Paul wrote to the Philippines that he considered “everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus… there is no righteousness of his own, but by faith in Christ” (Philippians 3:8-11).
Recently, I was reading some of the writings of Charles Spurgeon and ran across a story he told about a ship sailing to Australia that met with a terrible storm and sprang a leak. Another storm came and a certain passenger with an important “air” about him began to alarm the other passengers. The captain, knowing what panic this man could create, moved close to him to quiet him but the man blurted out, “What an awful storm! I’m afraid we will sink, for I hear there is a very bad leak.”
The captain replied, “Well, you seem to know more than the others so don’t mention it or it may frighten them. Would you help me by holding hard on this rope? Don’t let go but pull as hard as you can until I tell you to let go.”
This man pulled as hard as he could and as soon as the storm subsided, he was released from his duty. He expected to be congratulated by the captain and the other passengers but everyone seemed ungrateful, even the captain. A little perturbed, the “hero” hinted that such valuable services as his, saving the ship, ought to be rewarded in some way. He was shocked to hear the captain say, “What, you think you saved the ship? I gave you that rope to keep you busy so you wouldn't create a panic.”
This story reminds me that sometimes we can be self-righteous and be fooled into thinking that somehow we can contribute to our own salvation. Salvation is a gift of God and if we think that we can save ourselves, we are doing nothing more than our friend who stood holding the rope with teeth clenched. When we get to heaven, we will understand that everything we did toward our own salvation, apart from the Lord Jesus, was about as useful as holding that rope. The “safety” of our soul does not lie within ourselves but somewhere else. Jesus wants us to get out of the way, let Him in, and allow His grace to be magnified.
Salvation is a gift of God, not works, so no man can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). It’s good sometimes to remember that. We should work hard for the Lord but remember that working hard doesn't make us right with Him. Don’t get caught just holding the rope!