Hello friends! I hope you’re having a great almost-summer season and a stellar Father’s Day!
For some reason, this week was my week for bringing on fun how-to-survive videos, and in that vein we’re going to talk about how Noah survived a global flood–and how we can apply the lessons in Genesis 7 to teach us to learn the balance between saving yourself and saving others.
And yes, it’s a balance–and one that many of us don’t understand because, for some reason, we tend to view acts of self-preservation as either heroic (hello, self-esteem camp!) or selfish (hello, self-effacing camp!). But what we need to discuss is where God stands on this issue.
So Godbloggers, let’s jump into Noah’s ark and see what we can learn!
1. It’s not unspiritual to save yourself.
Although Noah wasn’t the one who first thought to make an ark, the Bible doesn’t record him pleading for the salvation of the world like Abraham pleaded for the salvation of a city (by the way, God’s answer to Abraham was to tell Lot and his family to flee Sodom, too (Gen. 19:12-13)). And God initiating this means of salvation indicates to us that He wanted Noah and his family to save themselves.
This may not immediately sound helpful to those who suffer from survivor’s guilt, but believing that you’re not guilty simply by virtue of outliving others is the first step. After all, whenever I struggle with the negative consequences of believing a pernicious lie, repeating a truth (any truth) that calls out the lie for what it is helps my emotions slowly drag their feet toward stability.
So, here’s a biblical maxim: If you’ve tried to help others out of danger, but they either won’t be saved or it’s not possible to save them, it’s okay to flee.
It’s not like Noah didn’t do his best to save those around him (2 Pet. 2:5, KJV). It’s not like he was the reason they died. In fact, he was the reason there was anyone left to represent humanity. But after doing his best to save others, he didn’t stick around. He left.
And he took all those that he could save with him, including his wife, sons, and daughters-in-law.
2. . . . . But it is unspiritual to not TRY to save others!
You know, it’s good for us to think of ways to save ourselves from the chaos around us—so long as we don’t go to the other extreme of hiding away from those that we’re supposed to be ministering to. Like the Amish do.
Maybe that’s insensitive. But the thing is, there is no way to cushion this truth. When we fail to minister to the world around us when we have the capacity to do so, we’re sinning. And that ministering includes sharing the gospel.
It’s hard, and I know that. It’s hard to go up to people who will probably reject God’s message (and, consequently, reject us), but that’s the Great Commission.
What happened in Noah’s time is a last-case-scenario. And one that God won’t repeat again (to the same magnitude). Because here’s the thing: we can’t always escape the world’s trials. And we shouldn’t try to if it’s going to come at the expense of our ministry.
After all, the apostles and prophets didn’t stop speaking the truth when it got hard (and by hard, I mean life-threatening). As Hebrews 11 records, for the sake of spreading God’s truth to their generation, many leaders of the faith faced shipwrecks, floggings, starvation, prison sentences, and brutal deaths.
3. Therefore, whether it’s time to save yourself or to save others depends on God’s will for your ministry.
So, how do we know when to stay and endure, and when to flee for our lives? How do we reconcile Noah fleeing from God’s judgment with Paul staying and ministering until Nero’s men beheaded him?
The answer is a lot simpler than I thought: we have to be willing to do both.
As Paul wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. . . . For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith” (Phil. 1:21, 23-25, emphasis mine).
Paul knew that God still had work for him to do. He was in touch with God and what God wanted him to do, so he knew that his ministry wasn’t over. And even when he didn’t know what to do, he moved in one direction until God told him otherwise (Acts 16:6-9).
He fled when his persecutors tried to kill him (Acts 9:23-25), but only when he knew that he could no longer minister to the other Christians and to the unsaved. After all, since the Jews congregated outside in wait to kill him, Paul’s prologued stay would’ve only accomplished his own death.
But if you’re still confused about why God gave up on an entire generation–with the exception of Noah–remember what Jesus prayed before willingly staying for his own execution:
“I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (Jn. 17:15).
Like Noah, the preacher of righteousness, we need to communicate with unbelievers, helping them get out of spiritual danger and into spiritual blessedness. But when God says it’s time to leave, we leave.
All you can do is live a godly life and witness to others about what Christ has done for you. But you can’t force them to safety. If they want to ignore the warnings and damn themselves, that’s their sad choice to make.
And sometimes, that’s not the issue. Sometimes, it’s not possible for them personally to run, because, like the Thessalonian Christians, they’re called stay and brave danger for the sake of others. In that case, all we can do is encourage them to be strong.
And if we’re called to run, God wants us to prepare like Noah. After all, without proper planning and attention to detail, the flood could’ve easily sunk the ark and Noah could’ve run out of food.
I doubt God would let Noah die, but it’s till important to notice how much time Genesis 6 and 7 dedicates to God relating very specific directions about the ark’s construction and the number of clean animals necessary. So if you’re in a position to run, bring some luggage with you if you can.
And always remember that, even in the chaos of staying and in the chaos of fleeing, God is there with us. He may be allowing us to suffer, but he knows how long the trial will last (Gen. 7:24) and is more than able to sustain our spirit (Phil. 4:13).
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