Little Jaren was playing in the family’s swimming pool. His inflated raft flipped over. He kicked free – and then sank. My friend Clint, Jaren’s father, is a big guy, but he can move quickly if necessary. He raced to the pool and jumped in, rescuing the child before any harm was done.
This rescue is a good illustration of God’s care for us. A wise father doesn’t hover over a child, ensuring that he never makes a mistake or suffers an accident. The freedom to experience the consequences of poor choices can help a child mature and grow independent. But when a little one is truly in trouble, a loving father is beside him in one heartbeat.
Our heavenly Father doesn’t stand in the pool beside us, making sure that we never feel panicky or gulp down unwanted water. Jesus tells his apostles to “beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake” (Matt. 10:17-18). He even says that “the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God” (John 16:2).
The threat of lost physical life gets the immediate attention of a loving earthly father. But it’s the threat of a lost soul in hell that grabs the attention of our loving Father in heaven. If we are drowning in sin, he races to our side and grasps us in an embrace of boundless love.
But there’s a difference between a drowning child and a man or woman sinking in sin. The child is always eager to be rescued, whereas the sinner often struggles to free himself from the embrace of the rescuer. This is why Jesus says that “everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32-33).