In a recent message I used the example of of Nantucket in the 1820’s as a demonstration of “contentment” in the face of adversity. I was impressed after reading the book, “In The Heart Of The Sea – The Tragedy Of The Whaleship Essex,” how sailors and their families accepted the harsh reality of their life. Men would be away at sea, for three years. They knowingly faced dangers of every kind; ship wreck, pirates, and storms.
The true story of the how eight men in a crew of twenty survived the sinking of their ship is a miraculous tale of faith and persistence. While chasing a pod of whales their ship was attacked by a bull whale estimated to be 85 ft. long, and weighing 80 tons. The Essex was only 87 feet long! The whale rammed them twice, smashing their hull and causing it to capsize in just ten minutes.
The crew could not have been farther from land anywhere in the entire world. They were 2,000 miles off the coast of South America and 2,500 miles east of the Hawaiian Islands. The trade winds blew towards the islands but rumors of cannibals convinced them to tack their way back to the South American Coast rather a more sensible route west.
The launches were only 25 feet long, without a rudder or keel and were rowed in pursuit of whales…fast and buoyant but not equipped to sail. The crew attached two short beams to their launches with pieces of sail they had salvaged from the ship. They also added extra boards to the sides of the boats to help keep the ocean from swamping them. They retrieve barrels of water, hard tack, two compasses, two quadrants, and maps for their voyage, but knew their provisions were woefully inadequate.
Ron Howard has finished production on a movie based on the book that will be released December 11th, 2015. These men faced gales force winds, 40 foot-tall waves, an attack by a killer whale, the scorching sun, and frigid nights on open water, while sailing 1,000 miles south before tacking 2,000 miles NE to land. Only five survived the journey and three who chose to take their chances on a barren island they stumbled across. They all expected to die. Twelve men did.
Prayer was an important part of their three month ordeal. The author makes repeated mention of it as described by the survivors.
“That evening Richard Peterson, the sole African American on their boat, led them in prayers and a few hymns. Nickerson (the 15 year old cabin boy), remembered how the words and songs of the “pious old colored man drew our minds from our present miseries to seek deliverance from a higher power.” (page 113)
Christians are not spared hardship in life. We find strength in our faith to weather the storms. God does not always immediately transport us to higher ground. Storms are necessary in nature and in life. They strengthen our faith and give power to our witness. Not even the apostles were spared hardship and they were God’s spokesmen. The apostle Paul recalls;
“I have been in prison more frequently than the other apostles, flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”
Why does God allow Christians to suffer? David, who experienced his share of suffering, wrote, “God has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping. For you, O Lord, test us; You refine us like silver.” Paul said. “We have this treasure (faith in Christ) in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” Paul pleaded with God for deliverance. God answered;
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore (Paul responded) I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Someday we enjoy the full benefit of our salvation in heaven. At the moment we take comfort in knowing our suffering is only temporary. Eternal life in heaven is forever. With Paul we know, “Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12,13
When it comes to hardship have you…
A. Endured more than your share.
B. Been spared more than most.
C. Took it in stride.
Click here to take the survey and leave a comment in the space provided for the benefit of others based on your experience.
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Gracious Lord, I know you are good even when times are hard. Give me greater faith to “weather” my storms and to lean on You to provide. Remind me of the examples of others, the prophets, the apostles, and people of courage who tackled their difficulties with faith and courage. Don’t allow the devil any room to create doubt and cause despair. I am only human. I am in need a help in my life. In need of wisdom to chart my course, and in need of divine intervention to bring me safely through my hardship. I put my trust in the cross. I know you suffered greatly to grant me eternal life and also to assure me that my prayers are heard even now. Grant me peace in the midst of my storm. In Jesus’ name; Amen.
Don’t fret! The shopping list for the Thanksgiving Bags is right here! Just bring it with you on the weekends of November 7 & 8 and 14 & 15.
Want to know more about Autism/Asperger’s Syndrome and how to help someone with that diagnosis? Attend a special one evening presentation on Monday, November 2. Details are here.
Inside and Out our next Family Forward Event will happen on Sunday, November 22. Check out all the details here.
Meet new people, make friends and serve as a family all while helping us decorate on Saturday, November 28. Sign up and make a difference!
Who are you inviting to Advent by Candlelight on December 6? It’s the perfect GNO as you wait and prepare for the birth of Christ. Ticket sales begin November 7 on our website and after services.
Find out about upcoming programs and events at St. John Church.