Updated: Jan 18
Dr. R.B. McFee
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
Have you ever stepped into the unknown, or taken the grand adventure? If you have, then you have experienced transformation. No one can see the Grand Canyon, the Great Lakes, an Alaskan glacier, the Vatican, Masada, or walk the Via Dolorosa without being changed. Imagine then how much greater our newness can be through Christ, as written in the above verse from Corinthians.
Perhaps because springtime reminds me of sailing season, my thoughts often revisit times offshore. Sometimes the day remains sunny, the wind steady, the sailing easy, the ports of call relaxed, and we all enjoy what we had expected, hoped for. But anyone who has sailed knows it is not always “smooth sailing.” You often get tested.
Maybe that’s why teaching young people about the water, and all it entails (discipline, resilience, physical and mental strength, faith, soul, leadership) has gone on since mankind first built boats. The sea can transform you. Any doubt….then check out the film “Captains Courageous.”
Actually any mission that requires your full commitment and attention can transform you. One might think sad is the person who never stepped out beyond their comfort zone to serve the Lord, or learn something new.
But doing so requires faith, and involves risk. It might be spiritual. Ask anyone (like me) who is shy, to be part of a group of strangers, and, well, it is a stretch, a leap of faith. But when you do anything in service to our Savior…..
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” Romans 8:14
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
Sensing a theme here with all the Scriptures the Apostle Paul is associated with? You probably can tell I kind of relate to Paul – I think of him as the sailing apostle. And clearly Paul walked in faith. He embarked on the unknown adventure many times for God.
Speaking of which….
22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as He told me. 26 Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”
Acts 27:22 – 26 NIV
This scripture discusses part of the perilous, unknown adventure set by God for His Apostle. In these verses Paul was sailing from Adramyttium across the Mediterranean. Sometimes God instructed him what was to come. Sometimes there were unknown challenges. Paul faced storms, and even survived a shipwreck, reaching his ultimate destination – Rome, where Paul would ultimately be tried and executed. But for several years Paul preached the Good News, as instructed by God.
Paul was on the unknown adventure!
Notice I haven’t used the term “uncertainty.” That’s because if you asked Paul, he was always certain of two things – 1. God was with him, and 2. he was serving the Lord. That was all Paul needed to know. God would provide the guidance and support as the journey unfolded.
Because he, too realized….
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
Just take a moment to think on, and read the scriptures about the Apostle Paul on his many sailing voyages spreading the word of God, the Good News that Jesus taught, all the while powered by the Holy Spirit.
The spread of Christianity, especially to the Gentile world, as noted in Ephesians 3, and elsewhere, reveals the enormous reach one of God’s messengers can have when facing the unknown adventure.
But does having the Trinity in your life, and by your side, make your journey always smooth sailing? As people of faith we all know the answer to that. But as we saw with Paul, and Abraham, Moses and others who were tasked with following God into the unknown adventure, they got the support from Above they needed, when they needed it. God is our ever present source of strength, Jesus is our just in time Savior, and the Holy Spirit – God indwelling in us – is our trustworthy Guide.
To be sure, life, especially spiritual journeys, and setting off on God’s mission for us is a lot like the sea, and comes with ups and downs, often at the least expected times. Our ‘perfect day’ gets interrupted by an unlikely turn of events. Death of a loved one, loss of job, car problems when there’s already too much month at the end of the money, relationship break up, a rejection of one sort or another – if we live long enough, our journey will face challenges.
Not unlike setting out to sea. You plan your route, do your homework, have a great group of friend-sailors, and a rental boat that is highly seaworthy. You start with great weather, and then your 10 knot breeze becomes a raging storm with gusts at least 45 knots, with waves that create boat swallowing valleys. You hope and pray with each swell pounding your vessel – a comfortable rental home at the dock that has become a tiny match stick in the ocean – this will be the last wave, and everything will settle down.
I wonder if Noah prayed that, too?!
In the book Sailing Acts written by Lanford Stutzman, the author raises an interesting question – “Does living on the edge of the sea affect how one looks at the world?” He further wonders if, due to the many experiences on the water, often with Greeks at the helm, handing the boats did that influence the Apostle Paul’s interest in bringing the Kingdom of God to the various cities, and cultures of Greece.
Moreover, reflecting on his own sailing journeys, the author said he felt close to the fascinating mystery of God. We’ll explore this more in a future article.
Professor Stutzman and his wife, with an occasional friend or family member joining on various parts of the voyage, decided to follow the sailing journeys of the Apostle Paul throughout the Mediterranean – from Greece to Turkey and other places travelled; thousands of nautical miles in all. Such an adventure into the unknown gives important insights into Paul, early Christianity, and us, as explorers in faith.
And in the process, Stutzman recognizes he is undergoing a conversion, reminiscent of Saul to Paul, or other people of faith who embarked on an adventure that brought them closer to Christ.
