I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know much about sailing. I know a few nautical terms like everyone else, you know, the basic ones like hull and bow, helm and cuddy, but that’s pretty much it. What I do know is that people who sail love to be out in the open waters watching the sun make its way across the sky, enjoying the solitude that comes with being in the middle of a large body of water. I can understand that; I can relate to it; I like solitude.
There are times however when those large bodies of water begin to narrow, and if they become narrow enough sailors call them straits. Fun and carefree as the open waters might be, when one happens upon a strait their focus needs to be sharp, and their singular purpose is to navigate the narrow channel.
Although some believers subscribe to the idea that our Christian walk is just one long boat ride with the sun at our backs and the wind gently billowing in our sails, the reality is that often times we as believers must also navigate spiritual straits. Yes there are times when we find ourselves on the open sea, when our relationship with God is at its peak, when our prayer life is growing daily, when we feel the presence and the direction of God even in the smallest decisions we are faced with, but there are also times when we are buffeted by enemies, deserted by friends, abandoned by family, and attacked by the devil with such vicious ferocity that it’s all we can do just to stay afloat.
In those seasons and instances wherein we find ourselves navigating the spiritual straits of life, there is one truth that should bring us comfort and strength, one truth that should keep us and sustain us, the fact that others throughout history have navigated such straits, and that God will stand with you just as He stood with them.
Whenever we find ourselves in these spiritual straits, it is easy to grow weary, it is easy to grow discouraged, it is easy to throw our hands up in the air and with a heavy sigh throw in the towel and stop fighting. It is in these moments when we somehow find countless justifications for giving up, for not enduring to the end, and for not pressing on. Yes, sometimes it seems like the whole world is warring against us, those who ought to understand us best don’t understand us at all, others aren’t facing nearly as much opposition, and those who have ceased fighting seem more rested, more youthful and more vibrant than us.
Today I want to discuss five men who found themselves in spiritual straits, and see their reaction to these seasons in their lives. Each man had a different strait to navigate, each situation was different than the others in some way, but all five had the wisdom and strength of character to stand, to fight, to persevere and to endure.
The first man we will be discussing today is Noah. To me Noah has always exemplified what to do when we are attempting to navigate the spiritual straits of perceived failure. This is especially true for anyone that has been called into ministry. There are times when the most inspired of sermons will not stir the hearts of the hearers, and there are times when the most emotional pleas for repentance will not cause one single soul to kneel before the foot of the cross. In those instances there is always that sense of failure that washes over the preacher, that feeling of inadequacy and hopelessness wherein the sorrow of evident apathy is almost too much to bear.
Noah lived amidst a godless generation. He was a man who faithfully preached for one hundred and twenty years, but neither his personal example nor his sermons did anything to sway the hearts of those who heard him. In the end it was only Noah and his family who entered the ark, a total of eight people after over a century of preaching. What we must understand is that obedience is often times its own reward. When God calls us into ministry, when God burdens us with a message, our duty is to remain clean before God, and speak what God has instructed us to speak. Whether men receive or reject the message, whether they mock or embrace the warnings of God is up to them. Our duty remains our duty regardless of how many receive the message.
The second man we will be discussing is Joseph. To me Joseph has always exemplified what to do when we are attempting to navigate the spiritual straits of perceived alienation. Here he was, having been sold into slavery by his own brothers, a young man in Potiphar’s house alone and absent the comfort of family or friends. It is in these seasons of feeling alone and alienated that the enemy sees an opportunity to lay out a trap, hoping to ensnare us. Temptation was pervasive and constant by way of Potiphar’s wife, and Joseph was nothing more than a slave. No one was there to encourage him, no one was there to fellowship with him, yet Joseph understood what many today do not, that even when we feel alone and alienated, God is with us.
I have met men who spent years in prison for having distributed Bibles, or having been caught preaching the Word, and in sharing their testimonies many of them recalled one aspect of their incarceration with great joy. Having perceived human psychology from a purely atheistic viewpoint, the prison guards believed that one of the cruelest punishments that could be visited upon the prisoners short of torture was to send them to solitary confinement for long periods of time. What these guards did not understand is that these men were not alone. The presence of God was with them, and even in solitary confinement they did not feel alienated or alone. We must understand that God is with us even when He is silent, His eye watches over us even in our times of trial.
The third man on the list that we can learn from when it comes to finding ourselves in spiritual straits is David. Yes, the shepherd boy who would be king, that David, but what I found relevant within the context of this teaching was David’s life during his time at Saul’s Palace. From David we learn what to do when we find ourselves in the spiritual straits of unrequited love. Not only was David’s love not returned by Saul, it was answered with hatred and thoughts of murder. I have known quite a few brothers who having lived through this strait of unrequited love over and over again, simply gave up serving altogether. It is painful, especially for a true shepherd or teacher of the Word who pours himself out every day and hurts for those God has placed under his care to realize that he is despised by those selfsame sheep rather than appreciated. When we begin to navigate the straits of unrequited love, we must always remember that we have a duty to perform, and our ultimate reward comes from the hand of God, not the hands of men.
The fourth man on our list that we can learn something from when we find ourselves in spiritual straits is Daniel. In many ways Daniel is allot like Joseph, both being slaves, one in Potiphar’s house, one in Nebuchadnezzar’s courts, both men being offered a means of compromise, both men refusing to defile themselves. What we learn differently from Daniel than we did from Joseph is that Joseph was never asked to denounce his God and embrace idols. Daniel was asked just that. He was confronted with the changing of his name, as well as his spiritual identity. From a purely logical point of view, Daniel had no reason to remain faithful to his God. Here he was a slave in a strange land, and he saw the opportunity to garner favor by simply going along, and doing as he was told. This is where faith has its say, this is where true faith shines bright as the sun, because when we possess true faith even in our times of distress, even in our times of uncertainty, even when all that we knew is shattered, we still cling to our God knowing that He will make a way. Daniel would not defile himself, he would not succumb to the pressures of blending in and going along, and because of his faithfulness God elevated him to great stature.
The fifth and last man that we can learn from when finding ourselves in spiritual straits is Mordecai. To me Mordecai has always exemplified what to do when we are attempting to navigate the spiritual straits of fierce opposition. Mordecai was a man who fought for his people, and would let nothing stand in his way. No matter the setbacks, no matter the opposition he faced, Mordecai did not relent until he obtained victory.
We can learn something from each of these five men, but the most important overall lesson for me at least is that spiritual straits are temporary, and with faithfulness, diligence, and obedience we are able to navigate them, coming out of our season of trial that much stronger.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.