The Titanic ruined the word unsinkable for me.
Instead of giving me confidence, I get visions of what was promised as unsinkable on the ocean floor. I see masses of people stuck, trying with all of their might to escape to freedom.
The word actually kinda makes me afraid.
Reminds me of broken promises, of puffed-up claims with no follow-through.
I need a reworking of the term unsinkable.
Maybe Scripture gives it to me. In the form of a man who appears unsinkable.
The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church at Corinth, and in the middle of it he lays claim to this: “Three times have I been shipwrecked, even spending a night and a day on the open sea” (2 Corinthians 11:25).
That sounds a bit unsinkable to me.
But that seems wrong to write about the man who also said that he was “very glad to boast about [his] weaknesses.”
What held Paul to unsinkable faith?
We all know the answer: only an unsinkable God.
The same God who is yours and mine. Which leads to the assumption, and rightly so, that Paul’s unshakable faith could be ours.
Unsinkable faith is not developed overnight; its birth matures into something more with small steps, habits, rhythms. What might some of these patterns, rhythms, perspectives have been for the Apostle Paul? Let’s consider a few together.
Firmly-set feet. Anything unsinkable must be firmly tethered to something secure. Paul rooted his feet into the Gospel, proclaiming that he considered his own life worth nothing to him (Acts 20:24), and that “whatever was gain to me I count as loss compared to the surpassing excellence of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phi. 3:7). Paul’s feet were firmly rooted in something so, so much greater than himself, giving him this unsinkable faith.
Forward-looking faith. Frederick Buechner writes that “faith is better understood as a verb than as a noun, as a process than as a possession.” Faith is not a stagnant pond, but rather a mountain spring. It’s moving, living, active. But it’s not moving backwards, away from the target, nor is it merely moving in circles. Paul writes: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). Looking forward with anticipation to what God has done and will do is a building block for developing unsinkable faith.
Fearless obedience. There are few people I’ve read about who have less fear than Paul. His boldness in obeying what God asked of Him no matter what the outcome might be is extremely challenging. Paul’s focus was not on his own comfort or what he could gain from an experience, but rather on faithful obedience to what God had asked of him. Time and again, he experienced the reward of Christ’s presence as He obeyed. All of that worked as yet another weave in the tapestry of his unsinkable faith.
I hope you don’t hear me exalt Paul as a man who could do no wrong. He even called himself the chief of sinners. But Paul served an unsinkable God with all of his heart. And God, in turn, gave him a faith that held in the middle of difficulty, abundance, and the ordinary.
Here’s the good news, sisters. He can give that to you and me, too. In fact, I’m pretty sure He wants to do just that.
So what if we’d purpose in our hearts to follow the example of Paul? To have firmly-set feet, forward-looking faith, and fearless obedience?
May our faithfulness reframe unsinkable. May our long obedient lives change the thought of unsinkable from a word of doom from a ship made too hastily in a Northern Ireland shipyard to a word of deep strength that directs to our truly unsinkable Captain of Galaxies.
What images does the word unsinkable bring to your mind? What small steps, habits, rhythms are strengthening your faith right now?