That said, even the challenges bring us closer to the Lord. Some might argue that is when our true relationship with the Almighty is solidified.
Is it any wonder that Paul often reminded his students about living in faith? How could it be otherwise with someone who was one of Christ’s adventurers?
When will we become explorers or adventurers in Christ?
And, is there an adventure into the unknown, a task – simple or complex – that God has put on your heart? Is the Holy Spirit revealing to you some unknown adventure – a privilege really, and a challenge for you to serve, to reflect our Risen Christ, and His love to a weary world in great need of God’s goodness?
When we dedicate ourselves to the Lord, we commit ourselves to a journey, an unknown adventure of His selection, and our partnership; we venture forth in trust and faith, entering into an adventure we cannot see fully unfold.
It is worth noting, even with the challenges, and the tears of frustration, stepping out in faith also places us in situations where unexpected blessings can be realized.
Consider Paul – how much joy must he have experienced through witnessing the transformation so many people underwent through the Power of the Holy Spirit, as they learned about Jesus?
As we know – whether metaphorically or actually, there are times when you leave your comfort zone with the wind at your back, the sun shining, the breeze comfortable and then somewhere the voyage devolves into Gilligan’s boat “Minnow” facing an unexpected squall, where any location other than the boat and standing at the helm, like dockside with a Shirley Temple ® in hand, would have been a welcome alternative.
It is at times like this prayer, preparation, and patience save the day, and help you through the trials.
We know that Christmas leads to Easter, and sometimes we will face challenges and hurdles that we must overcome to fulfill our adventure in Christ. The storms come, the waves rise, and the obstacles loom more dangerous. But like Paul, who survived ship wreck and wild storms, we, too can survive the spiritual storms that face us.
Think about all the people in the Bible who were sent on the unknown adventure for God. And back then, there was no global information source beyond what Rome or other great city-states shared, but that took days, weeks, or months to spread beyond the source. Consider traversing rugged terrain without smart phones, GPS, or even flashlights! Talk about walking in ‘faith, not by sight!’
And like Abraham, Paul, Moses and others, whether we are young, old, rich, poor, a seasoned explorer and adventurer, or someone who has never ventured far from home or safe spiritual/emotional harbors, God has a use for all of us.
Sometimes our conversions, our transformations that introduce us to the Power of the Holy Spirit, and launch us on our journey are dramatic – such as when Saul of Tarsus encountered Jesus on the Road to Damascus; transforming him from persecutor of Christians to Apostle of Christ, a special emissary, messenger of God, who spread the Word throughout much of the known world.
Sometimes God puts on our heart a mission that seems as big as the Mediterranean, overwhelming, daunting, an unknown adventure beyond what we believe we can do.
I wonder if Paul thought that, as he looked out on the vast Sea before him, imaging great cultures, city-states and countries awaiting the Good News. The risks were manifest – ship wrecks, deprivation, inhospitable ports of call, and other dangers awaited.
When we embark on the unknown adventure, it is natural to think about the challenges and obstacles. But can we gain peace even amidst the trials, knowing God wouldn’t have set us on the path, the course, if He didn’t plan some good, some blessings, too?
I think about the free clinic for abused and run a way teens that seven medical students and I started. It was a mission of compassion for all of us. Some were people of faith, like me. The first year was a struggle where we all were tested to our emotional, financial, intellectual, and physical limits. But the blessings, even in the midst of the rough seas we navigated, far outweighed the difficulties. Doors opened that only God had the keys, and when all was said and done, we served a Risen Lord, and found ourselves at amazing destinations – spiritually, and physically. Not unlike Paul, we too got to Turkey and Israel, and lots of other places, spreading the word that there are many young people needing compassion, caring, and the medical community to reach out.
Yet if anyone told the eight of us, at the very beginning, when enthusiasm infused us, when the power knowing we might help others energized us, and our faith propelled us into the unknown, well if we knew what we would have had to endure, and enjoy, in the years we were involved in this mission, well frankly we just couldn’t! It was the unknown adventure in faith.
There are three things I believe will happen if God puts on your heart, and offers an opportunity to embark upon the unknown adventure –
God will be with you.
You will face storms, just like Paul. You will get some spiritual bruises. You will face times when you wonder ‘what was I thinking?’ Your faith will be tested.
You will enjoy unexpected blessings the likes of which will raise your spirits to soar at amazing levels impossible to predict when you started out.
“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
If you are wondering where your journey in Christ is leading you, ask the Holy Spirit to show you the starting point to an unknown adventure in God. Each of us brings gifts, experiences, resources, networks and other value to God’s Kingdom here on earth. Your adventure may be different from mine. Just know that through calm and storm, sunshine and rain, gentle breezes and rushing winds….
14 “Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart; wait I say on the Lord.”