Time And Socialization

And I have seen so many seafarers whose life was influenced by the wonderful lessons in the Bible. And others said to me, "This person is a Christian because we see Christ in him." And you are meant to be a living testimony for Christ. But don't be afraid. Don't say "the burden is too much to handle." Please remember, you have the Savior in you, the Savior with you. Even when you fall into sin, don't let that sin bother you. Don't say, "No, I cannot share Christ anymore."
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As we all know, time is a really important subject. We all live by time. Nowadays, you do not find a single person on a ship or even at home who does not go by time. But we all see that most of the people today are dictated by time. People always say, “I have no time.” People try to say, “I have no time to do certain things because they need to do other things.” Many times, you might have realized that using the phrase “I have no time” is just an excuse because people don’t want to do certain things which are important. For instance, for us Christians one of the most important things that we really live by is (this is the most important), the Word of God – the Bible. And still many Christians still say, “I’m sorry. I have no time to read the Bible. I was too busy.”

Of course, we are really busy, especially on the ship. I’ve been working on the ships for the last 33 years and I have visited more than 25,000 ships for all my life. I’ve been on cargo ships, crew ships, yacht, reefer ships, oil tankers, etc. and I’ve seen how hard the seafarers are working. Specially in crew ships, some seafarers work up to 16 hours a day. So there is actually a valid phrase saying, “I have no time.” And I fully understand if you have no time. But we must realize and understand that God has given us the time to use. So the question is, how do we use the time?

And when it comes to Bible reading, Bible reading is not just another responsibility on your to do list. Bible reading is real life. God manifested Himself through the Bible to you. But Satan will try to do anything to stop you from Bible reading. And I always ask the seafarers onboard who are Christians, "Do you eat food?" And they sometimes look very surprised and answer , "Of course, we all eat food." And some people would start saying, we do not eat only three times a day, we eat four or five times a day because food is very delicious, especially when we have some nice different foods. We love food very much." So we all would agree that we need food for our bodies. And nobody would say that "I am too busy I cannot eat". Maybe we cannot eat exactly at 12:00. Maybe because of the hard work, we start eating at 12:30 or 1 o'clock. But at least for sure, you start eating every day. And you will not make any excuse, "I have no time to eat." Because if you have no time to eat and it's really true that you do not eat, the result will be that you will starve. And we all know that.

But when it comes to the Bible, people forget that the Bible is our Spiritual food. And our spirit - our life in us that is connected to God will surely die if we do not read the Bible. Because that is the most important. I want to ask you the question, "If you would have a choice to be on an island, just alone, just yourself and nobody else, what would you take to that island? Would you take food with you? Would you take your cellphone, your smart phone with you? Would you take a motorcycle with you? What would you take?

Most of the people who are really serving Christ would realize that the most important would be the Bible. Because we need the inner connection to our living Savior Jesus Christ. And the Bible speaks very clearly into our lives, the Bible directs us. That's why Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life." So if He is the way, the Bible is like a roadmap. And you will know how to go, left or right, or to go straight if you read the Bible.

The Bible teaches you if you will have to stop certain things. The Bible teaches you if you have to alter your course. Especially on ships, you sometimes have to alter your course. And the Bible is like a compass.

The Word of God says in Ephesians 5:16 that we should make the best use of the time. How do we make the best use of the time? The Bible says that we should make the best use of the time because days are evil and we are and we are living in a fallen world. We know that two are really fighting for our life. One is the devil - he is not happy when we serve God. And in the other side is God Himself. God wants us to serve Him. And while serve, He wants to bless us and give us all what He has. At the same time, the devil wants to get us away from God, get us away from the word of God.

Dear friends, dear seafarers, I want to encourage you, start your day with the Word of God. Do not let time slip by. Even sometimes, when we work very early in the morning, set your alarm clock 15 minutes earlier, 20 minutes earlier and start to read. God will give you sufficient strength for everyday. Because the advantage is, when you start reading in the morning, you will take the Word of God with you into the day. The Word of God can teach you during the day, during the circumstances what to do and how to react through different difficulties.

What hinders us to redeem the time and really use the time in a way that pleases God?

1. Selfish and Independent Heart

Now that sounds very, very strong. But I realized, even in my own life that many a time, I want to be independent. I don't like people telling me what to do. And this is the human heart. The human heart wants to be independent. The human heart wants to control life. But once we dedicated our lives to Christ, we have realized there's a life change. We have given our lives to Christ and He now wants to control our lives. The question is, do you want Christ to control your life? Or do you still want to have control in your life? Do you give Christ full authority to decide what to do, to speak into your heart, to speak into the last corners of your life?

