I’ve sailed a number of times now, and each time I’ve been struck by how good an illustration sailing is for all kinds of aspects of the Christian life. So this will be the first of a bunch of posts about sailing!
(I need to admit the ideas behind this first one aren’t my own – I heard them from my pastor.)
You’re a Christian. You’ve committed to living your life for God, serving Him and going His ways instead of your own. You want to be used by Him and get where He wants you to get. But what sort of boat are you traveling in?
Are you in a motorboat?
Maybe you’re in a motorboat. You’ve signed up, you’ve been filled by the Spirit and you can sit back and let God provide the power and momentum so you can do all those things you want to do for Him.
He’s in control – He is God after all – so you can sit back on deck and enjoy the ride, not trying very hard yourself. You can eat cake and let the divine Motor power you on through life. Easy. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you, right? (Philippians 4:13)
Maybe you’ve tried this. Maybe you haven’t. It doesn’t work. We aren’t passengers in the Christian life. We don’t get to sit back and see what God will do. It’s far more exciting than that…
Are you in a rowboat?
So, maybe you need to put the effort in. Maybe you need to provide the strength and energy yourself. God’s not going to do it for you so it’s time to pick up an oar and do it yourself. You’re in a rowboat. As soon as you stop rowing, you stop moving. It’s all down to you.
After all, Paul seemed to be trying pretty hard when he wrote, “I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Maybe it’s meant to be hard work. Maybe we’re meant to put in the effort.
It’s certainly true that we have to work at this whole Christian thing, but I’m convinced it’s not all down to us. In fact I think there’s truth in both boats so far. God does provide the power AND we need to work at it. Which is why I think…
You’re in a sailboat!
The Christian life is like sailing (hurray!). There’s huge power out there in the wind, all the energy and power we need to get where we are going. We don’t need to put any extra power in ourselves because it’s all there for us. That’s God. That’s the Spirit dwelling and working in us.
But if we don’t do anything, we won’t get anywhere. We need to hoist the sail. We need to get the sail in the right position. We need to steer things. We need to be aware of all the things that are slowing us down and make major or minor adjustments accordingly. We need to recognise there is a mighty Power available to us and set the conditions properly to harness it.
If a sailor is working against the wind, they will quickly find themselves in trouble. But if they are working with the wind, they can get where they are going fast. When the wind fills the sail, you can feel the whole boat perk up, pick up speed power on through the water. It’s exciting!
That is what we should be aiming at in our walks with God. Not for Him to do all the work for us. Not for us to do all the work for Him. But for us to catch the power and vision of what He’s doing and for that to drive us on.
So, if the five essentials of sailing are balance, trim, sail setting, centreboard and course made good (for non-sailors, these are the five things to get right to ensure the most efficient passage through the water), what might the essentials of our lives as Christians be?
How do we set the conditions to be driven on by God to get where He is leading us? Any thoughts?