THE TITANIC ENCOUNTER
As we approached Belfast city travelling along the M2 Motorway, we could see in the far distance a number of large cranes. "That’s where the ‘Titanic’ was built," exclaimed one of our German guests: we had an appointment with two police officers at Musgrave Street who would accompany us on a sightseeing tour of the city - a public relations exercise, courtesy of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
The word "TITANIC," is defined in Odham’s English Dictionary as : "huge; pertaining to the titans; gigantic:" this may possibly be how the name was chosen for the huge passenger liner- the largest in the world at that time.
Over the years many books and films, like James Cameron's Hollywood blockbuster 'Titanic' (a remarkably accurate portrayal of the ship, even if the storylines were fictional), has turned the ship, which tragically sunk just twelve days after leaving Belfast, into a legend.
On Saturday 10th April, 2004 the Lord Mayor of Belfast will officially open the "Made in Belfast Fest." The festival will include:-
(1) an exhibition featuring new artifacts and the splendid Father Browne photographic collection;
(2) a Schools' Initiative Exhibition at Belfast City Hall, where characters in period costume will gather in the exhibition, to bring the story alive and to create the atmosphere of Belfast at the turn of the last Century;
(3) guided boat tours from Donegall Quay of the waterways around which Titanic was built;
(4) daily bus tours of the area in the shipyard (Queen's Island) where Titanic was built;
(5) walking tours of Belfast taking in buildings of the era and Titanic related sites;
(6) The Iceberg - Stewart Parker's radio play revealing an intimate portrait of individuals on the Titanic as they set forth on their maiden voyage from Southampton;
(7) Steam Over Belfast Lough - an Edwardian style train travel from Belfast Central to Cultra for the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum to bring you back to the time when the Titanic was built; and finally
(8) Jonathan Evans-Jones, the musician and actor who played Wallace in James Cameron's award-winning movie, returns to create the character and explore his life in words and music.*
[* The film, (‘Titanic’) has its narrative based on actual events of the disaster; it is said to have cost 150 million American dollars, and it is described as: "The most popular motion picture of all time - a winner of 11 academy awards".]
At the time of the tragedy, a passenger on board S.S. CARPATHIA - (the passenger liner which responded to distress calls from the Titanic,) - an eminent Christian author, bible scholar, and evangelist, called Philip Mauro - has written in the preface of his book ‘God’s Pilgrims,’ the following words:-
"The sudden and drastic overthrow of the largest and greatest human achievement of its kind, the most conspicuous object in the world - which stirred all Christendom to an unprecedented degree, served to impress powerfully upon the writer’s mind the truth that the day is at hand for the shaking of all things, when the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low; and they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth for fear of the Lord and for the glory of His majesty, when He will arise to shake terribly the earth. The destruction of the Titanic is a foreshadowing of what is about to happen to the great "civilization" upon which man has expended his energies, and in which he puts his confidence. For the unconverted, the obvious lesson of this tragic event is to inquire concerning the lifeboat. BUT THERE ARE SOLEMN AND IMPORTANT LESSONS IN IT FOR THE SAINTS OF GOD."
[The following tract entitled: ‘The Titanic Encounter’ was produced by Faith, Prayer & Tract League, Grand Rapids, Michigan.]
IT WAS A SPLENDID SHIP! Everything a ship designer could imagine was built into it. It was beautiful, magnificent, TITANIC!
Not only was it the biggest, it was sleek, fast, and absolutely unsinkable. Did not the designers guarantee it? Every proven safety feature and several new ones went into its construction.
It slid out to sea from Liverpool, England, on a serene April morning. Gleaming against the sky, it was majestic. The pride of Britannia rode out to sea. New York was its next harbor.
The notables of society were its passengers and they basked in the splendor of its luxury. Elegance was the word for Titanic’s interior. Lavish in its decor, menus, and entertainment, it surpassed the highest expectations of its passengers.
Three-quarters into its maiden voyage - on the fringe of Newfoundland’s frigid banks - the Titanic became a catastrophic nightmare.
