As Christians, we know that we aren’t just existing, trying our best to survive. We are going somewhere. This is the driving force behind our attempt at a righteous life, the reason we can live with hope amid a contentious world, and the worldview that infuses purpose into everything we experience. This life is wonderful in so many ways, and at the same time, frustratingly difficult. The fact that we are living for an eternal life makes the beautiful parts a prelude, and the difficult things temporary.
A Biblical metaphor to capture the dueling nature of life’s experiences as a Christian is that of a sailing ship traversing treacherous seas. It is through our diligence in maintaining course and the management of our sails that we make a safe arrival. Without this discernment, we run the risk of being overturned in the sea or broken into pieces on a reef.
The Holy Spirit is the wind that pushes us forward to our heavenly port of call. There is nothing quite as blessedly exhilarating as those moments when we sense ourselves rushing forward in faith, under full sail, in perfect alignment with the Spirit of God. That’s the stuff of revival!
But the Holy Spirit is not the only “wind” to which we are exposed.
1 Timothy 1:18-19 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith…
A shipwreck might make for an exciting novel or movie, but is a costly life event. In his first letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul mentions two men – Hymenaeus and Alexander – who made a shipwreck of their spiritual lives. Rather than being full of the Spirit of God, these men were “puffed up” with pride in themselves and their way with words. They began to see the Gospel as a way to increase wealth, (1 Tim 6:3-5,10). False teachers like this failed to dissect the Scriptures rightly and sought material gain through prideful teaching, but also went so far as to strip the Gospel of its power (2 Tim. 3:5) by denying the future resurrection, overturning the faith of other believers in the process (2 Tim. 2:17-18).
No wonder, then, the Apostle would sense the need to admonish the Ephesian church using the same metaphor.
Ephesians 4:14 … no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
In addition to the puffery of pride, materialism, and false doctrines of spiritual con men, the believer also faces the storms of life, (Matt. 7:24-27), winds of doubt, (Matt. 14:30), and even the winds of fear created by the adversarial “breathing” of others around us, (Psalm 27:12, Acts 9:1). In this life, there is always a contrary wind blowing somewhere.
For a skillful sailor, though, it is possible to move forward, even against a strong headwind. The sails are brought in tight and angled against the wind, so that, through the principles of aerodynamics, the sails are filled with a forward force, while the ship is steered back and forth across the wind.
Faith is our ship! The moment we hear the Gospel, and belief is professed with our mouth, we step into our lifeboat. Just as Jesus looked to a future with us as He went to the cross, in faith we continue to look toward Christ, rather than giving in to our current and temporary difficulties, (Heb. 12:2).
“Hold on to faith and to a good conscience,” Paul said. Conscience is our mind, choices, and obedience. It is the rudder that steers our ship of faith. A clear conscience exists when we know that we have chosen obedience to God’s Will. We were baptized, (1 Pet. 3:21), became students of the Word of God, (2 Tim. 2:15), spend time in prayer, (2 Tim. 1:3), and our lives are as holy sacrifices, (Rom. 12:1). What greater peace, what more confidence could we have through every tempest and blistering trial than to know that we have done – and do – what God has spoken, (Acts 23:1)? We steer skillfully across dangerous winds when we choose to please God over all else.
We have identified our wind, ship, and rudder, but what about the sail? What is it that catches the movement of God and carries us forward? In a word, worship!
Not every season in life is a storm. Sometimes, we find that awful place called the Doldrums, where no wind blows. There we sit lifeless, listless, and longing.
It used to be that to worship God, we would have had to go to a place – a mountain, an altar, a tabernacle. But Jesus said that all of that has changed, (John 4:21-24). When our spirit is right, having put our faith in Christ, and we have obeyed the truths of the Word of God, we can raise the sail of worship. A Holy Wind will begin to stir. Not that He was far away, and now comes close, but He begins to reveal that He is in this place with you. A reviving wind always comes to those willing to align their hearts in faith, lower themselves in obedience, and raise up the name of the Lord.
Whether we can only raise the sail of worship close and tight because of the stormy winds, or if it seems pointless to simply lift our hands, because we just don’t feel it, let’s put our eyes on the calling of Jesus Christ. Let us repent, and choose His words over all else. In hope, obedience, and in recognition of His greatness, we can raise the sail of worship. Keep the sail raised. It won’t be long until the Spirit is at our back, reviving our soul, bringing new life, pressing us forward.
Ben Sanders is the Lead Pastor of Revelation, a growing church planted in 2019, in Frisco, TX. Ben is married to Tamara, and has two boys, Baron and Levi.
This article was originally published in the 2023 Spring Edition of the Destiny Magazine. You can find the online edition here.