In early April
1912, 2,223 people boarded the largest, safest, most luxurious
passenger steamship in the world for a trip from Europe to
ocean liner Titanic, making its very first voyage, was
advertised as a technological wonder. Its planners, architects,
and engineers had incorporated into it all the latest
improvements in ship-building, making it, according to the
publicity of the time, virtually unsinkable.
Over 100 years
later, as a result of numerous best-selling books and movies
(and endless documentaries on television) about the Titanic’s
first—and last—voyage , the vast majority of Americans know
that those planners, architects, and engineers were wrong. For
shortly before midnight on April 14, just east of Newfoundland,
the ship struck an iceberg and sank in less than three hours.
And the people on board were forced to trade the luxurious
surroundings of the elegant state rooms, the Turkish baths, the
swimming pool, the sumptuous lounges and dining rooms, and the
magnificent ball room for the slim hope of bobbing about in tiny
lifeboats in the icy waters of the North Atlantic.
Most didn’t even have that hope—those planners, architects,
and engineers were so sure of the safety of the craft that they
didn’t think it necessary (and the British government didn’t require
them) to provide enough lifeboats to match the number of passengers
and crew. The twenty lifeboats on board only had a capacity of
1,178, and most weren’t even full of passengers when launched after
the collision with the iceberg.
Over 1,500 people died that night. Barely 700
were rescued a few hours later when another ship, the Carpathia,
arrived to pluck the survivors from the water.
survivors approach the Carpathia
The deaths included both poor immigrants who
bought tickets for the third class accommodations on the boat,
and some of the wealthiest people in America, who had been
enjoying the finest of first class amenities.
The richest man on the ship, millionaire John
Jacob Astor IV (founder of New York*s Waldorf Astoria hotel)
went to the same watery grave as the poorest peasant family who
had hoped to start a new life in America.
women and children were being loaded onto the few lifeboats
first, Astor had asked if he could accompany his 19-year-old new
wife Madeleine because she was pregnant and would particularly
need care, but he was denied. He was reported by survivors to
have calmly stepped back, tossed his gloves to his wife in the
boat, lit a cigarette, and watched as she disappeared into the
night. Less than two hours later, he was dead. All his millions
could not save him.
And at the same time, Astor*s wife and unborn
child, along with the rest of the survivors of that traumatic
night, did not pay for the salvation that eventually came to
them through the efforts of the Carpathia.
The survivors were rescued not because of their
social standing, how much wealth they had, or what they had
accomplished by the standards of the world*s society, but simply
because * they needed saving. And the crew of the Carpathia didn*t
save them because they were paid to do so, but because they saw
that need and were willing to reach out and meet it.
It was indeed a tragedy for the 1,500+ people who
died that night and their loved ones back home. Yet it was, at
the same time, a great relief to the families and loved ones
back home of the 700+ survivors. Some of those survivors no
doubt viewed their rescue as a miraculous intervention by God,
or at least *Fate.* And some turned the tragedy into a triumph
of the spirit of concern for others.
For instance, there was socialite Margaret Brown:
“When the ship collided with the iceberg and
began to sink, she helped many others to lifeboats before
being forced into one herself. Once in the water, she and
the other women in the lifeboat worked together to row and
keep spirits up, despite the alleged panic and gloom of
Quartermaster Robert Hichens.”
“When the RMS Carpathia arrived to rescue the
survivors, Margaret assisted with the rescue efforts; her
proficiency in languages was an asset, she helped prepare
survivor lists for outside communication and raised funds
with other rich survivors to help those less fortunate among
surviving passengers and crew, collecting $10,000 by the
time the ship made port in New York City.”
“For her calm action in the disaster, the
media acclaimed her as one of the heroines of the hour. She
was quoted as saying that her survival was attributable to
“typical Brown luck... we're unsinkable”. She became known
as the Unsinkable Mrs. Brown for the rest of her life. [A
1964 movie of her life, dubbing her The Unsinkable Molly
Brown, starred Debbie Reynolds.]”
“She went on to head the Titanic Survivors'
Committee, participated in fundraising for victims of the
sinking and helped to get a memorial to the Titanic erected
in Washington, D.C. Margaret also published her account of
the sinking in newspapers.”
