Are you rising up on eagles’ wings? Or are you just feeling a little wind beneath your sails? For the Christian, there is an important distinction – and yet, often we don’t seem to recognize the difference.
In Acts, chapter 27, we find an interesting story. Paul was imprisoned for spreading the gospel, and was being taken by ship to Rome to appeal his case before Caesar. We pick up the story starting with verse 9:
Acts 27:9-26, NASB
9When considerable time had passed and the voyage was now dangerous, since even the fast was already over, Paul began to admonish them,
10and said to them, "Men, I perceive that the voyage will certainly be with damage and great loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives."
11But the centurion was more persuaded by the pilot and the captain of the ship than by what was being said by Paul.
12Because the harbor was not suitable for wintering, the majority reached a decision to put out to sea from there, if somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.
13When a moderate south wind came up, supposing that they had attained their purpose, they weighed anchor and began sailing along Crete, close inshore.
14But before very long there rushed down from the land a violent wind, called Euraquilo;
15and when the ship was caught in it and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and let ourselves be driven along.
16Running under the shelter of a small island called Clauda, we were scarcely able to get the ship's boat under control.
17After they had hoisted it up, they used supporting cables in undergirding the ship; and fearing that they might run aground on the shallows of Syrtis, they let down the sea anchor and in this way let themselves be driven along.
18The next day as we were being violently storm-tossed, they began to jettison the cargo;
19and on the third day they threw the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands.
20Since neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small storm was assailing us, from then on all hope of our being saved was gradually abandoned.
21When they had gone a long time without food, then Paul stood up in their midst and said, "Men, you ought to have followed my advice and not to have set sail from Crete and incurred this damage and loss.
22"Yet now I urge you to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.
23"For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me,
24saying, 'Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.'
25"Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told.
26"But we must run aground on a certain island."
You can read the rest of the story – the ship did indeed hit a reef, and all on board came to the island of Malta by swimming or using planks and so on. Here is what I found interesting in the story:
Verse 11 shows the reliance of the men on the captain and pilot of the ship rather than the prophetic warnings of Paul. And verse 13 shows that they were further bolstered by circumstances – the moderate ‘wind beneath the sails’ seemed proof enough that they should continue on.
How often do we assume a course of action, not taking the counsel of Christians, nor the word of God, heeding only what seems to be circumstantial confirmation of the direction we assume we are to go in? How often do we get a little ‘wind beneath the sails’ that seems to confirm a false hope? Why don’t we listen to godly counsel before we set sail in a course that will end in shipwreck?
One possibility is that we have been taught that whatever we happen to want is also the exact same as what God wants for us. 'A moderate wind came up and they supposed they had attained their purpose… '
What if instead of assuming the will and purpose of God we were to spend some time in prayer and actually ask God what He wants? That’s a scary thought for some people. I suppose that the underlying fear in asking God what He wants is that it won’t be the exact same as what they want.
Yet, that is the ultimate question, isn’t it? Whose purpose are we truly aiming for?
Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.