It was a low tide in the Pacific Northwest. A sailboat was stuck in sand near the shore, listing to one side. The sailor was sitting there in frustration and humiliation, waiting for the tide to come back in and allow him to sail away. He had been sailing where he shouldn’t have been – in shallow water during a low tide. He couldn’t see the danger, but it was there, lurking just below the keel of his boat.
It didn’t have to happen! How did he end up stuck on a beach? Did he ignore his nautical charts? Did he not check the tide tables or pay attention to his depth-finder and instruments? My guess is that he learned his lesson.
We must learn a similar lesson. Believers have all that we need in order to avoid temptations, foolish decisions and sad consequences. What are three vital resources God has provided, our “charts and instruments” to avoid sin and spiritual shipwreck, and how do we put them to use?
1. Diligence with the Scriptures
Just as a sailor has nautical charts for safe sailing, believers have the Scriptures, “the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). God has spoken, and His divine revelation is the source of truth to guide us to saving faith in Christ. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). This means that the Scriptures can address all of life’s issues, so we need to be students of God’s Word!
King David knew the importance of the Scriptures in his battle with sin: “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11). Job also expressed his commitment to God’s Word: “I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12).
Do you have a plan to read, memorize and meditate on Scripture? Invest time studying your “nautical chart,” and ask the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth (John 16:13), to grant you understanding of His Word!
2. Vigilance in Prayer
The sailor’s misadventure might have been averted if he had been vigilant. The Christian life requires us to be vigilant as well. Vigilance in prayer is a resource for our protection. The Lord Jesus gave a compassionate appeal to the disciples just before His arrest: “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). That very night, dear Peter indeed fell to temptation, but he learned his lesson and came back stronger! It was he who later wrote, “be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer” (1 Peter 4:7b). We all, like Peter, need to take advantage of our instrument of prayer for the strength to overcome temptation.
Jesus gave us instructions on how to pray (Matthew 6:5-13). And He practiced what He preached: He got up early to pray (Mark 1:35). He prayed in the evening, after a long day of teaching and miracles (Mark 6:33-46). He prayed all night before choosing His apostles (Luke 6:12-13). And He prayed fervently in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion (Luke 22:39-44). If Jesus, God incarnate, knew the importance of prayer, how much more should we, weak and vulnerable sinners, be aware of our desperate need for God’s help and strength!
3. Commitment to the Church
Just as the sailor went off on his own way and straight into trouble, we must watch out for an independent spirit. “He who separates himself seeks his own desire; he quarrels against all sound wisdom” (Proverbs 18:1).
Do you know, if you have trusted in Christ for salvation, that you are part of Christ’s body, the church? Christ is the head of the church, and He has established it as a means of growth in godliness, giving leaders “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12).
The local church is God’s instrument to provide spiritual protection as you submit to godly leaders: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).
Get involved in your local church at every level: Be there for Sunday worship, join the prayer meetings, and be committed to the home groups. Look for opportunities to serve and to use the gifts that God has given you. Develop spiritually edifying relationships. Thank the Lord for this wonderful provision of guidance and protection!
After reading about these three resources which God has provided for guidance and protection, maybe you’re thinking, “But I have already blown it! My life is a shipwreck!” Don’t despair. Yes, we sin, and when we do, there is good news: we have Jesus Christ as our Advocate, who is always ready to defend us before the Father and declare us already acquitted by faith in His finished work on the cross. So abundant is God’s grace that we can turn to Him and confess our sin and be forgiven and cleansed (1 John 1:9). And, in the same way that the tide came in again and lifted the sailboat back into safe waters, God’s grace will help us to get back up and get going in the right direction. “For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again” (Proverbs 24:16a).
Like the sailor who surely learned the hard way to pay careful attention to his charts and instruments, we too can learn from our mistakes and sin. We must learn to diligently hide God’s Word in our hearts, to be watchful in prayer, and to stay in the protection of the church. God has given us these provisions, our charts and instruments, to help us avoid spiritual shipwreck.