“Her fame helped her promote the issues she
felt deeply about - the rights of workers and women,
education and literacy for children, and historic
preservation. During World War I in France she worked with
the American Committee for Devastated France to rebuild
areas behind the front line, and helped wounded French and
American soldiers. Shortly before her death in 1932 from a
brain tumor, she was awarded the French Legion of Honour for
her “overall good citizenship” including her relief work in
France, her efforts for Titanic survivors and her other
activism and philanthropy at home in America.” (Wikipedia.com
article: “Margaret Brown”)
The physical salvation of the survivors of the
Titanic was a marvelous thing. But it was only temporary. In
spite of all her good works, the Unsinkable Molly didn’t live
forever, and is no longer helping people. The youngest survivor
of the tragedy was likely Madeleine Astor*s unborn child, whose
birth came in August, four months after the sinking. That child,
John Jacob Astor VI, lived a full, long life, but even he died,
Our physical bodies just are not designed for
permanence. Some people in the 21st
century are trying to “cheat death,” by arranging ahead of time
to have their bodies--or perhaps just their heads!--flash-frozen
immediately at the time of death by a cryonics laboratory. They
expect literally to be “kept on ice” in the hope that some day
science will have a way to revive them, and—even more
hopefully—cure whatever it was that took their life.
Up to six
severed heads and four bodies
can be stored at -320° Fahrenheit in this
huge canister that is filled with liquid nitrogen.
Yet, even if such a procedure was discovered some
day, this solution would only be temporary. They would be
brought back to life at the same stage of aging that they left
with. It is highly unlikely that the most advanced human science
is ever going to discover an actual physical “Fountain of Youth”
that can turn back the clock on aging cells.
The Bible tells in the book of Genesis about a
time when ancient people had much longer life spans than we do
now. Perhaps different atmospheric and other conditions on Earth
at the time contributed to their longevity. It’s astonishing to
consider that some people may really have lived hundreds of
years. The aging process may have been slower back then, but it
was just as inevitable eventually as it is today. The oldest of
those men, Methuselah, who is reported to have lived 969 years,
is now long gone.
even the physical salvation that comes from Divine intervention
is only temporary! In the time of the huge flood
in the book of Genesis, God rescued Noah and his family and all
the animals in the ark, a type of boat that was huge like the
Titanic. It was perfect for its purpose. Unlike the Titanic, it
didn’t have design flaws. And it wasn't smashed by any of the
huge amount of debris that surely was floating in the waters at
the time--because of God's promise of protection for all on
board, it really was the safest place to be on Earth at the
time. But Noah and all his family and all those animals are now
dead too, just as dead as the victims of the Titanic sinking—and
just as dead as all but three of the Titanic survivors are now.
(Even those three will likely be gone soon. Lillian Gertrud
Asplund was 99 at the beginning of 2006; Barbara Joyce West was
94; Elizabeth Gladys "Millvina" Dean was 93.)
In other words, people can experience salvation
from an untimely death once, or even many times, during their
life span, but that salvation is only temporary.
Looking at a tragedy like the sinking of the
Titanic, we can easily understand the importance of physical
salvation. Except perhaps for those experiencing severe and
chronic physical or mental pain, most people don*t want to die.
Strangely enough, even the majority of those in the most dire of
circumstances, whether in a concentration camp in World War II
or in a famine-ravaged country in Africa now, seldom attempt
suicide. The human “will to live” is extremely strong. And thus
when in danger of that life ending, men will grasp at any hope
that they can be saved.
When everything is going well in a person’s life,
he may not even think about death—or what may happen after
death. But there are various times in most people’s lives when
they quietly wonder, even if they don’t voice the thought out
loud to anyone, “I'm going to die someday—Is this lifetime all
there is?” And when rough times come; when it seems like the
circumstances of life are extremely unfair; when it may seem
like, as an old song put it, “The rich get rich, and the poor
get poorer,” it can be very tempting for some people to wonder
if the Bible stories they vaguely remember from their childhood
Sunday School days might be right after all. Maybe there will
be a time when those who have lived selfless lives of service to
others, but have suffered for it, will get their “payday.” And
maybe there will be a time when evil people get their “payback”
for a life of causing harm to others.
