Pressing on to the Goal

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Devotional Word for Tuesday, March 31, 2020

When I was in the Navy I served aboard the USS Tutuila – ARG-4. It was named for one of the Samoan islands. I was a Radioman. Part of my duties was to takes messages around to all the officers. This included incoming messages and outgoing messages. As a consequence, I was privy to lots of information. While I was aboard that ship, we sailed through three typhoons – that’s what they call hurricanes in the Pacific. In one particularly horrendous typhoon that lasted for several days, I saw the message that we sent out to fleet headquarters about our position on one of those days. Our engines were set at ¾ flank speed. Flank speed would have been if we had the engines running as fast as they could, if we had “floored it.” We maintained our heading throughout that day. Our progress, though, was zero miles straight ahead, but we went 7 miles sideways! Amazingly, the Captain was satisfied with our progress.

Why tell that story today? Because we’re caught in the midst of storm the likes of which we have not experienced in our lifetimes. I read a headline somewhere that said: April Cancelled. That is a good way of stating things. Do you feel like you’re on a ship out in the middle of the ocean and caught in a storm of tremendous fury? We’re pretty helpless at this point. We Shelter in Place, we practice social distancing. We wash our hands, repeatedly. But we are where we are and there’s not much we can do about it. Praise God, that’s not the whole story.

The Captain of the ship I was on did not let the ship be driven willy-nilly by the typhoon. He kept the ship headed in the original direction. All the battering of the storm did not change his determination to get where he was going. The Tutuila may have been pushed 7 miles sideways, but the bow of the Tutuila was still pointed to her destination.

Guess what? I have a Scripture passage or two that relate to this. First, in Psalm 42 the Psalmist cries out to God in the midst of turbulent times. Listen to verses 7 and 8:

Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls, 
All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.
The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime;
And His song will be with me in the night, a prayer to the God of my life.

There’s a typhoon roaring around the Psalmist’s life. It seems like he’s ready to get rolled over. But he keeps his ship pointed in the right direction. He knows that God is with him in the midst of this. He counts on God’s lovingkindness in the daytime, and sings to God at night. Why? Because God is the God of his life. We need to count on God’s lovingkindness being with us, and we need to sing to Him even when it seems dark all around us. He is the God of our lives.

The apostle Paul is the other example I want us to consider today. He didn’t just have his April cancelled; he lost several years of his life through being falsely imprisoned. Eventually he was sent to Rome so that Caesar could hear his case – that would have been Nero Caesar, in case you were listening on Sunday! On the way to Rome, Paul writes a letter to the church at Philippi. It’s a joyous letter even in the midst of turbulence, cancelled plans, and false accusations. You know why? Because Paul kept the bow of his ship pointed in the right direction. Listen to this: I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. [Phil. 3:14] His prize, the goal he kept in his mind, was to follow Jesus wherever Jesus led him, in whatever circumstances the Lord saw fit to put him in. Today, let’s commit to keeping our bows pointed toward that same prize, that same goal: the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. He is our God. He commands His lovingkindness towards us. 

Let’s pray: Lord Jesus, You are our Savior, You are the Captain of our salvation. Help us know our lives are under Your control. You are the Sovereign One. We confess we feel the turbulence around us. It is discomfiting. We easily become anxious and fearful. But we turn to You, thankful that You command Your lovingkindness toward us. We know we are safe in You. We give You thanks and praise this day. We bless Your name. Amen.