The name Titanic evokes a myriad of images and ideas -- overstated opulence and seemingly invincible technology; icebergs lurking as hidden dangers; senseless destruction and death; families separated by the ocean’s cruelty; and fragments of dreams floating away on splintered wood or buried in the ocean depths.
Some villains emerge in the stories and history surrounding this horrific tragedy, such as the shipping magnates who put a higher priority on breaking world records for transatlantic crossing than on passenger safety. Clearly, pride went before destruction (Proverbs 16:18), and those in charge failed to be prudent and foresee the danger (Proverbs 22:3)
No doubt there were cowardly men who leapt into the lifeboats intended for women and children, or even dressed in women’s clothing to steal their passage to safety from those they should have been protecting with their own lives (Ephesians 5:25).
Yet some images offer more hope and a more shining example. The musicians remained faithful to their post and to their calling (Colossians 3:23), continuing at first with the usual lighthearted melodies the passengers found entertaining and pleasing until their world literally turned upside down. But with God there are no coincidences, and it is no accident that their last song as they slid off the deck was “Nearer, My God, to Thee.”
Hollywood has given us its version of the Titanic hero: Jack Dawson. Fortune seemed to smile on this drifter and artist as he won a ticket on the “unsinkable” luxury liner and got to hobnob with the upper class. He even wooed and won the heart of Rose, who was engaged to a cruel and selfish aristocrat. First Jack saves Rose from killing herself; then he shows her that love and joy trump riches and power.
But what may have started out as a romantic attraction deepens as Jack proves his love for Rose with his ultimate sacrifice – protecting, warming and encouraging her as she barely hangs on to life on a piece of floating wreckage, then succumbing to the frigid waters himself moments before she is rescued.
Yet there is even a more profound example of a true hero, not the figment of a screenwriter’s imagination, but one who graced history with his presence and who now is eternally in the presence of Grace Himself.
John Harper was a Baptist pastor from Great Britain who trusted Jesus Christ as His Lord and Savior at age 14 and began preaching at only 18 years of age. When he boarded the Titanic for a several weeks’ preaching engagement at the Moody Church in Chicago, he was age 39 and already a widower.
After the Titanic struck the fateful iceberg, he safely placed his 6-year old daughter and niece in a lifeboat and then began preaching the Gospel to anyone who would listen. Those few who survived to tell the story said he especially quoted Acts 16:31: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
The cry of the desperate crew was “Women and children to the lifeboats,” but Harper added “and the unsaved” to their instructions. As the ship began its fatal descent, Harper leaped into the water with no concern for his own safety. He swam from person to person struggling to stay afloat, preaching the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15) and begging them to accept Christ.
Four years after the tragedy, a survivor came forth with his own testimony. He at first shut out Harper’s pleas, angry that God would allow him and all the others to fall into this desperate plight. But as Harper continued to preach, he became convicted that he was a sinner in need of a Savior. He repented of his sins and called on Jesus Christ to forgive him and to enter his heart as his personal Savior.
The peace that engulfed this young man must have been unimaginable (Philippians 4:7) – his physical death appeared to be imminent, and yet he was now assured of eternal life (John 3:16) with his Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer.
Harper clearly sensed the urgency of the situation and laid down his life that others might live eternally. Yet isn’t our situation just as urgent? We are not promised tomorrow (James 4:14), so shouldn’t we spend every waking moment leading souls to Him? Not all of us are called to preach or to teach, but all believers can be missionaries in our unique sphere of influence, by telling others of how Christ has changed our life (John 4:39) and by letting His love and light shine through us (Matthew 5:16) as a testimony to His saving grace.
As the Titanic so clearly proved, earthly riches, status and power are fleeting. We can spend our lives foolishly acquiring these for our own satisfaction, but we can’t take them with us when we die (Luke 12:16-21). Instead, we should store our treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-20) where we can enjoy their eternal rewards, for where our treasure is, our heart will be also (Luke 12:34)..If we try to save our life, we will lose it, but if we pour out our lives to Him, we will gain everlasting life (Matthew 16:25).
May we all have a heart for the lost and perishing, and make it our utmost priority to share the Gospel with them. As Harper summoned every last breath and bit of strength to witness, he could not have known the hearts of those who listened or the work of the Holy Spirit in that shallow, hardened, or even fertile soil (Matthew 13:3-8).
But I am sure that when Harper met Jesus face to face on April 15, 1912, that Jesus greeted him with: Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord (Matthew 25:21)
I imagine Jesus then added: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
© 2012 Laurie Collett
Glad you shared.
Thanks, Denise! God bless,
A very moving blog. I too watched "the Titanic" and was moved by the characters in the movie.
Certainly John Harper was a shing light in the midst of the crisis. Thank you for sharing about him in your article. I did not realise of his existance before reading your blog.