Yet this has obviously not been true for the past
6000 years of recorded history. If there is such a time of
justice, punishment, and reward for all the people who have
lived and died during all that time, it is obviously going to
have to be in a “time” outside the life-span of everyone who has
The Bible does, indeed, speak of just such a
time. But if it is only a normal physical time, some historical
era in the future of the Earth, that isn’t going to do all those
billions of people who lived and died any good. The only
solution to this problem is for there to be a time after our
life-span has ended, and we've gone to our grave, when we live
again. And indeed the Bible speaks of just such a reality. The
Bible calls this the resurrection. That means a “bringing
back to life”—but not the kind of bringing back to life you see
pictured on a hospital drama on TV, when someone’s heart stops
momentarily and they are revived in the hospital. That kind of
revival is only temporary.
The Bible speaks of a kind of revival to life
that will happen long after medical resuscitation is possible.
And it declares that many who receive this revival will be saved
from ever having to face death again. They will receive a new
kind of body that is permanent, and doesn't decay like the old
Just like the survivors of the Titanic, no matter
how many times you personally may cheat physical death, you are
going to die some day. It may be tomorrow, it may be decades
from now. But 150 years from now, your physical body will be no
more. You may be saved from a number of physical accidents
between now and then. But if you want to be part of that
promised time when God rights all wrongs, when, as the book of
Revelation in the Bible puts it, “God shall wipe away all
tears,” you need more than salvation from sinking ships and
other physical dangers.
salvation from the permanence of death.
Many on the Titanic, including women (who were
given first priority, with children, to board the lifeboats
after the collision with the iceberg) were not convinced at
first that the ship could sink, and thus refused early on to get
in those lifeboats. The powerful ship looked so massive and
sturdy while it was still afloat, the lifeboats looked so tiny
and flimsy, and the waters were so cold and dark.
the Titanic lifeboats, before inevitable sinking was evident.
Wikipedia.com: “Titanic” article:
passengers were reluctant to leave the ostensibly safe Titanic,
which showed no outward signs of being in imminent danger, and
board small lifeboats. As a result, most of the boats were
launched partially empty. One boat, boat number one, meant to
hold 40 people, left the Titanic with only 12 people on board.
With "Women and children first" the imperative for loading
lifeboats, Second Officer Lightoller, who was loading boats on
the port side, allowed men on only if oarsmen were needed and
for no other reason, even if there was room. First Officer
Murdoch, who was loading boats on the starboard side, let men on
board if women were absent. As the ship's tilt became more
apparent, people started to become nervous, and some lifeboats
began leaving fully loaded. Shortly after 2:00 AM the waterline
had reached the forward boat deck, and all the lifeboats, save
for Collapsibles A and B, had been lowered. Collapsible D was
the last lifeboat to be lowered from the davits with 44 of its
47 seats filled.
Around 2:10 AM,
the stern rose out of the water exposing the propellers and the
forward boat deck was flooding. Events began to transpire
rapidly as the last two lifeboats floated right off the deck,
collapsible lifeboat B upside down, and collapsible lifeboat A
half-filled with water. Shortly afterwards the forwardmost
funnel collapsed, crushing part of the bridge and many of those
struggling in the water. On deck, people were scrambling towards
the stern or jumping overboard in hopes of reaching a lifeboat.
The ship's stern slowly rose into the air, and everything not
secured crashed towards the bow. While the stern rose, the
electrical system finally failed and the lights went out.
Shortly thereafter the stress on the hull caused Titanic to
break apart into two large pieces, between the third and fourth
funnels, and the bow section went completely under. The stern
section briefly righted itself on the water before rising back
up vertically. After a few moments, at 2:20 AM, the stern
section also sank into the ocean.
