By Alan Walker
All references are New International Version
We often use boats and ships to describe life events or circumstances that impact us. For example, “His ship has come in” means that good fortune has arrived. “We are all in the same boat” means we are all in the same circumstances.
Being a lover of boats since I was three years old, I wondered what to think when, recently, our personal ten-foot Sea Doo sank at the family cottage dock while we were in the city. When sharing the news with a prophetic friend, I asked him if perhaps it was a sign. Before he could reply, the Lord answered. Matthew 16:3 says You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. I would normally put myself in that category, along with most people. However, with the Lord’s help, I was willing to take a shot at understanding what the sinking of our Sea Doo had to do with the current times we are in.
We often think of boats and ships in describing a church, a ministry, an economy, and our personal finances. For example, if we say that the wind of the Holy Spirit is changing, it suggests that the captain of the ministry, the pastor in the case of the church, needs to change the direction that the ship (church) is pointing, in order to catch the new wind in her sails. Many churches have become “dead in the water” because they were trying to catch yesterday’s Holy Spirit wind. If you can picture it, my Sea Doo might be likened to personal finances, our local church finances, and, last, our North American economy.
In the month of August in 2008 when I went back to the city from the cottage, the Sea Doo was in perfect condition—shiny on the outside, nice new cover in place, and securely tied up at the dock. It had been driving wonderfully well that day and looked to be in top-notch condition. No one could know that a potential problem was lurking.
When I returned to the cottage three weeks later, it was still tied to the dock, but it was floating a foot lower. Scum from the lake was on the outside cover, and the whole engine compartment was flooded and covered in oil and debris. There was no way to determine how this boat had flooded. It looked totally normal from the outside, but its structure was compromised somehow. Water had found its way inside the hull, probably from hitting something submerged under the water.
The first thing you have to do is resurrect the boat to make it float. Hello shop vac. After twenty minutes, she was floating, and appeared to have no leaks. What a mystery! It was towed to the marina and given to the mechanic, but he could not resuscitate the engine. With spark plugs removed, the starter engine ejected water, oil, and gasoline—not a healthy combination to create an explosion inside the cylinder to make an engine come to life. The insurance adjustor suggested that the whole boat might be a write-off. How could this little episode be a sign of the times for us to understand? How could I go from owning a perfectly good boat to one that potentially had no value at all?
I believe that the Sea Doo represents the financial boat that we are all in. On the outside, the North American economy, our personal finances, and those of the local church all look to be “shipshape.” However, there are cracks in the hull of our financial institutions. Many of our personal and church finances are just waiting for an “event” to allow the floodwater in.
As long as everything is in financial balance, we look good—life seems normal, even prosperous. But when something comes along to compromise our national or personal economic systems, the boat stops floating, and when it is underwater, the engine which creates wealth, will not work. The boat cannot go forward—we are “dead in the water.”
There is a hidden danger to our personal finances, those of the church we attend, and to the North American economy as a whole. It is an underwater obstacle that most cannot see. It is called “debt.” Proverbs 12:15 says The way of a fool seems right to him but a wise man listens to advice. Some may hear this warning message about debt and simply not see its significance. In my view, if this is a message from God, then it has to have a Holy Spirit ring of truth to it. Only He can confirm it to our hearts.
The Titanic is the most famous ship that sunk in the past century. In 1912, it was called “the largest, most luxurious passenger liner of her day—virtually unsinkable.” She was a symbol of innovation, size, power, and prestige. On her maiden voyage, the most likely reason for her demise, and that of over 1,500 people who died, was pride (a feeling of invincibility), an error in judgment by her seasoned captain (cruising at top speed through a field of icebergs), and a hidden danger that her builders had underestimated (that an iceberg could bring her down). Proverbs 11:2 states When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.
Some of the wealthiest families in the world died on the Titanic that day, perhaps a sign of the times of the coming economic depression or sinking of major wealth. Almost one hundred years later after the loss of the Titanic, we can see many parallels.
First, in our North American culture, we have that same sense of pride or belief of being invincible. Second, one error in judgment that we may be guilty of is believing that our government leaders can save us in a crisis. Last, the engineers of our financial system, businesses, individuals, and churches underestimate the hidden danger to our “ship” that sits just below the surface like an iceberg—leverage or debt. Scripture offers more insights. Habakkuk 2:7 says Will not your debtors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Then you will become their victim. Proverbs 22:7 states The borrower is servant to the lender.
We can see the tip of the debt iceberg with the financial turmoil of October 2008 and afterward that the world finds itself in. Businesses and individuals are drowning financially to the left and to the right. A system of greed, leverage, and a feeling of entitlement are catalysts that Satan loves to mix together in our lives to bring us down. We do not wish to be as these individuals described in Psalm 82:5 They know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
In the fall of 2008, 30 percent losses in stock markets in thirty days eliminated trillions of dollars of wealth, which few experts had forecast. I Thessalonians 5:3 tells us While people are saying ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. Our Father is the Lord of the “suddenlies.”
Without God’s intervention, I believe that the world’s financial systems could collapse in our lifetime. Just as no one foresaw the disaster of the Titanic, and I could not foresee why my small Sea Doo would suddenly sink into the water, so I believe that an unknown force could cause the house of cards to come crashing down. Revelation 18:17, in speaking about the future, tells us In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!
In my view, that time is not now. What we are seeing today is a time of shaking of personal, business, church, and government finances and a testing of character at all four levels. Those elements which are not of God will be eliminated. The Lord wants to prosper us as Proverbs 21:21 explains He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor. He will not pour it out on shaky foundations that will crumble and waste His blessing.
The good news for today is that the engine of the Sea Doo did eventually work, with a lot of coughing and sputtering, just as I believe the world economies will do in 2009. In the future, those without debt will have the best chance of surviving and even prospering, no matter what the winds bring, in order to help those without resources.
So what can we do next? We can garner a plan to eliminate the debt in our churches and in our personal finances as soon as is possible. We can encourage our governments to spend less, using the difference to reduce national debt. We should also keep our eyes on the Lord for wisdom, protection, and direction. Psalm 25:15 says My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare. We can have faith, believing as I Peter 3:12 teaches us For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.
In conclusion, When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils Luke 11:21-22. One interpretation of this Scripture might be to say, in our culture, that the strength of man is the wealth of man. It is what many put their faith in. It is what they believe protects them. One who is stronger than the wealth of man is Satan, wielding the sword of debt and preying on greed, a sense of entitlement, and lack of good judgement in order to steal, and kill and destroy John 10:10.
One who is stronger is Jesus who took on our debts on the cross. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full John 10:10. We have a choice as to which strong man we choose to serve. If it is money or Satan, representing the world’s ways, we are sure to lose what we value. If it is Jesus, representing heaven’s ways, having learned to be good stewards of what He has given us and keeping our eyes upon Him, we will have protection and peace.
Because I believe it is one of God’s goals to bring us all closer to Jesus, if He wants to sink my boat to get my attention, I am okay with that. How about you? Better the loss of a lifeboat to learn a valuable lesson than the whole ship. And just maybe, in the future, we will be able to better interpret the signs of the times.
This article was published by the Morningstar Journal in April 2009.