We have an Anchor
I am sure that many of you listening, will have often made the Ferry journey from Larne to Stranraer, or the journey from Belfast to Liverpool, or other similar ferry trips, and sometimes experienced a stormy or a choppy crossing. When a sailing vessel, a boat or ship encounters such a storm, depending on its severity, the Captain or Master in charge will endeavour to make for the nearest port, and drop Anchor, until the storm passes! It is a comfort to many on an “overnighter” to know that the ship is safely harboured and anchored until morning. The purpose of the anchor is to keep the vessel safe and free from any of the damaging effects of the storm or rough seas. It is to “tether” or “tie” the boat to a secure and firm spot on the sea bed. The anchor gives the vessel and the passengers confidence.
The writer to the Hebrews talks about an “Anchor of the Soul”? something that keeps the believer confident in God? In every crisis, the true believer will feel anchored to that source of strength and safety. Speaking of that connection, he says “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;”
My sermon today, entitled “We have an Anchor” is an attempt to assist us in keeping focus on that which secures and strengthens us as followers of Jesus. If you don’t follow Jesus today, then I have to ask you “what is it that anchors you in your crisis moments?” To what do you turn in the storms of life? The fact that life will hold its share of storms for all of us, is unmistakable and undeniable. Yet God doesn’t want his children to “go to pieces” in a crisis, God wants us to trust in Him, and in His promises, to rest and reflect on the love of a Heavenly Father and a Merciful Saviour.
So what is it that this Scripture describes as our “ANCHOR”?
Well, without going into it in any great detail, (for that is not my subject) it is simply, the inheritance promised the children of God and the Word of that promise, or the dependability of that word. Put simply, our Anchor is in His Word and in His Promises. The Bible says: Heaven and Earth may pass away but Gods Word cannot fail, will not fail! I may misunderstand the word, but the word describes me completely. I may fail to keep the word, but the word cannot fail to keep me if I anchor myself in it.
I may reject the word, but the word includes and involves me. When everything around me is falling and failing, Gods word will never fall or fail. I have anchored myself in it, and that anchor will keep me “steadfast and sure while the billows roll”.
When God gave his word to Abraham, (made him a promise) since he had no one greater to swear by, he swore by himself saying “surely I will bless you and multiply you”
Gen 22:16. God gives us his word, and guarantees it with his own reputation, he stakes his all on his word to us.
Now storms are not uncommon for the believer, Christian and Pagan alike will face the storms of life. The rigging, the construction, the timbers, the sails, the water-proofing and the crew of any sea-going vessel, are all tested, or put to the test by the storm. Storms will either show your strengths or confirm your weaknesses? Satan knows on what you have anchored? Is your security tied up in your job, your business, your skills, your qualifications, your health and well-being, your position or possessions, you family or friends. If so, then all of these can be so easily be brought down, torn apart by the storms of life, shattered and scattered by the winds of change. We have seen this in recent days as the world markets have been shaken, as securities have plummeted and as governments have been
panicked into rash and often ruthless economies? What many of us thought could never happen, has happened, and many have lost their jobs, their livelihoods, their businesses, their homes and their futures. The boom is now bust, … the bubble has now burst! The tragedy is that most of those hit by these storms, had no anchor and no solid ground either, in which to lodge it. Today their lives are in ruin, they themselves broken and shattered on the beach of life. Tossed up by the waves and winds of recent times, and right now they feel depressed, dejected and despairing. If this is how you feel, then all is not lost. It may be that all seems lost, but hope is not lost. When there is no earthly hope, there can always be heavenly help! Does God see the “ship-wreck” of your life? Does God see those broken dreams, the shattered promises, does He hear you cry, and does God care? Yes He does, but some don’t think so?
Some believe he does not care. Indeed I have heard some, say things like “if there is a God, why can’t he step into our mess and clean it up?” God is not in control of the world. (just look around you and you will see this) We have rejected His control, and taken it to ourselves or given it to the devil. God did step into our mess 2000 years ago, and in doing so, gave us the solution to all of our problems in Jesus; – but God will never be there for those who despise him. God will not step in to help those, who all their lives have lived without need of him?
Once we acknowledge our need of God, our need of Help, our need of a Saviour, and invite God to come to our aid, then and only then can He step in to our lives, anchor our souls and clean up our mess.
So why is it important for all of us to have an Anchor, to have a firm footing on the slippery slopes of life? Our storms may vary in their intensity, but either strong or weak, we will still need a rock to cling to when the vessel has been shipwrecked. The Hymn writer rightly describes God as the “Rock of Ages”.
