(Title quoted from CBS/AP article Feb 15, 2013)
I wanted to take a minute (or five) to share some thoughts about that stranded cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico. Seeing images of the two tug boats towing in the ship reminded me of a lesson from the book of Hebrews:
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf…” (Heb 6:19-20, NIV)
Christ is our forerunner, but what does that mean? I used to think of this description simply as someone who came before, but I have since learned that a forerunner was actually a type of ship that was used to secure larger ships in safe harbor before they could actually enter in themselves. You see, at any time other than high tide, sandbars would be exposed as ships neared shore, preventing large ships from entering. The forerunner, which was able to maneuver around the exposed sandbars, would carry the larger ship’s anchor into the harbor. Then at high tide, the anchor acted as a tow-rope. We – you and I – are the ships sitting dead-in-the-water (so to speak), but Jesus Himself has gone in before us and has anchored our hope in the safe harbor. When the time is right, He will be faithful to pull us in where He is.
Back to the cruise ship … Did you notice that many of the passengers left the ship wearing white robes? Can you imagine if you were in Mobile, Ala. and looked out your window last night to see waves of people getting off that ship wearing white robes. Maybe you would have posed a question like one of the elders did in the book of Revelation:
“‘These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?’ I [John] answered, ‘Sir, you know.’ And he said, ‘These are those who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. … Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.’” (Rev 7:13-14, 16, emphasis mine).
Sounds amazing, right? The thing is not everyone gets off of the ship wearing a white robe … and that is because not everyone has their hope anchored in safe harbor.
Every time I heard updates on the news about overflowing toilets; lack of food; hot, stinking conditions, etc. I thought about how awful it must be for those stuck on that ship. This morning, seeing the footage of the passengers as they got off and hearing them describe the conditions as “hell on earth,” I thought about how – if these people had been told what was ahead of them before boarding the ship just one week ago – very few if any would have chosen to follow through with their plans. The thing is we have people around us every day who are boarding ships they believe to be bound for paradise when instead they are heading for hell itself … if they only knew what awaited them.
I feel certain that God allowed someone to be on board that cruise ship for the expressed purpose of communicating the very real existence of hell to those who had never before heard that truth. Obviously I can only imagine the conditions these people suffered over the past several days, but I can say for certain that, whatever they suffered, it pales in comparison to an eternity in hell!
Ladies and gentlemen, I need you to acknowledge that we have people all around us who are floating adrift on a ship that will sooner rather than later run ashore on the banks of hell. We must each ask ourselves if we are being faithful to the strategic position in which God has placed us. Are we telling people about Jesus Christ and the necessity of washing our robes in His blood … of having Him as our forerunner? If we’re not, what is holding us back from speaking the truth to people who desperately need to hear it before it is too late?
… Now what?