But as for wealth, splendour, status and so on, basically as I see it, the Titanic was the embodiment of the British Empire, which was at its height in 1912. With the Titanic, an edict was made that the ship was so unsinkable that not even God was able to sink it.
We now realise how dangerous this edict was, as it was clearly putting God to the test, and more so, shaking the fist in defiance of God's omnipotence and sovereignty. This was also the general mood of the Empire where human merit, grit, determination and destiny were held above that of God's will and his grace on this earth.
A great article. Thankyou for posting.
Thank you, Frank, for your uplifting words. Excellent point that the Titanic can be viewed as a symbol of the British Empire. Whenever man elevates his own ideas and values above God, disaster follows, as was the case with the Roman Empire and Nazi Germany as well.
wow...Laurie...this is SO good!! I did not know this story. How challenged and encouraged I am by it! Thank you so much for the telling....and the challenge!
Thanks so much, Lindsey V, for visiting and for your very kind comment! I am blessed to hear that you are encouraged and challenged by this post.
Love in Him,
love this - I have always had a burden for souls - this is such a wonderful reminder - we get so caught up in our day to day lives - but we must not let go of the big picture
This is such an awesome post Laurie. It gives serious food for thought and is very inspirational.Thanks for sharing and have a good Monday.
Isn't it interesting the movie industry had to invent a hero because they couldn't accept the real ones?
A Frank pointed out, the attitude that even God couldn't sink the Titanic was representative of the British Empire's attitude. Today we see a similar attitude in America. I can't help but wonder what our Titanic will be.
Thanks, Kelli, for your comment & for following! May God bless you for your burden for souls and open doors for you to lead many to Him!
Thanks for your sweet words, Judy, and for hosting!
God bless you,
Great point, dfish. Every great civilization is at risk of destruction once they turn away from God. Sadly, that attitude and those actions are rampant in America today.
Wow, Laurie, I had never heard about this man. What a great testimony! Thanks for sharing.
You're very welcome, Eileen, & thanks for your comment!
I read about this man. Heroes of faith are common people, who's life, mind and heart is full of love and full trust in Jesus. Greetings and blessings to You! :)
Our pastor referenced this in his sermon Sunday. God is in control. What a wonderful testimony to leave behind. Makes me ask myself what others will say about me.
Blessings to you
Thank you, Laurie, for sharing John Harper's story...so inspiring. Blessings to you :)
Yes, Zim, it is inspirational to hear of how God does extraordinary things through ordinary people who trust and love Him!
Thanks for your comment, Pamela! May we leave a Godly example of a life spent for Him to those that follow us. I know that I and so many others have been blessed by knowing you!
Love in Him,
You're very welcome, Dolly, & thanks for your sweet comment!
Your posts are always so packed. Love that about your writing.
Thanks, Brandee, for the kind words! Have a blessed weekend!
What an interesting post this was...
Thanks so much, Wayne, for your visit & kind comment!
That is such an interesting story. Thank you for joining in the fun at the Thursday Favorite Things hop. Happy weekend wishes xo
Hi Laurie! Thanks for sharing this post with my NO RULES Weekend Blog Party :)
Thanks, Katherine, for your sweet comment & for hosting! God bless,
Hi Paula! Thanks for hosting & for your comment! May you have a blessed week in Him!
I had never heard this story. What an amazing testament to a faithful warrior for Christ. Thank you for sharing this in the prairies this week.
It's lovely, as always, and makes an impact...as always.
You're very welcome, Michelle, & thanks for your kind words & for hosting!
Thanks for your kind words, mail4rosey! You are a great blessing and encourager!
Love in Him,
Beautiful how our loving God pursues us...even to the very end. \0/
Thank you for sharing this!
This man surely shared God's heart so that others might live eternally with Him...Amen!
Thank you for sharing this remarkable and little known part of history! Also thank you for following me at Seven Flowers...love and blessings..Nicole
Thanks, Nicole! God bless!
Amen, Deborah! It is awesome that our Creator loves each of us infinitely, and even more so that He gives us the opportunity to bring others to Him.
Thanks so much for your visit & comment, & God bless.
You're very welcome, Nicole, & thanks so much for following & for your sweet comment!
Love in Him & God bless,
Thanks for sharing this story and for linking up at FunkiPlanet.com this week. It was interesting to read this.
Thanks, Debi, for your comment & for hosting!
I thought this was an interesting read. I, too, wrote about Titanic earlier this year, and it seems we made some similar points, though I didn't talk about John Harper. I did have a link at the bottom of my page to an article about him, though, and I used his story as a sermon illustration the same week at my church. If you're interested in my post about Titanic, here's a link: http://truthwithoutexcuse.blogspot.com/2012/04/im-king-of-world.html - but I just wanted to say I thoroughly enjoyed this. Keep up the good work! :-)
Thanks so much, Kyle, for your encouraging words and for giving me this link. John Harper would be a wonderful sermon illustration -- may we all be inspired by his zeal for God and passion for souls.
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