Of a total of
2,223 people, only 706 survived; 1,517 perished. If the
lifeboats were filled to capacity 1,178 people would have been
saved. Of the First Class, 199 were saved and 130 died. Of the
Second Class, 119 were saved and 166 were lost. Of the Third
Class, 214 were saved and 536 perished. Of the crew, 214 were
saved and 685 perished. The majority of deaths were caused by
victims succumbing to hypothermia in the 28° F (-2° C) water.
Out of the 16 lifeboats and 4 collaspsibles launched only one
came back. Another boat helped. Lifeboat 4 was close by and
picked up eight crewman, two of whom later died. Close to an
hour later, Lifeboat 14, under the command of fifth officer
Harold Lowe, went back and rescued four people, one of whom died
afterwards. Other people managed to climb onto the two
collapsible lifeboats that floated off the deck. There were some
arguments in some of the other lifeboats about going back, but
many survivors were afraid of being swamped by people trying to
climb into the lifeboat or being pulled down by the anticipated
suction from the sinking ship, though this turned out not to be
severe. Only 12 people were picked up from the water.
IF THERE IS NO GOD, mankind’s civilization is
just like the Titanic on its way inexorably to hit an iceberg
and sink. No one can predict when, but even normally optimistic
scientists are more and more concerned about both “natural”
(asteroids, earthquakes, volcanoes, pandemics) and political
(nuclear warfare) ways that the demise of “the world as we know
it” may be brought about.
And yet it actually doesn’t make any difference
to individuals whether this demise of civilization is in the
next decade, the next century, the next millennium, or later.
For every person alive today will meet their own iceberg before
150 years are past. We are each on a collision course with our
iceberg that collided with the Titanic on April 14, 1912
Our civilization needs physical salvation, and
each of us as individuals need both physical salvation--and
spiritual salvation. The wreckage of the Titanic was found at
the bottom of the ocean in 1985. It is in its own shadowy grave,
and beyond salvage. It will never float again. And that is
metaphorically how and where we are all individually going to
end up if we don't find the way to the spiritual salvation--the
promise of the "resurrection"--that the Bible speaks about.
Yet, just like those women and men on the Titanic
who refused for a time to get into the lifeboats, many people
absolutely refuse to face the reality of their own coming
collision with death. In fact, many even refuse to fully face
the reality that their lives are already a disaster in desperate
need of intervention. They not only need salvation from eternal
death, they need salvation from many things that are destroying
the fabric of their existence even now. The lives of many young
people--even from "solid middle class families"--are
characterized by lawless behavior, unwanted pregnancy, drug
addiction, suicidal thoughts, and more. Many of their parents
are caught up in broken marriages, alcoholism, mental and
emotional disorders, and lack of any sense of personal
fulfillment in their jobs and daily lives. It may never even
occur to them that many of these things have been brought on by
their own poor decisions and choices in life. They may feel that
they are victims, just like those on the Titanic, of a
capricious Fate. And they may think that the only answer to
their emptiness is an endless quest for pleasure, or perhaps
chemical escape through legal or illegal drugs--which in the end
never brings permanent relief. They don't understand that there
is a "lifesaving" option open to them right now--as well as on
needs a Savior,
the Earth itself needs a Savior,
and YOU need a Savior.
In a strange twist of fate, there is a popular
hymn that was written in 1912, the same year as the sinking of
the Titanic--about people far from a safe shore who are about to
drown. There is no historical evidence that the writers were
inspired by the circumstances surrounding that great tragedy,
but the poignancy of the analogy is certainly there.
Love Lifted Me
Words by James
Rowe, Music by Howard E. Smith
You can hear the
music to this hymn online at: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/l/l/lliftdme.htm
I was sinking
deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more,
But the Master of the sea, heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me, now safe am I.
Love lifted me!
Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help, Love lifted me!
Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help ...
Love lifted me!
Souls in danger
look above, Jesus completely saves,
He will lift you by His love, out of the angry waves.
He's the Master of the sea, billows His will obey,
He your Savior wants to be, be saved today.
The lyrics of this song are not about drowning in
water. They are a metaphor about individuals “drowning in sins.”
And the promise of the song is not about being physically saved,
to continue a normal life span. It is about escaping the
inevitability of permanent death. Although the word is not used
in the song, the real topic is being saved and promised the
resurrection to everlasting life.
