Swimming with Sharks
August 14, 2011
One of the most dangerous and adrenaline-inducing activities in the ocean is swimming with sharks. But before anyone gets in the water and finds themselves staring face-to-face with the world’s most formidable predators, they’ve got to know what they’re doing. They’ve got to know how to swim safely.
In this message, Pastor Ed Young prepares us to dive under the surface and face the feeding frenzy of sharks we encounter in life. And he shows us how every day we spend in God’s House is like a pre-dive safety lesson that empowers us to swim with the sharks—and survive!
I want to teach you a song, a little song. Some of you know this song, some of you don’t. This song has special memories in my life because our oldest daughter, Lee Beth, and I back in the day did a talent show. It was a father/daughter talent show and this was the song that we did for this show. I want to teach it to you. There are hand gestures, just go ahead and roll with it, OK?
A 1 and a 2 and a 3…
“Baby shark. Bum-bum…bum-bum-bum.
Baby shark. Bum-bum…bum-bum-bum.
Child shark. Bum-bum…bum-bum-bum.
Child shark. Bum-bum…bum-bum-bum.
Teenage shark. Bum-bum…bum-bum-bum.
Teenage shark. Bum-bum…bum-bum-bum.
Adult shark. Bum-bum…bum-bum-bum.
Adult shark. Bum-bum…bum-bum-bum.
Grandpa shark. Bum-bum…bum-bum-bum.
Grandpa shark. Bum-bum…bum-bum-bum.
Lady swimming. Bum-bum…bum-bum-bum.
Lady swimming. Bum-bum…bum-bum-bum.
In the water. Bum-bum…bum-bum-bum.
Lost my leg. Bum-bum…bum-bum-bum.”
Please be seated. You guys sounded great. You sounded incredible at all of our campuses.
SHARK WEAK. W-E-A-K. We’re all shark weak. Life is about swimming with a pack of predators. Let’s just be totally candid because I think if we really put the cards on the table we would say, you know, I’m facing sharks. I’m swimming with sharks. I work with sharks. I play with sharks. I’m married to a shark. No, this series is not about lawyers. It’s about sharks. We all swim with sharks.
What are you dealing with? What is your shark? Maybe it’s a toxic relationship. Maybe you feel like a chunk has been bitten out of you due to a battle you had and are having with a substance issue. It could be something that is facing you as you look out into the future. Maybe it’s a money situation and this schizophrenic economy. What is your shark? What is your shark? Life is swimming with sharks.
I’ve always been fascinated by sharks. I liked sharks before the movie “Jaws.” I just have been drawn to these creatures. I’ve read about them, I’ve watched them. Recently I swam with some sharks. Have you ever swam with sharks? I have.
<Shark Diving Video with Stuart Cove>
Stuart: The thing about sharks, if they want you, they’re gonna have you. Honestly they’re so powerful if they wanted to they could just saw your hand right off.
Ed: I’m in the Bahamas with Stuart Cove, the #1 shark diver in the world. I’m a beginner with a capital B. But I can swim. A shark release. I love that.
Stuart: If you get water in your mask while you’re underwater, you don’t want to come all the way up to the top to dump it out. You lift it up, just push on the top and blow through your nose.
Ed: We’re on the Youngdom so I’m feeling good.
Stuart: We have this boat roster and everybody’s name is on it. I need everybody to sign in. We don’t want to leave anybody out there.
Ed: No. I’m going into the water today. Stuart, you don’t have any fear of a shark.
Stuart: Well, today we’re gonna be baiting the sharks with bait so we’re gonna create a situation so I have not a fear but more of a respect.
Ed: I like that. Respect the shark.
Stuart: So once you’re careful, respect them because they’re very clever and they know what they’re supposed to eat but sometimes they get snapping and bite the wrong thing.
Ed: I’ve always loved sharks, ever since I can remember. And to me it’s fitting, it’s fun. Because I am nervous. I’m excited, nervous, but I also have great confidence, too. Sharks are all over the place. I see probably 20 of these monsters, some up to nine feet. Thankfully I’m with my man, Richard, who has got my back. Whoa! Go back in there?
