Thursday, January 5, 2012
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I've frequently visited the beaches on the East coast with my family. Oh, we love them! One visit, it wasn't just another day with the family at the beach. No. No, see, the lifeguards at Ocean City, N.J. suddenly made everyone get out of the water - fast! And you know what I'm thinking. I'm thinking "Jaws"! So I was really cooperative. I got out real fast! Well, instead, it was all about these two children, and they had to plunge in and rescue them because they were in trouble out by a jetty there.
And then there are those times when you just can't wait for the big guys to get there. That's what happened with 12-year-old Nicole Kissel who was boogie boarding about five months ago on Washington's Long Beach. And suddenly she heard somebody screaming near her, "Help! Help!" It turned out it was another 12-year-old. It was 7th grader Dale Ostrander. He was there that day with his youth group, and suddenly he was in deadly trouble in the surf.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Within My Reach."
Nicole actually was able to maneuver over to the drowning boy; she pulled him onto her board and started paddling toward shore. Then this huge wave came along, threw them both off the board and carried the board away. Nicole managed to resurface, but there was no trace of Dale. It took the surf rescue team about ten minutes to get to the scene and a few more minutes to find Dale and bring him to shore. Honestly, the rescuers didn't think he'd make it. I remember seeing them bringing him ashore just as limp as a dish rag. But miraculously, he was revived and began recovering.
Now, I'm grateful for courageous guys like those trained rescuers at Ocean City or the guys who were there at Long Beach that day. But it's young Nicole who's my hero in this story. The professionals were doing what it's their job to do. Nicole didn't have to risk her life to save someone else's, but she did. And they believe now that she kept him out of the water just long enough to have made the life-or-death difference.
She took the risk for one simple reason. That person who was in danger was within her reach. Now, if she had said, "Oh, I'm not a rescuer...I'll just wait for the guys who do this for a living," Dale would almost surely have been lost. Which is causing me to ask myself, "Who is there within my reach who may die if I don't do something?" That's "die" as in the words of the Bible, a person who "will be taken away because of his sin"...who "will die for his sin."
Our word for today from the Word of God, Ezekiel 33:8 tells us "I will hold you accountable for his blood." Sobering words! Why will I be held accountable? Because I knew that as the Bible says, "whoever believes in Jesus shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
When you let Jesus help you see the people in your personal world through His eyes, you'll see them as more than just coworkers or neighbors or fellow students or customers. You'll see that person as an eternity person, a future inhabitant of eternity in heaven or in hell; someone whose eternity can be changed, if only I'll reach out and tell them what I know about Jesus.
Each of us who knows Christ has someone within our reach who doesn't. And we can't just wait for that "professional rescuer" or "someone who has the gift of evangelism" to attempt the rescue. The rescue responsibility rests with the believer who is there. There's nothing random about where we work or where we live or recreate or go to school. You've been divinely positioned to be God's designated "lifeguard" for your stretch of beach.
And why don't we reach out? Why don't we try to rescue? Fear: fear of being rejected, fear of losing, fear of messing it up. Fears that have one thing in common: they're all about me. Young Nicole was scared that day. She said, "I actually said out loud, 'I'm going to die.'" But her fear didn't decide what she did. Her bottom line in her own words, "No matter who it is, if they need help, I will risk my life. I will do it."
Well, that is just like Jesus.