I was blessed recently to enjoy a vacation with my family in Ocean City, Maryland. It had been some time since we had been to God’s majestic creation of water and though it was before the summer rush and the water was a bit cool, we cherished our time together. We will always remember my grandson’s first experience on the beach making sandcastles and walking in the unpredictable tides approaching the shore. Though it was a vacation , I never seem to get away completely from desiring to hear the voice of the Lord and never do I want to. I do not want a vacation from that. I like to keep my spiritual senses awake to anything the Holy Spirit may want to speak through whatever way He would choose. Let me say that I do not mean to say that in the super spiritual , “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good” sense either. I was still there to relax and enjoy family. If I weren’t sharing these thoughts on what He did show me that week, I still would have been more than happy leaving Ocean City after enjoying the company of my precious family and some rest. That was the purpose for the trip. So with that said, here are some thoughts concerning the time I was there.
On the morning after our arrival we went to the beach somewhat early to set up camp. It was an obvious indication that we were tourists who live nowhere near the ocean, but we really did not care. We had driven 10 hours the previous day to get there and we were determined to stake our choice claim of sand first. We deserved it ! It was a short time after getting settled that I had noticed out of the corner of my sun-squinting eye a figure walking to my right toward the water. I quickly observed that it was the lifeguard that would be on duty in our area. It was probably the 75 pounds of equipment that he was carrying that gave him away besides the shirt that he had on that said “LIFEGUARD.” As I sat in my comfortable sun clothed state of idleness , I watched him prepare for his day on the beach. His preparation was a bit different than ours. He first laid the equipment in the sand at the point he was going to set up his camp for the day, but then he stood for just a moment or two and looked intently at the ocean. He was surveying the condition of the water and the waves and contemplating what he may have to deal with as people would soon be in them. He was preparing himself mentally. He then went back to the lifeguard stand that he had previously walked by and was going to carry it closer to the ocean and to the place where his equipment was laying. The stand in my estimation was at least 8 feet tall and made from lumber, thus it was heavy. My first thought was that I should go help him drag the stand to his spot. My second thought was that I was on vacation and I am not getting out of my beach chair. My third thought was the beach chair was so low I couldn’t get out of it anyway, at least without rolling into the sand. And my final thought was if I did go over to help him, I would be too weak to carry one end of the stand and I would look like a fool. By the time I had all these thoughts he had effortlessly carried the stand to its place. Thank God. I was not disappointed. In fact he carried it as if he had done it many times before……. because he had.
So with the stand in place I observed him as he set up his watch. He began methodically to place everything he had carried in the exact position where it was to be. The flags to communicate , the binoculars to get a closer look, the umbrella, the first aid kit, the lifebuoy. In a matter of fifteen minutes everything was in its place including the whistle around his neck to get the attention of others nearby. He had even taken a small brush and cleaned the sand from the platform and steps of the lifeguard stand so he would be surefooted in moving off the stand quickly if needed. Once again he stood and observed the condition of the oceans waves , then looked to his right and to his left to be sure the other lifeguards flanking him were in position before he sat down in his post.
A few moments later a family was setting up for their day on the beach near his stand and engaged in a brief conversation with him. During that conversation I heard him tell them that he had been a lifeguard for 20 years. After watching him methodically prepare for his day it did not surprise me at all that he had served in that occupation that long. He also had the look of a well seasoned , well trained lifeguard. It was clear that he did not take his job lightly though he had many years experience. The following are some thoughts concerning the observations and events during our stay on the beach and the lifeguard watching our area.
* In his preparation he took the time to observe the condition of the ocean and waves. It is absolutely essential in the day in which we live to be aware of our surroundings. If we tend to be too busy and not stop to observe the spiritual conditions around us , we are more prone to make a mistake. Ephesians 5:15,16 (AMP) , “Look carefully how you walk. Live purposefully , worthily and accurately , not as unwise and witless, but as sensible , intelligent people. Making the most of the time buying up every opportunity because the days are evil.” As wonderful, beautiful and majestic as the ocean of life is, there are dangers as well. Be aware of your surroundings. As people would begin to wade and swim in the water, the lifeguard would occasionally peer through his binoculars and scan the area more closely. Even his ears were tuned to any sound different than the normal sounds of the beach. He was trained to use his eyes and ears as tools to know what was happening around him. As believers, we should do the same spiritually. I would also like to note that he was punctual and faithful every day of the week. He was never late. He knew if he was late and something happened he would be accountable for anyone who may be injured or even lose their life. It was more than just a job. He was genuinely concerned about the welfare of those on the beach. Sometimes we can forget Who we are living for. Our faithfulness to the Lord is more than just a job or a duty. Our promptness to our duties will affect others around us. Colossians 3:17, 21 , “Whatsover you do in word or deed do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. Whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord and not unto men.” Whether what we do is labeled as necessary duties of our personal life or our ministry , it should be done as unto the Lord. He is the One Who has given us life and strength to do all things. Let us be thankful and give Him glory in all things. There was one afternoon that it was raining and no one was on the beach. Can you guess where the lifeguard was? He was in position on his stand with the umbrella over him. That ,my friend ,is faithfulness.