And the song makes clear who provides this
rescue, this salvation from eternal death--Jesus. The song
addresses those “in danger” and encourages them to look up to
Him for rescue.
But for those who have never read the Bible, who
may have never attended a church--at least not since some pious
relative dragged them to Sunday School when they were little
children--this may sound like merely some sanctimonious, sicky-sweet,
Perhaps they can vaguely remember hearing one
morning in that far-off Sunday School a story about Jesus taking
people who had been good in their lives (maybe even good little
boys and girls who died in youth) off to a pretty place called
Heaven, where they would lounge around on clouds for eternity
playing harps and strolling on streets paved with bricks of
Is that what salvation is all about--people being
saved so that after the end of this life they can begin a new
life and live eternally in ... a “Heavenly Old Folks' Home In
Indeed, some descriptions of Heaven are almost
bland enough that one might expect the Saved People to be
playing Heavenly Shuffleboard tournaments with the Angels!
Many of the hymns of the 1800s and early 1900s
were based on a theme related to the dangers of being in ships
and boats in dangerous waters. Just a small sampling:
“Let the lower lights be burning, send a beam across
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman you may rescue,
you may save.” (“Let the Lower Lights Be Burning”)
“I’ve anchored my soul in the Haven of Rest,
I’ll sail the wide seas no more; The tempest may sweep
o’er the wild, stormy, deep.
In Jesus I’m safe evermore.” (“The Haven of Rest”)
“O Savior! whose almighty word
the winds and waves submissive heard,
who walkedst on the foaming deep,
and calm amid its rage didst sleep:
O hear us when we cry to thee for those in peril on the sea!”
“Jesus, Savior, pilot me over life’s tempestuous sea:
unknown waves before me roll, hiding rock and treacherous shoal.
Chart and compass come from Thee;
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.” (“Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me”)
“When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
count your many blessings, name them one by one,
and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”
(“Count Your Blessings”)
Is that what salvation is all about--people being
saved so that after the end of this life they can begin a new
life and live eternally in ... a “Heavenly Old Folks' Home In
There are two primary reasons for this frequent
choice of metaphor. First: In the 21st century, one of many
people's worst fears is a fear of flying. The thought of being
in a hijacked airplane, or in a plane that has lost an engine
and is about to plunge to earth in a fiery crash, is enough to
keep many people from ever buying an airline ticket.
But throughout history, up to the early part of
the 20th century, one of the most dangerous circumstances, one
of the worst nightmares, that the average person could ever
encounter would be finding himself trapped in a vessel far from
shore in a great storm.
Even being a soldier in a military battle would
in some ways be less dangerous and terrifying--at least in that
circumstance, you had weapons with which to defend yourself, and
in the worst of situations, you might be able to flee from the
enemy. But in a ship in a storm—or on a collision course with
an iceberg—there is no weapon powerful enough to offer any aid
at all against the forces of nature. And there is nowhere to
So when looking for a metaphor for the physical
trials and fears and dangers of life, and an analogy to use to
exemplify spiritual turmoil, potential sea disasters were
particularly appealing to many hymn writers of the time.
But there was a second, even more practical
reason that hymn writers of the 19th and early 20th centuries
might use this theme. Not a whole lot had changed in long
distance travel in the 1,800 years from the first century AD,
the time when Jesus was on Earth. Back then, the dangers of life
on the open water were equally a significant part of the
experience of people. Thus there are a number of stories in the
Bible that draw upon this theme. And a couple of very famous
such stories are recorded about incidents in the life of Jesus:
Then he [Jesus]
furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept
over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went
and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We're going to drown!”
He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”
Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it
was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What
kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
And in another incident:
Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead
of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.
After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by
himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but
the boat was already a considerable distance from land,
buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on
the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake,
they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried
out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take
courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the
water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the
boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
But when he
saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried
out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand
and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you
doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died
who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are
the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:22-33)
Obviously, these are incidents of physical
salvation. Jesus performed as a physical savior, rescuing these
men from drowning. So where did the hymn writers get the idea to
apply the stories metaphorically to spiritual salvation, to
rescuing people from the permanence of death? What made them
conclude that Jesus was not sent to Earth by God just to save
some people physically, but that He was to be the Savior who
granted eternal life?
