A Watchful Eye
Some time ago, my oldest son, who is a qualified lifeguard and swim instructor, was able to save a young child from drowning. As he tells the story, a young boy who was autistic and didn’t speak English was on a guided group tour of the pool. Most of the group were also unable to speak English and were unfamiliar with North American pools-facts unknown to the lifeguards.
The visitors mistook the pool’s slide in the deep end as the children’s play area. The parents were lulled into a false sense of security and the boy was allowed to play in a dangerous part of the pool. When the boy went down the slide, he and his parents expected him to end up in shallow water. Instead, the non-swimmer now flailed desperately in about 14 feet of water crying frantically for help. At that point, my son jumped into the water from the guard’s stand and put his training to use. The boy was saved and a potential tragedy was averted.
Lifeguards are obviously necessary in our physical world, which obliquely mirrors the spiritual realm (Colossians 2:17, Hebrews 10:1). Because of this knowledge, I know that just as the physical realm requires lifeguards, so too does the spiritual.
In the spiritual world, God may be calling some of you to be a lifeguard for someone else. Perhaps He is calling you to venture into the unknown waters of this life in search of the drowning.
But who are you to rescue?
The folly of modern man is that he is unable to adequately assess spiritual risk. He has lost his moral compass; his conscious has become seared (1 Timothy 4:1-2). He both drifts from truth and trusts in himself, inviting first chaos and then loss by his pride and lack of knowledge.
What do I mean?
A long time ago, a friend asked me why she should bother sending her children to church. She had gone as a child. “Wasn’t that enough?” she asked. My response was simple. I likened her situation to being in a rowboat just launched from an island in the middle of a large ocean. When the boat is first launched, the island is visible for a while. However, after a few hours, as the boat drifts further from the island it eventually disappears from sight due to the curvature of the Earth. Unless you have been paying attention and know how to use navigational tools to calculate your position, you may find it difficult to return to the island.
Figuratively speaking, in Christian spiritual terms, an army of people is currently lost at sea. They have drifted slowly from the truth little by little as the cares of this life consume them. Little thought has been given to God’s word or will in their lives; therefore, they do not possess the knowledge or tools to return to their spiritual roots. However, because life has been good for most people in North America, why should they worry? (Revelation 3:17).
In the case of my friend, her parents had been church attendees as adults, but she had been a church attendee only as a child. Her own children had almost never participated in ‘church life.’ I asked her if she thought her children knew much about church, God, etc. She conceded they probably didn’t. I hinted that her children might not understand God’s view of right and wrong and that like many, her children might become ‘lost at sea.’
When she asked what I meant, I explained my analogy. Eventually, she understood and even nodded her head in agreement at one point.
Who is the Christian lifeguard to save? We must act as beacons pointing the way home. If we don’t, spiritual chaos will result. Many have already commented on the social chaos we see unfolding in North America today which is due in part to a lack of spiritual knowledge.
Earlier I mentioned that men both drift from truth and pridefully trust in themselves. So, what about those who pridefully trust in themselves?
The story of the Titanic comes to mind. This story of the ‘unsinkable’ ship that sunk has always interested me. I’ve often wondered whether the Titanic would have sunk on April 15, 1912 if events had not played out as they had. One interesting fact is that while the Titanic was sinking another ship, the Californian, stood nearby, able but unwilling to get involved. Could the Californian have actually saved everyone if its crew had properly understood what was going on? Would so many have had to die such a horrible death? The thought of a cold watery grave rightly frightens everyone.
I remember a certain pastor once used the story of the Titanic to demonstrate the folly of pride. In particular, he pointed out that the mistake of the Titanic’s builders was their belief that the ship was unsinkable.
From my reading of this story I know that the builders believed their system of watertight doors would keep the ship afloat under all circumstances. For those familiar with the story, we now know this was not true. Men trusted themselves and their own knowledge, only later to pay the price. Some people were openly boastful of their ship’s construction. We are told to do neither (Proverbs 3:5-6; Proverbs 6:16-17).
