people aboard, even though it could have carried 65. Realizing the danger of their situation, many third-class passengers gathered in prayer, and five men jumped into lifeboat 5 as it descended, seriously injuring a woman passenger. By 1:15, the Titanic’s bow had plunged beneath the surface. Even as water was rising in the ship, the band continued to play and the gymnasium instructor was assisting passengers on the mechanical exercise equipment.
After the water closed over the Titanic, hundreds of people remained struggling for their lives in the freezing water. Their screams were unbearable and unforgettable for those who listened to them from the safety of the lifeboats. Nevertheless, as hundreds of men, women and children froze to death during the next hour, none of the boats rowed back to offer help.
It was only after the dreadful cries had died down that Fifth Officer Lowe transferred passengers out of lifeboat 14 and rowed it back to the site of the Titanic’s sinking. Masses of dead bodies, buoyed by the life belts, floated in the sea. Lowe and Able Seaman Joseph Scarrett were only able to pull 14 people out of the water, and only half of those survived the cold and exposure. (source: titanic-online.com)
We’ve spent the last little while talking about evangelism, and the image of the church as a hospital – a vision for our church based on Jesus’ words: “It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick.” It is a vision of witnessing to the awesome power of God that has reached us, pulled us from our quicksand, forgiven us, and made us holy children of the mighty God of the universe. We’ve talked about God’s heart for people – His desperate longing for people everywhere to know of the incredible depth of His love for them and His desire to forgive and restore them to right relationship with Him. We’ve talked about God’s part and our part, we’ve thought through the kind of personality God has given us and how we can be ourselves and witness for Christ, and we’ve examined some of the tough questions people ask and how we might begin to respond.
Today is the final sermon in this mini-series on evangelism. I pray today that the Holy Spirit of God would lay on our hearts the urgency of this task – that we would recognize that without Christ people we know and love are on the road to an eternity without God, an eternity in hell. We’ve been talking about evangelism, equipping ourselves to be effective witnesses, now we need to capture again the passion of God for lost people, and live that out. We need to get motivated…
Did we get the whole thing backward?
As I reflected this week on the whole process of the Christian life, I’ve been wondering if we haven’t gotten the whole thing backward. I think most of us have concluded that the thing that matters most is our own spiritual lives – our own personal depth – how much we pray and study and worship. We feel like the most important thing is the state of our individual relationship with God. I’ve decided that is false. It is backwards.
The most important thing is not the depth of our individual experience of God, the most important thing is the mission He has given to us. I honestly believe that. The mission God has given us to be His witnesses is more important than our own individual depth. We’ve gotten it backwards – we think: grow à then get on with the mission. God says grow while living out the mission.
That’s not how we think. We think we need to know more, we need to pray more, we need to experience God more, before we could ever share anything with anyone else. We have to get our own house in order, master our own sinful tendencies, discover and develop our spiritual gifts, and then maybe we’ll think about sharing our faith. We need to go to school and master all the concepts and ideas and skills before ever going out and putting them into practice. We have a “university” mentality. God doesn’t. God has an apprenticeship mentality.