The place for the ship is in the sea but God help the ship if the sea gets into it. But the remedy is not to remove the ship from the sea, but to make it strong and water-tight.
Dwight L. Moody
We are in the world, not of it. We are to engage the world, not run from it. Apparently, these lessons were lost on Hymenaeus and Alexander. Somewhere their spiritual ship sprung a leak. Floating in a sea of spiritual cynicism, drips of doubt seeped into their hull. Tiny rivulets of rejection became pools of skepticism. Soon they were under water, hardened hearts leading to a capsized faith. Paul captures this sad chapter in the life of the early church:
This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith,among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. 1 Timothy 5:18-20
Seeing these two capsized hulls moved Paul to exhort Timothy, his spiritual son in the faith, to make his own ship water-tight. Commentators Lea & Griffin note that the military term "wage the good warfare" suggests that Timothy faced a grueling spiritual battle and not a pleasant country retreat.
I suspect that most of us would prefer ease over warfare. In other words we would rather take a canoe trip on the Peace River than a white water death run down the Lochsa River. The Lochsa has harrowing runs with ominous-sounding names including Grim Reaper, Bloody Mary and Termination. But didn't Jesus promise us that there would be tribulation? Didn't he tell us that at times the ride would be rough and the waves of opposition would be strong.
As Moody said, we need a ship that is strong and water-tight.
One way we keep our ship from leaking is by "holding faith and a good conscience." Holding faith is resting in Jesus. It is trusting that God accepts us, not because of what we do for God but because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross. And because we rest in him (trust him), we obey him.
Obeying God is what Paul had in mind when he also urged Timothy to hold on to a good conscience. Conscience is that inner voice that lets us know when we step out of line. God is telling us that our behavior must match our beliefs. Ignoring either faith or a good conscience is like drilling a hole in our spiritual ship. I am not a sailor, but even I know that over time that boat won't float.
Do you want to stay afloat in the midst of the challenges of life? Stop banking on your accomplishments, your abilities, your savvy nature, your appearance, or your reputation. Instead, rest in Jesus. In him you are loved, safe, complete, pure, and acceptable before God. And pay attention to your conscience. Don't ignore that voice. A strong faith and a good conscience keep the water out.
Lea, T. D., & Griffin, H. P. (1992). Vol. 34: 1, 2 Timothy, Titus. The New American Commentary (80–81). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Ominous-sounding names ... from Garth Sundem, "5 Most Dangerous White-water Rapids" at www.adventure.howstuffworks.com. Accessed May 21, 2014.