Summary: The story of Robinson Crusoe and the truth he learned from his salvaged Bible teaches us the priority of prayer.
The Untold Story of Robinson Crusoe
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
1. Preview: For the near future, my Sunday evening messages will have a single purpose and single focus. I want to preach and teach so as to help us as a church and each of us as individuals become the most believing, praying people we can be. I am not suggesting that you don’t pray or that prayer isn’t or hasn’t been a central part of this church’s life. I just believe that most people I know have a long way to go in this regard. I will frequently refer to my part in our Sunday evening gatherings as our Sunday Night School of Prayer. We will go at it in a variety of ways; we will even spend some times in prolonged prayer on Sunday evenings. Everything will build on the following Ten Prayer Principles:
a. prayer is our first, not last, resort
b. anyone can pray; everyone should pray
c. all of us could prayer more and better
d. prayer changes us and our circumstances
e. Satan doesn’t want us to pray; he will do anything to stop us
f. prayer is hard work; it is not easy for most of us
g. the most important thing we can do in Vandalia this year is to become a (more) praying church;
h. God wants to answer our prayer more than we want to ask him;
i. most of us don’t have a clue about what could happen if we really prayed;
j. God often supplies our needs even when we don’t pray, but failing to pray deprives us of opportunities to give God the credit and the praise due him.
The big movie hit by Tom Hanks The Castaway and the popular “real TV” series The Survivor both tell the compelling drama of individuals in a suspense filled battle for survival against the elements and sometimes against other humans. According to Hanks who created the idea for the movie, the film presents a metaphor for “casting away” the trappings of everyday life in order to find out what is truly important. Unfortunately, Chuck Noland, the FedEx engineer played by Hanks, never discovers some of life’s most important treasures. Such was not the case for another castaway story first told almost three hundred years earlier.
Daniel Defoe first published The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe on April 25, 1719. It’s central character was a young English boy who loved the sea. His elderly father repeatedly warned Robinson of the dangers of the life of a seaman, but to no avail. The teenager ran away to sea. One disaster followed another. He faced storms and near shipwrecks one after another. Every time he would get into trouble, his father’s warnings would replay in his mind. Eventually Robinson was taken prisoner on a slave ship. After purchasing his freedom and being stranded in Brazil for a time, he secures a job working on a ship loaded with trinkets for the slave trade in Africa.
Once at sea, the ship encounters a fierce storm in the Carribean. The vessel goes aground off an uncharted island in September of 1659, according to the plot. Of the fourteen seamen on board, only Robinson Crusoe survivors. He finds himself tossed up on what he discovers to be a deserted island. He salvages what he can from the sinking ship: tools, guns, gun powder, ammunition, sails for cloth, rope, boards, food, paper, ink, and several books, including a Bible. In the months and years that follow, Crusoe experiences many misadventures as he learns to survive alone. Eventually he is rescued on December 19, 1686 and heads toward home 28 years, 2 months, and 19 days after first landing on the island.
The background and lesser known details of the story provide the greatest contrast with more the modern versions of this survival theme. Daniel Defoe was actually an English political and religious writer. He was born in 1659 and died in 1731. His religious convictions made him a dissenter and nonconformist. As such, he taught against the spiritual authority of the English king and religious establishment. In their place, Defoe championed the authority of scripture and the freedom of the individual to teach and preach the faith. His many writings included a number of political and religious papers and poems. When imprisoned at various times for his views, Defoe considered the experience a badge of honor. The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe was actually based on the true story of a seaman named Alexander Selkirk who spent four years on an island off of the coast of Chile from 1704-1709. From the sketchy newspaper accounts of Selkirk’s experience, Defoe’s imagination created Robinson Crusoe. He would later acknowledge that in many ways the children’s masterpiece was more than a metaphor about values and survival. It was a testimony to his faith and convictions. Two particular events on the island make this clear.