These are visual reminders of some of the everyday applications we took away from our study of Paul’s life. (Below is the basic outline of his life that we used.)
[Be “still” doesn’t mean STOP. “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46) means “cease striving” (NAS), rest in the knowledge of who God is and what He has promised rather than striving in your own wisdom and strength.]
an hourglass and rope: used to measure speed, “knots”. “Steady as you go.” refers to course, a set direction, not speed. We need to set our course on what God has called us to do, not being blown off course by trials or disappointments. The winds may cause our pace/speed to be out of our control, but we can adjust our sails and stay true to God’s leading.
Are you, like Paul, running the race the LORD has marked out for YOU? Keep moving forward regardless of the pace, slow and steady into the wind or swiftly with full sail and the wind at your back. Your Heavenly Father controls the wind and waves, and His timing is always perfect!
an anchor: holds tighter in the storm when the wind is pulling as the anchor digs in deeper with added tension; different types of anchors are used depending on the type/size of boat and the type of surface at the floor of the sea/lake
Our hope in Christ is an anchor, sure and steadfast, for our soul regardless of how our circumstances change. We need to sure up, mend, the weakest place in our “road”, the line or chain that connects us to our anchor; so then we will be ready to weather the storms that come.
The stronger the winds, the rougher the storm, the tighter He holds us. (Reminds me of one of my favorite old hymns, “He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater. He sendeth more strength when the labors increase. To added afflictions, He addeth His mercy. To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace…”)
a map and a treasure box: Remember, there is a treasure to be found in every place the LORD takes you. As we follow Paul’s adventures recorded in scripture via maps, we can see that the LORD had spiritual treasures waiting for him in every location. (Every story has a “where” and “when”. That’s why I love maps and timelines!)
If the LORD has brought you here, He has something for you to do and something He wants to give you. Even if you feel like you are just wait for a storm to pass, drop anchor and hold on to His promises. If, like Paul, you feel in prison in your circumstances, be faithful. Even in the darkest prison, you can sing, write, pray, and be a light for Christ.
a light (lighthouse and lantern): Christ Himself is a light for us on life’s seas, and we are a small light for those around us, near and far. Our light carries farther than we may know. We need to be an encouragement to lost and weary sailors, and the encouragement and exhortations of others can keep us from being shipwrecked on the rocks of life.
Paul was a great encourager through his visits and letters, and he also received encouragement from others. He has seasons, like when he went to Athens, that we very lonely and seemingly fruitless, but even the times in Paul’s when he was suffering and near despairing even of life can be an encouragement to us, like footprints on the empty beach of our life’s shipwrecks.
Paul also made long term investments in the lives of many people who in turn disciple and encouraged others. Our lives, like Paul’s, have the potential to shine encouragement on the dark seas of people we may never know on this side of heaven.
a deceptive lantern, a false light: Pirates used to hang a lantern on a donkey or mule and let them wander along the shoreline causing sailors to be confused about their location in reference to lighthouses on the coast. (Example: Naggs Head, NC is known for the ships lured into and wrecked in shallow waters.)
We need to be alert, knowing the truth and being led by the Holy Spirit to avoid being led of course by distractions and deceptions. We have an enemy, the Father of Lies, who wants to shipwreck our lives with lies and compromises.
Like Paul, we may also encounter enemies of the gospel and people who put on a show of religion with wrong motives, but like him, we should not be deterred or discouraged from our hope or our calling.
a compass: (and a sextant) used to know direction and location, keep from wandering aimlessly, magnet – an unseen force.
We have the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, sure and unchanging. The amount of time we spend seeking God, understanding our current location, and setting our course saves us miles and untold hours of wandering off course. Sometimes we have to trust our instruments (the Scripture and the leading of the Holy Spirit) especially in a fog or a starless night, when we cannot see. We are walking by faith, not sight.
a bell and whistle: to hear above the noise of the sea, especially in a storm. Bells and whistles were used to give orders, to toll the time of day and changing of the watch (hour glass also used for this); important to know that calls and sounds of the captain’s whistle and to obey an order instantly on command.
Our Captain, gives us commands for our good, for the benefit of others, and for the glory of His name. We need to know His voice and be familiar with His commands, obeying without question, will to “trust and obey”.
Bells, also used on buoys, by lighthouses, and ships, give location and warnings when there is low visibility. Hearing God’s voice is our security, and He as He guides us, our protection comes from walking by faith rather than trusting our own limited insight.
Paul heard the commands of God above all the voices that would discourage or persuade him from following that call. Even when the road ahead promised to be filled with difficulty and suffering, he counted all else as loss compared to the intimate fellowship he found from walking close to Christ.
sails and lines: without these sea travel would have been impossible. Sails and lines provide structure and freedom. Like the saying “three sheets to the wind”, a loose sail is of no use for travel. Only when a sail is pulled and tied down, and only when we are submissive under authority, is true freedom, power, and our full potential realized.
(If you’ve ever sailed, you know that thrill of the silent power of the wind filling a sail that has been set correctly, and probably also the frustration of sails ineffectively flapping in the wind.)
Under God’s sovereign authority, and in respect of the authority He has placed over us, we are more productive and fruitful. When we fight against authority, we are like a ship with tangled line and ripped sails, rebelliously trying to go against all the rules of sailing frustrating our own progress by our stubborn pride. In Christ, we have been given authority. We are powerful, confident, and victorious when we know who we are and what He has promised in His word.
Paul was a man of authority who humbly placed himself under authority as a Christian to his fellow believers and the leaders of the church in Jerusalem, as a Jew holding himself to a higher standard in traditions and laws to not offend a weaker brother, and as a Roman in respect and in the use of his legal rights as a citizen. He was not one to demand honor or let his pride hinder the furtherance of the gospel.
wheel: controls the rudder, turns the entire ship; right turns the ship left and left turns the ship right. Every choice we make turns and steer our lives, and when we choose to disobey we turn out of the blessing and mighty directing of the Spirit of God. The LORD, our Captain, knows every mile of the uncharted seas ahead and wants to guide us through every storm and danger to a safe harbor.
We must choose to obey Him, even if His command goes against our human reasoning and seems backwards to our selfish nature. (“submit to one another”, “love your enemy”, “the first shall be last”, “the servant is the greatest” in the kingdom, the LORD brings down the proud but raises up the humble, etc…)
In Paul’s epistles, he writes out many commands from the LORD; that if we follow will lead to our blessing and will also be a blessing and encouragement to others.
a spyglass: magnifies objects in the distance, ability to focus to look past all the distractions. We are to focus on one thing, Jesus Christ, the Author and Perfector of your faith. Keeping our sight set on what the LORD is calling us to do.
This is your watch, your hour to stay alert. It won’t be long and your time will pass and the next sailor will take the watch, but for this time, others are depending on you: your family, the next generation, the many people that your life influences, some of whom you are not even aware. Though it may seem insignificantly, though you may be tired, though you feel unappreciated, your post is crucial.
So, set your hope on the grace to be give you when Jesus Christ is revealed. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Be strong in the LORD. Don’t grow weary in doing good. Run your race. Keep the faith.
If any of these themes resonate with you, plan a prayer day for yourself! Use the ideas in the S.O.S. monthly Challenges or check out the “message in a bottle” devotions provided under the S.O.S. Spring Retreat tab. You can parallel those suggestions while you learn about and map out Paul’s life as it is described in the book of Acts. Then, read his epistles. I hope your stop here will be just the beginning of your journey of Seeking One Savior.