April 3, 2022 John Harper: Soul Winner
April 3, 2022
John Harper: Soul Winner
Reverend John Harper was a Scottish Baptist pastor who died on April 15th in 1912, with the sinking of the Titanic in the North Atlantic Ocean. He was saved at the age of fourteen and began preaching at eighteen. He pastored Paisley Road Baptist Church in Glasgow, Scotland. The church grew to over 500 people. In his honor, the church was renamed Harper Memorial Baptist Church. He was thirty-nine years old when he boarded the Titanic.
The Titanic was the largest and one of the most luxurious ships in the world. According to National Geographic, “The ship had 16 watertight compartments designed to keep it afloat if damaged. This led to the belief that the ship was unsinkable.” Pastor Harper, who was a widower at the time, was traveling with his six-year-old daughter and niece to preach at the Moody Church in Chicago for several weeks. Unfortunately, the ship hit an iceberg, and it sank.
On that night, 1,528 people drowned in the frigid waters. Pastor John Harper put his only daughter and his niece on a lifeboat and began to swim to people in the water, preaching the Gospel and leading them to Jesus, just before the hypothermia would claim his life. The story has been told that Pastor Harper swam up to a young man who was floating on a piece of debris. Pastor Harper asked him point-blank, "Are you saved?" The young man replied that he was not saved.
Pastor Harper persisted in leading him to Christ, but the young man still refused to believe in Jesus. He then took off his life jacket and threw it to the man and said, "Here then, you need this more than I do..." and swam away to other people.
A few minutes later, Pastor Harper swam back to the young man and succeeded in leading him to salvation. Of the 1,528 people that went into the water that night, only six were rescued by the lifeboats. This young man was one of the six who was rescued from floating on the debris. It was several years later, at a survivor's meeting, this young man stood up with tears streaming down his face and shared about how Pastor John Harper had led him to Christ.
Pastor Harper had tried to swim back to lead other people to Christ, but his body became too weak to swim because of the hypothermia. The survivors who witnessed the actions of Pastor Harper said that his last words before drowning were from Acts 16:31, "Believe in the name of the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”
This man of God exemplified a ride or die commitment to Christ. While other people were trying to get onto the lifeboats to save their own lives, Pastor John Harper laid down his life so that others could be saved before they perished in the frigid water.
Pastor John Harper knew the urgency of winning souls to Christ. He was God’s ride or die pastor and evangelist! You should be inspired to evangelize the lost at every opportunity you are given by God, even when you face losing your own life. The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus with these succinct and persuasive words, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16, NIV)
By: Rev. Scott A. Gray, Associate Pastor, Lighthouse Church, New Holland, PA
Today’s Scripture: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16, NIV)
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