I’ve never been in a shipwreck, but I have been thrown out of a raft. The results and level of danger are very different, but they both involve being suddenly catapulted into tumultuous, freezing water, neither of which are fun.

The Bible mentions a few shipwrecks, one of which Paul was in (read Acts 27), another of which he mentioned as a spiritual warning. In his first letter to Timothy, he mentions two men by name who he says shipwrecked their faith. Without getting into a theological debate about salvation and whether you can lose it (I believe you cannot), I think it’s clear we don’t want to end up on a path toward spiritual shipwreck.

So how did these guys end up here? Just work backward a few verses and their pathway becomes clear:

Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

— 1 Timothy 1:6–7 (ESV) —

Did you catch the progression that sent them on the path to destruction? It began with swerving from what should have been their main focus (sound doctrine and loving others – 1 Timothy 1:4-5), which led to them wandering away into things they did not understand.

As tragic as that sounds, it’s an all-too-common occurrence within the church these days. Some people turn side issues and non-essentials into hills they’re willing to die on, causing them to careen off the path they should be on.

How do we avoid shipwreck? God’s Word is our guardrail. It keep us in line. It protects us from careening out of control. That’s why faithfully studying God’s Word is so important. When you get into God’s Word, it gets into you. There are plenty of things we can discuss, but let’s work hard at not letting them distract us or derail us. Of all the things we can do, loving God and loving people are what we must do. Those are the non-negotiable hills worth dying on!