The book of Acts specifically describes Phillip as an “evangelist.” (Acts 21:8) Later in the New Testament, the apostle Paul instructs Timothy to do the work of an evangelist. (2 Timothy 4:5) Those three verses are the only three uses of the word evangelist in the Bible.
This past week, I spoke to a passionate evangelist. James Robison. His life story is miraculous in and of itself, being born of a rape victim. He grew up poor in a mostly unstable environment, with a troubled mother. But God had His sovereign hand upon James and called him not only to faith, but to this spiritual work of an evangelist.
You can read about his miraculous life story in Robison’s new book, Living Amazed: How Divine Encounters Can Change Your Life. He also has a television ministry along with other resources. The number of people James has influenced toward faith in Jesus the Messiah is remarkable.
But there is another evangelist whose work is worth noting today. He died on April 15th, 1912. And he was unofficially “buried” at sea, along with thousands of others in the sinking of the Titanic. His name was John Harper.
Harper had visited Chicago and led revival services at the Moody Church not long before the Titanic sailing. He had returned to Britain, but received an invitation to return to the States and continue his ministry, which he chose to do. Harper had originally been booked on the Lusitania, but delayed the trip so that he and his six-year-old daughter could sail aboard the Titanic.
On that fateful night, we have a remarkable story of John Harper. In the icy waters, as the giant ship was sinking, it’s reported that Harper, knowing he could not survive long in the icy water, took off his life jacket and threw it to another person with the words, “You need this more than I do!” Moments later, Harper disappeared beneath the water.
Four years later, a young Scotsman by the name of Aguilla Webb stood up in a meeting in Hamilton, Canada, and gave the following testimony:
“I am a survivor of the Titanic. When I was drifting alone on a spar that awful night, the tide brought Mr. John Harper of Glasgow, also on a piece of wreck, near me. ‘Man,’ he said, ‘Are you saved?’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘I am not.’ He replied, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.’ The waves bore him away; but, strange to say brought him back a little later, and he said, ‘Are you saved now?’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘I cannot honestly say that I am.’ He said again, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,’ and shortly after he went down; and there, alone in the night, and with two miles of water under me, I believed. I am John Harper’s last convert.”
While the Scriptures give us only three mentions of evangelist as a spiritual gifting, it is clear all followers of Jesus are called to the “work” of sharing the Good News. In light of yesterday’s celebration of the risen Christ, may we find a renewed zeal for that work, as we all sail to Heaven’s shore.
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Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to www.1160hope.com for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.