|Volume 24 Number 11 November 2022
It grieves God that myriads of people are lost. He paid the ultimate price for our sins, through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, so that all might be saved (John 3:16; Romans 5:8-9; 2 Peter 3:9). What are some reasons, then, why multitudes remain in their sins and will be eternally lost (Mathew 7:13-14)?
Some have allowed the devil to snatch the Word out of their hearts (Matthew 13:19; Luke 8:12). He cunningly deceives them with his “thou shall not’s” as he did with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:4-5). He is called “the great dragon,” “that old serpent” and “the Devil and Satan who deceives the whole world” for good reason (Revelation 12:9).
Some, not loving truth, even to the point of despising it, have been deceived. Paul graphically described such a process along with its results (2 Thessalonians 2:3-15). They exchange the truth for the “pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:12).
Some simply love sin (John 3:19). Our current culture reflects the words of the Lord, for we surely live in a time wherein people are thrilled by the “darkness” of sin rather than the “light” of truth! A large segment of the populace revel in unrighteousness.
Some diligently seek the praises of men more than the praise of God (John 12:42-43). Many crave the praise of their peers. It has long been and continues to be the goal of a large segment of humanity. Trading God’s approval for the praise of man is not a smart decision (2 Timothy 2:15; Matthew 16:24-26).
Some follow man’s religion instead of following Jesus (Matthew 10:37-38). It may be the religion one’s parents, as seen in the above text. It may be the religion of a favorite theologian or philosopher. Whoever it may be, there is no substitute for the Christ. In Him alone is salvation found and are all spiritual blessings enjoyed (Acts 4:12; Ephesians 1:3).
Some mistakenly trust in their personal morality to save them (Romans 1:16; Ephesians 5:23). The centurion Cornelius was of impeccable character and morality, and yet, it was necessary for him to hear, believe and obey the Gospel to be saved (Acts 10:1-4, 22, 33, 43, 47; 11:14).
Some just neglect salvation (Hebrews 2:3). Though of vital importance, religion is allowed to slide to the back burner – if not completely off the stove! Lots of folks talk about their “bucket list,” but when it comes to spiritual things, their buckets have no bottom! Sadly, this phenomenon is not just true of “worldlings,” but it is also true of many church members. The writer of Hebrews was, after all, writing to Christians!
Let us ever be on guard and never neglect the “great salvation” only realized and received in Christ!
Just Keep On Paddling
I had the opportunity to attend a meeting of the Alabama Scenic River Trail this past Monday. I was amazed to find out that there are over 5,300 miles of accessible waterways in the State of Alabama. It was stated that this mileage is more than any other state except Alaska. The main portion of the River Trail runs 650 miles from the waterways of northeast Alabama to Fort Morgan in the Gulf of Mexico. It is amazing that this state has such a topography, from the mountains of the north to the beaches in the south.
One of the speakers at the meeting was a gentleman that my coworker and I guessed to be in his 70s. Earlier this year, he and a relative, in two kayaks, paddled the entire 650 miles of the main trail. It took them 34 days to complete it. It was amazing to hear him recount the trip. I cannot imagine paddling across a pond, much less paddling for 34 consecutive days. Some days, he said, they went maybe 3 or 4 miles, while some days they went 18 or more miles. It depended on conditions and weather. The point was, however, no matter what the conditions, they just kept paddling.
At one point, he was talking about the strong headwinds that they occasionally faced, especially as they neared the gulf and the final stretch. He said when those strong headwinds came, “You either paddle or you go backwards.” That phrase really struck me. I mentioned it to my wife, and her reaction was basically the same as mine: “That sounds like life to me.”
Sometimes in life, the going is not difficult. We can kind of put it in cruise control and do alright. The paddling is easy at that point with very little resistance. We still have to paddle, but it is just not as difficult. However, when difficulties come, when things are not easy or when we face the rough seas, that is when we have to make the concerted effort to keep on keeping on. Either we paddle or we go backwards.
John recorded these words of Jesus to the church in Smyrna in Revelation 2:8-11.
And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death. (NKJV)
Paddle or go backwards. Stay faithful even in the face of persecution and difficulty. A good portion of the New Testament epistles are written to encourage Christians to stay the course or to be faithful no matter what comes their way. It was obvious from the words of the kayaker that sometimes the paddling was not taking him forward, but it took all of his strength to keep from going backward. There are times in life when we feel like we are paddling as hard as we can, and yet, we cannot see any progress at that moment. What we have to do is to keep on paddling. Eventually, with the help of God, we will begin to move through the problems and difficulties that blow against us like a heavy wind. We will see the victory if we just keep on paddling.
When the kayaker reached Fort Morgan, all of his efforts paid off. Every sore muscle was vindicated, and strong headwinds were overcome. He enjoyed the journey, but he was excited to reach his goal. Let’s enjoy the journey, despite the difficulties and hardships we may face. Let’s live life in service to God. Let’s decide that we are going to paddle instead of letting life take us backwards and away from God. Remember, paddle or go backwards!