As I said a moment ago, we will all encounter storms. It may be the storm of illness, the storm of unemployment, the storm of financial hardship, the storm of broken relationships, or some other storm. In my own experience many of my life’s storms were often stronger than I, and could so easily have uprooted my foundations. Like the natural storm in force brings down the mighty Oak Tree, equal evil forces might have dislodged my anchor, and left me drifting on the seas of life. But this has not happened, for I have Anchored firmly in something that cannot be moved? There have been many storms and many foes who tugged long and hard on that chain that joined me to my Anchor.
At times I felt that the chain or link was breaking, times when I felt that I would surely let go… but something way down in the depth of my Soul cried out: “I have an Anchor” and then I knew that no foe on earth or hell could dislodge me from that firm grasp and grounding in the word of God. Ministry, for the Pastor, Priest or People, is not a simple task, it is a battle, a warfare, a fight. Every day we step up to the front line of attack and Satan seeks to dislodge us, loose us from our moorings, erode our metal, and dissolve our spirits. Even the most Spiritually Minded among us, have to fight for faith every day. As I have taught in a previous Sermon, it is only our Spirits that have been transformed by the Grace of God in our Salvation, our Souls and our Bodies have a lot of catching up to do! (The Body will only be perfected in the Glory) The storms of life can call into question the dependability and reliability of the Word of God to our Souls. Feelings can so easily displace faith, and we can falter in the fight because of them.
Temptations will prompt or entice us to go back or turn back on
the pathway of obedience, and these too will battle for our Anchor, our stability and security in Christ.
I am reminded of the story in the book of Genesis chapter 20, where Abraham and Sarah his wife, encountered King Abimelech. Now, Abimelech had many wives, a harem of women, and although Sarah was an old woman in her nineties, he still set his heart on her. Abraham believed that if he discovered that Sarah was his wife, the King would have him killed, so that he could not be accused of taking another mans wife. So he told Sarah to pretend that She was His Sister, and Abraham told Abimelech that he was her Brother. Then Abimelech took Sarah into his house; but God told him in a dream – saying “you are a dead man” Gen 20:3“for she is a mans wife”. Here was the Prophet of God caught in a storm, pulled by fear and emotion, worried by circumstances, driven by selfish reasoning, and “lying” about his wife and encouraging her to tell lies also.
What sort of paradox is this? You see his anchor has been dislodged, his foundations shaken, his confidence in God questioned. But that is not the end of the matter, remember when there is no earthly hope, there is always heavenly help. Here Abraham has been forced by the storm to let go of the chain that joined him to the Anchor of God …. but
although he had let go of God, God had not let go of Him!
How do I know it, just read how God describes the man afterwards to Abimelech. Look at verse Seven, God says “now therefore restore the mans wife, for he is ….” a coward – No;
a liar – No; a failure -No; a waste of space – No: God says … “for he is a Prophet, and will Pray for you, and you shall live”
Abraham may have failed God but God cannot fail. You may have failed God, you may have displeased God, you may have abandoned God, but God will not fail you.
The Hymn writer could say, “His word cannot fail you, He promised; believe it and all will be well, then go to a world that is dying – His perfect Salvation to tell.”
When we have turned our backs on God and found ourselves back in the darkness, the midnight of our own mistakes, way down in the depths of the Christian soul there will still be a small light flickering, for ” a bruised reed shall he not break, and a smoking flax shall He not quench” Isa 42:3 & Matt 12:20. Gods promises are still the Anchor, holding us fast and holding us firmly in the Saviours Love.
Now in order for a ship to “weigh anchor” or raise anchor, and move on, or move out of its location, usually the ship must move backwards, to free the anchor, before it can move forwards. Going backwards, or backsliding is always dangerous and risky for the Christian. The risk is that the anchor will be dislodged, and we will be left drifting on the “high seas” of this world and its pitfalls. Remember Lots wife, who looked longingly back to the lifestyles and freedom of Sodom, and became a “pillar of salt”. Gen 19:26. Even looking or longing to go back, without actually going back is a very risky business. Indeed it is time right now to be anchored more firmly in Gods Word than ever before. Did you know that in a recent survey it was disclosed that in our developed world, less than 10% of Church going Christians, read the Bible at all for themselves. and more than 90% of the Clergy never read the Bible at all. (most of them claiming to be “too busy”) Those who have no Anchor in the word and promises of God will fall in every storm. Show me a Christian who’s Bible is falling apart, and I will know that THEY are not!
