The Age of Exploration, or Age of Discovery as it is sometimes called, officially began in the early 15th century and continued into the 17th century. This was a time when people began exploring the world by crossing the seas in search of trading partners, exotic goods, and new trade routes. Other explorers set sail in the hope of discovering new continents. We have all enjoyed the tales of Marco Polo, Vasco da Gama, Christopher Columbus and others.
If you were to Google the question ‘What has been the greatest discovery ever made?’ you will find that most people suggest ‘fire’ and ‘the wheel’. It could be argued that so many other discoveries are dependent on these two original ones.
Sir James Simpson made a tremendous contribution to medicine. We are indebted to him particularly for the discovery of Chloroform. He left university fully qualified at the age of 19, and became a professor in Edinburgh University at the age of 28. Sir James researched for many years and made a lot of very important medical discoveries. Towards the end of a very distinguished career, and just before he died at the age of 59, one of his students asked him what his greatest discovery was. He assumed the great man would answer ‘Chloroform’. Sir James replied, ‘The greatest discovery I ever made was that I was a sinner and that Jesus Christ is my Saviour!’ This is the greatest discovery that anyone could possible make! I wonder have you the reader ever made it?
A man called Paul who was divinely inspired to write so much of our New Testament, made this discovery two thousand years ago and became one of the world’s greatest preachers. He wrote to his friend Timothy describing himself as the chief of sinners (see 1 Timothy 1 v 15). If you had known this man you would have thought him to be upright, religious, scholarly, and from a good family, yet he appreciated that he was no different from any other human being. He discovered that there was nothing about him that could bring deliverance from his sin and ultimate judgement. Thank God, he also learned of a Saviour who could meet his great need. One day Paul had an encounter with this Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, while he was travelling to Damascus. You can read his story in Acts chapter 9. He gratefully accepted God’s offer of mercy and took Christ to be his Saviour. As a result his life was changed, and his destiny too.
Paul declared in one of his other letters that there is no difference between one human being and another, for everyone has sinned and falls short of God’s standard (see Romans 3 v 22-23). No doubt this is a difficult thing for most people to appreciate. We are all very conscious of our own good points but, no matter how hard we try, we fail so much of the time.
One day, after many years of preaching the Gospel, this man was taken out to be executed. Like so many since then, he would become a martyr for his faith. Despite this, he expresses wonderful confidence when he talks of his readiness for the last great journey from this world to the next (see 2 Timothy 4 v 6-8). Paul, once ‘the chief of sinners’, now saved by God’s grace and cleared of every charge of guilt before God, was confident that he was going home to Heaven.
Undoubtedly, we need fire and we need the wheel, but the greatest discovery you could make just now is that you, like the writer and everyone else, are a sinner in need of a Saviour; that our very best comes short of God’s standard, but that ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ Just to grasp and accept by faith the great truth that He died for you personally means salvation (see Ephesians 2 v 8). But if you neglect Christ as the way of salvation, the Bible is very clear that there is no hope and nothing ahead but God’s judgement forever (see Hebrews 2 v 3).
It doesn’t have to be so. May this day be your day of discovery. May you trust Christ and be saved (see 2 Corinthians 6 v 2).