Shipwrecked Faith, Part 1

What causes most shipwrecks?

Shipwrecks are usually caused by one of many reasons. The most common are poor design, instability, navigational errors, weather, warfare, effects of age, improper operation, fire/explosion, equipment failure and intentional causes.

Shipwrecks also happen simply because the captain failed to believe it could happen. He simply ignored the warning signs or was just in too much of a hurry to see them.

Most shipwrecks do not happen in open water but in sight of the shoreline. The majority take place after the ship runs aground on a sandbar, coral reef, rocks or another wreck.

There are a lot of ways to avoid shipwreck, most specifically tied to awareness and diligence. Knowing where and where not to sail a ship is certainly a big key. Another is having a proper ballast since the ballast balances a ship and allows it to move smoothly through the water.

The causes and prevention of shipwrecks transfer easily to our faith life, mostly because of the connections Paul made to them.

What is a shipwrecked faith?

Paul was very familiar with shipwrecks. He personally experienced three of them along with a day and a night “in the deep” (2 Corinthians 11:25). His experiences allowed him to use related terminology to help us better understand living out our faith.

“This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, so that [inspired and aided] by them you may fight the good fight [in contending with false teachers], keeping your faith [leaning completely on God with absolute trust and confidence in His guidance] and having a good conscience; for some [people] have rejected [their moral compass] and have made a shipwreck of their faith.” (1 Timothy 1:18-19, AMP)

Paul begins this letter to Timothy by warning him against false doctrines and myths. He charges Timothy to remain true to sound doctrine that confirms the Gospel. Paul also gives examples of two individuals who failed to do this and as a result shipwrecked their faith.

When we have faith in the Gospel, we lean on God with complete trust and confidence to guide us where he wants us to go. A shipwrecked faith, then, is a faith that has veered off that course and run aground. It’s a faith that drifted away from the truth of the Gospel and was broken apart by relentless waves.

The word “rejected” that Paul used is a nautical term that means “thrown overboard.” In other words, they made a choice to reject the faith and drift away from the truth of the Gospel. They are Christians who knew the truth of the Gospel and how it directs us to live, but they made choices that cause them to drift away and veer off course.

No One Is Immune to a Shipwrecked Faith

Any good ship captain realizes shipwreck is always a possibility. Likewise, every Christian must realize the real and constant pressure to live contrary to the the Gospel, to righteousness.  Not only is this Paul’s warning to Timothy, but life attests to this harsh reality for us as well.

  • Church leaders who become Sunday only pew sitters and some who no longer even attend church.
  • Rebellious teenagers who once loved and served God and were active in church.
  • A friend who says, “I know what I’m doing is wrong, but I know God will forgive me.”
  • A family member who wants to live like his friends who said, “This faith thing just isn’t working for me.”
  • Another friend who said, “How can I believe in a god who let my friend die?”
  • Paul’s own shipwrecked faith. (Acts 9)

While stories of others shipwrecked faith testifies to the truth of what Paul says in 1 Timothy, none anchor it better for me than my own story of a shipwrecked faith.

What about you? Has your own faith gone adrift or even been shipwrecked because you made choices that gradually got you off course?

In every case, a person with a shipwrecked faith — or one drifting that way — followed something contrary to Scripture. We followed a “truth” based on the world, the flesh or Satan that directed us away from how the Gospel of Jesus directs us to live.

Don’t give up hope! Return to the Gospel. Begin with this freeing truth.

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1)

In Shipwrecked Faith, Part 2, we look at how to avoid a shipwrecked faith and what to do if your faith is already shipwrecked.

What Have You Been Missing?

3-26-13 the end

Wait Until the Lights Come On

Movie watchers typically stop watching a movie as soon as the credits start to roll. Yet, my family and I have learned to wait until the lights come on in the theatre before getting up to leave.

After the credits for The Avengers and each related movie (Captain AmericaThe Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Iron Man 2, and Thor) there’s an extra clip that shows further connections among the movies. Of course, turning off the movie or leaving the theatre before the credits finish means missing the extra.

(You’ll find “extras” at the end of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and The Amazing Spider-Man too.)

Waiting out the credits, and in some cases just part of them, involves persistence. Even if you fast forward through them, like we do at home, getting to the extra clip still takes time. Yet, persistence pays off in giving a preview of a coming sequel or a connection you might have otherwise missed.

Faithful Persistence

This idea of persistence, waiting through the monotony, translates well into our spiritual lives. Let’s look at a few examples.

Elijah showed persistence when he prayed for rain in 1 Kings 18:41-46.  Rain did not come after his first prayer, or his second one, or even the third. Elijah prayed 7 times before rain came. What if Elijah had stopped praying before the 7th time?

Jesus gives another example, recorded in Luke 18:1-8, of the importance of persistence.  He tells of a persistent widow and her requests to a corrupt judge. The judge eventually gave her what she wanted to get her to stop bugging him. Jesus ends his story by asking a rather disturbing question. “How much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?”

What Have I Been Missing?

These stories stir in me a rather bothersome question. “What am I missing because I lack persistence in my prayers?”

I’m equally bothered by the question, “Will Jesus find persistent faith in me when He returns?”

Don’t lose heart.

As I attempt to answer these questions, I stare a very real truth in the faith. I have often given up too soon. I have gotten discouraged and lost heart. I have often lacked persistence in my prayers as well as in my waiting for God to move.

Jesus’ reason behind telling the persistent widow story is explained before the story even begins.

“Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lost heart.” (Luke 18:1)

In other words, don’t give up. Don’t get discouraged. This was the purpose of Jesus telling the parable of the persistent woman, and I suspect that this is a reason behind the story about Elijah too.

Amplifying Persistence

Unlike with movies, I can’t rewind my life and see what I missed. I can’t go back and play through the credits again. But I can be more persistent now. I can push through in faith in my current circumstances.

I can seek His will and then ask according to His Name. I can believe that He will answer based on that will. Then, I can live in the confidence that only comes from trusting in Him.

And at the same time, I must realize that my ability to know His will and to believe in faith that He will answer comes from Him. Without Him giving me the ability to be persistent, I’ll continue to miss out because I’ll continue to leave before the lights come on.

DISCUSSION: How do you see persistence playing out in the life of a Christ follower?