* The lifeguard had everything he would need in every situation within his reach. Paul said in Ephesians 6:11 that we must put on the whole armor of God so that we would stand against the wiles of the devil. A good carpenter will carry all the tools needed for a job. A good mechanic will have all the tools he needs within reach to repair the vehicle. A good doctor will be sure that all the tools for surgery will be close before entering into a procedure. A believer today must be sure to have everything God has provided them within reach for every situation that may arise. The Bible. A trusted Christian friend. A song. Prayer. And , of course, the name of Jesus. That is the first tool that we must use in every situation. Holy Spirit will be our Helper and direct us in using every spiritual tool we need.
* Though the lifeguard would have conversations with those who may approach him, he was still alert to the task at hand. When speaking his eyes would continue to scan the ocean and watch those that were in the water. Colossians 4:5(AMP), ” Behave yourselves wisely, living prudently and with discretion in your relations with those of the outside world , making the very most of time and seizing every opportunity.” The lifeguards occupation included public relations, but he did not allow anything to distract him from being aware of what was important. One conversation he had with a family was casual and friendly. Another man came and asked him for directions. He gave him directions and sent him on his way. Another conversation with a person that wanted to just take his time was very brief. He discerned his conversationalist’s well. Colossians 4:6 , ” Let your speech at all times be gracious and pleasant, seasoned with salt, so that you may never be at a loss to know how you ought to answer anyone.” Do not allow meaningless, trivial conversations to distract you from your purpose. Be gracious when grace is needed. Be stern when sternness is needed. There was a moment when a family near the lifeguard stand was feeding the sea gulls and within a short time there were birds everywhere causing quite a stir. With a sternness in his voice he asked them to stop feeding the birds. I would also like to add that he did not interrupt anyone’s enjoyment on the beach. He did not want to bother anyone that was there. In 2nd Thessalonians 3:11 (AMP) Paul said, ” I hear that some among you are busy with other people’s affairs instead of their own.” In verse 15 he asked them to stop doing so. In today’s words the phrase would be “do not put your nose where it doesn’t belong.” Simply continue in the true calling that the Lord has called you to and do it well unto Him.
* The lifeguards communicated to one another regularly with walkie talkies and with signal flags. They used these forms of communication to keep one another informed of pertinent information. They worked together to keep the beach safe and sound. Not one of them secluded themselves from the other one. The communication including talking and listening. 1st Corinthians 12:12-27 expresses clearly that every member of the body is vital in the body of Christ. We should keep each other aware of the potential dangers around us. One of the schemes of the enemy is to cause believers to be selfish and self absorbed. We must understand that we are not in the body of Christ to just receive, but to be used to give as well. It is not just a responsibility to give, but it is a joy to be used of the Lord. Don’t wait for someone to bless you first. Take the initiative and bless someone else. There is a safety that is created in the body of Christ through godly, Spirit-led conversation. For those particularly who engage in social networking I emphasize the words “Godly ” and Spirit-led.” A good rule for social networking is found in 1st Corinthians 14:3. Let the conversation be with edification, exhortation and comfort.
