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Dr. James C. Denison
President, Center for Informed Faith, Dallas, TX
July 22, 2011

Swimming with the sharks

As you read this article, Diana Nyad may be swimming from Cuba to Key West, Florida. She’s been waiting on water temperatures to warm up; now that they have, nothing stands in her way. Nothing, that is, except 103 miles, countless stinging jellyfish, and sea salt which will swell her tongue and rub her skin raw.

Not to mention the sharks which make this stretch of ocean their playground. Nyad will be swimming for 60 straight hours, stopping every hour and a half to tread water for a few minutes while swallowing a mixture of predigested protein and an occasional bite of banana or peanut butter. She wants to be the first person to make the swim without a shark cage, so two men in kayaks will follow her with shark shields—neoprene rods that emit electrical waves to zap sharks if they come too close. The shield is not foolproof, however. Four shark divers with spears will also be nearby, ready to jump.

What attracted me to her story this morning? I’d like to say it was the commitment Diana Nyad is demonstrating in conquering the unconquered. I’d like to claim that I am interested in the historic and technological significance of her achievement. All of that is true enough. But the real reason I clicked first on the article was simple: she is swimming with sharks.

If she were making the 103-mile journey across a fresh-water lake I’d be interested but not fascinated. It’s the image of a single woman up against razor-toothed predators far larger and more deadly than she. Her story is Jaws meets Chariots of Fire. Its danger is its attraction, to me and to her as well.

We find her story all through Scripture: Moses facing Pharaoh, David running into battle with Goliath, Joshua stepping into the flooded Jordan river, Daniel encircled by lions, Peter confronting the Sanhedrin, Stephen preaching to his executioners, Paul singing hymns at midnight in a Philippian jail. What did they have in common? A passionate, sacrificial commitment to a cause worth its cost and more.

Have you found yours? Seneca, the first-century Roman philosopher, claimed: “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.” Name your sharks, give them to your King in faith, and ask him to empower you as you fulfill his Kingdom purpose for this Friday. Know that you’re not swimming alone: “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). And take to heart his assurance: “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6). Your sharks are minnows compared to the omnipotence of their Maker.

Peter told Jesus on the Sea of Galilee, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14:28). His Lord’s answer was immediate: “Come” (v. 29). To swim with the sharks, you must leave your boat behind.

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