It was an unforgettable night when Jesus went with his disciples by boat to a place of rest. The wind and the waves overwhelmed the disciples. The boat was taking on water. Before it sank, the disciples awakened Jesus and cried, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” Jesus woke up and rebuked the storm. The disciples said to Jesus, “Carest thou not that we perish?” People say to us in many different ways, “Carest thou not that we perish?”
On April 10, 1912, the Titanic set sail on its maiden voyage from which it would never return. Captain John Smith said of modern ocean liners like the Titanic, “I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.” For that reason, Captain John Smith disregarded the many warnings that they were entering an ice field.
On the moonless night of April 14, inside the Titanic, rich and poor, illustrious and insignificant folks from all walks of life enjoyed beautiful music and exquisite dining. At 11:30 p.m., Frederick Fleet in the crows nest spotted a black object ahead. Fleet sounded the alarm that they were on a collision course with an iceberg. On the bridge, First Officer Murdoch ordered “full speed astern” and “hard to starboard.” Slowly the ship turned and it seemed as if the ship would avoid the iceberg. People barely noticed that the ship shuddered slightly. The iceberg scraped the side of the hull for over 200 feet across six compartments. The water crashed inside the ship. First Officer Murdoch informed Captain Smith, who continued to dine with distinguished passengers and finished a second cigar, that the ship was lost.
Captain Smith ordered the evacuation of the Titanic. At 1:40 p.m. the ship’s bow dipped under the water. Women, children, and a few men from the distinguished list of passengers were boarded on life-boats. At 2:15 p.m. the Titanic’s stern was high up in the air. Major Butt helped women into the lifeboats and fought off men. Colonel Astor said good-bye to his wife. Mr. Guggenheim dressed and died as a gentleman. When Mrs. Strauss was ordered on the lifeboat, she said, “I will not leave my husband. We have been together all these years and I’ll not leave him now.”
John Harper, the pastor of the Wallroad Baptist Church in London, comforted the crowds and turned down invitations into the boats because he was a minister. He tried to comfort the hysterical and win them to Christ. When asked to leave, he instead said, “Women, children, and the unsaved next. I know where I am going.” In less than three hours after hitting the iceberg, the Titanic slipped beneath its watery grave. Of the 2,200 passengers, 1250 perished, and 866 were rescued. Because the Titanic was believed to be unsinkable and unstoppable, the crew had only a third of the lifeboats necessary for its passengers. In lifeboats that could hold 40, some only had 12 passengers. For the disaster of the century, they were not prepared. 85 years later the tragedy of the Titanic is still remembered with the blockbuster movie that virtually swept the Oscars.
The story of the Titanic is embedded within our cultural psyche and rises to impart lessons about life.
In a manner of speaking, the world can be likened to the Titanic, a ship that in spite of technological progress, has scraped the icebergs of moral compromise and complacency. Alcoholism, drug addiction, child abuse, indecent talk shows, and sitcoms that parade promiscuity and alternative life-styles.
I am sickened by pornographic commercials for Jerry Springer videos. My wife and I watched several pieces of episodes from Ellen and found it mildly entertaining. One night as we watched from the beginning, we realized that it was promoting a lesbian life-style. We chose to turn it off, and I hope you will too. Yet we hear only the shudder of moral repulsion. Life goes on as normal, yet the scrapes of sin can sink our society.
In many ways, the world is a Titanic, and the church is a lifeboat. For that reason, like the lifeboats from the Titanic, there is room for improvement in the church. We can do more and we can do better so that more will be saved if we follow the compass provided for the church in Acts 2:41-47.
I. Worship1
“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all men” (Acts 2:46-47)
From this portrait of the early church, we can see the disciples gathering with glad and generous hearts to praise God publicly in the temple, and privately in their homes. Here we find that worship is a force for living when we exalt the Savior both in and outside of church. John 12:32 is the key to our future. Jesus said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto myself.” It’s wonderful to lift up the pastor; it is wonderful to lift up the church staff; it is wonderful to lift up WMU, the music program, the senior adult work, but how much more wonderful to lift up the name of Jesus Christ. It is the Lord’s promise to the Lord’s people that when we exalt the Savior in everything we do, we will do quality work that will honor Christ, and quality will draw quantity.