They came to this conclusion not just by their
own speculations, but because there are specific passages in the
Bible that directly address this role of Jesus.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal
life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the
world, but to save the world through him.
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name
[other than Jesus Christ of Nazareth] under heaven given to men
by which we must be saved.
In other words, as mentioned earlier, the whole
world of mankind needs salvation, because all people are
ultimately going to die. And these passages clarify that only
those who receive the kind of salvation available through Jesus
are going to be resurrected to eternal life. How does this kind
of salvation become available?
Remember those perishing people from the Titanic
who were drifting aimlessly in tiny lifeboats in the North
Atlantic? They had no idea in the dark of night how to get from
where they were to safety. Even if someone in one of the boats
had a compass, it wasn't clear where they were, and where safety
would be. And even if they had gotten their bearings and known
where a safe harbor was, the chances of surviving in the cold
North Atlantic long enough to row there would be virtually
non-existent—the nearest harbor would have been St. John's,
Newfoundland, 375 miles away. They needed some source more
powerful than they to come to them and rescue them before they
The captain and crew of the Carpathia knew of
their plight, and that ship became the source of their salvation
In the same way, all mankind is drifting toward
death. Some may hold out longer than others, but eventually all
will experience eternal death if a source more powerful than any
on earth doesn't rescue them. The Bible says Jesus is that
For the Son of Man [a title for Jesus] came to seek and to save
what was lost.
The Greek word in the New Testament that is
translated here as “lost” does not refer to the English use of
that word that means "something that you have misplaced." Jesus
hasn't somehow “misplaced” people and can't find them for a
while! It is a word that means “perishing.” We use lost in this
way in such phrases as “a lost cause.” We haven't misplaced
the cause. It is a cause that is perishing, coming to an
unavoidable end. In fact, this is the same Greek word that was
translated in John 3:17 as perish.
So Jesus came to Earth from Heaven to reach out
to and provide salvation to those who are perishing, in the same
way that the crew of the Carpathia reached down to those in the
cold waters and pulled them to safety:
Carpathia had reached the exact position given by Titanic’s
radio operator, but sickeningly, there was nothing to see. No
ship. No lights. No lifeboats. Nothing.
Captain Rostron ordered the engines of his ship stopped. All of
Carpathia’s crew and officers were desperately straining to see
some clues, some wreckage, or even some survivors, in the early
morning light. Suddenly, one of the crew spotted a green light
low down ahead in the water. It was a flare from one of the
lifeboats! Boat No. 2, under command of Fourth Officer Joseph
Boxhall, was spotted moments later, and after a little
maneouvering from Carpathia, the tiny lifeboat came alongside
her starboard gangway doors. First Class passenger Elizabeth
Allen was the first to be taken aboard at 4.10a.m., and she
confirmed to Carpathia’s stunned purser that Titanic had indeed
other lifeboats approached the side of the liner, and more and
more survivors began to come aboard, many of them sobbing
pitifully, many in shock, some just quietly reflecting on what
they had witnessed in the last few terrible hours. Many of the
female survivors were firmly under the belief that their
husbands, fathers, grandfathers and uncles had been rescued by
other vessels, or indeed could be aboard Carpathia.
lifeboat to be picked-up was No. 12, seen here in this dramatic
photograph on the left. It was overloaded, and Second Officer
Herbert Lightoller was using all of his sea-faring skills to
sail the boat towards the safety of Carpathia. It eventually
pulled alongside at 8.30a.m., and 30 minutes later, the final
person to be rescued stepped aboard Carpathia.
The Bible makes it clear that, even before you
may recognize that you are perishing, even before you know that
Jesus is the source of ultimate salvation, He is already seeking
you out, and is ready at any moment to reach out and rescue you
from perishing. This is another metaphor that is popular with
hymn writers. One of the most moving such hymns was written in
1971 by Ralph Carmichael.
(You can hear Elvis
Presley sing this hymn at
Reach Out to Jesus
Is your burden
heavy as you bear it all alone?
