From the July/August 2015 issue of Discern Magazine

Turn Around, Don’t Drown!

Dangers surround us. In the face of flash floods we’re told “turn around, don’t drown!” Spiritually we are warned to repent. Will we heed the warnings?

The images were terrifying—cars and houses being swept away by raging flood waters, punctuated with the anguished “Oh no, oh please NO!” cries of those capturing the scenes on video. Record floods in the southern United States brought far too many of these distressing sights on the news.

Ignoring the warnings

It’s bad enough to see innocent people caught accidentally in life-and-death flood conditions, but it is frustrating, sometimes maddening, when you see people willingly put themselves and loved ones in deadly circumstances because they ignore all the warnings.

The more the rains fell, the more we heard the voices of officials pleading with the public, “Remember, ‘turn around, don’t drown!’”

Yet every day newscasters had the sad duty of reporting about people who had nevertheless driven into high-water areas—sometimes even negotiating around the warning barricades—only to find their vehicles first becoming waterborne, then water-filled.

We all do foolish things at times, things we’d never do if we knew we would pay for them with our lives. Or if we could foresee our loved ones at our funeral painfully wrestling with the question, “Why did you do something so senseless?”

The story behind “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” signs

According to the website, Hector Guerrero, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service in San Angelo, Texas, was working on a plan to raise awareness of the dangers of driving or walking into flooded areas. He was aware of the dangers of flash floods because he grew up in Flash Flood Alley.

“I wanted a catchy phrase along the lines of the fire-safety mantra ‘Stop, Drop and Roll,’” said Guerrero. “After brainstorming with a group of firefighters from Harlingen, Texas, I chose ‘Turn Around Don’t Drown.’”

In 2003 the U.S. National Weather Service launched the slogan “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” in Texas, and the next year it caught on nationally. It’s a good slogan, one easily called to mind, and probably one that has caused many people to pause, reconsider and save their lives.

The coming tsunami—and Jesus’ warning

Nearly 2,000 years ago Jesus had His own version of “Turn Around, Don’t Drown.” Except He called it, “Repent!” That’s basically what repent means, and His message was, “Turn around! You’re heading into trouble!”

Predictably, most people have ignored His warnings, as well as the warnings of those who followed Him ever since. We just keep driving into the deep waters of sin. Paul described it as the “many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9).

As the weather forecasters warned us that the rains and floods were coming, Jesus warned in advance of times coming—the time of the end of man’s age—when “lawlessness will abound.” Spiritually speaking, we humans have never been particularly law-abiding; but today we are quickly casting aside every semblance of God’s law! And, consequently, developing right before our eyes is a tsunami of sin!

Heed the warning

Warnings are great, but they cannot force anyone to do anything. Will we learn the lessons of history?Will people heed? Will you? Warnings are great, but they cannot force anyone to do anything. Will we learn the lessons of history?

One of the greatest was that of Israel. Even when God miraculously intervened to save the Israelites, gave them His perfect laws to live by, promised to protect them and bless them, but also warned them of the destructions that would come if they ignored the consequences of sin—still they consistently ignored those warnings.

Their Old Testament story reads like modern-day history!

The only lifeline

Repent has never been a very popular message, but it is central to the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Repent, and believe in the gospel!” He said (Mark 1:15). It’s hard, it’s demanding, it “cuts to the heart”—but it’s your lifeline!

When Peter’s gospel message convicted people that their sins crucified Christ, they knew they were in deep water and cried out, “What shall we do?” 

Peter threw the lifeline: “Repent!” and “be saved from this perverse generation!” (Acts 2:37-40). If you do, he explained, God will rescue you, keep you from drowning in your sins, and give you His Spirit to help you change your life! 

What will you do as the world slides deeper into sin? “Turn Around, Don’t Drown!”

About the Author

Clyde Kilough

Clyde Kilough

Clyde Kilough is the Media operation manager for the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, overseeing all of its media outreach programs including Life, Hope & Truth and Discern magazine.

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