Sermon

The beauty of the Bahama Islands is one of those precious few things in life that is beyond description. I can describe for you how the ocean and the sky on a bright, sunny day are both so blue, the horizon is indistinguishable. The sky just disappears into the sea. But the true beauty, the powerful allure the Islands hold for me lies in it’s very existence. You’re familiar with the concept of “wilderness” when describing land such as Montana, Alaska, and Northern Canada. But for me, wilderness includes vast and remote areas covered by water. Clean water, clear water, water as clean and clear as the oceans can make it. Where this water interacts with coral reefs, sand, and islands, that’s what we call the Bahamas.

We’ve been living aboard the boat for 5 days now. Right now we’re anchored in the lee of one of the many coral reefs in the area. The nearest dry land is 30 some miles away, but because you can see the bottom, it doesn’t feel like you’re that far at sea. This is my wilderness – hundreds of square miles of water, ranging in depth from dry rocks protruding from the water, to crystal clear water 30-35 feet. This is where the bounty lies, where the ocean interacts with the coral reefs and small islands, incredibly rich and abundant with marine life. Conch for conch chowder, conch fritters, and for the health conscious, conch salad. Lobster are abundant, but unfortunately they don’t climb into the cook pit by themselves. So we dive, dive for lobster and dive for conch. Grouper, snapper, and untold numbers of fish migrate through the islands in Spring and again in Fall. Fishing can be highly productive. 

But for me, my favorite time of all is early morning. Imaging taking a fresh, hot cup of coffee up on the bow to watch the sunrise. The boat rises and falls in perfect rhythm with the sea. The anchor line groans with the strain, then relaxes. The sky is cloudless, and once again blends as one into the sea. Swirling my coffee, the only thing on my mind is deciding what I want to do first – dive for lobster, or fish for grouper. As long as my beautiful wife is there with me, I can’t imagine how life could possibly be any better. I am content. 

Paul knew what it was like to be content like this. Paul was a man of the sea, a sail maker by trade. He tells us, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned to secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. For I have learned that I can do all things through Christ Who gives me strength.”

In America today, many people have confused contentment with materialism. We have come to believe that to be happy, we need “things.” I would be content if I just had more money in the bank, or if I lived in a bigger house, or if I bought a new car like the neighbors did. If I could just get everything I want, I’d be perfectly content. But we all know that’s not true. 

Paul was well familiar with that kind of thinking, the belief that what we own has the power to determine how we feel. Paul reminds us that there were times in His life when he had an abundance of possessions, and there were times when he went without even the barest necessities of life.

What Paul learned from all of that, from experiencing both the good times and the bad, was this – Paul was content because he knew that no matter what, God was his friend, and God was always right there with him. He knew that he didn’t have to worry, that he could turn to God at anytime. Paul was no wimp, he was a man hardened by the perils he had faced, including being shipwrecked. There were times when Paul was utterly crushed, and there were times when Paul was perfectly content. And through it all, God was right there with him.

You and I have the very same God Paul had, and we have the very same promises from God that Paul had. The same God Who loved and cared for Paul loves and cares for you. So great is His love for you, He left His throne in heaven and came to earth as your Savior and friend. Jesus came to take your place, to suffer and die for your sins, so that you will never have to face them. Jesus died to destroy the guilt of your sins, and rose from the grave 3 days later to destroy the power of death. Knowing that you have a God Who is willing to be more than just your Savior, but your friend, as well. Do you still believe that you need all kinds of material possessions to be truly joyful and happy? 

With a boat, where you choose to drop your anchor may well make the difference between life and death. That beautiful blue sky and sea, like so many things in this world, has a dark side. In the Florida Straits, the waters between the Bahamas and Cuba, produces some of the most powerful super-cell thunderstorms on the planet. And for some reason, I don’t know why, in the Islands, the strongest storms strike between 1:00am and 4:00 am. And I promise you, there is no chaos you will ever experience like that of trying to survive one of these storms in pitch black darkness. 

If you practiced good seamanship and anchored where the reef provides a good bite for your anchor and some protection from the waves, it may be an adrenaline rush, but you should be able to weather the storm. But if you anchored out in the sand and failed to take advantage of the protection of the reef, the same reef that could have protected you may well end-up ripping the bottom right out of your boat.

Personally, I believe that it is very pleasing for God when His people are content. God doesn’t want you life to be filled with stress, pressure, and chaos, that’s what the devil wants your life to be like. God wants us to be free to experience the “Fruits of the Spirit:” love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Those who believe in Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires, and now live by the Spirit.

Near the top of my “Bucket List,” is, as you might have guessed, just a few more mornings sitting on the bow, watching the sun rise, and experiencing that beautiful peace and contentment.  What about you, where is your “happy place?”. Amen.