How is it that migratory birds can fly thousands of miles and arrive at the right place? Most researchers agree that such birds have an inner compass that helps direct their flights. Taking their readings from the earth’s magnetic fields, the birds instinctively fly in the right direction.
As if this is not already fascinating, it has been further discovered that many night flying birds also calibrate their inner compasses by using polarised sunlight at dawn and dusk. They do this every day before taking off in flight. We can learn a lesson or two from these birds.
We, too, are on a migratory journey—from hostility to hospitality, from darkness to light, from sin to righteousness, from the things of this world to the city whose architect and builder is God, and from self to Christ. To help us make the journey to our eternal Home, God has given to us each an inner spiritual compass.
God has “set eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). This sense of eternity is something inherent in our human souls, as God has intended it to be. However, sin has spoiled this spiritual equipment, and the inner compass often malfunctions. When we come to Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit, our inner compasses are restored to working order.
The challenge, though, is to make sure we are using our spiritual compasses. Also, because we live in a poisoned environment of worldliness and evil, our compasses need maintaining and regular calibration. Many Christians do neither—they neither ensure they are travelling in the right direction, nor do they ensure that their spiritual compasses are accurate and in good working order.
People are often so busy following the crowd that they forget to check their directions. Our modern culture seems to be obsessed with speed rather than direction, with efficiency rather than destiny.
We watch the clock and congratulate ourselves for the efficiency of our lives. We manage our schedules and timetables well; we make the best use of information technology; we organise our lives meticulously. And yet, something is missing.
Observe your fellow travellers in a train. They are busy using their mobile phones and tablets. These are modern gadgets that are supposed to assist people on the move. But they make people so busy that they become disconnected with real life. They have no time to pause and examine the course of their lives. They are so distracted by the world and their selfish desires that they have no time to be still to notice the rhythms and longings of their own souls.
God wants us to live lives that have direction. He wants us to be connected with real spiritual life. As Paul put it, we are to “take hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:19). It was in this light that Paul had advised Timothy to watch his life and ministry. In other words, Timothy was to constantly check and assess his primary direction in life, and how he was travelling spiritually.
God’s Word does warn against the unexamined life, a life whose direction becomes neglected by relentless busyness or slothful laziness. It is possible to begin a journey with promise, but because of distractions and carelessness, to lose the way and end the journey tragically.
Paul exhorts us, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5). His advice is echoed in the Old Testament by the prophet Haggai: “Give careful thought to your ways” (Haggai 1:7).Check your compass. Make sure you are going in the right direction.
The right direction of a Spirit-led life must surely point towards Jesus, for the purpose of our spiritual journey is to become like Him. In what ways are we moving closer to our destiny? Or are we moving further away from it, as we get carried away by the popular currents of worldly and self-indulgent consumerism?
A compass is best used with a map. That is why reading the Bible and meditating on it is an important spiritual discipline that we must practise faithfully. This discipline will help us to develop a spiritual road map, which we can use together with our inner spiritual compasses. A Christian who does not have a working compass and a map is pathetically lost. In fact, he has to ask himself whether he is really “in the faith”.
It is time to take up the unused compass and unfold the map. As children of modernity, we are more used to checking the time than checking the compass. May God help us to check our directions, and to find the life that is truly life. “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the LORD” (Lamentations 3:40).
Like the migratory birds which always end up in the right destination, may we also journey well and find our true eternal home.
What for you is your spiritual compass and road map? How do you maintain and regularly calibrate your compass and familiarise yourself with the map?
Excerpted and adapted from Following Jesus in a Fallen World by Robert Solomon. © 2009 by Robert Solomon. Used by permission of Armour Publishing. All rights reserved.
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