How many people on the RMS Titanic wished they had spent more time with the Lord before that tragic night on April 15, 1912? Probably most of them.
Everything appeared to be going quite well for the passengers aboard the luxury ocean liner on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England. Calm seas allowed the Titanic to average 21 knots on its crossing to New York. Although Capt. Edward John Smith had received warnings from other ships about an ice field, he continued full-steam ahead.
Capt. Smith placed his confidence in the Titanic’s state-of-the-art engineering. A double bottom in the ship’s hull and 15 watertight bulkhead compartments provided safety for the ship’s nearly 900 feet of length. Experts considered the ship “practically” unsinkable.
All of this changed at 11:30 p.m. on April 14 when a lookout spotted an iceberg directly ahead of the ship. The lookout notified the bridge, but it was too late. The iceberg’s underwater spur slashed a 300-foot gash under the waterline in the side of the Titanic’s hull.
The captain and his engineers quickly inspected the damage. Five compartments were already filling with seawater. The “practically” unsinkable ship had been dealt a deathblow.
A little over two hours later, more than 1,521 of the 2,240 passengers and crewmembers on board lost their lives in the icy Atlantic Ocean, almost four hundred miles south of Newfoundland.
Now, I am not suggesting that prayer or a closer walk with the Lord could have prevented the Titanic’s calamity. It’s above any human’s ability to make a judgment on something like that.
But what I want to emphasize is that calamities do happen to good people. This was true with the Titanic, the Lusitania, the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, 911, Katrina and almost every tragedy.
So, what can each of us do to avoid being struck by calamities? Not much.
If you read over the life of the Apostle Paul in the Bible, you will discover some insights into this subject. A few times, God warned Paul about upcoming calamities so the apostle could avoid them. Once or twice, God warned him, and yet Paul still had to endure the mishaps. But even more often, God failed to tell Paul anything ahead of time, such as his three shipwrecks and the numerous beatings he endured.
If God treated Paul − the most pious man since Jesus − like this, then I doubt we can expect any different treatment.
Sometimes, God allows in His wisdom what He could easily prevent by His power. (Graham Cooke)
Have you ever heard of John Harper?
Harper was a 39 year old widower who traveled on the Titanic with his 6-year old daughter and his sister. The Scottish pastor was scheduled to preach at the Moody Church in Chicago.
As soon as Harper learned the Titanic was sinking, he walked his daughter and sister to a lifeboat and placed them aboard. “Nana, I’ll see you again someday,” he said to his daughter.
Then, while flares lit up the sky, he marched up and down the decks yelling, “Women, children and the unsaved, into the lifeboats!”
He preached the Gospel, pleading with people to give their lives to Christ before it was too late. He used every second, reaching out to the people on the ship.
At 2:20 a.m., a rumble arose from deep within the ship as it broke in half. Hundreds of people, including Harper, jumped into the 28-degree water as the Titanic slipped to its watery grave.
When Harper hit the water, he frantically swam from one person to the next, leading them to Jesus before the people succumbed to the icy waters. He asked one young man who clutched a piece of wood, “Are you saved?” The young man replied that he was not.
Harper tried to convince the young man, but the man refused to listen. Harper took off his life jacket and threw it at the man. “Here then, you need this more than I do,” said Harper, swimming off to other people.
A few minutes later, Harper returned to the man and successfully led him to Christ. Harper then attempted to swim to other people, but the icy waters were too much for him. “Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved,” he shouted before he sank under the waters.
Of the 1,528 people that went into the icy waters that night, lifeboats rescued only seven. One of them was the young Scottish man named Aguilla Webb, who later wrote a tract entitled, “I was John Harper’s Last Convert.”
Hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes, floods, terrorist attacks, sinking ships, airplane crashes and numerous other calamities could strike anyone of us at any time. We may only have a few moments before the final curtain drops.
Our last seconds may help determine our positions in heaven for all of eternity. So, if I find myself in a similar situation, I want to go out like John Harper did, pointing others to the One who died for me.
How about you?