Many people died that night who perhaps need not have. It is one pastor’s suggestion that the pride of the Titanic and everyone involved tempted God to act against them specifically. I don’t believe this to be true since God cannot be tempted by and does not tempt anyone with, evil (James 1:13). Time and chance happen to everyone (Luke 13:2-4). The Titanic sank not only because of design flaws, but also due to an uncontrollable confluence of events. People trusted themselves and their system-not God. Their system failed as earthly systems often do and people died. The Bible tells us,
“Pride goeth before destruction.” (Proverbs 16:18)
Many in today’s world are like the passengers on the Titanic. They have signed up for a cruise that promises much pleasure and prestige, but in effect may deliver heartache and possibly death. In our modern world, we, like the designers and passengers of the Titanic, boast of our accomplishments and revel in our pleasure while danger lurks nearby.
The crew and passengers of the Titanic did not perceive the danger of wandering icebergs colliding with a lone ship in the middle of the cold, dark Atlantic. In fact, the passengers and some of the crew celebrated as danger drew ever closer.
Likewise, we also do not seem to truly perceive the dangers of this modern world in which we operate. We have our systems: the computers work, the food arrives at the store, and our money is good. What could harm this way of life? I can think of many things that without God’s protection would eventually disappear in our carefree way of life.
Again I ask, who is the Christian lifeguard to save? Those operating without God and those who are prideful come to mind. We must teach people by word and action to trust God and put His ways before their own so that loss is avoided. In a like manner, we must also teach people the benefits of humility.
Are there others who need to be rescued?
A third group of people in need of our help are the fearful and the spiritually weak. Whether these people are in the boat and unable to calm the storm (Matthew 8:23-27) or fearful to venture into the unknown, such as Peter walking on water (Matthew 14:28-33), we should consider helping these as well. The Christian lifeguard must act to calm the storm or reach out to the sinking.
In a sense, everyone who follows Jesus Christ has a basic mission. Our mission is to go and save the lost (1 Timothy 2:1-8). We are to save them from the fire by various means (Jude 1:22-23).
How do we do this?
I am reminded by James 5:19-20, which says that if someone departs from the truth but another brings him back, then that soul is saved and a multitude of sins will be covered. In particular, we are told that we are to love each other so that sins will be covered (1 Peter 4:8). Our love does not atone for sins but rather does not stir up the effect of them past or present. We are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
Interestingly, The Book of Revelation tells us there is an end time “harlot” church system, which “sits on many waters” (Revelation 17:1). The waters, of course, are analogous for a multitude of peoples (Revelation 17:15). This end time religious system is destined for destruction (Revelation 17:15-18, Revelation 18:1-3). The Bible tells God’s people to come out of this end time religious system so that they do not share in her troubles (Revelation 18:4). Like the Titanic, this religious system believes that it is unsinkable but will discover otherwise.
The Christian is like a lifeguard who must venture out into the many waters saving many from the coming destruction before they drown.
Earlier, I started with a story about my son the lifeguard, but what I didn’t explain was the additional lesson learned from this experience
The autistic child whom he saved was not the only one rescued. One of my son’s greatest fears as a lifeguard was that he would ultimately face this day of testing and fail. He worried occasionally that some child or adult would need to be saved from drowning and that he would not be able to help.
On this day, my son was rescued from his own fears of inadequacy and doubt because you see, he never really wanted to finish the lifeguard/instructor program and become a ‘lifeguard.’ It was I who had pushed him to soldier on.
There are many of you who God is pushing to ‘soldier on.’ At some point in the future, your spiritual skills will be needed. I do not know your fears or doubts, but I know this: if God is calling you at this time, you will never feel fulfilled until you accomplish the spiritual mission that He has set before you. Do not resist it. Come into agreement with God, submit to His will, and perform the duties of a lifeguard because that is your calling. Those who follow this path will experience many blessings from God (Psalm 37).
Who have you rescued today?