Hold on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. 1 Timothy 1:19
In Bible times, the most devastating tragedy imaginable was the shipwreck. It was comparable to an airplane crash in our day. Some of the greatest disasters even in recent history have been shipwrecks. The Titanic, April 15, 1912—1517 casualties. The Lusitania, May 7, 1915—1198 casualties. The USS Arizona, December 7, 1941— 1177 casualties. And most recently, just as tragic due to the preventable circumstances, the Costa Concordia, January 13, 2012—32 casualties.
Many times in our lives, figuratively speaking, we encounter shipwrecks of seemingly similar proportions. They come in the form of illnesses, layoffs, financial hardships and family discord to name a few. Some occur for unseen reasons. Some are caused by our own actions and validate the idiom, “You reap what you sow” as in the following illustration: A minister’s little daughter ran into the house, crying as though her heart would break. “What’s wrong, dear?” asked her father. “My dolly, my dolly! Billy broke it!” she sobbed. “How did he break it?” her father asked. To which she replied, “I hit him over the head with it.” Gratefully, with true repentance, God’s grace abounds.
But today, it is another type of shipwreck that I write about, the shipwrecks in our lives that are caused by the choices, decisions, or behaviors of others. Here are some real life examples:
- Sally D’Silva. Her husband, Tony, liked to refer to himself as her ‘knight in shining armor’. The couple had built a life together that was the envy of many. Still only in their 40s, they had retired to a palatial house in France where they were raising their teenage children in a laid back style. As Sally puts it, ‘We had plenty of money in the bank, never had to work again and could do as we pleased. I thought I had one of the nicest lives on the planet.’ But today, 49-year-old Sally’s life is rather different due to a drastic change in fortune which can be traced to a rehab facility where her husband is attempting to conquer the addiction that has destroyed not only his life but his family’s too. The shining armor is tarnished beyond repair thanks to her husband playing online poker. (See Story)
- Albert and Mary Etta Johnson, who hoped after a lifetime of hard work they would be able to retire, relax and enjoy golf, traveling and doting on their two young grandchildren. Instead, the Anaheim, CA, couple are raising their grandchildren while their 28 year-old daughter battles addiction to alcohol, cocaine and heroin. “We’re not the grandparents of these children anymore. We’re the parents.” Said Johnson, 67. “We’ve already raised our family. The fact is we have very little time for ourselves.” (See Story)
- The family of California teacher James Hooker who left them and his position at a Modesto high school to live with his 18-year-old former student. The 41-year-old educator walked away from his wife and children and resigned from his role as a 15-year business and computer teacher last week after a police investigation was launched into his relationship with a student. (See Story)
- Pastor Bob Meisner and children, whose wife and mother, Audrey, after seventeen years of marriage, had an affair with a younger guy in their church and became pregnant as a result. (See Story)
When our lives are shipwrecked at no fault of our own, it can be a very bleak place. Life appears unfair when one can walk uprightly, make right choices and still be marooned by storms created by other’s choices and behavior. The Bible gives an account of just such a shipwreck in the book of Acts.
The Apostle Paul was a prisoner because of sharing the gospel and was on his way to Rome to appeal to Caesar. His doctor, Luke, who accompanied him, tells of their nautical journey which began at the coastal city of Caesarea. Due to heavy winds, much time had been lost, and sailing had become dangerous as they approached the Island of Crete. Paul warned that if they did not winter at the port in Fair Havens the voyage was going to be disastrous and there could be great loss to the ship and cargo and to their lives. But the centurion in charge of the ship, ignored Paul and followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. (Acts 27:11) Just as Paul had warned, the weather grew even worse and winds of hurricane magnitude caused the ship to be lost at sea. After several days of raging storms, with cargo and hope all lost, Paul was visited by an angel, who told him that although the ship would be lost, all of the men’s lives would be spared. After fourteen horrific days, the ship ran aground on a sandbar on the coast of Malta. Just as the angel had said, all 256 lives were spared. Had those in charge of the vessel just listened to Paul’s warning, they would have been spared from the awful storms and shipwreck. However, we see in Acts 28, that although Paul was shipwrecked because of another’s bad choice, God turned it all around for much good. Despite, the pain and suffering that he endured, God had positioned Paul via the shipwreck on the Island of Malta to bring healing to all who were sick there. (Acts 28:8-9.) God’s amazing power was displayed and there were many who benefited from Paul’s ordeal. Out of this shipwreck, the Kingdom of God was advanced.
