The Day I Almost Drowned

I will never forget the day I thought I was going to die. It was summer of 2006 and my friend Christopher Berera and I were swimming in the South Saskatchewan river near Saskatoon. Neither one of us were very good swimmers but we were having a great time and somehow managed to cross the river and explore the other side. When we decided it was about time to go, we walked a ways upstream knowing that the current would carry us down, and we wanted to land somewhere close to where all our stuff was. Christopher and I noticed there was a sandbar in the middle of the river, so we planned to stop there and rest, and then cross the rest of the way.

 

Well, as you may have guessed, things didn’t exactly work out as planned. We had never swam across a big river before and we underestimated the strength of the current. Christopher was able to land on the very end of the sandbar, but I missed it completely. However, instead of just turning and heading back to shore, I tried to swim against the current to where Christopher was on the edge of the sandbar. Bad idea! Trying swim against the current was like stepping on a treadmill going 30 miles an hour. It was an impossible task. In the midst of it all, when I had completely exhausted my energy reserves, I thought I was going to die. It was only for a few moments, but let me tell you, it was scary.

 

From this hopeless situation, I prayed the only prayer I knew how to pray. “GOD SAVE ME!” It was a prayer that I don’t think I had ever prayed before – at least with that sense of desperation. Almost immediately, I realized (by the grace of God) that I needed to turn back and not attempt to cross the river in my exhausted state. I tried to swim in a way that used as little energy as possible and it proved to be effective. Though I wasn’t aware of it at the time, Christopher had decided to swim back too. We reached the shore at about the same time and both collapsed in exhaustion. (Our dilemma was resolved after Christopher made a make-shirt raft which allowed us to cross the river).

 

It has been said before that in the midst of great suffering and desperation, no one is an atheist. That is true. No doubt, countless souls have cried out (like me) in desperation to God, knowing that He is the only one who can save them. But while many people recognize their plight when their physical life hangs in the balance, most don’t realize they have a spiritual problem that is even more serious than any life-threatening situation. And just like my near-death experience, it is only the Creator God that can save them.

 

Whether you know it or not, you are a sinner. You have broken God’s law, and you are deserving of death…..eternal death (Romans 6:23, Ezekiel 18:4). One day your physical body will die (Hebrews 9:27) and you will enter into eternity. We just don’t know when our day will come. In the book of James, it says, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). This past weekend, there was a bus crash in rural Saskatchewan (not far from where I grew up) that claimed the lives of 15 people, most of whom were young men. I am certain that none of them woke up on Friday morning believing it would be their last day….yet it was.

 

As we look back on our lives, there have been times where we could have perished from this earth. But according to God’s sovereign purposes, we are still here today. It is only God’s grace that has preserved us. However, one day we will die and enter eternity. We might be old and full of years, or we might be young with seemingly many years in front of us. Whatever the case, the only way to be prepared for death is to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20). In short, you must repent of your sins and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 1:15). The Scriptures make it clear it is only the Lord Jesus Christ that can save you (John 14:6, Acts 4:12). The Bible also teaches that our salvation is not due to any merit or worth of our own, but wholly of grace and must be received through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).

 

Twelve years ago, when I thought I was going to die, I cried out to God and He saved me. However, one day I will die……and you will too. The question is – are you ready to meet your Maker? Have you been forgiven of your sins and granted new life in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)? Be encouraged because if you haven’t, it is not too late. There is no magic formula as to what you need to say, but if you are genuine, there will be a sense of desperation. You will cry out “God save me from my sins!” You will acknowledge that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is the only way for you to be saved and forgiven. And you will express a desire to follow Christ and be his disciple (Matthew 28:18-20) for the rest of your days.

 

Praise God for the salvation we have in Christ! Praise God that in the midst of a world filled with pain and suffering, where vast multitudes are looking for answers, we have hope! May you look to Christ (Hebrews 12:2) and the salvation that only He can bring.

Of Passports and Faith

Last summer, we made a last minute decision to visit my family in Saskatchewan. For most people, taking a summer trip (even if it involves crossing international borders) is not that big of a deal, but for us it was. Our twin daughters were almost 4 at the time and our son John was almost 2, not to mention that Steph was at the midpoint of her pregnancy with Jeremiah. Needless to say, we felt strongly that God was leading us to make the 2000-mile trip to visit my family.

 

Forgive me for going into so many details, but you need to have this background in order for this post to make sense. For the better part of a year, Steph and I had wanted to get John a passport but for several reasons, it had been put off. Finally, at the end of May 2014, we sent away for John’s passport and were told it would arrive in 4-6 weeks. Not long after that (around mid-June), we made our decision and booked our flights.

 

Having booked flights to Saskatchewan without yet having John’s passport, we knew we were taking a bit of a risk. We knew that our mid-July trip was beyond the 4-6 week range that it takes for them to process passports, but there was no guarantee. For 2-3 weeks as we waited for the passport, Steph and I fretted over the situation. We asked ourselves, what do we do if the passport doesn’t come in time? Do we cancel our trip? That didn’t seem right because God had impressed it upon our hearts that we needed to make this trip. Finally, after praying about it and asking God to come through for about the millionth time, it hit me that my faith was lacking. Did I think that if I just prayed enough times, that finally when I got to the magic number of ???, that would be enough and God would come through? I don’t know, but it kind of seemed that way.

 

Like most everything, the Bible has something to say about this. In Matthew 7:7-8, Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and the one who knocks it will be opened.” Or consider James 1:6: “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”

 

As a pastor, I often encourage our people to pray and to make prayer a way of life. The true Christian is someone who communes frequently with God and has hunger to increasingly know the Savior. But is it possible to be good “prayers” and have our approach all wrong? You bet it is! Like my illustration above, we can find ourselves going frequently to God in prayer, but not praying “the prayer of faith” (James 5:15). Sometimes as Christians, we tend to hope God comes through instead of truly believing and trusting that we have what we have asked for. Let me give you one more passage of Scripture: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him (Christ), that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15).

 

When we ask anything according to God’s will, the Apostle John tells us we already have it. It’s as good as done. This is not “name it and claim it” prosperity theology. It is simply what the Bible teaches us. Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24). I fear that far too much of our praying is not done in faith and this needs to change.

 

So what about the rest of the story? The passport arrived about 5 weeks after we had sent it off to be processed, and well over a week before our trip. By that time God had already convicted me and the lesson had been learned. But as write this, almost a year later, the faith lessons continue. I praise God that Steph and I have grown so much in the area of faith and trust in Christ, but we still have a long ways to go. Lord increase our faith!