1 Timothy 1:19-20
“. . . having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.”
As Paul traveled the world to preach the Gospel, he had the great joy of seeing many come to Christ. Sadly, however, he also had the difficult experience of seeing some fall away from the Lord. Here he mentions two such individuals and describes their backsliding as being shipwrecked. They once had sails unfurled on course for the Kingdom, but had drifted off course and were no longer serving or following Christ. He mentions them as a warning to us of the dangers of falling away from Christ. A shipwreck is an appropriate analogy for the Christian because of the dangers we face on our journey towards what John Bunyan called “The Celestial City.” Unfortunately, shipwrecks, like backsliding, have a variety of causes.
A few years ago, Hollywood produced a movie called “The Perfect Storm” about a fishing vessel lost at sea due to extreme weather. There are times when the conditions we face are like a turbulent sea, tossing us to and fro. If we are not careful, we will find we have run aground and are no longer pursuing the Lord. These trying times can even leave us bitter and disenchanted regarding Christ. It is crucial that we learn to take refuge from life’s storms in the safe harbor of Christ and the promises of His Word.
Just a couple years ago, a large cruise ship ran aground in Europe. The news sites were filled with images of this mighty vessel being battered by the waves, and it was reported that many had lost their lives. The initial reports alluded to the captain being intoxicated, and as a result, had drifted off course and into the shallows. It is not uncommon to hear of Christians who have done the same thing. Not being careful to remove ungodly influences from their lives, they find themselves tripped up by the sins of their past. They are usually filled with shame and guilt because of the mess they have made of things. This guilt may keep them on the rocks, being beaten by the waves of life. If that describes you, allow me to encourage you. Whatever your sin may have been, there is forgiveness. David described the condition of the one who finally accept the forgiveness available to him, regardless of the severity of the sin committed:
Psalms 32:1 “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”
Another common cause of shipwreck is being ill-prepared for the conditions we face. Not long ago, I watched as a boat attempted to navigate its way through one of Florida’s more challenging inlets. Standing there, unable to do anything but watch, myself and a few other onlookers, stared in dismay as the vessel was tossed into the rocks. His failure was not for lack of trying, but because he was simply a novice and did not have the proper training for such difficult conditions. All too often, Christians fail for the same reason. Not taking advantage of the present calm to develop deep foundations in the Christian walk, they find themselves unable to withstand the trial and temptation that is just ahead. Don’t let that happen to you. If life is somewhat calm at the moment, use that to your advantage to become a disciple of Christ. Don’t wait until you are being battered against the rocks before you begin to invest in the Word, fellowship and prayer.