Eva Hart was one of the survivors of the ill-fated RMS Titanic ship. He watched as the tragedy unfolded and lived to tell the horrifying story of the hopelessness of helpless souls trapped in a hapless situation. “The sounds of people drowning are something that I cannot describe to you and neither can anyone else. It’s the most dreadful sound, and there is a terrible silence that follows it” Hart would say.
Hart was Only seven years old when the infamous Titanic sunk. She was sailing with her father and mother. When things went awry, Hart’s father put his wife and daughter in the lifeboat, and that is how they managed to survive. That was the last time Hart saw her father. The father’s last words to his daughter were, “Hold Mummy’s hand and be a good girl.” The girl would witness the great ship, carrying around two thousand souls, her father included; disappear deep into the blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
According to Hart, her mother was troubled from the start of the journey and persuaded that something terrible was in the offing. As they walked into the ship, her mother would say that calling a ship unsinkable flew in the face of God. Hart would live 91 years and pen a book narrating the unfortunate events; Shadow of the Titanic, A Survivor’s Story.
“It seemed as if once everybody had gone, drowned, finished, the whole world was standing still. There was nothing, just this deathly, terrible silence in the night with the stars overhead.”
The Unsinkable ship
From the Word go, Titanic had been taunted to be the ship that cannot sink under whatever circumstances. It was now a well-published myth that the great ship was beyond powers of nature. The engineers who had designed and built the ship had done an excellent job. Everything was tightly fastened and intact. There was no room for mistakes and mishaps. The probability that the ship would sink was close to nil. That was how this giant ship was presented. Thus when the ship was brought low by an iceberg, the world stood still in shock and awe. Shoddiness and sloppiness in human ingenuity were now in the public square. The ship had been designed to stay afloat even if its 4 out of 16 watertight compartments were ruptured. However, a blow from an iceberg sent the ship 2 miles down the ocean floor.
To make matters worse, the ship lacked adequate lifeboats. Perhaps the operators were overconfident of its ability. The few lifeboats provided enabled Hart, her mother and slightly over 700 people to survive the imminent demise.
Experts who studied the ship’s remains say that the ship sunk not due to one factor but several of them. It was a cascade effect. Undoubtedly there were human errors at play.
Dr Luke and the Acts of The Apostles
The writings of Dr Luke show how meticulous, erudite and scholarly he was. He systematises his writings in a way that brings out details and chronology of events. It is an undebatable fact that Luke penned the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Bible scholars say that the Acts of the Apostles was written around A.D. 62-63AD. It was written after the Gospel of Luke. The fact that Luke does not mention the historical A.D. 70 fall of Jerusalem and the brutal persecution of Christians in A.D. 64 by Emperor Nero tell us that the book was written before those events occurred. Nero had levelled accusations on Christians as being responsible for the great fire that incinerated Rome in A.D. 64. These events are historically accurate, and no scholar worth his or her salt can dispute them. Luke’s writings in this Book may be ecclesiastical, apologetic, or both. But the main theological emphasis is the work of the Holy Spirit. Any serious reader would agree that Luke was not just a staunch believer but a highly educated man.
It also appears that the Book was written before Paul the Apostle was killed. Luke, as an accomplished scholar, and a friend to Paul would have given us an account of Paul’s death, the way he did with Stephen. A detailed study of the Book shows that Luke was very keen to record the death of martyrs.
The Book of Acts 27 narrates a story of a shipwreck that befell Paul, his friend Dr Luke and other voyageurs. I would call it the Titanic of Paul’s time. From the account, we can see Luke’s attention to detail. Luke is not just a physician but also a historian.
Paul had completed some of his greatest missionary journeys. He now had returned to Jerusalem and quickly put in confinement. This is followed by a shambolic trial and Paul’s appeal to be heard in Rome – before the Emperor of Rome. Thus they start the road to Rome. Paul was now under the watchful eye of the Centurion of the Augustan Cohort. He was also accompanied by two friends – the Writer of the Book and Aristarchus. At one point, we are told the Centurion allowed Paul to be attended to by his two friends; presumably to get medical attention and other comforts. It was not unlikely for a Roman prisoner to have such leeway as we find a similar recording from Pliny the Younger. He related an account when authorities allowed a prisoner to travel to Rome with his slaves.
“Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous…………”
As they journey on, albeit in turmoil and struggles, tangles and tumbles, Paul offered advice to the Centurion. He admonished the Centurion of the impending calamity. The Centurion rejected this advice in favour of the seasoned pilot and the owner of the ship’s counsel. Soon they got into more trouble, and their lives were on the line. It appears that what Paul foresaw was now happening and one would wish the Centurion would have listened to Paul. I think that Christianity was treated as superstition at that time, and possibly the Centurion thought Paul was superstitious. It is no surprise that Paul would tell us in the Letter to the Corinthians how hard it is for the natural mind to comprehend the supernatural packages (1st Cor. 2:14). There is a time in life when experience, knowledge, skills and prowess can neither prevent nor save a bad situation. No amount of education and experience can trounce the communion of the Holy Spirit.
“Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete………….”
Many times we think we know so much that we do not need counsel from anyone. Our long-term experience, vast skills and unrivalled knowledge may make us puff like puff adders and miss out on the pleadings of the Holy Spirit.
This was what was happening to the Centurion, the pilot and the owner of the ship. Doubtless, the owner of the ship was interested in profit, and this blinded him to the voice of God. It happens to us, too; we are so obsessed with material gains that we fail to pay attention to the voice of God. Our lives are characterized by busyness and business, and no time is set aside for the Voice of Reason.
The Centurion was a decorated military man. How can a polished military man take advice from a convict? How many times do we rubbish advice and help just because it came from a person not in ‘our league’? Pride and exaggerated feelings of self-importance have a way of stopping us from sailing in the direction of God. Take an example from the Old Testament’s story of Namaan. Who would have thought that Naaman’s healing would come from a vassal?
How many times have you judged people by looking at their state? No much mention is made of Julius the Centurion, but Apostle Paul is a household name, 2000 years after these events. We should swallow our bigotry and learn to listen to those we consider subordinate to us.
The captain of the ship was a man of skills and experience. Otherwise, what would he be doing in the Mediterranean Sea if he was a rookie! His skills and experience could not predict and avert the impending danger. And so it is with our lives. We brag about our years in salvation, our encounters with the Holy Spirit, our education qualifications and forget that all these are nice but cannot beat the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes what we need is not experience and skills: We need the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
Experience, skills, profits, titles, education and courage are good. But these cannot replace the wisdom of God.
Learn to heed counsel from reputable Christians.
Stop being your own physician. Even Paul needed Luke. We need Luke in our lives. We need a Paul in our lives.
Stay connected to the Higher Power through constant fellowship.
Do not stop rowing your ship even when you run into a storm. Offload the unnecessary baggage and strive to get out of the storm. After all, to a believer, nothing just happens. Paul’s shipwreck served as an object of a noble goal.
After having done all give God the glory.
Christianity is a journey. Tag along so as we may encourage and admonish one another. God can use you to stop a disaster. In the same vein, God can use that other person to stop you from running into an iceberg and wrecking your ship.