John Ed Mathison recalls some church members who went to pay a family a visit. The church member told the man: “We would love to have you visit; we’ve got a great preacher.” The man said, “No, I’m not interested.” The church member said, “Now, we’ve got a great youth program and choir.” The man said, “No, I am not interested.” The church member said, “We have all kinds of great programs that will meet your needs.” The man said, “No, I’m not interested.” As the church member was walking away, he said, “We do honor Christ.” The man said, “Wait a minute. I am interested in Christ. Come on in!” When we lift up Jesus Christ, we experience an uplift. Lift up Jesus, and he will lift you up. That is the key to success in all our ministries.
Yet worship for the sake of worship is not the ultimate value unless we worship the right God. Has multi-culturalism become a sophisticated catchword for the idolatry of many false gods? Undergirded by religious toleration, multi-culturalism is a recent phenomenon in our nation. Respect for different cultures is enriching to our national melting pot. Freedom of religion is a worthy virtue. There should be in our nation the freedom to follow the religion of our choice. But let us not forget as Christians — it is not Buddha, it is not Confucius, it is not Mohammed, it is not Allah, it is not Shiva, it is not Gaia, or the living planet as worshipped by New Age devotees. It is the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus whom we worship.
It was not Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, New Age theology that made our nation great but our Christian heritage. When we depart as a nation from the theological principles that informed the values and visions of our land, then we court moral disaster and decline in pluralistic and permissive times.
Peter Marshall said, “Unless we stand for something, we will fall for anything.” Unless we stand for the institution of marriage, we will fall for living together in sin outside of marriage and in same-sex marriages. It is morally unacceptable when relationships are more about convenience than about commitment and we normalize the abnormal.
Unless we stand against the dangers of alcoholism and drug-abuse, we fall prey to robbery, rape, drunk-driving. It is morally despicable when we look for a quick solution to life’s complexities. Alcoholism will take away your children by a drunk-driver on a lonely highway. Alcoholism will take away the parents you knew and loved through depression and perhaps an affair. Alcoholism will take away your job and self-respect. Drug abuse will destroy your mind and ruin your future and destroy your marriage.
Unless we stand for hard work and honest gain, we will be enticed by the excesses of gambling and lottery playing, and as a nation we have. It is morally degrading when those who have the most to lose have the least to give. Unless we stand for the sanctity of life, we will fall victim to wholesale abortion — and we have as a nation. It is morally reprehensible when most abortions are contraceptive devices used as an afterthought for adultery or fornication.
Former President Jimmy Carter said in an interview on Fresh Air and in his book Living Faith, that he did not believe Jesus would favor wholesale abortion, and I agree. On all of these issues, you may disagree with me, and I respect that difference of opinion, but I ask you to make your own conclusions on the basis of Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Are we following in the steps of Christ? 1 Peter 2:21 states, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” If we grow stronger through worship, we grow larger through outreach.
II. Outreach
“And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47)
When we exalt the Savior, we reach up in worship and we reach out to evangelize the sinner. Outreach should be a focus for living in the life of the church and in the life of the Christian. If you want to make your personal world better, make Christians of those in the world around you. Introduce friends and family members to Christ, who is the best friend in the world to all of us.
Lloyd Ogilvie, the Chaplain for the U.S. Senate, remembers the time he was a guest speaker. Another got up to introduce him: “This morning it is my profound pleasure to introduce to you an outstanding man of great eloquence and moral excellence. His ministry is unparalleled. He can walk on water and perform great wonders.” Ogilvie was squirming under the mounting pressure of unrealistic expectations. The introduction went on: “His work has changed the world. He is a homiletical dynamo, the prince of pulpiteers, a sensational man of God whose spellbinding words will capture your attention instantly. His name is Jesus Christ, and here to introduce him is Lloyd Ogilvie.”
