On September 17, 2013, the MS Costa Concordia was winched upright. It was a marvel of engineering to refloat the sunken ocean liner. The ship will be floated away in spring 2014 to an Italian dock to be scrapped.
On January 13, 2012, at about 9:45pm, Captain Francesco Schettino commanded the vessel in the Tyrrhenian Sea just off the island of Giglio, on the western coast of Italy. The captain deviated from the ship’s computer-programmed course, claiming he was familiar with the local seabed. He turned off the alarm system for the ship’s computer navigation system and was navigating by sight.
The vessel struck a rock which tore a 160 foot gash on the port side of her hull. The engine room was immediately flooded, causing the ship to lose power to her propulsion and electrical systems. With water flooding in and the ship listing, the ship drifted back to Giglio Island, where she grounded just 550 yards north of the village of Giglio Porto, resting on her starboard side in shallow waters.
Despite the gradual sinking of the ship, its complete loss of power, and its proximity to shore in calm seas, the captain waited over an hour before issuing the command to abandon ship. Although international maritime law requires all passengers to be evacuated within 30 minutes of an order to abandon ship, the evacuation of Costa Concordia took over six hours and not all passengers were evacuated. 32 passengers died in the disaster.
Captain Schettino is currently on trial for manslaughter and causing the loss of the ship. He was dubbed “Captain Coward” when he abandoned the ship, jumped into a lifeboat, and refused commands from the coastguard to return to the ship to coordinate rescue efforts.
Perhaps you don’t wrestle with bringing a cruise ship safely into harbor. Maybe rising debt has caused your financial ship to run aground. Perhaps you and your spouse have drifted apart and you are more roommates than happily married. Maybe stress has prompted you to seek refuge in alcohol or drugs and as a result, you have a hole in your life. Have any or all of these scenarios caused you to neglect or doubt your relationship with God?
In 1 Timothy 1:18-20, the apostle Paul tells his protégé Timothy to anchor his life with sound doctrine if he wants to avoid crashing on the rocky shore. We need to take these lessons to heart if we want to avoid a reef tearing a hole in our lives as well.
Paul resumes the introduction he began in verses 3-7. Timothy was to stop false teachers from leading people astray. They misunderstood the purpose of the law (8-11) and the nature of the gospel (12-17). Rather than run aground of myths, Timothy was to anchor his life in sound doctrine.
In order to fight the good fight, we need to anchor our lives in truth and obedience. We need faith and a good conscience. Knowing the truth is not enough. We need to put it into practice. A good conscience is the rudder that keeps us on the path of truth and off the rocky shores.
As Paul explains, not everyone follows this advice. Some reject this truth and suffer shipwreck. Paul lists two primary examples, Hymenaeus, who taught the resurrection had already happened (2 Timothy 2:17), and Alexander, who caused Paul a great deal of headache (2 Timothy 4:14). Their opposition to Paul and the truth demonstrate that ministry involves combat. We are in a spiritual battle.
In 1995, the Chief of Naval Operations told the following story about a radio conversation between a US naval ship and the Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland.
Americans: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a Collision.
Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.
Americans: This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.
Canadians: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course.
Americans: This is the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln, the second largest ship in the United States’ Atlantic fleet. We are accompanied by three destroyers, three cruisers and numerous support vessels. I demand that YOU change your course 15 degrees north, that’s one five degrees north, or countermeasures will be undertaken to ensure the safety of this ship.
Canadians: This is a lighthouse. Your call.
Perhaps the lighthouse of God’s Word is signaling you to make a midcourse correction in your life. To avoid shipwreck on a rocky shore, we need to anchor our lives in sound doctrine. We need to make a commitment to study the Scriptures in order to grow in our understanding of God and his word. In addition, we need to follow our conscience and obey what we learn. We need to make a commitment to believe God’s promises and obey his commands.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on November 24, 2013. It is part of a series on 1 Timothy. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.