Spiritual Disciplines 004: Tie Down the Mainsail


For all other posts in this series, see the Spiritual Disciplines posts archive here

When I was a kid, my Aunt Irene and Uncle Chuck had a massive yacht on Lake Ontario in New York. The steering wheel was so large that I would ride my little self, standing on the wheel, and as they would turn it, I would tip back and forth. I fell in love with the soothing motion of riding on a boat, but I’m not sure I ever understood the whole foreign language of sailing.

“Hoisten the Jib” is apparently a classic, although I have no clue what a Jib is (perhaps related to JibJab?) Whatever you do, don’t forget to “hold the rigging,” because whatever is rigged might fall if you’re not – uh, holding it. And who could forget, "batten down the hatches!!"? It makes me want to shout something about the "starboard bow" at the top of my lungs, but I don't know how to batten anything.I still can’t figure out which side of the boat is the port. I thought that was wine.

One phrase that stuck with me is “Tie down the Mainsail.” Maybe it stuck because I actually know what this one means. The mainsail is the one that determines which direction you want the boat to travel. It either turns the boat or keeps it straight. “Tie down the Mainsail” is a Nautical phrase that means you use ropes to tie the mainsail in a fixed position appropriate to the direction you want your boat to go.

boat-ropes2So, to “Tie down the Mainsail” means make sure it doesn’t move so that we keep going the direction we are supposed to. I think about that as a phrase that inspires me in bible study because what you tie the mainsail down to determines which direction you go.

This life is like traveling a dangerous ocean. There are so many various opinions about how to live and which direction to travel, it’s easy for us to get lost in a sea of tumultuous opinion-waves and idea-currents and be thrown off course if we are not careful.

And if we want to make sure that we go the right direction, then we need to tie down the mainsail of our lives to something solid. Set your course. Wisely establish the direction of your life.

Here's my call to you: Set the mainsail of your life by tying it down to the Bible in order to dictate which direction you will go.

boat-compassThis is critical for us to grasp, because, as David Mathis says, “Without the Bible, we will soon lose the genuine gospel and the real Jesus and the true God. For now, if we are to saturate our lives with the words of life, we must be people of the book.”

More than that, God himself tells us in 2 Tim 3:16 that "All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for instruction, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."

The Bible is "God-breathed." The Bible is profitable for our lives. It instructs us about the course ahead. It reproves us when we are off-course and corrects us to get us back on course. Then it trains us in righteousness so we can stay on course.

This allows us to be "equipped for every good work" ahead of us. We are made ready, for all we will face in our lives, by the Bible. This is why Jesus prayed for us in John 17:17 “Sanctify them in the truth. Your word is truth.” This is why Paul know that it is “through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

This is why when Jesus spent time with the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, he didn't say "Look here guys, it's me!" He said, "If you want to see me, look here in the Bible" (Luke 24:13-35). Even Jesus himself just took people to the Bible.

The means of knowing God is the Word of God.
The content and motivation for evangelism is the Word of God.
The wisdom for salvation is in the Word of God.
The great weapon for fighting temptation is the Word of God.
The heart and soul of sanctification is the Word of God.
The charter of the Church is the Word of God.

The greatest truths are the old truths. The highest most life-changing realities are not found in the new inventions and fancy ways to do things, they are found by mining the depth of the words God has given us himself.

The classic song, "Ancient Words" by Michael W. Smith, says it well:
Holy words of our faith, handed down to this age,
Came to us through sacrifice, oh heed the faithful words of Christ.
Holy words long preserved for our walk in this world.
They resound with God's own heart, so let the ancient words impart.

However, there is a problem. There the Bible sits. There you are. How are you to benefit from all its incredible abilities to give wisdom and guidance? How will you receive hope and transformation from Scripture? What is the process by which we are able to obtain the treasure from the mine?

Let's call it "Bible Intake." Whatever you have to do, you have to get the Bible in you. This happens in a number of ways that we will cover in posts to come, but more important than any method is the motivation. It begins with a heart that is hungry for help from the Holy One.

old-bible-germanThe root of all bible intake is a healthy understanding of our need and the Bible's supernatural ability to meet that need.

“The potential practices are limitless, but the principle beneath the practice is this: the fundamental means of God’s ongoing grace, through his spirit, in the life of the Christian and the life of the church is God’s self-expression in his word, in the gospel, perfectly kept for us and on display in all it’s textures, riches, and hues in the external written word of the Scriptures.”
David Mathis, Habits of Grace, p40-41

Succinctly put, bible intake involves bible reading, bible study, bible memorization, and bible meditation. But none of that is going to happen if you don't first see your desperate need for guidance from God.

Tying down the mainsail of your boat, you use ropes to make sure you keep going the direction you are supposed to. Tying down the mainsail of our lives to the Bible requires ropes too. The ropes are Bible reading, Bible study, Bible memorization, and Bible meditation.

Set your course friends. Set the mainsail of your life by tying it down to the Bible in order to dictate which direction you will go. Otherwise you will look to the land but crash on the rocks. You will dream of reaching great shores, but find the boat of your life slammed against the cliffs. Tie down the mainsail of your life to the Bible.