by Pastor Tim Burt
The Apostle Paul was made a prisoner for preaching the gospel. He was being taken by ship, to stand before and be heard by Caesar. God had warned Paul in prayer that this ship would be ruined in a storm. Paul warned the captain but the captain would not listen. Not long into their journey, they found themselves in the storm about to be shipwrecked as Paul had warned them. As I was thinking about this story, the Lord brought this particular verse to my heart. Acts 27:44 “The centurion ordered all who could swim to jump overboard first and make for land. The others held onto planks or debris from the broken ship. So everyone escaped safely to shore.”
This may seem like an unusual verse for God to bring to my heart, but as soon as I remembered it, the Lord spoke these words: “Good relationships are like planks from a sinking ship—grab onto them and they can save your life. Especially if you don’t know how to swim.”
There is nothing glamorous about planks from a sinking ship and yet they were the lifesaver that many of the men on this ship clung to. God wants you to have relationships in your life that are like these planks. They aren’t necessarily best friends or even people who you hang with all the time, although that could happen. They are just God-loving people who you associate with in some way. These relationships are precious because they help remind you of who you are in Christ and the purpose and mission of your life—to be a light for Jesus and a touch of God’s love to those God places in your life. Those relationships help spur you forward as we read in Hebrews 10:24 (NIV) “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” I’m in two weekly small groups and we do exactly that to each other!
For 39 years I have come just short of begging Christians to find or put together a small group of like-minded Christians whom they can talk about the word of God and pray with together. Sometimes it’s as simple as studying a Bible verse or a Bible devotion together. I have personally never not been in some kind of small group of Christian men for the past 39 years. I have always built relationships with godly men who love the Lord whom I can talk and pray with. It isn’t that these men are always guys I hang out with or socially do things together with. They are men that help fulfill the biblical role of Iron sharpening Iron in my life. Guys or gals, it’s the Lord’s will for your life!
In a group like this, you have a place to share thoughts which are sometimes great, and other times, need to be put in check. God is in the midst of a group focused on Him. The Holy Spirit speaks through everyone in the group in such a way that the things that are said bring correction, instruction, direction and wisdom, and plenty of love and good laughs. No one is directly trying to correct or instruct each other. The sharing and transparency of each other’s thoughts and lives just produce that result.
Over time they become friends who have come to know you and love you—as you in turn grow to love them. They care about you and will stand in prayer with you in those stormy times. They become a plank in the worst of times. They help to produce a stability and growth in your Christian walk that is like nothing else. Church community is critical to your growth and stability in Christ. When you decide to create a group for this purpose, God will help you! I’ve had a saying for years that is absolutely true! You can pick your friends but God picks your better friends. Let Him show you what He can do as you yield yourself to it! In time, you’ll have watched God help you bring a group of people together that you would have never imagined. And through that group, you will become planks—lifesavers to each other. And truly special friends with people you would have never picked yourself.
Ecclesiastes 4:10 (TLB) “If one falls, the other pulls him up; but if a man falls when he is alone, he’s in trouble.”
In His love,
Pastor Tim Burt
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