A Sailor’s Search for Truth
Out of the choppy waters of uncertainty and into the calm of God's Word.
by Art Wrigley as told to Muriel Larson
The U. S. Navy ship I was assigned to was on a six-month cruise. With time on our hands, we sailors often gathered in our bunkroom to shoot the breeze. One day we started discussing the present-day world and the future. “Have you noticed,” asked George, “that every time we get back to the States after a six-month cruise, things seem to have changed so much?”
“Yeah,” agreed another guy, “the girls’ dresses get skimpier, the music wilder, and the morals worse!”
Glancing at Phil, George asked, “What do you think about these things? What does the Bible say about the future?”
Some of the guys snickered. By the grin on George’s face, I knew he was riding Phil because he often had his nose in the Bible. Uh, oh, I thought. George is asking for it! But to my surprise, Phil simply got out his Bible and politely explained what it predicted about the future.
Desire for truth
That night I lay on my bunk, thinking about that conversation. One thing that had impressed me was that Phil seemed so sure that the Bible contained the truth. I’d like to know the truth about life and have an authority for my thinking as Phil does, I thought.
So I decided to buy a Bible the next chance I got. And I did.
Starting in Genesis, I began reading every night after work until bedtime. But finally I bogged down in the book of 2 Kings. I was about to give up when Phil came by.
“Why are you reading the Bible, Art?” he asked.
“I’m looking for the truth and thought it might be in here, but it’s hard to make sense out of it.”
Facing the truth
“Well, tell me, are you a Christian?”
“Yeah, sure,” I answered. “I grew up in a Christian home and was baptized when I was nine.”
“How do you think a person becomes a Christian?” Phil asked. “How do you think a person gains eternal life?”
“Well, if the good you do outweighs the bad, you get to live forever. Otherwise, you miss out.”
“That sounds good,” said Phil, “but it’s not what the Bible says. The Bible says a Christian is one who has trusted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. And do you know, Art, before you can understand that Book, you have to know the Author — God. Here, let me show you what Jesus said about how a person becomes a Christian.”
Phil took my Bible and opened it to John 3. He showed me where Jesus said that a man must be born again of the Spirit in order to enter the kingdom of God. Then he showed me John 3:16 and explained how God had so loved the world that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to pay the penalty for our sins on the cross.
Although I was 24 years old, this was the first time in my life that I had ever heard the good news about Jesus. After talking to me further, Phil suggested I read the New Testament, which was easier to understand. Some of what Phil was telling me started to make sense as I read the Bible.
In March our ship was heading toward our home port at Norfolk, Virginia. The night we were due to pull in, I couldn’t sleep. What was I going to do with Jesus Christ? I knew I had to decide before we docked, before I got too busy running with the other guys to think about it.
Restless, I got up, dressed, and went to the auditorium to watch the movie, but I couldn’t concentrate on it. So right there in the darkness I prayed, “Lord, forgive my sins and save me for Jesus’ sake. Please come into my life and take over. And make Yourself real to me!”
An amazing peace came over me, and I knew that things were right between God and me. No longer was He far away; I knew He was within me now.
I had a strong desire to share the wonderful truth of God’s salvation through Christ. One day Phil and I were talking to a third-class gunner’s mate. “Look, don’t give me that stuff about the Bible being the Word of God,” he said to Phil. “It’s just something men wrote.”
I jumped into the fray to straighten this guy out and became so excited that I actually started cussing at him. Then in my aggravation, I lit a cigarette.
“Ha!” exclaimed the gunner’s mate. “You call yourself a Christian — and you stand there cussing me and smoking a cigarette and telling me I’m wrong? Who are you kidding? Don’t tell me about your God anymore. You’re no different from anyone else!”
That hit me hard. “You’re right,” I admitted humbly. “There’s nothing I can say.”
In abhorrence, I turned from cursing, and God removed it from my life. Later a similar incident convicted me of smoking, and not long after I gave that up, I found out why God had led me to do so. First Corinthians 6:19, 20 says that my body is not my own and that I should honor God with it. He continued to clean up my life to make it consistent with my testimony.
Marriage and missionaries
About a month after I became a Christian, Phil introduced me to a WAVE named Emily. After getting to know one another, we fell in love. We found ourselves standing together at a church altar to dedicate our lives to Christ.
Emily and I are married now and serving as missionaries to servicemen and others in Italy. I share with them the truth I heard on a naval ship all those years ago. And just as Phil did with me, I point them to the Bible, the Book of truth. They’re finding out, as I did, that it’s a Book for life that won’t steer you wrong.