A Lesson from Sailing
About 20 years ago, my family attended a summer camp where my husband, John, was the speaker. At one point in the week, we had a sailing lesson. When it was my turn to take the tiller, the instructor told me to just keep the sailboat heading between two islands in the distance. They seemed like clear and simple instructions. But there was wind. And waves. And there were other sailboats trying to navigate through the bay, and there were power boats pulling water skiers. I was distracted and intimidated by all that was going on around me, and before long I heard the instructor yelling, “Meg, stay the course!” I had veered off by about 45 degrees!
In these days of unforeseen circumstances, I again find myself navigating distracting and intimidating waters. I watch the news and wonder, “What if the pandemic gets me? Or my husband? Or my children? What if they lose their jobs? What if…” How am I to order my thinking about an uncertain future?
God has spoken. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). He has called us to worship Him. And He wants us to continue to worship Him now, regardless of our uncertainties. He desires that we spend time in His Word, pray to Him, walk in the Spirit, love our neighbor, and grow in our sanctification. Our purpose has not changed, even if our circumstances have. “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him” (2 Corinthians 5:9). Our aim is to please the Lord.
King David faced many a challenge. He admitted to being afraid, but also articulated the solution: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid” (Psalm 56:3-4). David responded to fear with trust in the Lord.
In Psalm 27 his focus was so passionate that it calmed his fears: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. One thing have I asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple…You have said, ‘Seek my face.’ My heart says to you, ‘Your face, Lord, do I seek.’” David was focused on worship in spite of his perilous circumstances.
The Apostle Paul also expressed his singular vision to be a worshiper of God in the midst of adversity when he said: “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). His aim was clear: “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10). In spite of his sufferings, Paul didn’t let his circumstances distract or intimidate him. His desire was to know Christ and fulfill his calling.
This exclusive devotion to our heavenly calling was also clearly articulated by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. He commanded His disciples to not worry about their material needs, reminding them that their heavenly Father knows their needs. Jesus called them to a higher focus: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:32-33).
Jesus Himself stayed focused on accomplishing His Kingdom purpose. In John 4:34 He said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” And of course, the ultimate example of this devotion was demonstrated by our Lord in His death. He knew the plan and explained it to the disciples: “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31). As horrendously deep was His physical and emotional suffering, He was determined to do the will of the Father, “saying, ‘Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not my will, but Yours be done.’” (Luke 22:42).
Remember our Course
So, in these uncertain days, we carry on in our pursuit of knowing Christ and pleasing Him. We stay the course. Yes, we respect the rules of social distancing, we adjust our budget if necessary, and we do our best to deal intelligently with the new constraints in our lives. But we maintain our aim: to worship and please the Lord Jesus. We stay in His Word. We persevere in prayer. We walk in the Spirit. We look for ways to love our neighbor. We trust our sovereign God to use our circumstances to transform us into the image of His Son.
Twenty years later, that sailing instructor’s words still ring in my ears: “Meg, stay the course!” Don’t get distracted or intimidated by circumstances. Remember your aim and focus. Aim to worship and please the Lord. Stay the course.