When a storm strikes or the current is strongly against you people expect you to not falter or flag in your direction and course.
The Bible tells us that one of the wonders of this world is the way in which a ship plies the waters (Proverbs 30:19). The way of a ship in the midst of the sea in all likelihood is directed at the awesome sight of a sailboat tacking into the wind, or using the wind to maneuver. Even today, sailing fascinates people. Early this year, I had occasion to spend a few days aboard a huge ocean-going ship, where I noticed some fascinating things. One was the awesome feeling I got with the seeming inevitability of the ship to move forward, and the great effort needed to change course or to dock. There is something steady, measured and intentional that makes one feel that the forward motion is reliable and hard to change. The statement “steady as she goes” gives a feeling of control over a huge power and force. Indeed, the momentum built by such a huge vessel is enormous. It seems that the force is lasting and enduring.
Endurance, or continuance in a given direction, is vital to the character of a follower of Jesus Christ. The word endurance means: “the state or power of enduring or bearing: a suffering patiently without sinking: patience: lasting quality: maximum performance under given conditions” (Chambers Concise 20th Century Dictionary). In Matthew 10:22 Jesus says, “He who endures to the end will be saved.” 1Corinthians 13:7 states that love “endures all things.” Endurance is a quality of character that people admire and respect, just as they admire the continuous forward motion of a huge ship.
Paul’s example of endurance
Many of the references in scripture about endurance imply that the going will not always be easy. There will be storms, contrary winds and currents, as well as the continued maintenance and course corrections that every ship needs. Paul is an example of one who endured hardships and every imaginable effort to move him off course; yet he remained “steady as she goes.” Paul teaches endurance by what he suffered and admonishes all who read his letters to expect and overcome problems in life. Perhaps one of the strongest message threads of Paul's writings is that of endurance. In 2 Thessalonians 1:4 he compliments the Thessalonians by writing: “So that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure…” In 2 Timothy 2:3 Paul encourages Timothy to “endure hardship as a good soldier” and states in verse 10, “I endure all things for the sake of the elect.”
Many people know that you are a follower of Jesus Christ. They expect your conduct and behavior to be steady and strong regardless of the circumstances. As a matter of fact, when a storm strikes or the current is strongly against you they expect you not to falter or flag in your direction and course. Paul was saying as much when he endured for the sake of others. He was after the great prize that God offers to all: eternal life in the family of God with endless blessings, joy, peace and happiness for all eternity. Paul was very aware of all who were watching him. He was setting an example and could say, “imitate me” (1 Corinthians 4:16). Many of the admonitions of Paul show the need to remain faithful and steady in following the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Paul's words to the leaders in the church (the deacons and ministry) are loaded with this implication. 1 Timothy 3 is a chapter devoted to explaining what a leader in the Body of Christ is to be like. Throughout it, we see the need to remain steady and reliable.
Never lose sight of your goal
Endurance may be the most significant ingredient that is needed to stay on course. One must know the direction and have the ability to zero in on the target or goal. The steady forward progress toward a goal through storms and bad weather, as well as in good sailing conditions, is what is so admired. A sailing ship is even more fascinating when one thinks of the constant effort needed to maintain course and direction. There is something about a huge ocean vessel that inevitably turns my mind to thinking about the course of a converted person. Both vessels teach adaptability and staying steady at the same time. The enduring to the end that Jesus admonished requires a state of mind that is set on achieving the goal no matter what may come. A Christian does have the loving hand of God guiding him through the storms; however, God does not always calm the waters on which we sail. He allows us to develop the character that Christ revealed so that we can be more like Him.
Hebrews 12:1-15 has some interesting and powerful statements to make about this subject. In Hebrews 11 we are told to consider the witnesses that lived before us as those who remained steady. We are told to “run with patience.” Every runner knows that much of the ability to run is a mental mindset or conditioning that one is determined to stay the course, to adjust to adversity and keep going. We read that Jesus Christ also endured the cross and many other areas of suffering. We are told that God is involved in correcting and chastening us. Even that correction requires our patience and steady endurance. That is how we build the character that pleases God. We are told to keep our paths straight and steady and to look diligently lest we fail. A ship needs a constant check for course and conditions. Unseen currents have an effect, as do the conditions that may be obvious, like the wind. Our lives are filled with both unseen and visible forces. We need to cope with them and never lose sight of our goal and the determination to get there.
Never give up
It is predictable that we go through a mental desire to stop; we feel alone and wonder if what we are doing is worth it all. We need reassurance from time to time; thus, the stories are recorded for us in the Bible. We are also encouraged by those steadfast people who are living today. Parents, grandparents and the ministry are some of the people we look to as examples of steadfast behavior. When we do not find good examples there, we become disappointed and sometimes deeply hurt. In Romans 8:33-39 Paul expressed that our true faith and trust must lie in God and in our Savior Jesus Christ. In every situation, our Father is there to encourage and strengthen us with His love and help. Our part lies in recognizing the goal and determining to stay the course with the knowledge that God is watching and will intervene when He knows it is best for us.
We must develop endurance in our lives. Many people now living and who will live in the future are depending on you and me to do that. We are the examples for those who follow. The next time you see a sailing ship tacking into the wind, perhaps you will see yourself. Always continue to move toward the safe harbor, the Kingdom of God, which God has prepared for us.
To read more about how to stay on course, request the booklet, The Road to Eternal Life.