Are we introducing others to Jesus Christ? Evangelism was the mission of the early church, and it is our great mission today. We are to win the lost at any cost. The bottom line should not be, “How much we saved,” but how many did we save?” After all, “Evangelism is one beggar sharing with another a crust of bread.” Many are hungry for something more and better in their lives. Are we holding tight the Bread of life from those who are hungry for the best? And the best is yet to come for all of God’s children who have not yet met their Father in heaven. Outreach is all about a family reunion and a homecoming: let’s invite the lost home to Christ and his family of faith.
III. Service
“And they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:45).
If the church grows larger through outreach, the church grows broader through service. When we evangelize the sinner, we will also equip the saint for ministry. The early church gave itself in service to those who were in need. Service should be a part of our future. The church should equip us to be of service to the less fortunate. It is our function for living: we are saved to serve, and we serve in order to save those for whom Jesus Christ died.
Are we self-serving rather than self-sacrificing? Are you a giver or a taker? In the final analysis, it won’t be what you got that counts but what you gave. It’s not our seating capacity, but our sending capability that is more important. We know how many we are seating every Sunday, but how many are we sending to be a part of Christian service each week? Indeed, every member should be a minister. While we wait for God to work for us, God is waiting to work through us.”
Rick Warren tells the following story:
I was to speak at a gathering of over a thousand people, many of whom were ministers and mentors for me. I was nervous months in advance. One evening while I fretted and was working in the kitchen, I remembered my preaching professor, the late Dr. John Carlton. As I turned in the corner of the kitchen, in my mind I could hear my professor talk to me and put his arms around me and in my mind he said, “You can do it! You will do a great job!” I needed that build up.
Let’s build people up and not bless them out if we want success. If you want something done in the church, the home, the business, you will get more done if you use honey rather than vinegar. Rick Warren insists that the church should turn seekers into saints, members into ministers, consumers into contributors, and an audience into an army. Those are the marching orders for the church: let’s not march to the drumbeat of a different drummer. If the church growers broader through discipleship, it grows deeper through discipleship.
IV. Discipleship
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers” (Acts 2:42).
The early Christians dedicated themselves to the apostles’ teaching in discipleship. Through teaching and training, we edify the servant who needs strength for the serving. So many folks are distraught and distracted by the urgent but forget what is most important. We need to put first things first and last things last. If we don’t manage our schedules, our schedules will manage us. If we are not the masters of time, our time will be our master. We must delegate, and we must leave the unimportant things undone until another day.
Stephen Covey tells of a man who gave an object lesson for a class of students. He filled a bucket full of big rocks and asked, “Is it full?” The students said, “Yes.” He said, “Not yet.” He filled it up with gravel and asked, “Is it full?” They all said, “Yes.” He said, “Not yet.” And he filled it up with sand and asked, “Is it full?” They all said, “Yes.” He said, “Not yet.” And he filled it up with water. The man asked the class, “What is the lesson here?” They all said, “There’s always room for more.” He said, “Yes, as long as we put the rocks, the big things in first.”
We need to put first things first and last things last. Christ said in Matthew 6:33-34: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” Value your family and your children while you can. And teach faith values that value the family. Chuck Swindoll wrote the haunting words:
Someday when the kids are grown, things are going to be a lot different The garage won’t be full of bikes, electric tracks on plywood…Someday when the kids are grown, the kitchen will be incredibly neat. The sink will be free of sticky dishes, the garbage disposal won’t get choked on rubber bands or paper cups. Someday when the kids are grown, we won’t run out of toilet paper… Yes, someday when the kids are grown, things are going to be a lot different. One by one they’ll leave our nest, and the place will resemble order and maybe even a touch of elegance. The phone will be strangely silent. The house will be quiet and calm and always clean and empty and we will spend our time not looking forward to Someday but looking back to Yesterday. And thinking, ‘Maybe we can baby-sit the grandkids and get some life back in this place for a change!2
What is first in your life and what’s last, and what should be? What is the foundation for living that you are building on? The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Remember, we are to exalt the Savior, evangelize the sinner, equip the saint, edify the servant, and encourage the suffering.
V. Fellowship
“And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:43-44)
If the church grows deeper through discipleship, the church grows warmer through fellowship. The new Christians of the early church were all together in a fellowship and a family. Church is for the lonely and the lonesome. Too many people are all alone in the world. Someone needs you out there in this broken world, and you need someone too.
