Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Friday, June 30, 2006

Are We Seaworthy?

“Others went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. They saw the works of the Lord, His wonderful deeds in the deep. For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. They reeled and staggered like drunken men; they were at their wits’ end. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men. Let them exalt Him in the assembly of the people and praise Him in the council of elders.” Psalm 107:23-32

There is nothing more tranquil—nor more violent—than the sea. Both are described in Psalm 107:23-32, Luke 8:22-25, and the violence also described in Acts 27:14-44. These violent storms had in them ships and men. In every instance the men were terrified because their ship was in danger of sinking.

On the 19th of July, 1950, in Tsushima Straits, Task Force 77 rode out a typhoon. I was on the USS Brush, a destroyer in that task force. At 3:40 a.m., that morning, I was almost washed overboard. Psalm 107 applied to me. In November 1950 en route from Japan to Midway Island, bucking fifty knot winds and heavy seas, the same destroyer lost her port bilge keel. In the same storm, her motor whale boat was carried away by the sea. Again, Psalm 107 applied.

There is a special definition of the word “integrity” I like. It has to do with the sea—worthiness of a ship. It is called watertight integrity. When the ship is battened down, water cannot get inside. It cannot sink. It is watertight. The ship has integrity. It is sea worthy. This integrity has to do with interior hatches, doors, and compartments as well as exterior. If the ship has interior integrity the ship will not sink even if a breach is made in the exterior.

Between the two storms mentioned above, the Brush hit an underwater mine on September 26th off Tanchon, Korea. The exterior integrity of the ship was severely compromised. There was a big hole in the port side below the water line. Because of the interior integrity of the ship, we did not lose her.

Now I would like to apply this watertight integrity (exterior and interior) to the Christian. Our exterior and interior integrity are, first of all, dependent upon God’s faithfulness, grace and presence.

Exterior integrity is concerned with storms and attacks that come from the outside.

1 Peter 5:8, 9 and Ephesians 6:10-18 described how to handle the attack from the outside. The first passage tells us to be self-controlled and alert. Stay awake and we will not be blind-sided. The second tells what kind of clothing to wear and arms to bear so the attack will not harm us in any way. Although this is well known among Christians, it is amazing how many Christians feel unfairly treated when they have been caught sleeping unarmed.

This brings us to “interior integrity.” What happens to us when a breach is made in an exterior defense? Do we sink? Do we surrender to the enemy? Do we fold up in defense? Or are there many layers of defense as in many water-tight compartments in a ship? Do we have a damage-control system?

The essence of damage control is speed. The faster we get help to the damaged area, 1) the sooner we are again an effective fighting unit, a combatant vessel and 2) the damage does not become extensive. If the enemy gets past our defenses and we respond with sin, repentance toward God is effective damage control.

If we do not exercise fast damage control we must still have defenses against successive, more and greater sins.

Here are a few biblical ways to build up interior integrity. In a ship, exterior integrity is of first importance, and interior integrity, secondary. However, in the Christian life, interior integrity is primary and exterior integrity, secondary. In Ephesians 6:11, we are told to put on the full armor of God (exterior). However, the verse prior to that says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His might power” (interior).

“The good man brings things out of the good stored up in him…” (Matthew 12:35). If we store up good things in our hearts (interior), then good things will overflow (exterior).

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” Psalm 119:11.

“Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever” Deuteronomy 5:29.

These last two verses tell us that interior integrity will keep us from sinning against God, and it will also result in keeping His commandments, always.

It is possible to prevail through storms and be under fierce attack with peace and joy. To be under attack does not mean defeat. In fact, the attack is a cause of joy. We do not know many Christians who survive, much less triumph. Consequently, we build up many case histories of defeat. Since this is the norm in our experience, we assume it to be God’s norm. Our models are of demasted and holed ships. We think we cannot teach how to survive the storms and attacks unless we have been previously or presently so battle-damaged ourselves. We then teach people what to expect. That is ridiculous!

We must teach from the Word of God and from biographies of men and women who have been in the storms and under attack but who have not sunk.

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