On The Sea Of Life
Is life a journey or a playground? A journey has a destination, and it has a road that leads to that destination. A playground doesn’t lead anywhere; there are no roads, just a lot of open space to play in. I think most of us like to say that life is a journey; but I think most of us probably want to live as though life were a playground.
One of the troubles with language is that we’re able to say one thing with our mouth, and say quite a lot of different things by our actions. And it’s not so much that we even intend to deceive others all the time; sometimes we fool even ourselves about who we are. So it’s easy to say, “Life is a journey.” But the really important question to ask is, “Is my life a journey? Do I have a definite goal and direction, or am I just kind of wandering around from place to place?”
I like to think of us all as more or less like ships that have been put out to sea. A ship is a good analogy to human life because you can sail a ship, but a ship also tends to move around by itself even when you’re not sailing it. And our lives are like that. That’s one of the reasons why it is so important for us to choose a destination for ourselves. Because if we don’t choose a destination, the winds and the waves end up choosing for us.
But how do you choose a destination for your life? Now, if you owned the ship that you were sailing, you might say, “Well, it’s my ship. I will sail wherever I want to sail.” Many people—many Christian people—live life in just that fashion, but the Bible teaches us something different. The Bible teaches that each of us is sailing in a borrowed ship. We cannot do whatever we want with the ship, because we don’t own the ship. And we cannot simply sail the ship wherever we want, because there will come a time when we have to return that ship to its port of origin. We may stop at fun and pretty places along the way; we may stop at desolate and barren places along the way; but we are essentially sailing a ship that belongs to someone else, and we are returning it to its owner—hopefully in good condition. And so the question I want to bring before you today is: since you and I are not simply sailing off each to his own place, but since you and I together are on a single journey, with a single destination, how do we find our way to that destination? And the answer is: we follow those who have gone on before us.
The Bible talks about a great “cloud of witnesses,” saints who have already been on the same road we’re travelling. This might cause us to think of biblical saints, like Moses, or Elijah, or Paul. But it might also cause us to think of a few non-canonical saints, like Polycarp, or Augustine, or Bernard, or Francis. There are very inspiring saints in the modern world, like Luther or Calvin, or Bonhoeffer and Watchman Nee (mine always tend to be intellectuals for some reason). And one of the great things about having such a large cloud of witnesses to choose from is that one of them might speak to us in a way that another simply could not.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a name now well-known, was that kind of a person for me. I began reading his books when I was in high school, and I had never felt so challenged in all my life. I had heard about Jesus ever since I was a little boy, but somehow I had never heard the voice of Jesus speaking directly to me—speaking directly to Chad Lewis—as I had through the voice of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. And after I had heard that voice, I was a different person; I could no longer go back to the way I was before I heard that voice. I could no longer pretend that life offered a whole bunch of choices and that one choice was just as good as the other. Here at last was a 20th century person who took seriously the call of Jesus to follow him. There was only one choice in life—to follow or not to follow Jesus Christ—and it mattered more than anything else in the world. It was at that point that I understood that my life was a journey: I saw my destination, and I saw the road that I needed to travel in order to get there.
Who is your inspiration? In whose footsteps do you aspire to follow? And what story will you leave to those who follow after you?
Pastor Chad LewisJuly 10, 2018