By Rob Furlong
The mid to late Eighteenth century was a high point for British navigation and exploration of the world. In 1770 Captain Cook charted the Eastern coastline of Australia and in 1789, following the mutiny on the Bounty, Captain William Bligh navigated a seven-metre boat carrying 18 other crewmen 6701 kilometres to Timor and safety.
It was an era of remarkable acts of courage and seamanship but there was one thing every seaman feared: running their ship aground on an uncharted reef which inevitably signalled disaster for both ship and crew.
The problem was not so much running aground on our coastline's numerous reefs but the high likelihood that waves would pitch the ship on its side. Constant pounding of the ship's topside by waves crashing over the reef would quickly break up the ship – a possible death sentence for those on board.
Captain Cook had a close call when the Endeavour ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef, near to Cooktown as we know it today. Although the ship did not immediately pitch onto its side, Cook ordered the crew to dump into the sea whatever was unnecessary to their immediate survival, including the ship's valuable cargo and protective cannons. During high tide the lightened ship might then float off the reef towards shore.
The plan worked. The Endeavour and its crew were saved because Cook made the hard decision to throw off whatever was literally dragging the ship down to a watery grave.
Think in terms of your life being like a ship which has to navigate its way across the sea of human existence – our experience of life. At the end of the journey we all like to think that we will make it to port, to a safe harbour, secure in the knowledge that we have journeyed well.
Along the way we experience times when our ship of life is sailing well; the wind is for us and we make good headway. But sometimes the wind is against us and there is the ever present danger of unseen "reefs" that we can run aground on.
The "reef" may be a marriage breakdown or a rift with a close friend. It could be the loss of a loved one, a life threatening illness, depression or a breakdown. These reefs are threatening, they are very real and from time to time the ship of our life will crash into them. But they need not spell total disaster!
Like Cook, when we hit the reef, it is time to take stock of the situation, assess the damage that has been done to our "ship" and if necessary, throw overboard the excess cargo that we are carrying that will then enable us to re-float our ship.
The Apostle Paul spoke exactly of this experience when the ship of his life ran aground on the biggest reef he had ever encountered – the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. Years later when he wrote about this experience Paul described his life as a ship that was filled with valuable cargo – his Jewish heritage, his ancestral lineage, his religious fervour and his commitment to the Jewish religion – but he came to the conclusion that "whatever was to my profit I now consider loss" (Philippians 3:7). In other words, the very things that he regarded as being valuable and that would assist him to gain a right standing with God he threw overboard that he might "gain Christ" (Philippians 3:8). Paul knew that he had to throw off everything that would hold back the ship of his life from making it safely to shore.
The reason all of this is possible is because of what took place at the first Easter some 2000 years ago. Christ died for the sins of the world on Good Friday and then rose physically from the dead on Easter Sunday to demonstrate His victory over sin and death. And since that time, millions of people have found hope and security in Jesus when the ship of their lives have been threatened to be sunk by the reefs of life. By throwing overboard the cargo that held them back from knowing Jesus they have discovered new spiritual vitality, forgiveness from sin and the knowledge that their ship will safely make it to shore at the end of their journey.
What do you need to throw overboard this Easter?