When I was in the Boy Scouts, I spent a full week at summer camp learning how to be a lifeguard. I began swimming at a young age and had always been comfortable in the water. But learning how to deal with and save another person proved to be far from easy. The class was over 30 years ago, but I still remember it for all the interesting information as well as it being physically challenging. We learned that for a lifeguard, jumping into the water to save a drowning person is always the last option to take – it should only be done when no other option is available. This is why you will normally see different things around pools for lifeguards to use such as long poles with a hook-like loop at the end, rescue tubes, life rings, etc. I remember being taught that if we were at a place where no tools were available, we were to be resourceful and use whatever we had on hand to try to reach the victim who is drowning – even to use things like the very jeans we were wearing, which could be used to reach out to the victim and pull them in. Why is jumping in the water and directly swimming up to the one who is drowning the last resort? Well, a drowning person is a force to be reckoned with. They are usually in a panic, flailing their arms around looking to grab on to anything they can and they are not in a place where they can reason well. Even the most skilled, strong swimmers can easily be grabbed and pulled under water – and even die – from others who are drowning themselves. It is risky business and this is why a lifeguard’s job is so noble.
Switching our conversation to spiritual things, I would argue that Jesus Christ is the most noble of all Lifeguards. Just as a lifeguard usually sits atop a platform so as to see all the swimmers, Christ, before he was born, was in a perfect place of glory and love, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Yet he saw our condition and recognized that we could not save ourselves.
John, in his story about Jesus says this about him: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-2, 14, NIV)
It is important to remember that Jesus existed before he was born on this earth. Jesus became flesh, he was willing to leave heaven and face the dangers and perils of this world. He was willing to risk everything in order to perform the most fabulous rescue of all!
There is no partiality with God – he demands the same thing from everyone: perfect righteousness. Because no one is perfectly righteous, we all find ourselves in the same situation: drowning and in need of rescue. That’s the bad news. The good news is that God supplies what he demands. The giving of his only Son was a great sacrifice but it was the only way for us to be rescued – the only way we could be given life. If we, out of our own strengths and abilities, were able to save ourselves, then he would not have needed to rescue us.
Consider Ephesians 2:1-5 (NIV):
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
Before we are saved by Jesus, the Bible says we are “dead.” It says this because without Jesus in our lives we are separated from God and are slaves to sin – our sin controls us. Another reason why it says we are dead is because a dead person can do nothing to change their situation – we are totally powerless to save ourselves. Paul also talks about our ability [or lack thereof] to save ourselves in Galatians 2:21: “if righteousness could be gained through the law [obeying rules], Christ died for nothing!”
If I was ever drowning in the sea and rescued by a lifeguard, I know there is one thing I would do the rest of my life: look for ways to thank him/her and honor him/her. This is how those who have been rescued by Jesus seek to live their lives: in gratitude for what he has done and wanting to do everything possible to honor him.
Perhaps if you feel like you have never been saved and given life by Jesus, you can admit your situation to him. Admit that you have sinned and are not perfectly righteous and accept his provision as a Savior.
The words of this song that my daughter learned at VBS this past year may be fitting for your prayer:
“Lord, here I am. And the waves are crashing all around. I need you God and I need you now! Rescue me, I can feel the water rising. Rescue me, Jesus. Rescue me, Lord I'm in so deep and I feel powerless to save myself, only you can be the help I need. Rescue me. Rescue me. Jesus, rescue me.”
A prayer that is something along those lines may be the kind of prayer you need to pray today. I would also add that it would be good to declare to him what you need rescuing from. There may be many things going on in your life that make you feel like you are drowning, but the biggest reason of all and the most that God save you from is from your own sin.
Questions to consider:
Do I feel like I have been rescued by Jesus, or am I drowning in the sea of life?
Do I understand what Jesus rescues me from?
Am I living a life of gratitude to Jesus for what he did to me?
For further reading: Philippians 2:5-11