1999-01-14 - Titanic Today
James 4:13-16 Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that." 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. (NAS)
Well, it is possible that I was the last one to see it, but I finally saw the blockbuster movie Titanic. The movie, not unlike the ship, was a technical masterpiece. The reconstructions and the modeling were excellent. I have read accounts of the disaster over the years, many by survivors. I ran into another account recently and was struck again by how calmly the passengers and crew of the doomed ship apparently behaved.
The rules of the sea insist that women and children go to safety first. Accounts indicate that very few of the men even tried to get into the lifeboats, and most were turned back with a glance or a word. Many of the wives, especially the older couples, decided to stay together, allowing the younger ladies to go. They would rather pass from this life together than be separated at that late date in their lives. This was true across social boundaries. One newlywed couple, on their honeymoon, decided to remain together as well. For better or for worse ….
The men in the boiler rooms stayed at their posts to provide power and light to the ship as long as possible. Their deaths were probably among the more terrible to imagine. Those passengers and crew who made it up on deck would have heard a string quartet playing at the request of one of the senior officers. They played lighthearted music to keep the crowds calm. Soon it became gravely evident that the ship would be gone in a very little while. When the leader of the quartet dismissed his companions, he stayed and began to play "Nearer My God to Thee". All of his friends returned and played with him. They played hymn upon hymn, turning people's hearts to come to grips with the fact that they were standing on the brink of eternity. The music would be a comfort to the Christian, and a call to the unbeliever to consider quickly.
I wondered what would happen if that same scenario were played out today. A large ship is sinking before help can arrive. There were reports of cries of people in the water that cold, calm night for almost an hour after the ship went down. Most people would not have lasted a mere ten minutes before succumbing to exposure. With an obviously limited number of lifeboat seats, would panic and riot break out? Would the quartet be allowed to play their hymns? Or would someone's sensibilities be offended to the point of prohibiting others from considering eternity, even in the face of certain death? If commuters shoot at each other on the freeway, would the decks of our mythical, modern day Titanic become a bloodbath in a dire struggle to survive? I wonder just how much more civilized we really are.
Not all of us are fortunate, or unfortunate, enough to have a warning before death closes in around us. There is an account of one man who ran back and forth on the deck and swam after the ship went down. He moved from one soul to the next asking if they knew Jesus as their Savior. Who knows how many were snatched from the closing grasp of eternal separation from a loving God that evening? How would this fellow be received today? He may have been restrained as a zealot or a nuisance of some kind by the crew.
2 Pet 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (NAS)
His focus was correct. Death was coming to all but a scant few that evening, including himself. His heart was prepared for eternity. While our present society would put God out of sight and out of mind, it does nothing to change the truth that eternity awaits us all. One day, the irresistible call of God will retrieve everyone, great and small, to account for this vapor in time we call our lives. There will be no court calling for separation of church and state on that day. Jesus calls to everyone, "Come to me." He came so that anyone who would ask Him would be given eternal life. The alternative is as grim as the fates of those boilermen in the bowels of the doomed ship.
Rev 20:13-15 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14 And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (NAS)
A lot of people ask a lot of why questions. Why would God send me to Hell if I've been such a good person? The simple fact is that none of us are perfect. Perfection is the standard that a Holy God requires. Jesus is willing to give you perfection, if you will hand over your imperfect life to Him. Gold for rags. Not a bad exchange. If you don't know Jesus, put yourself on the Titanic for a few minutes and think about eternity. It is something to consider. It will face us all, sooner or later - some with more notice than others.
Lord Jesus - give people the courage to face this difficult subject and consider the goodness You offer to them. Eternal life with You, and wonders to last for all time and beyond for the imperfection and struggles of this life may sound too good to be true to some. Witness to their hearts that it is in fact true. Thank You for Your promises to never turn away anyone who comes to You for any reason at all. For Your glory, Amen.
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