This is very important that we give full control. And it would be good if we take many or two and just sit down for yourself and ask yourself a question, "Is my life really dedicated to God? Do I really want God to control my life? Or do I still want to be independent?

Yes, of course, everybody wants to be saved. Of Course we want the blessings of God. But then still many times, we want to live our lives. But Christ said we should live His life. Because His life will lead to heaven That's why Jesus said that I am the way, the truth and the life His truth shall set us free. And His truth will really help us to walk the way that is pleasing God.

2. Our smartphone

I hope I don't discourage you too much when I mention my second point.

Many times, we do not make the best of our time because we make the smartphone our god. When I come on board, sometimes, the people have no time to talk. Everybody is sitting behind their smartphone and reading messages, talking to their relatives and friends, and reading messages on Facebook again. I don't say that's wrong. We all live in this world that is full of technique and the smartphone can be a real blessing. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that we shouldn't get smartphones. We need a smartphone to communicate, that's important. But all I want to say is, how do we use the smartphone? Can I ask you a question, please? Does the smartphone control you? Or do you control the smartphone?

When you get up in the morning, what is your first move? Will you first take the smartphone or will you first take the Bible to get food for your inner life, to get strength for the day, to get a vision for the day, to get Christ's teachings? The Bible is so helpful to get new strength for the day. So again, the question, do you control the smartphone or does the smartphone control you?

I am very much convinced that I'm not only talking about seafarers. I'm talking about all people in the world, and even myself, we could use the time much more wisely if we reduce the time on the smartphone. I'm surprised that many times, I see people still reading the smartphone while pastors are preaching. I still see people reading the smartphone while there is a prayer meeting. And I just wander by myself, who is more important, God or the smartphone?

So please, don't make the smartphones your god, but let God really control the smartphone. And make the smartphone second, or third, or fourth. So to make it very clear again, I'm not against a smartphone. Don't get me wrong. We need a smartphone and it's a very good tool for communication. We can send love messages to our relatives, and to our friends. We can even send Bible messages to friends. I use the smartphone, very much indeed. But all I want to say is, take your time wisely, use your time wisely and let God rule inside your hearts.

3. Discipline

Discipline is a word that many people do not like to hear. I heard people say, I don't like the word "discipline". But can I encourage you that discipline is a very, very wonderful blessing given by the Lord. If you are a businessman and you exercise discipline, you probably would be successful. And without discipline, you probably will not be successful. It needs discipline to achieve your goals, to do your work. And even on the ships, the master probably would tell you to be disciplined, to do good work.

The Bible is very clear about discipline. The Bible says in Proverbs 12:1, "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge. But He who hates reproof is stupid." What a funny yet factual verse, right?

"For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. ("Hebrews 12:11)

So here we see how discipline is helpful for us. First and sometimes, it seems to be painful. We don't like discipline. As we said before, we want to be independent. We are sometimes selfish. We want to do what we want, what I want. But when we yield to God's ways. When we say, "God, give me more discipline." We will later see the fruit of it. We will later see how many blessings are coming through discipline. That's why I want to encourage you to get proactive. Decide how to use your time better. Pray about it. Make a plan. Share that plan with a good friend. And maybe you can ask a friend to check on you. This will be really helpful.

When I was in Bible college many years ago, I had a friend. I told my friend, please check on me. Please ask me the difficult questions so that I can grow in faith. Please ask me if I'm disciplined. Please ask me about the Bible.

How do we socialize in this world? How do we socialize with friends and neighbors if you are on the ship as seafarers? I heard people say, "Ah, we don't socialize because the seafarers don't like God and they are always drinking and watching very bad movies. So it's better if I get away and stay in my cabin and spend time alone with God." But is that really the best way? Well, let's see.

"My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one." (John 17:15)

So, what does Jesus here say? Jesus says, "I have sent you into the world and while you are in the world, I will protect you." Meaning to say, if your colleagues are making bad jokes, or they are watching bold movies, Jesus wants to protect you in that environment. But He does not take you out of that environment. Jesus places you there for a purpose. But this purpose is not to run away from other seafarers. This purpose is to be a living testimony. And if we are alone in the cabin, how can people see Christ in our lives?

So I believe we need to socialize with the seafarers. Although sometimes it might be difficult, sometimes it might be hard, sometimes, people might joke about us. But Jesus promises ( and let's stick to His promises) that if we serve Him, He will guide us, He will protect us. He will be with us. He will tell us what to do, and what to say.

"Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit; teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you unto the end of the age."(Matthew 28:19-20)

Isn't that wonderful? While we are serving Christ, while we are living for Him on the ship, Jesus promises you, that He is with you. The God of heaven and earth, your Creator, your Redeemer, your Savior, your Best Friend (John 15) is with you and He will never leave you nor forsake you. He is with you and that's what He promised. People sometimes forget those promises. But Jesus never forgets His promises. If He promised He will be with you, you can really trust He will be.