Does the road you travel harbor dangers yet unknown?
Are you growin’ weary in the struggle of it all?
Jesus will help you when on His name you call.
He is always
there hearing every prayer, faithful and true
Walking by our side, in His love we hide all the day through.
When you get discouraged just remember what to do--
Reach out to Jesus, He’s reaching out to you.
Is the life
you're living filled with sorrow and despair?
Does the future press you with its worries and its care?
Are you tired and friendless, have you almost lost your way?
Jesus will help you, just come to him today.
He is always
there hearing every prayer, faithful and true
Walking by our side, in His love we hide all the day through
When you get discouraged just remember what to do
Reach out to Jesus, He’s reaching out to you.
You might even put it—
Reach out for the
Lifesaver--He's reaching out to you.
The Bible says the Lord is ultimately reaching
out to everyone. If He is reaching out to you, personally, are
there any things you have to do in order to be saved? Yes.
First, just as in the sinking of the Titanic, if you refuse
to admit that you are perishing you could end up just like
those who refused to get on the lifeboats until it was too late.
Second, if you do not believe that He is
reaching out to you, you will also not be able to receive
Third, even if you do believe that He is there,
you need to believe the promise about His ability to save
Fourth, you have to be willing to reach back
And fifth, you have to do what the Bible calls
“repent” and put your trust in Him to guide you from then
The Bible puts it this way:
... 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. For it is with your heart that you believe and are
justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are
saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will
never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew
and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all
who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the
Lord will be saved.”
2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand
slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish,
but everyone to come to repentance.
If you recognize that you are perishing; come to
believe that salvation is available through Jesus; realize that
He is reaching out to you and offering you, personally, that
salvation; actively “call on the name of the Lord”—“Help me!”;
repent, and put your trust fully in Him, you will be saved.
But there are several aspects to this process
that need further clarification.
First of all, how can you come to believe in a
Savior you can't really see with your own physical eyes? The
Apostles called out to Jesus to save them in the storms
described above. But He was right in front of their eyes as a
human at that time. And they had already seen Him perform a
number of astonishing miracles, and thus were convinced He had
We are asked to put our trust in that same Jesus,
but He is no longer living “in the flesh” among us on this
Earth. Christians believe that He now exists in a “supernatural
world,” out of the sight of humans but just as real. And they
believe that He has unlimited power, including power to help
them in their physical lives now as well as guarantee them that,
just as He was resurrected from the dead, they will be too some
But if Jesus hasn't spoken to you directly, if
you haven't seen Him with your own eyes, how can you come to
believe in Him as your Savior? The Bible addresses that problem:
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?
And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?
And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how
can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How
beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” …
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the
message is heard through the word of Christ.
You may have heard the term “the Gospel,” and
wondered what it means. It is an old English word that
translates a Greek word that means “Good News.” This Bible
passage is saying that Jesus Christ has given people the job to
share the Good News—the Gospel—with everyone that salvation is
available through Him. And the basic message of that Gospel is
in the Bible. That is where you can read about the promise that
is made through Jesus that this life is not all there is, that
you can be resurrected to a new life some day if you put your
trust in Jesus and accept the salvation He offers.
The books that are combined into the collection
that we call “The New Testament” of the Bible were written by at
least eight different authors. Each of these men was either a
direct associate of Jesus when He was on the earth in the first
century, or someone who had access to many eye-witnesses who did
know Him. They offer testimony of what Jesus said and did and
taught while He was on the Earth. And they offer testimony that
He Himself was resurrected from the grave after He was killed,
and that He promised that He could and would do the same for all
who put their trust in Him.
Here is one description of these eyewitness
accounts, from an incident that happened right after Jesus'
death and resurrection:
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples
were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus
came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After
he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples
were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am
sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said,
“Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they
are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not
(called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples
when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen
But he said to
them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my
finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I
will not believe it.”
A week later his
disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them.
Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them
and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your
finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into
my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to
him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told
him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are
those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Jesus did many
other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which
are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you
may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that
by believing you may have life in his name.
