By Pastor Glenn Pease
Ed Spencer was a hero of one of the worst shipwrecks ever on Lake Michigan. He was studying for the ministry at the Methodist Seminary in Evanston, Ill. On the night of Sept. 8, 1860 he was awakened by the shouts of other students in the dormitory. A shipwreck had taken place not far away. And excursion ship had collided with a lumber freighter, and 400 people were out in the cold water struggling for survival. Ed jumped up, dressed, and ran the 3 miles to the lake. A strong undertow discouraged many who would have become rescuers. But Ed was a strong swimmer, so he plunged into the chilly waters. The waves were high, and debris hit an cut him, but he was able to make 15 trips and save 15 lives.
He was resting by a fire drinking a cup of coffee when the shout came, "There are two more!" In spite of his exhaustion, he plunged into the surf again, and made it to a peace of wreckage where a man and a woman were clinging for life. He brought them in, and then he collapsed. 287 people drowned, and 98 survived, 17 of them because of Ed Spencer. He never became a minister. His body had been so severely weakened, and he became a invalid who lived out his days in California. As an old man he was interviewed in Los Angeles, and he was asked what he most remembered about the great rescue. "Only this," he replied, "Of the 17 people I saved, not one of them even thanked me. You would think people would be forever grateful, and write him notes of thanks, and even send gifts.
Not everyone has a thankful heart. Only one out of 10 that Jesus cured of leprosy bothered to come back and thank Him. People can even take a miracle for granted, and not be thankful. Not being thankful is one of mankind's greatest sins. It shows that man is blind to the grace of God. To go through life and never say thank you to God is to live the ultimate in the cursed life. Paul says this was one of the main causes for the wrath of God to fall on mankind. Why have so many nations been plunged into darkness? Why do many people live like animals and wild beasts? Why must human creatures live like savages? Because they were not thankful. They took all of God's gifts, and enjoyed the wonders of life, and never once said thank you to God. The result is, they lost God's best, and, instead, had to endure His worst.
It is one of the most stupid things you can do, to go through life and never thank God. But you might say, what have I got to be thankful for? I'm not exactly living in the lap of luxury, just killing time waiting for my Rolys Royce to be fixed. I am aware life is not easy for many, but the fact is, there is much to be thankful for, even with all of life's trials. Even on the physical level there is food, shelter, and clothing available, because there are people who care, and why do they care? Because they are aware that Jesus cares about all people and all needs, and that He met the deepest needs of all men.
Thank God for the forgiveness of sin. All are equally guilty before God, but all are equally free to receive pardon, and be cleansed from all sin. Dr. Cook represented Christianity in the worlds fair many years ago. All of the religions of the world gathered to share their virtues. Dr. Cook came to the platform when it was his turn, and he told the story of Lady MacBeth. She plotted the murder of Duncan, and was filled with guilt. She walked the floor looking at her hand she felt was blotted with blood. She would cry out, "Damed spot! Out, I say," and then in despair moan that all the perfume of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Dr. Cook turned to the representatives of the world's religion and said, "Ladies and gentlemen is there anything in your religion that will take the stains from her hands, and the guilt from her heart?" None responded, and then he said, "I present to you a Savior who can, for the blood of Jesus Christ God's Son cleanses from all sin."
There is a lot of good in the religions of the world, just as there is a lot of good in soap, and the chemical products of men, but nothing can cleanse from sin but the blood of Christ. Thank God there is such a Savior, and thank God you live in a land where the knowledge of this good news is known. What does this mean for you? It means hope, no matter how foolish or sinful you have been.
There is a psychiatrist in New York City named John Rosen who works with catatonics. He moves right into the ward with them. He sleeps in a bed next to them. He lives with them and shares their daily life. If they don't talk, neither does he. He is just there. He puts his arms around them and hugs them. This M.D. and PHD is a highly skilled and highly paid physician, but he gives up his life of freedom to be limited by their needs. He loves them back into life and reality, and often when they begin again to speak their first words are thank you. If people could understand what Jesus has done for them, they too would say, thank God for Jesus.
We need to thank God that there is no such thing as a hopeless person. If there was such a person, it would have been Mel Trotter. He staggered home drunk one night, and found his wife crying and wringing her hands. She said, "Mel, the baby is dying. The doctor just left and he gave me this prescription." She said, "Here is 60 cents. Take it to a drug store and get it filled. Be careful Mel, it is all we have." Mel Trotter took the money and headed for the drug store, but one the way he passed a saloon and went in, and he spent the money for drink.
That night when he staggered back home his wife was clutching in her arms the lifeless form of a dead baby. The next day when the baby was buried, Mel was in the saloon. He sold some of the babies things, and got money for more drink. This was so low it even hit him, and he realized he was not fit to live. He decided to jump off a bridge in South Chicago. On his way he came to the old Pacific Garden Mission. Some of the guys he knew were standing around the door, and they said, "You seem nervous Mel, come on inside." They pushed him through the door, and Harry Monroe, the man who led Billy Sunday to Christ, went to work on Mel. He shared with him the good news that he could be forgiven, and set free from sin, and become a child of God. Mel Trotter accepted God's offer that night, and came out of darkness into God's marvelous light. He went on to found 63 Gospel Missions across America, and he led thousands of others to Christ.
Thank God there is a rock for every man to stand on, and Jesus is that Rock. There is a foundation for everyone, and nobody needs to go through life without security. Many do, but not because it is necessary, or because God wills it. God wills just the opposite, for it is His will that every man have a solid foundation on which to stand, walk, and to build. There are many who feel like the poet who wrote-
I wish that my room had a floor.
I don't much care for a door.
But this floating around,
Without touching the ground,
Is getting to be quite a bore.
It is boring and disturbing to have to float through life and never touch base with what really matters. It is this lack of foundation that leads to all of the unhappiness of life. The fall of man is really more like the suspension of man. What fell away was the solid foundation of his relationship to God. That fell away and he was left hanging like an astronaut in weightless space. Now you can get used to this in a space ship, and adjust to it, but man can never get used to living without a foundation. The man who floats and does not have a solid foundation, never builds a life. He just drifts through life. He is like a balloon loose in the air. If the air blows West, he goes West. If it blows East, he goes East. Up and down and all around, tossed about by every wind of circumstance, and never really in control of his own life.
I think there is a lot of truth to the idea that people have their hell right here on earth. It think the man who is lost, and who is on his way to hell, certainly gets a taste of its symptoms here. Hell is always pictured as a place with no meaningful activity. It is a lake of fire, and what can you do in a lake of fire but float in meaningless misery. It is a place of utter darkness, and like floating in dark space with nothing visible or meaningful. The man who has no foundation in this life is getting a taste of hell, just as the man who builds on the Rock of Christ, and is established on this foundation, gets a taste of heaven-a place which is always pictured just the opposite of hell. It is solid, with mansions and glorious walls; with gold streets, and full of meaningful activity.
Every life on this planet falls into one of these two categories: The floating life, or the foundational life. The reason all of us can be thankful is because God offers to us all a solid rock on which to stand. He has provided a Savior who will forgive our sin, and who will help us start over with a foundation on which to build. You can choose to float, or choose to stand on the solid Rock of Christ. The Bible says the wise man will build on the Solid Rock.