* Another observation of the lifeguards on duty was they were in constant training. Periodically a lifeguard would jog through the sand from one stand to the next and replace the lifeguard in that stand, then that lifeguard would jog to the next stand, etc. Note if you never tried to jog in sand I can tell you it is not easy. This would keep them in shape for the moment that they may have to jog through the sand to save someone’s life. At one point I had watched as several lifeguards were swimming in the waves of the ocean for quite a distance to remain in top physical shape. It is very difficult to swim in the ocean. It takes much knowledge and training. It was all to keep them in physical shape for any circumstance that may rise up. As believers we must be in top spiritual condition in these last days. It is essential that we remain steadfast in the faith through the disciplines of meditating on the Word, worship, praise, prayer and engaging in Godly associations. It is necessary training to be prepared for life’s unexpected crashing waves. There were a couple days when we were on the beach that the waves were especially strong enough to easily cause the strongest legs to buckle and fall. This can happen to anyone in the spiritual sense also. Whether we rise back up on our feet will depend upon the training that we have continued in on a daily basis. 1st Corinthians 9:25, “Every athlete who goes into training conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things. They do it to win a wreath that will soon wither, but we do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness that cannot wither.” This scripture emphasizes the importance of spiritual training here on earth. It is not just to benefit our spiritual health while here on earth, but it is also of eternal consequences. It is noted too that it would be difficult for a lifeguard to rescue a victim of the waves if they were not in top physical shape themselves. If we are to assist in rescuing the souls of others, we must be in good spiritual health ourselves. (1st Corinthians 9:27) This point leads me to the event that took place the last afternoon we were on the beach.
Once again the lifeguard was on his watch between us and the ocean waves. I had noticed as he stood to his feet and began to peer toward the ocean to his right. He then took his binoculars in hand and began to look more intently at the area he was watching. Suddenly he laid the binoculars down, threw the lifebuoy around his shoulders , got off the stand and began to jog to the place he had been scanning in the waters. His action began to cause a stir among the beach goers as they watched him run with urgency. People across the beach were slowly following him and gathered at the area where he had finally entered into the ocean. Within moments there were boats and jet-skis searching through the waves and then a helicopter and plane flying above the site. We watched from a distance as several lifeguards had linked arms and made a human chain navigating the powerful waves. Our prayers began to be whispered under our breath for the one they were searching for. A while later someone from that area came to us and told us that a 17 year old boy had been pulled out too far by a rip current and they could not find him. Our hearts sank as we continued to watch the rescue efforts from a distance. Ninety minutes later an ambulance had left that area and people began to return to their places on the beach. A while later the lifeguard returned to his post visibly shaken. We learned later on the local news that the young man had passed away. We also learned that Ocean City had not had a drowning since 2007 and now had two in the previous 7 days.
The waves that day were charging the shore with quite a force and seemed to be increasing by the moment. A few moments after the lifeguard had settled back in ,he blew his whistle and asked all around him to gather around his stand. He proceeded to caution everyone of the dangerous waves. At one point he had all of us look to the ocean and he pointed out a wave that contained a rip current. He warned that it was that danger that would take even the strongest swimmer out too far from safety. Then he said that is what happened earlier to the young man and he had been taken to the local hospital. He advised everyone to refrain from going into the water at any unsafe distance and not to swim . A rip current is defined as “a strong ocean wave that combines with a valley or depression in the beach that can cause a pulling force toward the ocean.” If you are unknowingly caught in that depression it can cause you to lose control and be swept out. The final point I would like to make is that it can happen to anyone. Despite the lifeguard’s watchfulness and the many other people in the area the young man had been victim to a powerful wave to take him out. John 10:10 tells us the enemy has come to this world to steal, kill and destroy. 1st Peter 5:8 warns us that he is as a roaring lion desiring to devour the believer. We can enjoy this ocean of life and the Lord would have us to enjoy it, but we must also be cautious and aware of the subtle dangers of the “rip currents” that would take us out too far into the deep. 1st Thessalonians 5:6 (AMP) , ” Let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep wide awake, alert, watchful , cautious and on guard and let us be sober, calm and collected.” The advice given is not to panic when caught in a rip current, but swim horizontal with the beach until you are out of its grips. If you feel you are in a spiritual rip current, do not panic, but understand that Jesus loves you and will rescue you from the powerful waves. In fact, He already has. Jesus is our eternal Lifeguard. He gave His own life to rescue the lives of mankind from the rip current of sin. For those caught in the dangerous grips of sin, you need not panic or flail your arms , but surrender yourselves by faith in the nail scarred hands of the Saviour and let Him take you safely back to the shore of grace. As you place your life in Christ you will find your walk on the shore of life and your ocean wave experiences will be safe and sound.
So let us learn the many lessons of the lifeguard. Be spiritually aware, alert, prepared, punctual and prompt. Continue in spiritual training and the necessary disciplines that keep us strong. Enjoy life and life more abundantly. Enjoy the “Son” and the “Light”. Live your life so others will be lead to The Lifeguard Jesus Christ so they will also live a life that is safe and sound in Him.
Enjoying the Son with you,