It is with sadness that CNN reported the following concerning the three boaters who lost their lives at sea while fishing in Florida:
“Schuyler, while recovering at a hospital, told authorities that some of the men lost hope during their struggle, took off their life vests and slipped away.” (http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/03/06/missing.boaters/index.html?iref=mpstoryview)
In the midst of fear, doubt, and uncertainty, these men gave up hoping. They gave up hoping they would be found alive. They gave up hoping that there was any possibility that they could make it.
But with God, all things are possible.
One man clung to the boat, did not take off his life vest, and remained hopeful, even in the face of what might otherwise have appeared to have been doom and gloom. Sure enough, he was saved – just as the other three would have been saved if they had but remained hopeful, and kept their life-vests on.
What impelled these men to take off their life vests? Surely, it was not the Lord. It was sight. They looked at their circumstances, and the vastness of the great sea. They could see no land, and in their mind, there was no way that they could make it.
Jesus says with God, all things are possible. And we are commanded to live by faith, and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Life may appear bleak, but there is always hope. With God, all things are possible!
God could have – if He had wanted to – translocated them to land in an instant. Has that ever been done before? Yes, in the case of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:39). But such miraculous exploits were hardly necessary. All these men had to do was simple: hold on, and keep their life-vests on. But they consciously decided to do the exact opposite. They let go! And they took of their life-vests. Oh, shame. And, oh, tragedy.
One man clung on for dear life. What distinguished this man was not his physical stamina, but a different type of stamina altogether. This man had something that these other men had at their disposal but did not take advantage of – hope. The Bible has a lot to say about faith, hope, endurance, and perseverance.
Schuyler – the sole survivor – did not lose hope. He clung to the hope that he would be found alive, even though did not at the time see the evidence of that hope. This man was not living by sight, but by faith. What a difference! This man exercised faith that he would be saved. And he was! This man was richly rewarded for his faith. And the other three? Unfortunately, these men gave up in their faith, and because of it, have brought unnecessary heartache to many people.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval.” (Hebrews 11:1-2)
“But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” (Romans 8:25)
Keep hoping. Keep trusting. And keep holding on. That is the demonstration of your faith. And you shall be richly rewarded for it if you do not shrink back.
“Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. FOR YET IN A VERY LITTLE WHILE, HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME, AND WILL NOT DELAY. BUT MY RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; AND IF HE SHRINKS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.” (Hebrews 10:35-39)