So how can we be obedient to God's command to make disciples? How can we obey His command if we stay in the cabin away from the other seafarers? We only can obey His command if we mix with other seafarers, if we socialize. Now, that doesn't mean that we take part in evil actions. It doesn't mean that we make bad jokes. It doesn't mean that we watch bold movies. No! When it all comes to all these negative, evil things, we have the responsibility.

God tells us clearly in Ephesians 5:23, "We should not be drunk." So sins start when we get drunk.

2 Corinthians 3:3 says that "you are a letter of Christ." Paul says that our lives should be a letter that is read by other people. So you are an ambassador for Christ. You have Christ with you. You are a living testimony. Christ will not leave you even when you are on the ship, even when you don't feel good. Feeling is not the measurement if Christ is in us or not. Feeling is sometimes very distractive. Christ's promises are true. He lives in you.

"You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. " (2 Corinthians 3:3)

So Christ's letters are written in our human heart. Let us remember that Christ wants to do His work in you and through you. He wants to use you as ambassadors for Christ.

When you socialize with people, please do it with the right motive. This is very important. Don't do it because you know more. Don't do it because you feel you're better. We are not better than any other people. We're living by grace. And all that we are is because Christ was merciful to us. He saved us through His blood. we do not deserve to put ourselves above others. We should put ourselves below, to humble ourselves and respect other people so that people can see we love them, our love for them. We want to win them for Christ.

Now, what do I mean when I say socialize with the right kind of motive? We see a few examples in the Old Testament, like Balaam (Number 22:1-10). Here, we see, Balaam was asked to curse Israel. As a prophet, He knew that God would never agree to do that. Balaam started to compromise and socialize with people who actually asked him to do against God's will. Why did Balaam do that? Maybe, because he feared people more than God. Maybe because he was looking for the money that was offered to him. Maybe, because he was looking for a good reputation. So Balaam had wrong motives to socialize. When he was asked to curse Israel, he knew in his heart, he was not allowed to do that. God has blessed Israel. And if people ask you to do something on the ship that we know God does not agree with that, we cannot do that. But we can tell people in a loving way what God expects from you.

"Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither-- whatever they do prospers." (Psalms 1:1-3)

I like Psalms 1. It says, "Blessed it the one who does not walk in step with the wicked". We know so well what is wicked because the Holy Spirit teaches us what is good and what is evil. But we should really take our delight in the Law. What we have learned in the beginning, we should take the delight and joy in the Bible and find our help, our daily help in the Bible so that we can socialize with the people in the right way. And once we do that, we are considered like a tree that is bringing forth fruit.

And I have seen so many seafarers whose life was influenced by the wonderful lessons in the Bible. And others said to me, "This person is a Christian because we see Christ in him." And you are meant to be a living testimony for Christ. But don't be afraid. Don't say "the burden is too much to handle." Please remember, you have the Savior in you, the Savior with you. Even when you fall into sin, don't let that sin bother you. Don't say, "No, I cannot share Christ anymore."

You know what I experienced when I was in Queen Maria? A person came to me. He said, "I'm sorry. I cannot join the fellowship." I asked him why. He said, "Because I have sinned." Is that a Biblical perspective? No! Of course not. What do we do when we sin? We ran to Jesus. We confess our sin. We receive forgiveness. And while we are sinning, it helps us to understand that we are still living in the fallen world. It helps us to understand that we need God's grace. It helps us to understand that we are not better than others. The thing that is better is Christ in us. He is the one who helps us.

Do not stop sharing Christ once you have fallen to sin. The Bible says "confess your sins to one another" (James 5:16). So even when your seafarer colleague sees that you have sinned. Tell them, "I'm only a human person. I still sin. But I know a person who is forgiving my sin." And you share about Christ and your conclusion is always heaven. Your direction is always God. You don't live by what you do. You live by the promises of God.

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:1-2)

Isn't that encouraging. It says, "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind." How can our mind be transformed? By the newspaper? By smartphone? By a basketball game? No, of course not! Our minds will be renewed and transformed only through God's power. By reading the Word of God, He will guide us into all truth.

So I encourage you, make the Bible priority number 1 and put the smartphone and make that priority number 2.

I hope I don't discourage you today. Maybe smartphones would still be number 1. Just make a switch. Just say, "Jesus, today, I learned that You are more important than the smartphone." If you use the smartphone too much, ask God to forgive you why you put the smartphone than Jesus your Savior. And start choosing God more today.

Photo by: Jaime Legaspino