So we have the testimony of the Bible authors
about these things. But, after all, they all died almost 2,000
years ago. Many people are skeptical regarding having confidence
in the reliability of testimony that is so old. But there is
another source of testimony that should be considered by those
wondering about the salvation offered through Jesus. Jesus spoke
to His followers after His resurrection and before He returned
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and
on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples
of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of
the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey
everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you
always, to the very end of the age.”
In other words, Jesus didn't just go far away
never to be heard from again. He promised to be “with” His
followers in a very real way from then on, in every generation,
all the way up until the very End of time. Until modern means of
communication, it was perhaps difficult for people to understand
how someone could “be with” you if they weren't physically
present. But now, even on the simplest physical level, we can
talk instantaneously with loved ones on the phone, see them on
Internet hookups, and they can interact with our environment in
a wide variety of ways—even when they live clear on the other
side of the Earth! If a young man has lost a job and needs to be
“rescued” by Dad from having his electricity in his apartment
turned off because he is out of cash, Dad can “wire” money
instantaneously from his own bank account into Son's account. By
analogy, it should be no problem for Someone in the supernatural
realm to interact with us continuously, even if we can't quite
understand the specific methods He might use.
And indeed, Christians throughout the ages from
the first century to the present are able to share their own
testimonies of ways in which Jesus has shown that He is with
them throughout life. Thus these testimonies can be added to the
testimonies written by the Bible authors, as part of the way new
believers can come to have confidence in a Savior that they
cannot see with their eyes.
But how can we "prove" whether the claims and
promises of the Bible are true—is this testimony by others
That depends on what you think the word “prove”
means. We tend to use the term “prove” these days to mean to
come to a conclusion by such technical processes as
mathematics. The Merriam Webster Online Dictionary notes
that the very first definition of the word, one that is now
“archaic”—but that was typical at the time the King James
translation of the Bible was made—is:
1 archaic : to
learn or find out by experience
The King James Bible translators used the word in
this way in a number of passages, such as this one, which
describes a story Jesus told:
Then said he [Jesus] unto him, “A certain man made a great
supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to
say to them that were bidden, ‘Come; for all things are now
ready.’ And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The
first said unto him, “I have bought a piece of ground, and I
must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And
another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove
them: I pray thee have me excused.’”
Obviously, this isn't meaning that the fellow was
going to try to prove whether or not the animals he bought were
really oxen! The meaning is clearer in a modern translation, the
“A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many
guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell
those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I
have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please
excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen,
and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.'’”
In other words, “prove” in this instance means
something like to “try something out—test it—to see if and how
well it works.”
We can even “prove” ourselves:
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own
selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in
you, except ye be reprobates. (KJV)
yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.
Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you*unless, of
course, you fail the test? (NIV)
And we can prove things about God:
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the
renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and
acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (KJV)
Do not conform
any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by
the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and
approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
And this is how a new believer can “prove” many
of the statements in the Bible. Jesus says that if you come to
Him for salvation, you will not only be part of a resurrection
to eternal life, but you will have many blessings in this
lifetime that are the result of your relationship with Him. His
words in the Bible will give you guidance, and He will help you
follow that guidance. And the results will be changes in your
life for the better. How can you know this is true? By “proving”
His words ... by trying them out in your own life and seeing the
And then, as you become more and more confident
in the things He says about this lifetime, you can also have
more and more assurance of the promises of the resurrection and
the life to come.
Of course, you can't be expected to have a
totally perfect, unshakable faith when you first start on the
journey to a saving relationship with Jesus. Everyone takes baby
steps at first ... that's how you learn to walk both physically
and spiritually. It is indeed possible to have faith and believe
the promises of Jesus, and act on that faith and belief, yet
still yearn to grow stronger in that faith and belief.
But don't forget—it all starts when you ...
Reach for the Lifesaver, Who
is reaching out to you!
If you would like to know more details about the
salvation offered through Jesus Christ, you are
encouraged to read the next booklet in this Steps to Salvation series:
On Your Mark...
otherwise noted, all Biblical quotations in this article are
from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (NIV).
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.
Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights