A number of years ago, my wife and I were leading a ministry team of Asbury University students in Northern Ireland. The venue for our efforts was two sea coast towns on the northeast shore. At times, we would see fishing boats tilted on one side and resting on the bottom of the bay. Passing by at a later hour, we would notice the boats upright and floating well above the floor of the inlet. What had changed the orientation of the fishing boats? It was the tide.
Hailing from the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, that was all new to me. There is not much of a tide on Squabble Creek. There is a wise saying among the people along the Irish shore: “The rising tide lifts all boats”. That saying epitomized the reason we were there.
Northern Ireland was a troubled land at that time. The Irish Republican Army and the Ulster Unionists were literally at war. The youth to whom we were seeking to minister were deeply divided on either side of the conflict. Bombs, bullets, fights, and fires were an almost daily occurrence. Not only were many combatants dying, but numbers of innocent by-standers were also losing their lives in the fray. A sense of hatred and lawlessness pervaded this beautiful land.
How could a handful of young people have any real impact in such a hostile environment? Then a thought stirred my thinking. Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Myself.” That’s why we were there. Our prayer was that by lifting Jesus up among these belligerent factions, He would draw them to Himself and then draw them together. The hearts’ desire of our ministry team was that the Prince of Peace would raise these wonderful young people above the conflict. We wanted the words of scripture to penetrate their troubled hearts:
- “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity” (Psalm 133:1, NIV).
- “Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel” (Proverbs 20:3).
- “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
- Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Colossians 3:13-15).
Our team was privileged to witness the Lord lift some of the people above the bitterness and strife. In the intervening years, from then until now, much of the conflict has subsided and a sense of hope has settled. If the Lord is lifted up, He is able to do “exceeding abundantly above what we think or ask”.
“The rising tide lifts all boats.”
~ Brother Roy