A deceptively large iceberg, detached from the polar ice fields, was drifting into the North Atlantic shipping lanes, destined to keep a predetermined encounter with the fabulous Titanic.
Now an awesome parallel:
1. "No, not even God could sink the Titanic," was the designer’s boast. We also have the deadly tendency to have excessive pride in our own resources.
Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16: 18.
2. Even when the Titanic struck the iceberg, the crew and passengers were confident that the "small" iceberg could do little damage. We also are deceived into thinking that sin is minor and of little consequence.
Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. Galations 6: 7
The wages of sin is death. Romans 6: 23.
3. This drama of the sea illustrates the uncertainty of life and our need to be ready to stand before our Maker and Judge.
And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee. Luke 12: 19, 20.
4. It teaches us the lesson of obedient response. Those aboard the doomed Titanic who responded quickly, were saved. Those who flippantly ignored the warning, perished. Friend, what would your fate be in a similar situation?
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3: 16.
Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6: 2.*
[* Also written on the tract, and shown as a separate statement from other contents, are the following words:-
"In a sermon preached by the Bishop of Winchester, St. Mary’s Church, South Hampton, on the Sunday following the disaster, it was said: ‘The Titanic name and thing, will stand for a monument and warning TO HUMAN PRESUMPTION.’ "]
IMPORTANT LESSONS FOR THE SAINTS OF GOD.
Many and varied are the millions of gospel tracts produced each year with an earnest and sincere desire to point unregenerate people in thy way of salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: and it must be said that some of these gospel tracts are better than others. This particular tract however, is an unusual one because (with the exception of one text [John 3: 16,]) all the others, are addressed primarily to REGENERATE BELIEVERS.
Let us examine these and discover, with the Lord’s help, what lessons we Christians (i.e., not nominal - by name only - , but ‘born again’ [regenerate] believers) can learn from it.
1. "No, not even God could sink the Titanic," was the designer’s boast. We also have the deadly tendency to have excessive pride in our own resources. "Pride goes before destruction, A haughty spirit before a fall," Proverbs 16: 18.
All the passengers on board the Titanic were on a journey to America or the 'New World’ as it is sometimes called; and in this sense, they are types of regenerate believers today. God’s grace and our faith in the person of Jesus Christ, has provided every regenerate believer with a ‘boarding pass’: we are on a journey to a ‘New world;’ we are on our way to an ‘inheritance’ in ‘the age to come’. 1 Cor. 10: 1-12; Luke 20: 35; Rev. 11: 15, 18; Heb. 6: 5, 11.
All on board Titanic, were dreaming of a new and better life in America, but the problem with dreams is that they tend to shatter under the harsh glare of reality. But that is not always the case, and once a dream becomes a reality, far from fading away it gets better.
Not one of the great ship's passengers ever imagined they would soon have to face catastrophic events which lay out ahead; and if anyone on board stated the reality of what was about to happen during the journey, or say that many of them would not make it to the new world: who on board would believe it? ‘Only a raving lunatic would think of such a thing! This is no dingy! Everyone knows this ship can’t sink! How could such a thing happen to us? We most certainly will reach our destination. Do you not know we are on board Titanic? You must be out of your mind!’ (Acts 20: 30-32; 24: 25.)
Regenerate believers, who rightly believe in a millennial reign of Christ on earth, also have a like tendency to not believe everything God has said; and in a spirit of self-pride in their present standing and position [through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ] they often react and talk in exactly the same way: ‘How could it be possible that we will not reign with Christ in His millennial kingdom? We are the redeemed people of God; we are "justified by faith;" we are true members of His "Church;" we are "in Christ"!
Yes, all that is perfectly true, but more than our standing by faith in Christ will be required to gain entrance into our ‘New World:’ we will also need to be found walking in obedience to His commands (Heb. 5: 9; 2 Thess. 3: 14, 15.); we will also need to be "considered worthy" by Christ "of that world [age]" (Luke 2; 35; John 5: 22.); we will also need to be justified by our works (Jas. 2: 24), and to humble ourselves and become like little children (Matt. 18: 1-3) :-
"So you - [says Jesus addressing His chosen disciples] - also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty’ " (Luke 17: 10).
