Message in a Bottle
“Captured Crew Saved After Sending Message In A Bottle” headlined the following story from Metro, an online British news agency. The report stated:
In 2011, a crew from a hijacked cargo boat was saved by British commandos after sending their rescuers a message in a bottle. The captured seamen, trapped in a sealed and armored part of their vessel as it was over-run by pirates, threw their note into the water when two NATO ships arrived to free them.
Their message, explaining that they were safe and well, was retrieved from the ocean by special forces before they stormed the ship. The crew members were all rescued unhurt, save for one with a cut hand, and the pirates were arrested.
While there are many stories chronicling a message in a bottle, this one ended up with the sender of the message being saved by the receiver of that message. Conversely, the Christian message is about the Sender also being the Savior:
“For God so loved the world that He gave [sent] His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Another distinctive of the gospel message is that as His messengers, “we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel” (1 Thessalonians 2:4), the most powerful message the world has ever known:
“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
While the Apostle Paul thought much about the message, as he declared to the Corinthian Church, he also acknowledged his lowliness as the message carrier:
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
The “treasure” is the gospel message while the messengers are “earthen vessels.” God’s ‘message in a bottle’ is coined by Paul as treasure in earthen vessels.
The Greek word for earthen vessels means baked clay and referred to clay pots. Necessary for household functions in first-century life, they were common, inexpensive, breakable and easily replaceable. Sometimes they served as a place to store valuables such as money or jewelry. Other times they were also used for holding garbage and human waste. Not exactly fine china or sterling silver!
As we think about our own personal witness, it’s good to remember that while we as messengers may be tainted and weak, the message of salvation and the Jesus the Savior is powerful and good to save. As Paul noted in Romans 1:16-17:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’”
In my 35+ years as a witness for Jesus, I’ve done the work of evangelism in a variety of settings. As a missionary to my Jewish people for a number of years, while doing street evangelism, I have been called every name in the book and perhaps a couple not in the book. Perhaps you’ve not done street evangelism nor received a few verbal zingers tossed your way. But if you’ve witnessed to people, it’s likely there have times some people thought you “strange” or a“loser” because of your faith in Jesus.
On those occasions when I had been called a loser while doing street ministry, I sometimes have responded: “You know, you may be right. I may be a loser. But Jesus is no loser and this is not about me anyway. It’s about Him. Who do you think Jesus is?”
In contrast, people may like the bottle but not the message the bottle contains. A person may get along famously with you, but may not want to hear about your Jesus. I never talk with someone who is not interested in talking about spiritual things and neither should you. Respect their wishes, continue to cultivate the relationship and pray that some soon tomorrow their heart may be open to engage the message and the person of Jesus.
So, just because a door for giving testimony is closed today doesn’t mean that some soon tomorrow it may not open. As His Spirit moves, the Lord can use circumstances in a person’s life to brings them to a place of openness. That was my case. I once was closed to the gospel, then at a point in time I became open. How about in your conversion experience? Remember, everyone we’re witnessing to and praying for is also in process.
When someone does trust in Christ through your witness, remember, it is the power of God and the message of the cross by which they came to faith. Thank God for His message and His providence in using you, the messenger.
A proper perspective about the ‘message in a bottle’ or, in biblical terms, this “treasure in earthen vessels” will help us as we engage the evangelistic process, for God desires that we be vessels through which He delivers His message of salvation. What people do with that message is between them and God.
Lord Jesus, make us vessels by which your treasure, the gospel, goes forth to many. Amen.