I once took a group of Soldiers on a white water rafting trip to the Youghiogheny River (pronounced Yah-kah-GAY-nee) in southern Pennsylvania. Instead of using 8-person rafts, all 30 of us attempted to navigate the river in inflatable kayaks (aka “funyaks” or “duckies”). This proved to be a very bad decision.
These “duckies” were significantly less stable than your standard raft. Most of us capsized and had to be fished from the river. I was among them. I tipped over numerous times—once at the very beginning of a half mile stretch of class IV rapids. It was a rough swim and I took quite a beating. But in the grip of those turbulent waters, a man in a kayak paddled up to me and shouted, “Grab on!”
At that moment, I don’t recall having any inner debate on whether or not I should grab hold of the kayak. I have no recollection of mulling over in my mind, “should I continue to fight for my life or should I let this guy help me?” In retrospect, it seemed like grabbing hold of the kayak and holding on for dear life was an act of impulse, the only thing to do. I was desperate for help. And at the just right moment someone showed up. Immediately, I accepted his help.
Was that an act of freewill or was I simply behaving like a marionette on strings? Well, I believe I was exercising my freewill, for if I was angry or resentful toward the man in the kayak, I very well might have refused his help.
But that grabbing of the kayak in a moment of desperation was certainly an act of faith. I was clinging to the only available help and trusted the kayaker to lead me to safety.
You know, clinging to that kayak is an illustration of saving faith. Picture the apostle Peter attempting to walk upon the surface of the Sea of Galilee to Jesus (Matt. 14:22–33). It was like a baby taking his first steps walking to his daddy. Initially, it worked. Peter was walking on the water.
But when he became distracted by the wind and waves, he took his eyes off the Lord and began to sink. At that moment of sinking, realizing he was in “way over his head,” Peter cried out to Jesus, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately took hold of him, pulled him up above the water, and the two walked back to the boat together. Peter’s cry for help—like my grabbing hold of the kayak—saved him and visibly fulfilled the promise from Joel 2:32, “Whosoever calls upon the name of the LORD shall be saved.”
Gift of God
Though many have trouble accepting the simplicity of salvation by grace through faith, it is truly that simple. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this salvation is not of yourselves. It is the gift of God. It is not the result of works, so that no one may boast,” Paul proclaimed in Ephesians 2:8–9. Salvation does not spring from or depend upon our own human efforts.
Salvation is the gift of God. Therefore, it has to be God and God alone who saves us.
For it is God whom we’ve offended (Ps. 51:4) and it is from God’s glory that we have fallen short (Rom. 3:23). Only God can reach down to our level and bring us up to His. We simply realize we are in deep, deep trouble—sinking in waters way over our heads. Yet suddenly, appearing just in the nick of time is Jesus Christ. He is Master of the sea and walks upon its surface effortlessly. We call upon the Lord—grasping hold of the only help available—and He saves us.
Depending on Christ
And our instincts prove right. The kayak that I grabbed and the Christ to whom Peter cried proved worthy of our faith and dependence. They saved us. With our mouths we have cried out to Him and with our hearts we have believed in Him—and He did not let us down. We found the Scripture to be true which says, “He who trusts in Him shall not be disappointed” (Rom. 10:11).
Whether you find yourself sinking in a sea of guilt and condemnation or you’re in-over-your-head with problems, remember that Jesus is there for you. He always shows up at the right time and He is worthy of your utmost trust and dependence. Call out to Him. Grab hold of Him. He will help you and will never let you down.
Dear Lord, in my weakness and overflowing trouble I call out to You. Save me, Lord, for I am sinking. Lift me up and make me victorious over all my troubles. Amen.