Stuart: Yeah, when he’s ready. When he’s rolling.
Ed: Whoa! Dive on top of them, it doesn’t matter?
Stuart: It doesn’t matter. They’ll move. We have a couple of sensible suggestions. One is to keep your hands in.
Ed: Keep your hands in.
Stuart: We’re feeding them pieces of fish that kind of look like your palm. Now remember, you’re looking at a shark here but we have tunnel vision with our mask. There could be a shark here, there’s one behind us. They’re gonna be very close. They’ll be bumping into you.
Ed: So do I need to keep like a presence of where they all are or do I just…
Stuart: Don’t worry about that.
Ed: Don’t worry about it.
Stuart: Don’t pull on their tails.
Ed: I will not. Whoa. That was unbelievable! Sharks were all over us. All OVER US!
Stuart: There must’ve been 40 sharks.
Ed: I’m glad I faced the fear. I’m glad I faced the fear, too. You know you’re a little bit apprehensive of diving but especially diving with sharks.
Stuart: But didn’t that fear dissipate?
Ed: Yes it dissipated. Once I was down there, once I saw how beautiful, magical, and peaceful, I was fine
<Shark Diving Video Ends>
We’ve got to be shark-smart, don’t we? We swim with sharks, literally. We swim with sharks. Think about the shark that you’re swimming with right now. Think about that issue or those people or the situations that are circling you. You see the fins knifing through the water. I don’t know what your shark is and you don’t know what my shark is. We all, though, swim with sharks.
T.S. How do you swim with sharks? How do you swim with these predators? How do you negotiate those sharky waters?
You just saw, when I talked to Stuart Cove, one of the top shark divers in the world. He’s done 22 shark weeks in a row. He has done pretty much every major motion picture you can think about that deals with underwater over the last several decades. When I went to him he gave me an amazing pre-dive safety talk. It was unbelievable! And what did I do? I listened attentively.
I’ve got a severe case of ADD. I listened, though. I was locked in. He was explaining to me about what we were going to do. I’m not certified. He knew I was a neophyte, a beginner. It was interesting, though, to watch him unpack this very complex activity in a way that I could understand it, deal with it, and apply it. The pre-dive safety talk. Did I ask questions? Yeah, I asked a couple of questions. The questions were relatively intelligent, but really, who am I to ask real profound question? This guy has forgotten more about diving in a day than I will know in my entire lifetime. I’m talking a true expert.
Then I thought about the church. What is the church? The church is the body of Christ. What is the church? The church is the Bride of Christ. What is the church? It’s a place of community. What is the church? It’s a place we’re commanded to go. What is the church? A place of necessity. What is the church? It’s a big, honkin’ pre-dive safety talk. That’s the church. We’re swimming with sharks. We’re negotiating negative people. That’s what life is about in a lot of ways. If you don’t see any sharks, just wait. Sharks will show up. Blood in the water, sharks will be there. It’s just a matter of time.
We have an opportunity, though, don’t we? To come to the body of Christ and hear a pre-dive safety talk. How ridiculous would I have looked had I gone, “Hey Stuart! Yeah, I know you’re a world-class diver but I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do. See I bought this Mickey Mouse diving mask at Disney World and I’m gonna use that. And I don’t really like what you’re saying so I’m not gonna use a tank. Don’t talk to me about safety. Can I rent that little ocean kayak from you? I’m gonna paddle out by myself. I will dive with sharks myself. I know what’s going on.”
That would have been very, very dumb. I had the expert, the man, I downloaded what he told me. Even though the stuff he told me was unnatural. The regulator and the tank and the mask.
“When you get to the bottom, kneel.” What?! With deadly sharks all around?
“Cross your arms. Remain motionless.” That’s odd. Highly unnatural.
Church, I will say it once again, is a pre-dive safety talk. What do we look like in the eyes of God when we try to do life our own way? What do we look like in the eyes of God when we say, “You know what, I’m not gonna show up for two to three weeks, maybe two to three months. I will just put on my Mickey Mouse diving mask and I will take my own kayak out. I will dive with sharks. I can do what I want to do.”