And again: - "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. . . ‘Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house upon a rock" (Matt. 7: 21, 24). Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, is addressed primarily to HIS DISCIPLES: "His disciples came to him, and he began to teach THEM, saying . . . " (Matt. 5: 1, 2).
So also, in other places of Matthew's gospel, it is not instruction for Jews only but primarily for disciples of Christ - that is, regenerate believers. "At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said; ‘I tell you [disciples] the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever [amongst you] humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’ " (Matt. 18: 1-4).
2. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" Galations 6: 7.
"The wages of sin is death" Romans 6: 23.
Today it’s very easy for Christians to be deceived, particularly when there are presently so many bible teachers around who do not, (or are not unwilling to) distinguish a "free gift" from "the prize;" or the millennial kingdom of "the thousand years", from God's eternal kingdom in "a new heaven and a new earth." Christians most certainly will be deceived, when they allow themselves to be convinced by those so called Bible teachers - (however impressive their worldly qualifications or social standing in this life might be,) - who are bold and daring enough to think nothing of changing a conditional promise of God into an unconditional one! Christians are sometimes self-deceived, when they believe that a universal law of the harvest, does not apply to them, because they are an exception to the rule! "The hard-working farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this" (2 Tim. 2: 7).
The majority of the passengers on board Titanic perished in the cold waters of the North Atlantic, because they did not face up to the imminent danger and board the lifeboats. Others perished, because they sincerely believed S S. Carpathia would arrive on time to rescue them. But there were others who failed to reach their destination in the 'New World', because of a failure (or a deliberate act on the part of some who were well informed), who refused to disclose all of the facts. (2 Pet. 2: 1, 15, 20, ; 3: 4. Etc.).
Mr. Philip Marro has rightly written: -
"We read of another "Day" approaching, and in that day it will be too late to listen to His exhortations, in order to gain the 'recompense of the reward'. The Scriptures speak of many things that God has prepared for them who love Him and obey His commands which are of the nature of REWARDS, not gifts, and are quite distinct from the remission of sins and eternal life. These latter are gifts bestowed upon all who believe; but not all believers will obtain the rewards."
"Do not be deceived; God will not be mocked; for a man [any man] will reap what he sows." When it comes down to distributing rewards, everyone - the eternally saved and unsaved alike - will receive exactly as they deserve; and no favoritism will be shown. As we sometimes hear people say: ‘What goes around, comes around:’ it will be the case also relative to rewards from God. For it is written - (to "holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse" [1: 2]) - : "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism" (Col. 3: 23-25).
This "inheritance" is a reward for their work, and therefore it cannot possibly be an eternal inheritance; they already had that as ‘brothers in Christ;’ it is an inheritance which we can ‘loose,’ and therefore it must be an inheritance in the "kingdom of Christ and of God", (Eph. 5: 5). See also: - Gal. 5: 21; cf. 1Thess. 2: 12; 2 Thess. 1: 5; Rev. 3: 21. This is a truth which EVERY CHRISTIAN SHOULD AND OUGHT TO KNOW! The teaching (or doctrine) of reward is basic scriptural knowledge. See:- 2 Cor. 5: 9, 10; Matt. 16: 24, 27; 1 Cor. 3: 6, 8; Rev. 22: 12; Eph. 5: 5, 8, 9. Etc.
An iceberg is estimated to be 5/6 submerged below the surface of the water, it is therefore much larger than it appears at first glance. The particular iceberg which drifted into the path of 'Titanic' was a wake-up-call for everyone on board.
3. This drama of the sea illustrates the uncertainty of life and our need to be ready to stand before our Maker and Judge. "And I’ll say to my soul, ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ " (Luke 12: 19, 20).
The expression, "the salvation of your souls" * (1 Pet. 1: 9) is an expression used by Peter, James, (1: 21) and the Writer of Hebrews (10: 39). *
[* The words: " . . .but of those who believe and are saved" in the N,I,V. are misleading and should be translated: " . . but of them that have faith unto the saving of the soul" R. V. This expression refers to a future salvation for believers and is not an expression synonymous with eternal salvation. See "Faith to the Saving of the Soul" on page 2 of this website.]
