A Real Letter From a Shipwrecked Preacher
Bro. Cobb,
I just read your message on Shipwreck.  My heart ached as I read it because I am one of the shipwrecked.  I will share a little with you and please feel free to share it ....as you see fit just don't use my name please.  I was saved at a early age.  I used to preach on the front porch when i was five years of age.  My grandmother always called me her "preacher boy."  I surrendered to the ministry my senior year in HS 1976.  God allowed me to preach in many churches afterwards perhaps because of my young age.  I was on the radio a year later and preached on my own program for a year before going to seminary.  I attended a very conservative Baptist seminary.  Following seminary I was in a full time pastor in three different churches for 24 straight years up until 2005.  I loved studying and preaching and caring for people.  God blessed me with what I believe was a successful ministry.  All that is gone now. 
In 2005 I had an affair.  I resigned from the church I was pastoring at the time.  My wife of twenty years and I divorced.  I did something that I said that I would never do.  I did those things which I had so warned others of......I sinned not only against the word of God but against my own words.  Two weeks after my resignation.....my oldest son who was 24 at the time died unexpectedly.  I cannot help but wonder if it was because of my sins.  To make matters worse I ended up marrying the woman I had the affair with....she was 12 years younger and had twin boys.  It was a disaster, of course.  We divorced 2 years later.   The suffering that I have experienced since my spiritual shipwreck is indescribable.  I have literally had to fight to keep living and going.  To a large extent I have lost a lot of the purpose of my life..........preaching and pastoring were my calling...........I knew nothing else.  I entered a state of great depression where I could not sleep or eat.  I have lost my physical health which I believe is due to the emotional state and stress that I was under.  In 2005 I was a model of health....had always been athletic and active and took care of myself....but today (2008) I have diabetes, neuropathy, and severe arthritis.
Brother, I have not only preached hundreds of times about sin and the consequences of sin......but I have experienced it.  Pastors and preachers are just as much if not more susceptible than others......I am unable to preach or share my story but please let others know that the word of God is true.....and that you do reap what you sow. How I wish I had never taken my eyes off the compass........I would so love to be able to go to church and not feel such guilt.........I would love to be able to preach and pastor again........but that part of my life is over.   I believe more in the word of God and the truth of it more so now than ever before...........I know i'm probably rambling.....but one other thing.........please encourage the churches and Christians to help the shipwrecked...........please tell pastors and preachers to be compassionate upon those who have fallen.   God bless you.......take care.
John  (name changed)
The Shipwreck of Your Faith!
A Sermon Manuscript by Robert L. Cobb
Editor, NewsForChristians Dot Com
"Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away 
concerning faith have made shipwreck:"   1 Timothy 1:19

In Bible times the most dreaded catastrophe imaginable was the shipwreck.  It was comparable to train wrecks and airplane crashes in our day.  Some of the greatest disasters in history have been shipwrecks.  The Titanic and the Lusitania are great wrecks in American history.  The Bible also describes great wrecks on the waters.  I Kings 22:48 and 2 Chron. 20:37 tell of a great fleet of merchant ships that were lost at sea. 

In our text, Paul compares the catastrophe of a wasted Christian life to a shipwreck.  The word translated in the King James Bible comes from two Greek words naus, meaning a large vessel or ship, and ago, meaning to take, to bring to a point, to impel, to depart.  The combined word is nauageo, to suffer shipwreck.  A shipwreck indicates huge devastation, much despair, anguish, and misery.  Likewise a loss of faith and an honorable testimony leads to the same.  It is an apt picture, if you have ever encountered such a desolate soul as being described here.

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 11:25 that he was shipwrecked  three times.  One of those times was in Acts 27, as the Apostle Luke gives an account of a shipwreck in the hurricane-like winds off the island of Melita.  This shipwreck was in the providence of God, but mistakes and misjudgments by the sailors caused the disaster.

I know a man who was a pastor locally and teacher in a Bible college who fell into sin and lost it all.  He has bounced around as a salesman of cars and insurance and says that just to visit a Bible-preaching church sends him into prolonged depression.  He is assured of his ultimate salvation, but his Christian testimony is wrecked on the rocks of his sin.  His usefulness is gone; his joy is dried up; his song is silenced.  What a great catastrophe is the wrecking of a Christian's life!

How does this "shipwreck of the faith" take place?  Surely if we realize the pitfalls of such an experience we can avoid it at all costs.  The conditions that could cause shipwreck fit nicely as typology for a spiritual shipwreck.  Let us examine some of these potential causes.

