I saw a great harbour with a lighthouse standing on the outermost rocks.There were many ships being built, rigged and prepared for sea-faring to that distant and desirable destination – the Heavenly Harbour.Some ships were built on a large scale, looking magnificent, trendy, fitted out with many comforts and attractive features. These drew admiration from spectators on the shore, and many bought tickets for its maiden voyage. What many didn’t know was that sometimes these ship-builders sacrificed functionality and stability for aesthetics. Great sails were used because they were considered more romantic and spectacular, although some included a small motor just in case.They carried a cheap compass, more from tradition than for navigation. The inexperienced crew weren’t really trained properly to use it, mainly because they couldn’t see any real purpose for it. They preferred to use their own plans and charts and the “new navigational theory”.The captains on many of these ships were often more interested in the number of paying passengers, giving them an enjoyable voyage, than they were in the destination itself.They were motivated by a desire for fame or fortune.Some of these were well-meaning, trying to be as inclusive as possible to bring as many as possible to their destination. So, these were built really big, but a bit flimsy, due to the rush in getting it done.
A few other ships – though not as many – were planned and built by seasoned, dedicated mariners and experienced ship-builders, following the pattern set out by a well-worn manual. They concentrated on good craftmanship, using strong and good-quality materials that didn’t necessarily look as good. It was costlier to build these boats, so their size had to be reduced. A strong, efficient and reliable motor was installed along with serviceable sails on removable masts. They resembled big lifeboats than ships. They even carried large storm-lamps up in their rigging.The crew and passengers of the big, showy ships looked down on the smaller, seaworthy ships and criticised them for being so comparatively small. Some even laughed at and despised them for putting so much effort into strength and safety. They called them “aquaphobes” or “marinaphobes”, “worrying about storms that won’t ever happen”. They called them "Stick-in-the-muds" because they stuck to “that outdated old manual”, rather than using “up-to-date methods and theory invented by well-informed Sailor-school graduates”. They also criticised them for only taking on board those that were either experienced sailors, were willing to be trained, or at least preferred seaworthiness over size. The passengers of the big ships derided them. “You are so exclusive! You are such narrow-minded losers!”
The big, showy ships soon took to sea with a nice, balmy wind in their sails, laughing at the smaller ones still completing their rigging and training.The experienced sailors waved goodbye, warning them, however, to prepare for the storms that were forecast out in the deeper part of the ocean. The inexperienced crews mocked them for this, calling them paranoid. They hadn’t had storms in the harbour for years.As a further act of defiance, many of them threw their compass overboard. The experienced sailors watched this in dismay.
The big ships sailed well for a while, although the winds didn’t always blow the right way, slowing them down at times. Then they saw the smaller, well-built boats were catching up to them, because they were more streamlined and designed, if not for speed, at least for efficiency. The experienced and well-trained crew knew how to handle the winds well, especially the wind that blew in the direction of the Heavenly Harbour. This was intolerable to the trendy, ambitious captains, so they put up more sails to build up more speed.However, they didn’t notice the skies getting darker until it was too late.
The seaworthy craft were prepared for the approaching storm. They quickly wrapped up their sails, starting up their motors.The storm was a huge one, and the big ships were battered and tossed while the crews tried desperately to get the sails down. Annoyingly, (to the trendy crews) the powered and seaworthy boats kept going until they were out of sight.
But jealousy turned to dismay as the showy big ships saw huge waves rising with the wild winds, almost engulfing them. The passengers panicked, wailing to get off, crying “Why didn’t you listen to them?”The few ships that did have motors, started them up, but as many didn’t have compasses, they had to guess which way the seaworthy boats went. Some thought it was better to go back to the harbour, being closer. None of them knew how to use the compasses anyway, because they had thrown away the old manual. That was the only book that explained how to use them.One or two of the motorized ships that roughly guessed the general direction returned to land. But they were still too far away from the lighthouse to see it, and were tragically wrecked on unseen rocks.
Meanwhile, the rest of the fleet was in deep trouble. The “New Navigation theory” hadn’t worked, so many of them were helplessly tossed about, taking in water. The ships were already low in the water due to the number of passengers. They started leaking. Some of the flimsier craft began to break up under the stresses and strains of the heaving waves, not being designed to withstand them. Some began sinking, forcing the terrified passengers and crew to jump overboard and cling to whatever wreckage they could find, battling the huge, relentless waves.Finally, some captains of the remaining ships realised their folly and cried out to the Lord of the Heavenly Harbour in repentance, beseeching Him to save them.
Suddenly they saw lights approaching from a distance, with a rumbling sound of motors, just audible amongst the howl of the storm. It was, of course, the smaller seaworthy craft coming to rescue them, their storm-lamps shining like beacons of hope in their rigging. They had made it all the way to their destination. However, after their passengers had disembarked, the ships had been sent back by the Lord of the Heavenly Harbour. He knew of the other ships’ predicament of course.Ropes were thrown from the sturdy vessels to the distressed craft that were still intact.These were towed back to their home harbour. There they were pulled apart and thoroughly rebuilt according to the pattern of the old manual.
The souls that were swimming, adrift in the waves, could not be rescued until the storm abated a little, otherwise they would have been dashed against the sides of the boats and maybe killed. But the experienced and well-equipped crews threw them life-jackets and floats. Some even jumped into the water to assist those who were nearly drowning.Eventually, they were all rescued and taken back to the home harbour to recover.Some of those were so traumatised, they never put to sea again. Others were still keen, and they waited, even assisted in the rebuilding of the boats.
In the following year, a large fleet of strongly-built, seaworthy ships set forth from the home harbour. They were filled with humbled, chastened, well-trained, well-equipped crews and passengers who had learned a harsh lesson. They sailed across the great sea, enduring the storms, finally reaching the Heavenly Harbour without mishap.
Much of this will be obvious to most, but just to make sure there is no confusion, I will explain it as I understand it.
The ships I saw, I believe correspond to churches and corporate gatherings of God’s people, although much of the principles here also apply to us as individual believers.
The captains and the crew correspond to the ministries, elders, deacons and other leaders of these churches. The passengers were the congregations, believers and other attendees.
The dedicated and seasoned mariners were men and women of God who have learned and experienced the principles of the Word of God. They have also experienced the grace of God, and developed a relationship with Him.
The “well-worn manual” refers to God’s Holy Word, rightly divided.
The storm represents the troubles that are coming upon the face of the earth as a natural consequence of man’s disobedience and rejection of God and His standards.
There are seasons in the life of every church. During the building season, some churches were built on good scriptural foundations, others are built on the ideas of men.
Then there will be seasons of storms, where the churches will be put to the test. This will include not only the chaos that ensues from nations and churches that have abandoned God and His Word, but also persecution from those that hate God and His people.
The “seaworthy” churches will survive the storm. They will fulfil the Great Commission in bringing their people to real saving grace in Christ. They will also be used to rescue churches who are in trouble. They will also be used by God to throw lifelines to individuals who have foundered in their faith. Some faithful “crew-members” will actually go into their situation to help those who are struggling.
Then there will be a season of re-building, where churches that are still desiring to find their destiny in God, humbly repent and submit to the counsel of the faithful, building strong churches from the ashes of their own. Then there will really be revival in this land! But before that, we need to hear the sobering warning of judgment as in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15.
“11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”