Have you ever been on an ocean in a tiny boat without a compass or GPS unit when a heavy fog blanketed your craft and you had no idea which direction was the harbor? Or perhaps you have had an experience I once had, high in the mountains when a storm came sweeping through the valley and heavy snow quickly obliterated my tracks leading out to my car. At first I was gripped with panic, thinking that every year people freeze to death who get lost and wander through the snow, not knowing how to get to safety.
Now think of being lost in terms of what Jesus said: “I have come to seek and save that which is lost.” Retired Chaplain Glenn Brown was aboard the U.S.S. Okinawa during the Vietnam conflict when it was steaming from Camran Bay to Subic when about midnight an alarm was sounded that a man was overboard. A sailor was standing guard when he slipped and fell into the dark waters below. He had been there and then he was gone. He had to be in the water. A heavy ship as the Okinawa doesn’t turn around like a small craft on a lake. It took almost a mile for the heavy craft to do a 180 turn and head back the direction from whence it came. The spotlights scanned the dark ocean looking for some sign of the lost sailor.
Finally someone yelled, “There he is!” as a tiny speck showed on the surface of the wave, his hand waving frantically. The lost man was found! A dingy was lowered and the man was brought aboard. The chaplain went down to talk with the man, shivering from the cold, frightened beyond words by his experience. Draped in blankets the young man explained that he was on the edge of the ship when he lost his balance and fell into the waters below. He said he swam as fast he could in the wake of the ship but he explained that as the ship moved on into the darkness, and the distance between the two grew greater, he knew he would be lost and tried to describe the horrible sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.
Then he said that in the distance he saw the light turn on and the ship reversed its course and he said, “I knew they were looking for me!” He tried to describe the joy that he experienced when he knew he would be saved!”
Time allows one more true anecdote. Missionaries Connie and Richard Smith were working with the Southern Barrasano Indians but weren’t making much headway because the Witch doctor opposed their work, thinking that if people became Christians, he would be discredited and lose his influence. But then the old man fell ill, very sick, and called for the missionaries to give him medicine. Knowing that no medicine could save the old man, they chartered a plane and flew the old man to Bogotá. Even there doctors couldn’t save the old man. Connie strived to help the old man make peace with God but he only shook his head and cried, “Too late, Connie; too late.” She later said, “You will never have to convince me that there is a hell; I saw it in the face of the old man as he died.” For him, it was, too late.
Paul told the jailer at Philippi, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved….” It’s still true.