some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck. (I Timothy 1:19 KJV)
Shipwrecks have been a recurring misfortune for as long as maritime vessels have been in existence. Most occur in adverse weather conditions far beyond the control of man, but some have been the result of human error such as miscalculation or carelessness.
It is a clever and interesting choice of terminology for the Apostle Paul to paint a mental image of someone "wrecking" their faith, similar to that which has befallen many great ships. After all, we do encounter emblematic storms of life. Though these are more metaphorical than meteorological, Paul felt it was a worthy comparison to liken damaged faith to a shipwreck.
Paul knew a thing or two (three actually) about being shipwrecked. He literally suffered and survived this fate on three separate occasions. This made him a bit of an expert on the subject.
In following his spiritual illustration of these incidences, everyone can relate to some degree. We all encounter adverse weather conditions and are occasionally blown off course. There are times when we become lost and disoriented. We inadvertently drift into unfriendly waters. We experience accidental confrontations with danger. Sometimes we crash upon rocky reefs, and we sustain unintended damage.
These things happen in sailing, and they happen in life. However, Paul is applying this allegorical shipwreck in a way that suggests something happened beyond the occasional unexpected storm. He says they "have made" shipwreck of their faith.
He seems to imply that it didn't just occur fortuitously; they caused it to happen. Poor judgment perhaps? Bad decisions? Risk-taking? Whatever the specific reason, it happened because the helmsman messed up plain and simple. With this distinction, one might think there is no hope for such a vessel.
Yet, haven't we all messed up? Haven't we all wrecked at one time or another? What's more, haven't some of those wrecks occurred because we "have made" them happen?
Regardless, Paul also wrote:
God is able to make all grace abound toward you. (II Corinthians 9:8 KJV)
In the skilled and loving hands of the Master Carpenter, even the most shipwrecked and damaged vessel can be restored. With God's grace, it doesn't matter that it happened, and it doesn't matter how or why it happened. Irreparable damage is a nonexistent phrase to God. He is willing and able to make all necessary repairs, even if the wreck has come at our own doing.
Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift. (II Corinthians 9:15 KJV)
(This article was published in Pathway Christian Newspaper October 2011)