As believers, can we be assured of similar outcomes in our own lives? I believe we can. The Bible is full of stories, where our God has transformed individual’s shipwrecks of suffering brought on by other’s actions into amazing stories of miracles and faith. The most notable being Joseph, who was positioned to save the nation of Israel as second in command over all of Egypt by being sold into slavery by his brothers and imprisoned by the lies of Potiphar’s wife. How easy it would have been for Joseph to let bitterness, anger, despair or disillusionment disqualify him from the purposes God had prepared for him, thereby bringing about the most ominous type of shipwreck, the shipwreck of faith. Although the Apostle Paul acknowledged he had been in three actual shipwrecks, ( 2 Corinthians 11:25) in his view the shipwreck of faith was the most detrimental. That is why he says to Timothy and to us–Hold on to faith so it is not shipwrecked! (1 Timothy 1:19) We find in his writings words of encouragement such as “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28) and “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” (Ephesians 1:11)
We must not let our faith be shipwrecked when other’s choices and actions maroon circumstances by the storms they have created! Of the stories mentioned above, one stands out. That of Bob Meisner. After feeling all the hurt, rage and anger at his wife’s confession of adultery, he looked to God and prayed for direction. As a result, this family was miraculously positioned for a greater marriage and a greater ministry. Their story has become one of God’s amazing love and grace. Meisner recently shared in his own words, “Audrey and I have come through a huge personal crisis, and where we have had our greatest pain we have great passion. It’s been over ten years now that I began to face my deepest and darkest years where I saw little if any hope for a happy ending. My bride of 17 years clung to my feet and wept while confessing to adultery. Two weeks later we discovered that she had become pregnant as a result of the affair. It was then that we forsook all that we might find a way to keep our marriage and family together. What we found was more than enough. We experienced the love of God and know the grace of God for ourselves personally, our children and generations. Today, that baby, my son, carries my name Robert and is one of the greatest gifts God has ever given me. He’s neither an accident nor a mistake. He’s not the result of a sexual affair. He’s perfect in every way, born out of the heart of God and given to me just as my other three children. We’re not the perfect family and we’re not attempting to be that for anyone. We know what home looks like and when you’ve wandered away we know how to guide people back to where they belong… home.” (Meisner Testimony Video)
I end with a quote from George Müller, a great man of faith. “In one thousand trials it is not five hundred of them that work for the believer’s good, but nine hundred and ninety-nine of them and one beside.” LH
(Many of the posts on this website are accompanied by a Bible Study broken up into 5 days. The Study is designed to take you no more than 10 minutes each day. For a printable copy of this post’s Bible study, CLICK HERE)
A Bible Study on Suffering as a Result of Other’s Actions.
This Bible study was created to accompany the post, Shipwrecked. At one time or another we all have suffered because of another’s bad choice or behavior. Acts 27 gives a great example of God’s sovereignty and goodness even in those times.
Day 1 Read Acts 27:1-12 In the opening of this chapter, Paul has stood trial against allegations of the Jewish leaders. He has appealed to Caesar and is now headed on a nautical journey to Rome.
- Locate the important cities that Luke mentions.
- Who was Julius?
- If you were the ship’s pilot, how would you have reacted to Paul’s warning to the 50 mile trip they wanted to make?
Day 2 Read Acts 27:13-26
- What in these verses reveals how severe this storm was?
- What does the angel promise?
- To whom does Paul say he belongs? To whom do you belong?
- Read Acts 23:11. God had already told Paul he was going to Rome. Has God ever had to speak a promise to you more than once? If so, when?
Day 3 Read Acts 27:27-44
- What does Paul thank God for?
- In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul says “Give thanks in all circumstances.” Gratitude is an important antidote to bitterness and despair in life’s shipwrecks. Matthew Henry modeled this when he said this about a time he was robbed. “Let me be thankful—first, because I was never robbed before; second, although he took my wallet, he did not take my life; third, because, though he took my all, it was not much; and fourth, let me be thankful because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.” Is there anything you can give thanks for in your ‘shipwrecks’?
- Verse 36 says all the men were encouraged. How do you influence people when you are ‘shipwrecked’?
Day 4 Read Acts 28:1-7
- What happened on the Island of Malta that probably would not have happened if Paul had not been shipwrecked?
- How has God used a disaster in your life for good?
Day 5 Read Romans 8:28; Psalm 138:8 ESV; 1 John 4:4; Proverbs 19:21; Ephesians 1:11-12 ESV; Proverbs 16:9; Lamentations 3:37; Isaiah 46:9-10
- Which of these promises encourages you the most? Why not commit it to memory!
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