The compass was first used for navigation in the 13th century. Since then it has been an essential tool for travelers of all kinds to find and keep their bearing. Based on the earth’s magnetic field, the compass points to north no matter where you are on the earth’s surface.
I want to look at the first part of our description of a disciple: The personal, persistent pursuit of …Christ.
When Jesus called the initial disciples in Matt.4:19, he gave them a compass.
Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.
The implied subject is the potential disciples. The action verb is “follow” but the direct object is “Me”. Christ’s great invitation for us (as it was for the disciples) is to set our compass on Him: to seek Him wholeheartedly. Out of that relationship He will make us spiritual fishermen.
This relationship makes being an apprentice of Christ very distinctive from the Greek model of discipleship. The Greek teachers invited students to follow their philosophy or teaching, but Christ invites us focus on a personal relationship with Him and then His teaching and mission.
The writer of Hebrews identifies our spiritual North when he writes, “… let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of faith” (Heb. 12:2).
If we understand Scripture as the revelation of Christ, consulting it consistently is much like checking our compass. No matter where we are or the direction we are headed, we can always reorient ourselves and find North.
When Jesus invited the initial disciples to follow Him, there were several implications that came with it.
- The focus was on Him as their ultimate authority and leader.
- It would require personal choice to change the direction of their lives.
- It would result in participation in the “family fishing business”.
This simple call to be His apprentice, is still in effect, but we need to consistently check our spiritual compass to void being pulled off course by sinful desires and complacent attitudes.
We also must be careful we don’t substitute even good things for what is essential. We can easily focus on mission, teaching, church, or even kingdom issues and lose our sense of North.
One way to check our compass setting is to ask ourselves why we follow Him. Motivation has a great deal to do with keeping our bearing fixed on Him. Scripture offers several possibilities:
- Life is better when we live God’s way
- A sense of duty and responsibility to be obedient
- A heart of gratitude for all God has done for us
- Desire to bring glory/honor to Him
Each of these is valid and at times effective, but the highest motivation, elusive as it is, comes out of a heart of love that desires simply to please Him. Paul frequently reminded the early believers that pleasing Him was the ultimate “so that” of discipleship.
“… we have not ceased to pray for you … that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects… (Col. 1:9-10).
“Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him” (2Cor. 5:9).
“Live as children of light… and find out … what pleases the Lord” (Eph. 5:8-9).
“Finally then brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more” (1 Thess. 4:1).
It is an amazing thing that we can actually bring joy/delight to the heart of God. We usually think of our faith resulting in our joy but not so much His joy. While it is certainly true that our motives are not pure and we may not even be conscious of them, our desire to give Him pleasure is an evidence of true discipleship.
Many years ago my wife and I were given balcony tickets to the musical “Phantom of the Opera”. However due to a ticketing error we wound up seated in the front row on the far side. Part of the stage was obscured, but we didn’t care; we had never been so close to the stage!
During intermission, I took advantage of our position to explore the orchestra pit that was directly under the stage. This little world of musicians was interesting in that from their place in the theater, they could not see the stage or even the audience. They were completely hidden from the main event other than a clear line of sight to the conductor. It dawned on me that they didn’t need to see the stage. All they needed to do was play their part and focus on the conductor who could see the stage.
We are much like that orchestra. Our role is to play our part and watch the Conductor because He is our compass. It is His pleasure, not the audience or the players, that needs to motivate us. If He is pleased, nothing else matters.
Questions for reflection
- What are some common substitutes for North on our compass?
- Can you think of a time when you sensed God’s pleasure with your life?