When Your Ship is Sinking

When Your Ship is Sinking

by Ken Alvis

Here is the scenario: You are on a ship, and it is sinking. What would you do? How would you handle your final moments? As you ponder this, here is the story of how one man handled his last moments before his ship sank. Daniel Draper was an English evangelical missionary to south Australia in the mid-1800s. He started thirty churches during his time there.

After 29 years in Australia, Draper and his wife made their first visit back to England. After a short time back in England, they decided to return to Australia. On January 5, 1866, they left on the British steamship “SS London” with 263 passengers and crew. The first two days the sea and sky were calm. On the third day winds increased greatly, but it wasn’t enough to stop Draper from holding a prayer service on the ship. Unfortunately, the winds increased to the point that the ship’s rigging was blown away. The winds were so strong that the wreckage from the masts could not be cleared, which caused the ship to rock greatly. The winds continued to increase and became a full-blown hurricane. By 3:00pm on January 10, the ship turned back to England, hoping for calmer waters.

At 10:30pm that night a “mountain of water” fell on the main deck, completely filling the engine room and extinguishing the engine fires. The crew tried their best to repair the damage, but they could not. The captain of the ship finally told his men to say their prayers, for the ship was doomed.

At midnight Draper and all the passengers and crew came together. Draper led them in prayer and in between praying, Draper pleaded with the people to come to Christ for salvation. Many brought their Bibles and read them. Survivors later reported that mothers were weeping as they held their children and friends said good-bye to each other.

At dawn the captain calmly told the passengers and crew that all hope was lost. There was a long silence from everyone until a crying Draper stood up, and said loudly, “The captain tells us there is no hope; that we must all perish. But I tell you there is hope, hope for all. Although we must die and shall never again see land, we may all make the port of heaven.”

The survivors reported that from the beginning of the final prayer meeting at midnight until the ship sank at two in the afternoon, Draper continually prayed, and invited others to accept Christ as Lord and Savior. His last words were, “In a few moments we must all appear before our Great Judge. Let us prepare to meet Him.” The last thing heard before the ship sank was the singing of the hymn, “Rock of Ages.” Of the 263 people aboard, there were only 19 survivors.

Daniel Draper’s sole concern as the ship went down was making sure that people knew the way of salvation. So, back to the original question: What would you do if you were on a sinking ship? In fact, we all are on a sinking ship - it’s called earth. Every person on this earth will ultimately breathe their last and either face an eternity with Christ in heaven or eternally separated from Him in hell. God has placed believers here on this earthly sinking ship as ambassadors to tell others about salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, “God has given us the task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others.” We are ambassadors, or messengers, to tell others of this wonderful message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
May we all be receptive to opportunities to speak to others about the greatest news this world has ever heard. May we all recognize the urgency that we are on a “sinking ship” and, before it is too late, everyone needs to hear and respond to this good news, which is the gospel.  According to the gospel, sin separated us from God, but when Jesus died on the cross, He paid the price and canceled the debt of sin for all who would believe in Him. The gospel is good news because, through faith in Jesus Christ, we are reconciled to God and brought near to Him in fellowship.  Romans 5:1 says, “Since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.”

The gospel is the greatest love story ever told. Jesus told us this in John 3:16-17: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
May we be bold as Daniel Draper and tell others the good news of Jesus Christ before the ship has sunk.
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