"Don't Lose Your 'Bearings'!"
Various Passages; a sermon for our graduating Seniors
By Paul Robison

In 1988 in Ontario, Canada, two friends named Janelle and Karen were enjoying a camping trip just off the Welland River, which is a tributary of the Niagara River.  Only a week earlier, Janelle had purchased a boat, which they brought along on their camping trip.  They decided to take the boat out for a spin.  They spent the afternoon on the boat.  Much of their time was spent with the engine off, basking in the warm sun, drifting along in the river.  When evening came, they watched the sun go down.  Then, they proceeded to boat back to their camp.  However, they became disoriented in the dark and lost their bearings as they were looking for a certain canal which would lead them back to the Welland River.  Sheila and Tom Hodges were traveling by car along the river above Niagara Falls.  They happened to see a small boat traveling toward the falls.  From the road, they sensed that something was wrong.  The two women in the boat were approaching the control gates that regulate the flow of water to the falls, about a mile upstream from the falls.  These gates are often called "the point of no return," because any boat or person caught in the current beyond them will be carried right over the falls. The two women on the boat had mistaken the gates for the canal that led back to the Welland river.  So, rather than traveling back to the Welland River, they ended up going right through the control gates and into "the point of no return."  Tom ran to find help and finally called 911 while Shiela watched the two women thinking: “I really had little hope that they would be saved.  I just kept imagining what that would feel like ... being at the brink and knowing ... knowing you're gone."  Quickly after Tom's call, rescue workers arrived at the scene.  They used their flashlights out and spotted the women about 500 yards from the falls.  At this point, they were out of the boat, drifting toward their certain death.  Karen began to swim toward the light and was making some headway swimming sideways as the current was taking her downstream.  When the rescue workers saw what was happening, they screamed, "Keep swimming. Keep swimming! Keep swimming!" Eventually, she was able to grab a rope near the retaining wall, and was lifted up about 20 feet out of the water and pulled to safety.  When pulled from the water, she had a deep gash in her leg from the boat's propeller and was in shock, but she was safe.  Janelle was assumed to have been dead.  But, firefighters from the Niagara Falls Fire Department had joined in the search for her.  The captain of the department had instructed the workers to take a drive down the river to see what they could see.  When they stopped, they could hear Janelle screaming.  She was about 350 yards from the falls, exhausted and unable to swim.  So, a rescue worker tied a rope around his waist and swam out to rescue her.  Unbelievably, Janelle was unharmed.  Thirty seconds after Janelle was saved, the boat reached the edge of the falls and went over.  This story had a happy ending, but losing one's bearings can prove fatal (Brandon).  As our high school Seniors get ready to launch out into the world, there are seven passages in the NT that have the verb “to bear” meaning “to carry or to endure.”  Young people, keep these bearings in mind, and they will help you to navigate safely through life and keep you from going over the edge.
 
The first passage is Luke 14:27: “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”  You must bear your cross.  That cross can differ for different Christians.  Paul's cross were fanatical Jews, and Gaius cross was a fanatical church leader named Diotrephes (3 John).  Your cross will be whoever opposes you for your Christian faith.  Bearing a cross is not easy; it takes diligence, discipline, and duty.  Bearing a cross is personal.  “Must Jesus bear the cross alone, and all the world go free?  No, there's a cross for everyone, and there's a cross for me” (Shepherd).  Bear the cross!
 
The next passage is Acts 9:15: “But the Lord said to him: 'Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.”  You must bear Jesus' name before others.  The apostle Paul was to bear Jesus' name, as His ambassador, before the Gentiles, before kings and rulers, and before Jewish religious leaders.  When you bear Jesus' name before others, who and how many will you touch?  According to the Great Commission, it's the duty of all Christians to share Jesus with others (Mt. 28:19-20).  How well do you know Jesus?  Do you see Him as a liar, a legend, a lunatic, or as the Lord, the promised Messiah?  He is more than a man for He has all authority (Mt. 28:18)!  He is not a god, but the Son of God who offers salvation to all:  “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)!  Bear His name before others! 
 
The next passage is Romans 15:1-2: “We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples or frailties of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification” (Romans 15:1-2).  Bear the frailties of weaker members.  The context here is talking about certain foods.  Since God has created all foods, none were considered unclean under the New Testament.  This was no problem for the Gentiles, but it continued to a problem for Jewish Christians.  The Gentile Christians in Rome were not to eat food that might cause a Jewish brother to be offended. They were to bear the frailties of their weaker Jewish brethren.  Likewise, Jesus bore the frailties of all His disciples when they abandoned Him before His crucifixion.  In fact, Jesus forgave all of them for their weakness.  Bear the frailties of weak members as you work together to build a common life of praise, worship, obedience, and devotion to God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit!
 
