Hope…for Rats and Swimmers Alike

I heard about an interesting scientific experiment that was done a while back at Duke University. A group of behavioral scientists put some wharf rats in a tank of water, and observed them to see how long they would survive before drowning. The average time was 17 minutes.

Then, they repeated the experiment but this time they “rescued” the rats just before the point of drowning. They dried them off, put them back in their cages, fed them and let them play for a few days, before repeating the drowning experiment again. This time, the average survival time increased from 17 minutes…to36 hours!
The scientists explained the phenomenon by pointing out that the second time around, the rats had hope. They believed that they could survive, because they had done so before. And that hope made all the difference for them to survive their difficult ordeal. One of the scientists summed it up, saying, “They were able to survive because they had been saved.”
I have heard it said, “As long as there is life, there is hope.” The experiment at Duke proved, “As long as there is hope, there is life.”
Not impressed by drowning rats? How about a similar story about a swimming human? Florence Chadwick was an American woman known for long-distance open water swimming.She was the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions, setting a time record each time. She was also the first woman to swim the Catalina Channel.
It was in 1952 when she made her first attempt to swim the 26 miles between Catalina Island and the California coastline. As she began, she was flanked by small boats that watched for sharks and were prepared to help her if she got hurt or grew tired. After about 15 hours a thick fog set in. Florence began to doubt her ability, and she told her mother, who was in one of the boats, that she didn’t think she could make it. She swam for another hour before asking to be pulled out, unable to see the coastline due to the fog. As she sat in the boat, she discovered she had stopped swimming less than a mile from her destination.
Two months later, however, she tried again. The same thick fog set in, but she succeeded in reaching Catalina. She said that she kept a mental image of the shoreline in her mind while she swam. She later swam the Catalina Channel on two additional occasions.
>What was the difference in her first failed attempt and her subsequent successful one? Quite simply, it was hope.
>The lessons for us as believers are obvious. We live in a world that is dark and evil and seems to oppose us on every side. And, you may have noticed that it appears to be getting worse by the day. The proverbial fog is heavy, and the water is deep and hard to navigate, be it for a rodent or an accomplished swimmer. It is so very easy to lose hope.
>However, we who have been “saved” know what awaits us. We know what life looks like on the other shore, so to speak. We mustn’t lose hope, and we mustn’t give up. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.”(Hebrews 10:23) He is indeed.
>More than that, we are the carriers of hope for our generation. The lost world needs to know our hope, and the source of it. And that source is none other than Jesus Christ, the rock on which we stand. “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…”(1 Peter 3:15)
So, hang in there, rats and swimmers alike. I’m sure glad we’re in this together, and count it such a privilege to be your pastor. I’m praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.
–Pastor Ken