Summary: Two ways to get our bearings and stay on course in the spiritual journey.
When I was a child my mom and adoptive father bought a sailboat with fantasies of sailing around the world. But first we had to learn how to sail…which included learning how to navigate. One of my earliest memories was going out in our little sailboat from Marina Del Rey, and my adoptive dad getting horribly sea sick. So it was up to my mom to sail the boat--the only problem was that she didn’t know how to navigate--so all night long she sailed parallel with the beach, constantly keeping her eyes on the lights from the coast to keep her bearings, because she knew if she didn’t, she’d get lost.
Well all of us get lost at times, whether it’s sailing, driving somewhere, or just going into a building that you’ve never been to before. Last weekend my wife and I celebrated our 15th year of marriage, and par for the course of our 15 years of marriage, I got lost as we drove down the central coast. I lost my sense of direction because I couldn’t see the ocean anymore and I decided to take a shortcut...that shortcut cost us at least an hour.
Not only do we sometimes get lost driving or sailing, but we also sometimes get lost on the spiritual journey. Consider a friend of mine who came to know Jesus Christ through the ministry here at Life Bible Fellowship Church back in the early 1980s. Her and her new husband had been shunned by their friends and family because of the age difference between them, but here at the church the found love and were introduced to a relationship with Jesus Christ. They launched on the spiritual journey through faith in Jesus Christ, but soon after they started to lose their spiritual bearings. Soon they had drifted into various forms of witchcraft, reading tarot cards, and other occultic activities. Even though my friend and her husband knew these things were explicitly forbidden in the Bible, they persisted, still claiming to be followers of Jesus Christ, yet involved in things that were the very antithesis of the Christian life described in the Bible. My friend ended up divorcing her husband and marrying a drug dealer, and ultimately she died in that relationship....she lost her bearings in the spiritual life.
Consider someone else who attended our church. This man and his wife were a wonderful testimony of how Jesus Christ can transform people’s lives. They were deeply devoted to the spiritual journey of following Jesus Christ as his disciples, yet over the years the husband gradually lost his bearings. Finally he got involved in a Christian group that claimed to received direct communication from God, even though that so called communication from God sometimes contradicted the Bible. He claimed that God told him to leave his wife and children in order to pursue another relationship, and that’s just what he did. He lost his bearings, he got off course in the spiritual journey.
Many men and women who begin the spiritual journey of following Jesus Christ lost their bearings, they get lost, and the tragedy is that many don’t even realize that they’re lost. So our question is how can we get our bearings so we don’t get lost in the spiritual journey. Now I realize that by talking about getting lost in the spiritual journey I’m touching on an area that’s very sensitive in our culture today. To speak of getting lost in the journey assumes that there’s a right way and a wrong way in the spiritual life, and frankly that’s not a very popular idea these days.
Since the advent of a worldview known as postmodernism, the idea that certain spiritual claims are true and certain spiritual claims are false has come to be seen as narrow minded and ignorant. Today it’s more popular to view all spiritual views as simply being different roads that all lead to God, and for one road to claim to be the only right road sounds intolerant, uncaring, and uneducated to today’s postmodern ears. I heard recently of one pastor who teaches an introduction to Christianity class for spiritual seekers and inquirers (Tim Stafford, Christianity Today 9/14/92 p. 36). At the beginning of the class he shows them a jar full of beans and he asks each participant in the class to guess how many beans are in the jar. Then he asks each participant to write down the name of his or her favorite song. When the lists are complete, he reveals the actual number of beans in the jar, and each class participant looks over the guesses to determine which one is closest to being right. Then he asks the class, "Now which one of these songs is the closest to being right?" Of course, the class answers that there is no "right" answer to a person’s favorite song, because favorite songs are simply a matter of personal taste and preference. Then the pastor asks this group of seekers, "When you decide what to believe in terms of your faith, is it more like guess the number of beans or choosing your favorite song?" Every time the majority of class participants respond by saying it’s more like choosing your favorite song...that’s the influence of postmodernism in our world today.