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Emergency Religion

“Lord, save me–and immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand” (Matthew 14:30-31).

Shakespeare, in his drama “The Tempest,” has one of his characters say: “To prayers, to prayers, all is

lost.” An emergency has arisen at sea; a great storm is tossing the boat like a bobbing cork. The sailors are

frightened within an inch of their lives. They cannot save themselves. They are powerless in the presence of the

storm. In an emergency, there is only one thing left for them to do; thus―they pray.

A similar situation is recorded in the eighth chapter of Matthew. Jesus and His disciples are in a boat on

the sea of Galilee, and a great tempest rages. Waves are coming over the deck of the ship, and the disciples

become frightened. Jesus, being weary with the work of the day, is asleep. The disciples come and awaken Him,

saying, “Lord, save us, or we perish.”

Especially in the days of WWII, much was said about fox-hole religion. It is the religion upon which a

soldier relies when suddenly he finds himself burrowed in a temporary fox-hole or shelter while the guns of the

enemy are spitting their bullets of death all around him. This emergency religion is the kind upon which a sailor

relies when he finds himself adrift in mid-ocean on a rubber raft. It is an S.O.S. religion, the kind of religion

upon which we rely when we are ourselves in some emergency room (either for ourselves or a loved one) from

which there seems to be no escape. This sort of faith has been manifested throughout history. It springs from the

belief that man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.

One of the most intriguing stories of the Old Testament is recorded in the book of Jonah. Having failed

to heed the wishes of the Almighty and seeking to run away from God, Jonah found himself in the interior of a

whale. For sure, he could think that, under such circumstances, he had come to the end of his rope. This

certainly was an emergency because it is not normal for people to live in the interior of whales. So, amid the

darkness which surrounded him, not knowing a great deal about the habits of the whale, Jonah felt that his

moments on earth were numbered. In such a circumstance, he began to pray. It was not a “Now I lay me down

to sleep” prayer but a prayer as urgent and sincere as the circumstances would warrant. And God heard that

prayer just as He hears all sincere prayers. As a result, Jonah was transported, free of charge, to land.

There are some people who never think of God until everything else in which they have previously

placed their faith has vanished from them. Religion as a practical faith in their daily lives has never challenged

them. But in a great emergency, they inevitably turn to God. And because God is good all the time, he never lets

His children down. It is recorded in the fourteenth chapter of Matthew that, when the Apostle Peter sought to

walk on the water and then when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried,

saying, ‘Lord, save me.’ And immediately, Jesus stretched forth his hand and caught him.

In one stanza of the song, He Rescued Me by Jimmy Pearce – (found in the fondly remembered old

brown Sing Unto The Lord hymnal, page 226) – these words are found: “In that hour of desperation, I almost

lost my mind. Somehow, I cried to Jesus, and He saved me just in time.” Yes, in such emergencies, God does

stretch forth His hand. Call it fox-hole religion, battle-field religion, or simply prayer flung upwards to God

because you don’t have time or space to kneel … it makes no difference, for the Lord promised, “Call unto me,

and I will answer thee.”

Francis Mason

Pastor Mason

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