What does our great God think? You want to dive with sharks? It’s a pretty good decision. Kneeling. Walking on our knees in prayer. Listening to God. Listening to his expert advice as he uses the voice boxes of people called to lead worship, of people called to do video, of people called to unpack the scriptures. That’s how we live. That’s how we swim with a pack of predators.
Jesus said it in Matthew 10:16. He told his disciples. He said, “I send you out as sheep amongst wolves.”
In our context: “I send you out,” this is what Jesus is saying, “as sheep among great white sharks.” The pre-dive safety talk.
So often things seem unnatural to us when we’re listening. It’s good to ask questions about the Bible. It’s good to ask questions about the person of Christ. We welcome people who investigate. We welcome people who have doubts. Fellowship Church is all about receiving people like that. Again, you can express your questions to God, your doubts. Question your questions. Doubt your doubts. Understand that you’re listening to the expert, someone who’s been there. I’m talking about Jesus.
Did Jesus dive with sharks? Are you kidding me?! Pharisees and Sadducees. Sharks, you see. They ended up nailing him to a cross. The sharks. He totally identified with you and with me.
You might be thinking, “I’m the only person going through this. You don’t understand. I see the fins. The blood’s in the water. I’ve had this attack.” Jesus understands! No matter what you’re going through or no matter what I’m going through, he has experienced it on a whole ‘notha level. He’s the expert! Listen to him. Ask questions, then, though, here’s the moment. You leave the practice pool and you step into liquid. You go from one world into another.
So often those of us who call ourselves followers of Christ like to stay in the practice pool. We like to study the etymology of the word dive. Or we like to check the historicity of the air tank. And we get all of the minutia and think that’s really, really cool, and then someone goes, “Hey man, have you done any diving?”
And you go, “No, I’m still in the practice pool. I’m still learning. I’ve still got questions and doubts. And once I have all that stuff answered then I promise you, man. I will step into liquid.”
That will never happen. You’ve got to step in. You’ve got to trust.
I know a few things about swimming and diving. Stuart Cove is the man, the expert. At the end of the day, when I fell back, I trusted him.
“How about the sharks, Stuart? I’m going to fall on the backs of sharks?” Now I hit three sharks when I fell into the water.
He said, “Trust me. It’ll be OK.”
So I did it. It seemed highly unnatural to me. I did it. Walking with the Lord is unnatural in many ways. It seems countercultural. It is countercultural. It seems kinda weird. It’s the only way to live. Listen. Listen intently. Don’t miss a pre-dive safety talk.
How can you have a thriving marriage without it? You can’t. How can you have thriving friendships without it? You can’t. How can you know how to deal with your finances without it? You can’t. Listen attentively.
One of the things he told me right up front was about the diving mask. He said, “Ed, you’ve got to understand the mask.”
And I’m thinking to myself, I’ve snorkeled before. I’ve put on a mask in a pool before. I’m thinking, what’s he gonna tell me about a diving mask? I listened intently and he taught me how to see clearly. The mask is important.
He said, “What happens when you can’t see? What happens when your mask gets fogged up or filled with water? What do you do?”
He taught me how to clear my mask. And one of the things he said was, “If you’re out of the water, if you’re on the surface just spit in the mask and your saliva will clean the lens of the mask.”
A man was blind. Couldn’t see jack. Jesus walked up to him, spit on the ground, made some mud out of his saliva, put it on the man’s eyes and he could see. The mask was cleared.
This expert told me, your mask gets hit underwater, which mine did by a 9-foot shark. We’ll show you that later. His tail… whoomp… hit my mask. Knocked it sideways. OK, you’re 50 feet down. You can’t just go up to the surface. You’ll get the bends. What do you do? You’ve got to clear your mask. You’ve got to relax. It seems unnatural. You look up and just push your mask, make a little opening, and blow some air out and all the water will come out.
Jesus is my counselor. He’s my friend. He’s my creator. He’s my home-boy. People say that, and that’s partly true. Yet we talk about Jesus like he’s out there. If you or a follower of Christ, Jesus is not out there. We invite him into our lives. He lives his life in us and through us. He gives us the discernment and ability to see clearly. To do that, though, we’ve got to clear the mask. To do that we’ve got to look up and clear the mask… of our self-centeredness, our pride, our ego, our anger. The stuff that fogs up everything.