Bob Smith was twelve years old on that day when it was two days prior to Christmas. A blanket of snow covered the ground and the young man was ready to build a snowman when his mom’s station wagon pulled up in the drive. Bob’s mother told him to carry the groceries to their neighbor, Mrs. Hildebrandt who was 95 years-old and suffering from acute arthritis. She always gave a dime for his services. Bob always refused, but she always insisted that he accept the gift. Before Bob could run outside and go sledding in the snow, Mrs. Hildebrandt began to reminisce about the days when there was no running water and no electricity and how by horse and buggy the family would go to the church in the wild wood. Then it occurred to Bob that Mrs. Hildebrandt was all alone for Christmas. No one would visit her or give her gifts.
There would be no tree, no stockings, no big family dinner for the holiday. After a delightful conversation over tea and cookies, Bob left and took his dime to the country store to buy some licorice and rock candy. But he thought of Mrs. Hildebrandt and his eyes crossed a beautiful Christmas card with a picture of the country church in the wild wood. It cost a quarter, but he bought it and signed love at the bottom. He ran with all his might to Mrs. Hildebrandt’s house and gave her the card. It was her only Christmas gift. She hugged Bob and cried while she thanked the boy. Two weeks, later an ambulance was seen in front of Mrs. Hildebrandt’s house. Mrs. Hildebrandt had died in bed. Her lamp was on and it illuminated the solitary Christmas card with the picture of the church in the wildwood.
Someone needs you and you need someone this week. We all need fellowship and a family for living.
You know the story of the Titanic, but do you know the story of the other two boats that were there on that fateful night to remember? It is believed by recent research that the ocean liner the Californian was less than four miles away from the Titanic. If the Californian had responded, very few may have perished. The Californian had entered the same ice field and dropped anchor for the night. They had warned the Titanic that very day of the impending danger.
The Titanic sent a distress signal only ten minute after the wireless man on the Californian had gone to bed. The Californian received no SOS from the Titanic, but that night the watchman on the Californian saw one flare, two flares, three, four, five, six, seven flares of distress sent up from the Titanic. They woke up the Captain, but they didn’t know what to make of it and believed that they were signaling another ship. And Captain Lord went back to bed. When the red lights of the Titanic submerged beneath the icy waters, they thought the ship had left the ice field. While the passengers of the Titanic sank, the passengers of the Californian slept in comfort and complacency.
Lest we indict them too severely, let us be reminded that all around us people are sending up flares of distress and we assume everything is okay. Marriages are going under, people are slipping out of church, but we assume everything is okay.
The story of the Californian is the tragic story of complacency, but the story of the Carpathia is one of triumph. That night while the passengers of the Californian slept, the Carpathia answered the rescue call. They were on a cruise bound for the Mediterranean, but soon the cruise became a crusade. Captain Rostron daringly and heroically entered the ice field at night. They stoked the fires and proceeded from 14 knots to 18 knots dodging but not slowing down for even the icebergs. They were over 58 miles away and yet miraculously they arrived at the scene of disaster by 4:00 a.m. All the passengers, attorneys, physicians, teachers, cooks, factory workers, transformed the cruise liner into a hospital. They worked together to save the survivors of the Titanic.
Today I ask you: Are we on a cruise or a crusade? Our church has a choice: which boat do we want to be? Do we want to be remembered as a complacent people who slept through the greatest opportunity of outreach the church has ever known, or do we want to be remembered as a people who became part of a rescue mission that will have a serious impact into the 21st century? Jesus Christ — our Master who was in a boat — woke up, and so should we as His disciples. “Carest thou not that we perish?” drowning people ask. God cares, but do we? If we won’t, who will? If not here, then where? If not now, then when? Now is the time, and the time is now to make Christ the captain of our lives. All hands on deck!
The Titanic Photo is used courtesy of Harland and Wolff
1These categories were adapted from Rick Warren’s, The Purpose Driven Church.
2Chuck Swindoll, Come Before Winter, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985.

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