Jim Girton - California Convention - 1978

Proverbs 30:18 – 19, “There are three things which are too wonderful for me…. The way of a ship in the midst of the sea…” The Bible gives us many pictures of God’s people and this one likens them to the ship in the midst of the sea. I really enjoy going by ship and am pleased when the sea is smooth, often times there is peace and calmness but sometimes there is a storm.

Psalm 77:19, “Thy way is in the sea, and Thy path in the great waters, and Thy footsteps are not known.” God’s way in the world is not marked as the world would know it, with signs, posters, organisations or collections. To the world, God’s way is invisible:  “hid from the wise and prudent but revealed to babes.” To those whom God has bought to know His truth and way as it is in Jesus. His way works in every land the same. A man once asked, “Don’t you have any other publications, besides a Bible?” And added, “If we didn’t continually send out books to people, they would be absent or on a vacation.”

Ships go on a course. One trip, we travelled on New Documents and went down a narrow passageway where it stopped, blew its whistle, and from the shore came a little vessel. A man stepped out of it and came aboard our ship. He was a pilot and he took the helm as he knew the channel and guided the ship through some beautiful scenery and little villages and people walking on the sandy beaches. When we were on the sea of life and we listen to the gospel message, we paused and the servants of God came to us and Jesus boarded our ship and became our pilot and our ship was under His control. It is best to have Jesus at the helm, never for us to take control again. If we do take control, we will just go backward, out into the world where there is rocks and destruction. We want Jesus to always have the control of our boat.

Then there are times when the ship is in dry dock. It is taken to port and taken out of the water. Convention is like that. The ship is lifted completely out of the water. Here at convention, we are lifted completely out of the waters of this world. Much of the work on the ship is done on the unseen part of the ship. Same with us, God works on our hearts for only God knows what work is needed there. This work takes time. When the ship is in dry dock, work is done on the rudder. It has to be adjusted and then it is easier for the pilot to control the ship. If we saw a ship in dry dock, we would notice many little barnacles on the outside of it. They are just little things, but they might be 3 inches thick and they have known to have amounted to 100 tons in weight and you would know the effect of this on the ship’s progress. There are a lot of little things that can accumulate on us. One time, someone was using a swear word and I looked at them, then sometime later, I used that word and a sister worker said to me, "You cannot use a word." There is no problem now. A little boy came to the table and asked, "Is this a bad word?" He was told, "If it bothers your conscience, don’t use it." Convention removes many little things that makes our life more efficient.

We would see many people working on that ship in the dry dock because the time is short. Convention is a time of special cleaning, inside and out. When in the dry dock, a ship gets a thorough cleansing, there are parts of it that are hidden. There is no part of our life hidden from God and He desires that we should be completely cleansed. Sometimes a weak place is found in a ship and a steel plate has to be put on it. Sometimes our patience becomes thin, for our flesh becomes weak and there has to be some repairs. A little water won’t sink a ship, but in time if continued it would, so there is need for repairs.

Then there is a cargo ship, it has a purpose, life has an assigned cargo. Galatians 6:5, “For every man shall bear his own burden.” Everyone can be useful and everyone is needed. Sometimes people don’t have much to give at a Sunday morning meeting, but all are needed. In the Philippines, some islands have mangoes, some islands have pineapples and they all share. If there was no cargo in the hold of the ship, it would be a desperate feeling. Some of the villages there are fishermen, they go out to sea to fish and sometimes they get fish and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they are out for a long time and their wives get anxious, but they say, "We don’t mind whether you get fish or not as long as you come home safe." Then when there’s certain little ships not in the meeting it causes anxiety, but it does something to ensure God’s people that we are safe.

Proverbs 31:14, “The merchant ships bring food from afar.” Food for our soul comes from heaven. Whenever we labour, that is where our bread comes from, let us be like the merchant ship and bring food from afar. Then we can unload our cargo and be renewed to carry another load. When the ship is in the dry dock, the motor is worked on. The grade of God helps us, enables us to keep in the way of God. The fuel received in the dry dock carries a ship for a little while, good only for a certain distance. Likewise, we need to come before God to get fuel continually.

Psalm 107:23, “They go down to the sea in ships” then verse 25, “He maketh the storm calm.” In the life of a child of God, there will be storms. Jonah boarded a ship and there was a storm. He told the man, “Cast me out.” He knew he was the cause of the storm. There was nothing they could do but cast him out. Sometimes this ship, our life, must face a storm, when there is no peace, we may be the cause of it, we may even have to come to come to convention depressed. In the Philippines, there was a man who had a fighting rooster and he had no peace until he sold it, got rid of it, then he had great peace in his heart. God wants us to cast wrong things out so that He can give us true peace.

Paul said in Acts 27 that God took him into that storm. We are told we will have persecution, but God will be with us. There was once a little girl who used to get the room ready for the meeting. One day, another little girl came home with her and for half an hour ridiculed her, and the meeting, she set up a storm, but the next Sunday, the little girl was back again setting up the room. Experiences like that can be in the lives of the smallest of God’s children. Remember God will be with us in every experience. In the Philippines, we read of storm warnings; they are given to us so we can avoid them. As it says in Proverbs 4:14-15, “Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of the evil man. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it and pass away.” We are encouraged to avoid or pass by it. Children of God are warned not to go to certain places, good to trust God. I Corinthians 10:13, “There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man, but God is by Paul, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are not able, but God will with the temptation also make a way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” God will warn us and make a way of escape for us. One time, we went to a place in a little boat and crossed the bar, but the waves were high, but we went on and had our meeting there. Then we wanted to return, but the waves were very high, and a man said to us, "You don’t have to go back that way. I can show you our way over the mountain." It was not easy but it was a way of escape and it was safe. God will plan the way of escape if we heed the warning.

Then there was a ship that sunk, it was overloaded. They had kept putting on a little more, then a little more. This vessel had a load of logs that shifted and because of the overloading he couldn’t be corrected at sea. So it sank, lives and cargo lost. Martha was an example of being overloaded. Even things that are good can be an overload for us. Convention helps us to see our capacity more clearly, there is a limit for us. Good to have our priorities adjusted, the spiritual side of our lives adjusted. No matter when the storm may be we will be able to stand it. Jesus spoke of the waves roaring, but don’t let your hearts fail you for fear. If we are established, Jesus is carrying the load and lets us ride out the storm. “Establish your hearts for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.”

There was another experience when we were sleeping on the deck. I woke up and looked through a little crack in the canvas, there was a little light and the ship stopped and turned around. It was an SOS signal from a little ship that had stopped our boat, their motor had broken down and our ship hooked on to this little ship and towed it to safety. We are our brother’s keeper. Sometimes we may be able to help someone back to the meetings.

In the Philippines, there is a channel, a waterway, it passes under a bridge where islands are close together and there’s a big dock there. When the boats reach there, it is the end of the journey. When we come to the end of life, there is the safe dock, and that is Heaven and God and others will be waiting for us.

There was a ship called Victor at the end of the war; it was in use until last year. It kept going year after year, then it was scrapped and it had made its last trip and a new one took over. It is wonderful to see a life of a child of God who has been faithful, then God takes them home. Hope that we will always have Jesus at the helm of our ship and He will control the compass, our conscience to the journey’s end. Amen.