On the other hand, our eternal salvation - ("the salvation we [the 'called'] share" [Jude 3]) - is given to every regenerate believer and rests securely on the finished and impeccable work of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: this "common salvation" (A.V.) cannot be lost and is ‘irrevocable’ (Rom. 11: 29) - it is a ‘free gift’ from God.
A significant aspect of the freedom which every Christian has in life, is the option to choose their own lifestyle. It can automatically be assumed therefore that Christians who recognize the importance of good works and obedience to the will of God, will often choose a different kind of lifestyle that those who don’t. God has provided us with important principles to be guided by, and He has set standards which He expects us to meet; failure on our part will inevitably lead to personal loss - the loosing of the soul. Therefore, not surprisingly, the well informed Christians usually (sooner or later) will make the right choice - but that may not always be the case, for there is presently a price to pay, and a sacrifice to be made! (Heb. 12: 5-13 ; 2Tim. 2: 10, 16; Acts 14: 21, 22.)
Our text shows what will be the outcome for the indifferent, slothful, self-centered and foolish believers who have no conception of what the future holds, and have only a limited understanding of the importance and outcome of personal obedience, good works, self-sacrifice, and suffering for righteousness sake. Like Jonah, they are fast asleep, oblivious to any danger : dreaming that they are going to automatically qualify (on the basis of bare faith and the imputed righteousness of Christ alone) and receive everything! God’s churches are full of such dreamers! They dream contrary to the plain truth found in the Word of God. One day, like the passengers who perished on board Titanic, they will experience the shock of God's wake-up-call! (Heb. 12: 17 ; Matt. 22: 11-14; compare with Rev. 19: 7-9; I Cor. 5: 5.)
"So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God , you will receive what he has promised. For in just a little while, ‘He who is coming will come and will not be late. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he draws back," - [ "The antecedent subject is the ‘righteous one’ who is to live by faith."] - "I will not be pleased with him.’ But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved" (N.I.V.) or "but of them that have faith unto the saving of the soul," R.V. (Heb. 10: 35-39)*
[* The words: "But of those who believe and are saved." (N.I.V.) and : "Of them that believe to the saving of the soul." (A.V. & R.V.) read literally: "But of faith to possession of soul." (Lit. Greek.)]
The drawing back to destruction is put in direct contrast with the living by faith, and going on to the "possession of soul." Compare also with: 1 Pet. 2: 11; Jas. 1: 21; Matt. 16: 24-27; John 12: 25.
4. "It teaches us the lesson of obedient response. Those on board the doomed Titanic who responded quickly, were saved. Those who flippantly ignored the warning, perished. Friend, what would your fate be in a similar situation? For he says, ‘At the time of my favour I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you’ (2 Cor. 6: 2)."
Who are being addressed by the word "you," placed in italics above? Christians or non-Christians? Here is a well known text which is often taken out of its context and applied to the unconverted, but a glance at the preceding verse will clearly show us that Christians are being targeted here: - "As God’s FELLOW WORKERS we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For He says, ’At a time of my favour I heard you." It does not say ‘I will hear you,’ but "I heard [past tense] you." - "And on the day of salvation I helped you." - not, ‘I will help you,’ but, "I helped you," [past tense once again]. We conclude then, that all who are being addressed here are already saved! This text is addressed primarily to regenerate believers!
God expects all His redeemed people to believe all His words. They should place great importance upon them and respond in a responsible, sensible, and Christ-like manner. Sometime in the future, He will judge Christians according to their works - that is, according to the manner in which they responded to His commands. Throughout the Holy Scriptures we find many conditional promises and divine threats which are addressed to true members of the Church. If God's conditions are ‘flippantly ignored,’ or discarded, or mistakenly transferred to someone else - a false professor, the Jews or the unregenerate - then the inevitable outcome will be the loss of the "inheritance": that is, the loss of the millennial kingdom. See, Luke 22: 28, 29, 30. Col. 3: 23, 24; Rev. 2: 26; 3: 10, 19-21.
