No, that’s not the most common sales pitch heard at the local marina, it’s a line from one of my favorite movies, Jaws.
In the movie, Chief Brody, Matt Hooper, and Quint embark upon the fishing trip from sheol. They set out to find the shark that has been terrorizing picturesque Amity, eating tourists and commercial profits alike. Quint, a salty old dog from a by-gone era, sings tawdry songs and tells lurid tales. The Chief, a landlubber from the city, can’t decide if he should be fascinated or frightened by Quint. He quickly finds out, however, that the post card blue seas hide a far greater horror … Bruce (that’s the name of the mechanical shark used in production).
In the climactic scenes, our three shark hunters are at sea on Quint’s Orca, a dated, worn out fishing vessel that appears that it may never have had better days. There, as they troll along on calm seas, they do what fishermen do. Quint prepares the tackle. Hooper “drives the boat,” and the Chief chums the waters, throwing sundry fish parts and blood overboard in hopes of attracting the shark.
Attract the shark they do. As Chief Brody laments his lot in life, Bruce arrives on camera in all his grisly glory for the first time. He rears his massive, maniacal (and mechanical) head for the first time, virtually eating from the Chief’s hands. Stunned by the size of the shark and shaken by his brush with death, the Chief staggers back into the wheelhouse. There he informs Quint of their predicament. In one of the movie history’s greatest lines and one of life’s greatest understatements, the Chief casts out these words: “You’re going to need a bigger boat.”
Many of us go through life in the same way. We identify with one of the three characters. Some of us approach life with the scientific objectivity of Matt Hooper, the ichthyologist. Others are like Quint, hardened by life and afraid of nothing. The rest are like Chief Brody. They’re comfortable in their own environment and lost when out of it.
Like our intrepid fishermen, we also think that we’re ready for whatever situation we meet. We’ve read all the self-help books. We’ve prayed the mantra. We’ve claimed the promises. We’ve thought through every potential scenario. We’ve told our friends what we would do in “that” situation. We’re ready. We think. Until we face the monsters in our life face-to-face.
How we respond to adversity tells a lot about us. The Hoopers in our churches will attack the problem head on, analyzing, planning, and plotting. That is, they’ll do that until the problem is bigger than they are. Then they fall back, regroup, and try to figure it out again. These are the businessmen of our churches who’ve never been told “no.” These are the pastors who’ve figured everything out while still in seminary and have never faced real difficulty before. Whoever they are, the Matt Hoopers of the Christian world have it all figured out and they’ll take care of things, if we’d just let them.
The Quints of the world have been through it all already. They’re not going to be surprised by what life throws at them and they’re not going down without a fight. Like Quint, they often refuse to wear a life vest because they’ve seen firsthand what can happen when you float through life’s problems. So, they too will solve their problems in the only manner they know how … by doing something, even if it’s the wrong thing.
Finally, the Chief Brodys of the world enter the scene. The Chiefs in our lives are those folks who are fine when things are going according to script, when the comfort zone is really comfortable. Then, when adversity rears its ugly head, they crumble. They complain. They balk. Then they cry for mercy, beg for mercy, and hope for a bigger boat.
The problem with each of those responses — the one who relies on education, the one who relies on experience, and the one who relies on little else — is that all of them have too low a view of God. The Hoopers assume that God needs their help. The Quints assume they don’t need God’s. The Brody’s know they need God’s help. They’re just not sure, if He’ll come in time. The symptoms are different but the diagnosis is the same. Their God is too small. They need a bigger God.
The God of the Bible is just such a God. He created the world. He’s the master of the seas. He holds the storms in check. He controls the trials in our lives. He is God and we are not. That God is much bigger than anything we’ll ever face.
The next time your nightmares come true, don’t try to wake yourself up, hoping it’s just a dream. Don’t try to leave the room to get popcorn when things get scary. Don’t go looking for an answer in your knowledge or yourself. Don’t go looking for a bigger boat. Look to the bigger God and trust Him to rescue you from the deep.Hear Jonah’s cry from the belly of his big fish: “I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me.” (2:2) After all, “Salvation belongs to the Lord.” (2:9)
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About Peter Beck
Peter serves as assistant professor of religion at Charleston Southern University where he teaches church history and theology. While serving as senior pastor in Louisville, Ky., he completed his PhD in historic theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His dissertation, The Voice of Faith: Jonathan Edwards's Theology of Prayer, is soon to be published. He, his wife Melanie, and their two kids, Alex (12) and Karis (7), live near Charleston, SC. Peter's goal for his teaching and writing ministries is "love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1 Tim 1:5).
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