The next passage is 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Bear temptations with open eyes!  This is one of the greatest promises in the New Testament!  When Satan tempts you, you can tap into God's help.  He is going to provide you a way of escape.  The way of escape for Joseph was to run from the scene.  The way of escape for Job was to pray.  The way of escape for Jesus was quoting the Scriptures. The way of escape for the apostles in Jerusalem was to delegate the job of feeding widows to others.  The way of escape for Philemon was forgiveness.  Don't have passive eyes, but have active eyes that look for God's escape route.  Bear temptations with open eyes!
 
The next passage is Galatians 6:2: “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”  Bear other members' burdens (Galatians 6:2)!  All experience the burdens of trials, sorrows, weaknesses, and infirmities.  Jesus has helped each of us to bear our burdens, so we should be willing to help other brethren who may be weighed down. Doesn't John 13:34 encourage us to love other members as Jesus has loved us?  As you help others to bear their burdens, you learn that the Christian life is not about “me”; it's about “us”!  Bear other members' burdens!
 
The next passage is Galatians 6:17: “From now on, let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”  Bear the marks of the Lord in your body (Galatians 6:17)!  The apostle Paul was stoned, beaten, and imprisoned for Jesus' sake.  Whatever type of persecution our culture will throw at you, be willing to suffer to Christ's and righteousness' sake!  Make up your mind that you will bear the consequences of whatever that suffering might entail.   Bear the marks of the Lord in your body or in whatever way you might have to suffer!
 
The next passage is Ephesians 6:14-17: “Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will  be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.  And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  Bear God's armor.  Bear truth!  There is a truth that is divine, absolute, and for all cultures.  This is the truth that Jesus said would make people free from sin, traditions, and death (John 8:32).  Bear righteousness!  We do that by imitating Jesus: “He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He [Jesus] is righteous” (1 John 3:7).  If you do not bear breastplate of righteousness, soon a hole will develop in your armor that is supposed to cover your vital organs.  Bear the gospel of peace!  You have a divine knowledge that can give people peace in their lives.  Advance, march forward, and share the knowledge confidently with others!  Bear the helmet of salvation!  You can hold up our heads with assurance because you have experience Jesus' past salvation, and you look forward to His future salvation when heaven will begin.  Bear the sword of the Spirit!  The Word of God is our offensive weapon.  It is powerful and can still transform people's lives (Hebrews 4:12)!  The struggle between God and Satan is very real.  Bear God's armor to protect you!    
 
When William Borden graduated from a Chicago high school in 1904, he was heir to the Borden Dairy estate, which made him a millionaire.  For his graduation present, his parents gave him a trip around the world.  As the young man traveled through Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, he felt a growing burden for the world’s hurting people.  Finally, Borden wrote home to say, “I’m going to give my life to prepare for the mission field.”  At the same time, he wrote two words in the back of his Bible: “No reserves.”
During his college years at Yale University, Borden became a pillar in the Christian community. One entry in his personal journal that defined the source of his spiritual strength simply said, “Say no to self and yes to Jesus every time.”  During his first semester at Yale, Borden started a small prayer group that mushroomed into a movement that spread across the campus.  By the end of his first year, 150 freshmen were meeting for weekly Bible study and prayer. By the time Bill Borden was a senior, one thousand of Yale’s thirteen hundred students were meeting in such groups.
Borden met with fellow Christians to make sure every student on campus heard the gospel.  Often he ministered to the poor in the streets of New Haven.  But his real passion was missions, and he focused on China.
Upon graduation from Yale, Borden wrote two more words in the back of his Bible: “No retreats.”  He turned down several high-paying job offers and enrolled in seminary.  After graduating, he went to Egypt to learn Arabic so he could work with Muslims in China.  While in Egypt, Borden came down with spinal meningitis. Within a month, he was dead at age 25.
Prior to his death, Borden wrote two more words in his Bible.  Underneath the words “No reserves” and “No retreats,” he wrote, “No regrets.”  Borden had kept his bearings despite his short life.
Keep your bearings: bear your cross, bear Christ's name before others, bear weaker members' frailties, bear temptation with open eyes, bear other members' burdens, bear Christ's marks of persecution, and bear God's armor.  If you do this, you'll keep from going over the edge, and you'll live too with no reserves, no retreats, and no regrets!