My mind rushes to 2 Kings 6. Specifically, Elisha, the man of God in the Old Testament was surrounded by enemy troops. Elisha’s servant sees all the troops. The sharks are circling. The guy loses his mind. He goes back and says,
“Elisha, we’re surrounded. It’s over. We’re gonna be taken out.”
You know what Elisha said? Elisha prayed a prayer, 2 Kings 6:17.
“Oh Lord, open his eyes (in other words, clear his mask) so he may see. Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes. He looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”
He saw! He saw the battle was the Lord’s. I ask you, how can you see what you should see if your mask isn’t clear? How can you tell if it’s a shark or a dolphin? Are you swimming with dolphins or sharks? Flipper or Jaws? Good question. What do you do? You better have a clear mask. What do you do? Allow the Lord to live through you. What do you do? You listen intently. What do you do? When blood is in the water, that’s when you can tell who you’re swimming with.
If you’re swimming with sharks, sharks are cannibalistic. They eat themselves. Dolphins, if one’s injured, they take care of the dolphin, nurse the dolphin, watch out for the dolphin, surround the dolphin. Who are you swimming with? Who are you doing life with? We’ll talk about that over the ensuing sessions. This is a huge, huge thing. See clearly. God has an awesome vision for your life. A vision in the depths. A vision like you’ve never seen before. What is fogging up your mask? What is making your mask all dirty. Are you like Elisha’s servant? Are you panicking? “Ahh! We’re surrounded! Aaahhh!!!! Ohhh!!!” Or are you like, “OK, I’m fearful. God clean and clear my mask.”
Talk to anybody who dives. Talk to a dive-master. Talk to the man that I swam with. He will tell you about panic. Panic happens when you’re underwater. You can panic under there. And when you panic, what do you do? The divers say you forget, for the most part, what you’ve been taught and you revert back to what you know.
That’s what happens in our lives if we’re not regularly listening and seeing, confessing and keeping short accounts with God. We panic, we see something, we face a fear, we face an obstacle, a predator. Then we just freak out. We go back to the old ways, to the natural ways instead of saying, “God, do your supernatural, unusual work in my life.” I’m telling you something, we’ll be able to see like we’ve never seen before. We’ll see clearly.
So yeah, we listen attentively, we see clearly, but there’s something else we need to do and you saw me do it. We need to breathe. Take the regulator, strap the tank on, and breathe deeply. In the Bible, in the Old Testament there’s a book called Job (you might call it Jŏb, it’s Jōb). Job was this guy… if you want to see and experience a true shark attack, everything was eaten away from his life. His marriage was eaten away, his kids were eaten up, his billions were eaten away, his body was eaten away. People were like,
“Job, dude, cuss God and die! God has turned his back on you, man!” Job had doubts, Job had questions, Job had issues. He continued, though, to listen intently, to see clearly, to breathe deeply.
In Job 33:4, “The Spirit of God,” Job said, “has made me. The breath of the Almighty gives me life.”
It’s called the regulator. That’s what you breathe from. God can regulate any circumstances or situation. Are you breathing the breath of God?
The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is God-breathed.” In the original it’s “theo-neustos”. God doesn’t have bad breath. God-breathed. So literally, this [Bible] is my regulator. I’m breathing in the word of God. It’s my air. Maybe for you it’s one verse a day that is your lifeline. Maybe it’s a chapter a day. Maybe it’s listening to the word of God on tapes or podcast, whatever it is. Get into the word of God. It’ll be your life. It’ll be your connection to living, to really swim the way God wants you to swim.
When you dive you only have a limited amount of air, don’t you? You could be saying, “Ed, you don’t realize what I’m facing. I mean, you don’t realize what I’ve gotta do tomorrow. This illness, this family situation, this bitterness, this unforgiveness that I have. You don’t realize what I’m facing!” The Bible says that God gives us just enough grace just enough air for that day. And for many of us we have concentrate one dive at a time.