A ship can be lost by bad guidance.  Ships today are guided electronically, but in ancient times the captain guided his ship by the stars.  Mistakes were common, especially by inexperienced sailors.  In the Christian realm, Paul reminds us to be careful of who we allow to guide our lives.  He says in 2 Timothy 2:16-18:

But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. 
We all know of examples of good Christian people having their faith overthrown by others with false doctrines. The word translated overthrown in the verse is anatrepo and it means to subvert or to undercut.  They seem to be "helping" the young Christian by introducing him to "deeper truths."  But often, those doctrines encourage sinful behavior or Pharisee-type behavior.  Romans 16:17 says, "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them."  We must all beware of the cultists and errorists who can trip up the unsuspecting or unlearned Christian.  Paul tells Timothy to "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

Storms are the cause of most shipwrecks.  In ancient times, weather forecasting was primitive.  The sailors many times had no idea when they were about to run into threatening weather.  The storms were out of the realm of their control, but they had to fight their way through them.  Also, we Christians never know when we are about to enter a spiritual storm, but we, too, must fight our way through them.  As in the example of Paul's shipwreck in Acts 27, the Christian can trust that the angel of God will protect them in the storm and through the storm.  "

We can have faith in the providence and sovereignty of God that He has a plan in any suffering we might endure.  It's easy to say we trust God when the south winds blow softly.  But when the great winds of Euroclydon blow, we will need all of the faith and hope God will grant us, so we can say like Paul, Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me."

Another way a ship can be destroyed is by sabotage from within.  Crew members disagree with the captain's leadership or fear for their lives for numerous reasons.  They rebel against the captain, take over the ship and restrain or even kill the captain.  Christians too, can be sabotaged in their spiritual lives.  At salvation, we are given the Holy Spirit as a Guide according to John 14:16-17.  But along with the spiritual nature we have a sinful nature, according to Romans 7:18-24...

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.  For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.  Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.  I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.  For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
No passenger would ever board a ship if he suspected that ship to be sabotaged.  No person enters into a relationship with Christ with the intention to fail or cause shipwreck to his faith.  But we have an enemy within ourselves, that wars against us, our own flesh.  When we succumb to the desires of the flesh, we cause harm to our spiritual side, we thwart God's purpose for our lives.  Galatians 5:16-17 says, "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would."  It is truly a sad story when a Christian falls because he allowed his flesh to destroy his testimony.  It is surely a destruction from the inside.

A last reason for shipwreck can be a lack of supply of essentials.  A good captain assures that he meets the needs of the crew.  He supplies them with food, water, medicine, and many other needs.  When weather or mishap prolongs the voyage, the crew is in danger of running out of supply.  Phillipians 4:19 tells the Christian, "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus."  We suffer no lack from the hand of our God.  But we can, by our own choices, not avail ourselves of God's available supply.  We gain spiritual sustanance from prayer, Bible study, worship at our local church, witnessing to others, doing good deeds for those in need.  If we shut ourselves away from our spiritual supply, we run the risk of shipwrecking our faith.  These so-called "little things" can be very important to our spiritual health.

So there we see four reasons why a ship may be destroyed at sea.  We constantly are reminded that "God forgives" and he certainly does.  In the altar call, we encourage backsliders to "make things right with the Lord," and certainly they should.  But we should also remember that some Christians can go "over the line" in their sin.  They do not lose their salvation, but they irrevocably lose their testimony because of prolonged or blatant sin.  These are they who make shipwreck of their faith.

Conclusion: In 1593, the Toby set sail from London toward Marocco.  She was laden with merchandise worth over $200,000 in our currency today.  As they reached the Barbary Coast, they misjudged the distance to land and let the mast stay in full sail through the night.  Before morning they ran aground to the destruction of the front part of the ship.  The crew of 50 men hurried to the hinder parts of the ship but the continious waves beat upon the ship until the whole of it was nearly destroyed.   They tried to construct a raft to escape the raging seas, to no avail.  They began to sing a sacred song and awaited the end.  Finally the foremast gave way and the final destruction of the ship was accomplished.  Thirty-eight men stumbled to their deaths at that moment, with only twelve surviving by lying prostrate on boards and allowing themselves to be carried to shore.  After that ordeal, the survivors were taken captive by local men and held for two years before finally escaping and finding their way home.

Just this past weekend (March 22nd, 2008), a fishing ship was lost off the coast of Washington state.  For thousands of years, humankind has suffered the misfortune of shipwrecks.  And in the Christian realm, we too, find believers suffering spiritual shipwreck.  May none of the readers of this message be one of them!

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