It has been said: "The more self-denying, patient, and diligent we are in the service of our Lord, the stronger is the confidence with which we regard ourselves as the children of God; and the better reason have we to look for the joyful entrance into the kingdom." (R. Govett.)
Many Christians never seem to learn ‘the lesson of obedient response’. Will they be "considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection [out] from the dead"? (Luke 20: 35.)
Who ever heard of anyone winning a race, who refused to enter or participate in it? Who has ever heard of a soldier winning an award, who deserted the army and doggedly refused to fight in the battle? Who has ever heard of a righteous Judge awarding a prize to anyone, who was seen and known to have proved himself undeserving of it?
Not surprisingly, Christians who know of these things, will usually (sooner or possibly later) hopefully make the right choice: it is a matter of trusting in God and in His Word; it is having a desire and a determination to obey His commands; it is having a genuine repentance for past failures; it is learning to better understand His Word; it is perseverance in faithfulness in the face of ever increasing apostasy; and, most important of all, it is having the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit in our lives to enable us to become overcomers. Such believers as these, and only these, will "attain" (i.e., ‘gain by effort’ by His grace and in His strength): and the inevitable result will be that their hopes and dreams of reigning with Christ in His Kingdom ON THIS EARTH, will one "day" become a REALITY. (Acts 7: 5; Rev. 20: 6; Rev. 11: 15, etc.)
On the other hand, if we doggedly refuse to believe that "the prize" must be won; if we refuse to take God at His word; if we do not have the desire or strength to obey all His commands; if we have no genuine repentance for past failures; if we foolishly allow ourselves to be misled or blinded by those who are unwilling or unable to distinguish a conditional promise from an unconditional one; if we allow ourselves to drift into latter-day apostasy; if we transfer God’s warnings which are plainly addressed to us, upon someone else; if we bury our head in the sand and refuse to face up to the reality: then, most certainly, we will incur a great loss, and our dream of entering "the kingdom of God", (i.e., as the word 'dream' is defined - our ‘imagined hope, vision, or fancy.’) - WILL SHATTER UNDER THE HARSH GLARE OF REALITY. Let us take care by asking for grace and strength each day, to make sure our ‘HOPE’ of sharing the glory of Christ on this earth, doesn’t turn into a ‘CATASTROPIC NIGHTMARE’! (Titus 2: 11-14).
No regenerate Christian can afford to neglect God’s warnings, they are like beacon-lights which He has placed on top of every iceberg. May both writer and reader stay alert and be able to navigate a safe passage toward life in the new world during "the age to come".
"We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This [future] salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. It is not to angels that he has subjected THE WORLD [age] TO COME [age] TO COME" (Heb. 2: 1-5). Compare Mark 10: 30; Luke 18: 30; 20: 35; with 1 Thess. 2: 12; 2 Thess. 1: 5, Tit. 2; 12, 13; Rev. 11: 15; 20: 6.)
"Men have called the visions [of a Millennial Kingdom] such as Plato and Sir Thomas More have given us, of the Ideal State - 'Utopias,' 'Nowheres,' to mark their idea of those visions as fantastic, impractical, impossible. But let no one dare to say of the new earth which Christ foretold, that it is a vain , an impossible dream. To say that, IS TO DENY THE FAITH, AND TO BE GUILTY OF THE GREAT APOSTASY "
- (J. D. Jones, The Model Prayer, pp. 79-81.)
Make me, Lord, a dreamer for Your kingdom;
Plant in my heart heavenly desires.
Grant faith that can say, impossibilities shall be,
And vision lest a world should perish not knowing Thee.
Make me, Lord, a dreamer for Your kingdom;
I would aspire to greater goals in God.
So cause faith to rise, to motivate each word and deed,
A faith that’s well convinced that Jesus meets every need.
Make me, Lord, a dreamer for Your kingdom;
Dreams that will change a world that’s lost its way.
May dreams that first found their birth in Your omnipotence,
Come alive in me, BECOMING REALITY.