On a grander scheme, we have these little gages when we dive. Life is short. It seems like once you get a lot of stuff figured out it’s time to be put into the box. Game’s over! You know? We’ve got to trust. We’ve got to listen. We’ve got to see. We’ve got to breathe and realize our time’s running out. Doubt your doubts. Question your questions. Feed your faith. Don’t check your intellect before you dive, but take the words from the expert, from the dive-master and go deep. Breathe deeply. Breathe deeply. Are you breathing deeply.
There’s something else that you probably saw and you’ll see as we show you more and more exciting video clips from all of these dives and things we did with sharks. Because of these things I had the opportunity to swim with swagger, to swim confidently. Because I talked to the expert and listened, and did what he told me to do, although unnatural. Because I could see clearly as I cleared the mask regularly and strategically. Because I was breathing right and didn’t freak out and panic, I could swim with swagger. I could face those sharks. Although I was freaky a little bit I could face them. I could look at them. I could swim with them.
I remember David. David was on the run. A great white shark was chasing God’s man, trying to take him out. David was in a place called Ziklag. Some people began to join him, some mighty warriors. And I love what David said to them in 1 Chronicles 12:17. He said, “Are you with me or have you come to betray me?” And then they said, “David, success! We’re with you. Success to you, success!”
T.S. Who are you swimming with, sharks or dolphins? There are several types of people that we meet in this life. We meet some who are the with yous. I mean, people who have got our backs. Jesus is with us. He’s not gonna leave you or me or forsake you or me. He’s got out back. He’s been there. We serve a sympathetic Savior. But also, too, as we’re in community we can meet people we can do life with. People who are with us, who love us, who are loyal.
I discovered this in my life about people who are with me. Someone told me this a long time ago and I never forgot it. Those who are with you, those who are your true friends, they don’t even need an explanation. The sharks in your life, though, they won’t believe an explanation even if you give it to them. Who are you swimming with? The With-Yous?
There’s another type of people called the for yous. The For-Yous are like your fans. They’re like, “Yay! Alright. I like you, girl! Hey man, you’re cool! What up? Yeah, chest bump, yeah!” But as quick as they do that, they’ll move to somebody else and another relationship. And I mean, that’s fine. People have fans and for you people, but you do life with the with yous.
Well, David said, “Are you with me or have you come to betray me?” Some people are use yous. Use-Yous are sharks that disguise themselves as Flipper. They’re not Flipper! They’re Jaws! No one can betray you unless you trust someone? Ever been betrayed? Jesus knows betrayal like we’ll never know betrayal.
Illus: When I hit the water I had a safety diver with me. You saw him. The guy who was ripped with the cool ink around his biceps. I didn’t show you this but I held his hand as we descended all the way to the bottom. I’ve never been so happy to hold a man’s hand in my life as I was surrounded by sharks off of Nassau in the Bahamas. He had my back, though. He was watching out for me. And at first I was thinking he didn’t have a lot of weapons. What’s he gonna do, just pick up the pieces? I mean… This guy, though, had logged a lot of hours. So I had him at my back. I had THE man, Stuart Cove, feeding the sharks and also watching me simultaneously. I had some other people there with me… with me… WITH ME… so I could swim with confidence.
God wants us to swim, not with cockiness, but with swagger, knowing that we’re relying on him. His power leveraging our gifts and abilities to face fear, to face difficulties, to swim. How are you swimming? Are you shark-smart? What are your sharks? What are you processing? What are you dealing with? What are you facing? Many would say, man, I’m facing a situation like this great white. That’s a true-to-life replica of a 21-footer. And as you go to work tomorrow, or deal with somebody tomorrow, or face something tomorrow, it’s like you’re looking into those jaws.
I don’t care what your situation is, God will give you the strength to swim with swagger. Isn’t that good? I need to hear that. We all do. We can encourage one another and help one another swim with swagger.
Are you shark-smart? Let’s go over the checklist again.
- Listen intently.
- See clearly.
- Breathe deeply.
- Swim confidently
And God will take you to depths that you’ve never dreamed possible.
Let’s pray together.
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]