But there is yet another storm, one that is most certain to come your way and mine, and which I have not yet mentioned. It is the final storm, the storm of Death …. it is when
“the cold waters chill our latest breath”
To what are you anchored for that event? It is the last Harbour into which you will sail, but to what Harbour, and to what final resting place have you anchored your hopes? Is the Harbour to which you will come at the last, bright and full of the light and love of God, or is it that dark harbour – the awful midnight of those who have deliberately turned their backs on God? Life’s final harbour is a matter of your choosing. Sadly many have left it too late! They never did secure a permanent anchor, they were too preoccupied with the journey to consider its end.
Of course they experienced the ups and downs of the waves of life, of course they weathered many a fierce storm, of course they knew that the journey WOULD end, they just made no preparation for its end? For some the end came unexpectedly, they had scarcely started out on the journey of life when it came to an abrupt end. Others had sailed high on the crest of the wave for years, enjoying all of the pleasures and past-times that life’s journey offered …. but for them too the journey ended sooner than they expected. As a child I often took the little rowing boats out on the “Pickie Pool” in Newcastle with my mates. Before long a voice on a loud-hailer rang out “come in number six, your time is up.” Unexpectedly, and abruptly the brief pleasures of our sailing day ended. The apostle James reminds us that “life is but a vapour that appeareth for a little time and then vanishes away” James 4:14
Oh how vitally important it is then that for all of us, we make preparation as to where we will anchor at the last.
Like most other preachers, I don’t like to talk about Hell, and would much rather speak of Heaven. But Hell is just as real as Heaven, and did you know that Hell is mentioned exactly twice as many times as Heaven is in the Bible?
God wants us to know about Hell, and without labouring the point, Hell is simply the absence of God. It is a place where God is not. Many, who don’t believe in Hell will end up there, for the fact that they did not believe in it, does not remove its existence. Many never expect that that is the final harbour into which they will sail. These who don’t see God in their present will not and cannot expect to see him in their future. Consider with me for a moment, that the sun is not shining brightly today, its a cloudy day, an overcast day, there is no sun shining down to burn, no sun worshippers at the Cathedral of Sandy Beach today. But although we may not see the sun, we have daylight and it has been the sun that is providing it! Its the same every day, the sun shines every day, and although we may not see God or acknowledge him as God, he has been proving for us and sustaining our world ever since the dawn of its creation.
God is in our lives every day whether or not we see him. So be careful not to miss him, for there is a Heaven to be gained, and a Hell to be avoided. A final Harbour into which to drop anchor, but the choice, the location rests entirely with you!
Now this Final Word
My dear friends, God is shaking the world right now, these are all Gods way of moving the world to take notice of him. These awful catastrophic events are not coming to an end, rather they are only beginning, they are what the Bible calls “the beginnings of Sorrows”. There are great storms ahead, for all of us, even for the Christian. How vital it is then, to have a safe Harbour and a firm Anchor … Do you have these?
In a few moments we shall bring today’s Service to a close with the words of a Hymn written in 1882, by Priscila Owens, entitled “Will your Anchor Hold”
Let me read you some of the words:….
Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift, or firm remain?
We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love.
It is safely moored, ’twill the storm withstand,
For ’tis well secured by the Saviour’s hand;
And the cables, passed from His heart to mine,
Can defy that blast, through strength divine.
It will surely hold in the Straits of Fear—
When the breakers roll and the reef is near;
Though the tempest rave and the wild winds blow,
Not an angry wave shall our bark o’erflow.
It will firmly hold in the Floods of Death—
When the waters cold chill our latest breath,
On the rising tide it can never fail,
While our hopes abide within the Veil.
When our eyes behold through the gathering night
The city of gold, and our harbour bright,
We shall anchor fast by that heavenly shore,
With the storms all past for evermore.
For every true Child of God who harbours at that City Bright, that Celestial Heavenly Jerusalem, the Home of God, the gates of the city will be closed to sin, and nothing that defiles will ever enter in, – but for those who have anchored in Jesus, they can enter in at the last, hidden in him, safe and sound in him:
– Because in him, they placed their hopes both for time, and for eternity. If you have not anchored in Him, then you have no such anchor, and cannot enter or harbour there. You will have to anchor in another harbour, a dark and lifeless place, void of Good and void of God. In the Holy Heavenly city the storms will have all passed for ever, – in that other hellish harbour, the eternal storm, which will never abate will only have just begun.
Today I don’t know how near any of us are to that final harbour, so I ask you if in our closing Hymn now, you too can sing with the chorus…
“We have an anchor”