In the coverage of the recent rescue of a group of boys and their soccer coach from a cave in Thailand, one theme that keeps coming up is “luck”. People – including a Thai military commander – have referred to a “lucky break” that changed the water conditions from zero visibility to clear enough for divers to navigate.
But was it luck? Really?
“There’s been a lot of prayer going up,” a woman in Sault Ste Marie told me, after the rescue was complete. A woman in Victoria, who would never call herself “religious”, said that the night before they were all out, she went to her knees and prayed for them.
Indeed, it would be hard to imagine any church anywhere, that would not be including that situation in its congregational prayers. You might call it, “putting Jesus in the boat”.
Let me explain.
All three of the “synoptic” Gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke – describe an incident where Jesus and His disciples set out in a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee. A great storm comes up at night, and the disciples, fearing for their lives, wake Jesus – who’s asleep in the stern – and say, “Master! Don’t you care that we’re perishing?” Whereupon Jesus commands the storm to cease: the waters are calmed and everyone is safe.
One of the rescue divers in Thailand told how when he first tried to reach the boys, the mud and turbulence in the water reduced visibility to nil. Worse, there were tight turns, some of which led away from the boys. He also had to fight a strong current. “This is crazy,” he thought at the time. Then suddenly, as I say, the waters cleared to the point where the divers could see what they were doing, and they pounced on the opportunity.
Luck? Hardly. I’d say that’s a case of God, responding when people called out to Him to help those people, and saying to the waters, “Peace! Be still!”
Remember, Jesus says “if any two of you agree on something in My name, it shall be done.” By that token, it would only have taken the prayers of those two women, even though they were far apart and didn’t know each other, to “put Jesus in the boat”.
There’s something to keep in mind here: once Jesus calmed the sea, He and the disciples weren’t magically teleported onto the shore, like something out of Star Trek. He went back to bed, and the disciples still had to row or work the sails (it’s not clear which). Moreover, at least four of the disciples were fishermen, who would have had nautical knowhow.
In the same way, God – through Jesus – did not make the boys vanish from the cave and reappear on land. Rather, He cleared up the waters leading to the cave to the extent that the divers, with their expertise, physical strength and heart to lay down their lives, were able to do their job. (I took some training in Emergency Operations, and we were taught that the top priority is the safety of the emergency personnel – not the people needing to be rescued. At any time, those divers would have been justified in saying, “It’s too dangerous for us – we’re leaving them in there.” But their heart overpowered the conditions. Is that God At Work, or what?)
The Prophet Isaiah says, “the Lord ... makes a way in the sea and a path through the mighty waters.” (Isaiah 43:16 NKJV)
There’s also the “sidebar” story that’s worth noting: the fact that Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, SpaceX and The Boring Company, had his engineers build a “child-sized” mini-submarine to help in the rescue. Some cynics suggest it was just a PR gambit, but regardless, it would have earned his companies some corporate goodwill.
But the sub was deemed impractical for the job, and the humans – with God’s help – succeeded.
It’s a reminder that we can’t always rely on technology in a crisis, but we can always rely on God. Don't ever think your prayers go unanswered or are a last resort. Often, they're all we can do; and always, they're all we need to do.
So, if anyone deserves a Public Relations boost because of this, it’s The Big Sir. It’s up to believers in Jesus to make sure that happens. “Declare His glory among the nations,” the Psalmist writes, “His wonders among all peoples.” (Psalm 96:3); while the Isaiah says, “Let them give glory to the Lord and declare His praise in the coastlands” (Isaiah 42:12).
Peter tells us, “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may declare the praises of Him who brought you out of darkness into His own marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
We have wars in our world today; also terrorism, trade wars, volcanoes blowing up, earthquakes in diverse places and strife over things that hadn’t seen strife before.
But in Thailand, we’ve heard a message from God, loud and clear: “Hi! I’m still here! Go and tell anyone you meet!”
Drew Snider is a writer and former broadcaster who pastored for ten years on Vancouver's Downtown East Side. He's an occasional guest speaker at churches and writes a blog, "Two Minutes for Cross-Checking!"
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