What Titan and the Titanic had in common

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What Titan and the Titanic had in common

July 18, 2023 -

FILE - The Titanic leaves Southampton, England, on her maiden voyage on April 10, 1912. The wrecks of the Titanic and the Titan sit on the ocean floor, separated by 1,600 feet (490 meters) and 111 years of history. How they came together unfolded over an intense week that raised temporary hopes and left lingering questions. (AP Photo/File)

FILE - The Titanic leaves Southampton, England, on her maiden voyage on April 10, 1912. The wrecks of the Titanic and the Titan sit on the ocean floor, separated by 1,600 feet (490 meters) and 111 years of history. How they came together unfolded over an intense week that raised temporary hopes and left lingering questions. (AP Photo/File)

FILE - The Titanic leaves Southampton, England, on her maiden voyage on April 10, 1912. The wrecks of the Titanic and the Titan sit on the ocean floor, separated by 1,600 feet (490 meters) and 111 years of history. How they came together unfolded over an intense week that raised temporary hopes and left lingering questions. (AP Photo/File)

One of the great tragedies associated with the destruction of the Titan submersible that killed five passengers was that the company’s CEO (who died onboard the doomed vessel) reportedly ignored repeated warnings that it could kill someone. One article states that Stockton Rush ignored seventeen such warnings from a variety of people.

The same tragic fact applies to the shipwreck its passengers sought to view.

On April 10, 1912, Titanic left Southampton for New York. She was four city blocks long and featured a French sidewalk café and luxurious suites, but she possessed only twenty lifeboats for the 2200 passengers on board. After five days at sea, she struck an iceberg and sank in two hours and forty minutes, costing more than fifteen hundred people their lives. Only about seven hundred survivors were rescued from her half-filled lifeboats.

The greatest shipwreck of modern history was especially heartbreaking in that it was so avoidable.

Throughout the day of April 14, wireless operators on board received at least six messages which described field ice and icebergs on her course directly ahead. One message was not posted until more than five hours after it was received. Another was not shown to the captain since doing so would have interrupted his dinner. Yet another was never taken to the bridge since the wireless operator was working alone and could not leave his equipment. A final, crucial message was interrupted and never completed when Titanic’s operator cut it off to continue his own commercial traffic.

There was even a visual warning at 10:30 p.m. from the Rappahannock, whose Morse lamp message about heavy ice directly ahead was briefly acknowledged from Titanic’s bridge. The message went unheeded and was not even given to Captain Smith, now dozing in his quarters.

How our culture measures success

One of the burdens of speaking truth to culture is that the culture seems not to care. The longer I do this work, the more unbiblical society seems to become. Rather than receive biblical truth as warnings to be heeded, many view it as outdated supposition and opinion to be ignored and disparaged.

This is why I often need this simple reminder: God measures success by faithfulness (1 Corinthians 4:2) and faithfulness by obedience (John 14:15).

This is truly a countercultural assertion, not least because it applies to so few areas of our culture. We measure stock trades by their returns, not by the faithfulness of the stock brokers who make them. We measure students by grades more than attendance and athletes by the points they score more than their obedience to their coaches.

So it is with most pastors: we are measured by church attendance, finances, and our popularity with our members. Our faithfulness to proclaim God’s truth at any cost is seldom high on our evaluators’ lists.

And yet, nothing could be more urgent in a broken culture that stands in jeopardy of divine judgment.

“Be a conqueror at every point”

The Lord lamented over ancient Israel: “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13). Is this true of America? Have we turned from the Judeo-Christian consensual morality on which our nation was founded to “broken cisterns” of our making?

In such a dark culture, Christians are “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Note the definite article: we are the only light, called to reflect the light of Jesus (John 8:12) wherever there is darkness.

Said differently, the church is “a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). Pillar translates a Greek word for a column or support beam; buttress renders the word for the base or foundation on which the pillar stands.

Speaking truth to culture is thus an imperative part of our missional identity. And it is also vital to the health of our souls, as Spurgeon warned: “He who is not angry at transgression becomes a partaker in it.” He added: “Let the believer remember that he must be a conqueror in every point, or else he cannot be crowned.”

“Character determines revelation”

Measuring success by personal and public obedience is so foundational to our calling that we should expect the Enemy to attack us on this front in every way he can.

Oswald Chambers observed: “My vision of God depends upon the state of my character. Character determines revelation.” How do we protect our character? The answer, according to Chambers: “It must be God first, God second, and God third, until the life is faced steadily with God and no one else is of any account whatever.”

Paul would have agreed. He exhorted Timothy to “train yourself for godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7) so he could “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (v. 12). Then his personal life would give credibility and impact to his public ministry to “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (v. 13). “Exhortation” translates paraklesis, which refers to imploring and encouraging; “teaching” translates didaskalia, referring to instruction in doctrine.

In short, we are to proclaim biblical truth, teach its principles, and then apply them with practical insight and encouragement. But all of this rests on the foundation of personal godliness that results from steadfast discipline and the empowering work of God’s Spirit.

So, with the weeks that remain this summer, let’s find ways to deepen our personal walk with our Lord. Let’s continue the spiritual disciplines with which we are familiar and make time to try some we are not.

And let’s heed George Macdonald’s warning: “All growth that is not toward God is growing to decay.”

How will you grow “toward God” this week?

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