Joni and Friends Blog

John Harper

When I say the word “Titanic” do you get that sinking feeling (sorry about that!)? 

Uh, I’m Joni Earekson Tada, but I had to say it because you know, 107 years ago today back in 1912 that state-of-the-art ocean liner hit an iceberg and sank to the bottom of the North Atlantic. People were appalled by this tragedy; because the Titanic was supposed to be unsinkable – so much so, that it had nowhere near the number of lifeboats needed. Over 1500 people died in those icy waters. But as tragic as it was, there were amazing stories of courage. And one is of John Harper, Scottish evangelist who was heading to Moody Church. As the Titanic began to sink, John Harper helped his 6-year old daughter and his sister into the lifeboatasking anyone who would listen if they were prepared to die – at least that is what survivors later reported. They said that as people were scrambling for the lifeboats, Harper kept sharing the gospel with whoever would listen. And when he finally found himself in the icy water with a life jacket floating near another man, John Harper asked him, “Are you saved, sir?” 

“No, I’m not saved!” the desperate man replied. Well believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!” Harper shouted. Oh, my goodness. One report says that Harper, knowing that he could not survive long in the icy water, took off his life jacket and threw it to another person with the words, “You need this more than I do!” Moments later, he disappeared beneath the water. And four years later, when there was a reunion of the survivors of the Titanic, the man to whom Harper had witnessed told the story of his rescue, and how Harper led him to Jesus Christ.  

To complete the story: Harper’s six-year-old daughter and her aunt did arrive safely in New York, only then to learn of Harper’s death. Much has been written about this extraordinary man. He was a believer who loved to pray, and it was said of him that Harper was a man who craved for souls. And for those souls he would sometimes spend all night in prayer.  

One friend said of him, “You know, John Harper was strong in his love for the perishing. This man burned; he prayed, he labored and wept for the conversion of sinners, and blessed be God, great numbers were led to Jesus through his efforts.” You know…the story of John Harper reminds me of why I simply could not watch the movie, Titanic, when it was on the screen years ago. I mean just the sight of that huge ship dragging down what I knew were a lot of lost and unsaved people down into the depths, it gave me the shivers. I, I, I called my husband into the room and told him to turn off the video quick, and then I began singing “Rescue the Perishing.  

Well, you know what, many Christians lack the passion that Harper had, and I confess I do as well. We all know that our neighbors and friends are heading to hell without Christ, but for some reason, it just doesn’t seem real, because if it did, we would be more bold in telling them about salvation in Christ. So let John chapter 5 verse 28 wake us up where Jesus says, “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out,”…some to live for eternity, and some to a hell without hope. Oh, friend, may the Holy Spirit move us to be bold (in fact, right now you might be thinking of someone you know you should share Christ with). Well, tell that friend the story of Jesus and His love; the same story that John Harper shared with dying people on a doomed ship. Oh, and by the way, if you have a prayer request, let me know on our radio page and our Joni and Friends staff will lift up your need before the Lord. God bless you today, and thanks for listening to Joni and Friends. 

© Joni and Friends 


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