There is an interesting detail included by the inspired historian, while describing a part of Paul’s Second Missionary Journey in Acts 16:11. Luke records that after setting sail from Troas, “we made a straight course to Samothrace.” Making a straight course in those days meant they took advantage of favorable winds—the sailing conditions which made it possible to move in a straight line and thereby reach their destination in very good time.
I have often thought of those words in connection with our lives, and wondered if many of us are “making a straight course” to our heavenly destination? Or are we allowing the headwinds of life to delay or alter our voyage? As we prepare to “launch” into a new year—a journey of sorts—perhaps it would be wise to consider a few common headwinds which we should carefully avoid, so we too can “make a straight course to Samothrace” in 2021.
1. Avoid the Peril of Procrastination. Now is the time to make bold plans for the new year. Go ahead and make some reasonable, scriptural resolutions. But more important than making such commitments is keeping them. Making the plan and then working the plan. It’s so easy, once we get started, to put off the hard work until another day, another time. Procrastination is an enemy of all godly people, because it encourages idleness, in attentiveness, and in effectiveness. The ability to procrastinate is a dangerous human trait, which we must constantly combat. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today, for tomorrow may be too late. “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation,” (2 Cor. 6:2). Make a schedule, a punch list, and stick to it. “And this, knowing the season, that already it is time for you to awake out of sleep: for now is salvation nearer to us than when we first believed. The night is far spent, and the day is at hand…” (Rom. 13:11-12).
2. Beware the Danger of Distraction. How many people have excitedly begun the Christian life, only to be distracted once the voyage was underway? There are distractions of tribulation or persecution. There may be the “deceitfulness of riches” or materialism, (Mt. 13:22). These dangers, like the siren calls of worldliness, may entice us to believe that we are on a “pleasure cruise,” rather than a dangerous voyage across the treacherous sea of life. But this life is dangerous—especially if we don’t pay careful attention. It takes all of our concentration, fully focused, to successfully navigate the human life. Don’t be distracted!
3. Watch for the Hazard of High-Mindedness. “For I say, through the grace that was given me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but so to think as to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to each man a measure of faith,” (Rom. 12:3). Many good people have been completely ruined in life’s journey by becoming puffed up by successes of their past. “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall,” (Prov. 16:18). We need to remember that “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble,” (Jas. 4:6). If you have done well in your life thus far, don’t brag. Don’t assume that headwinds cannot arise on your voyage. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall,” (1 Cor. 10:12). Keep your kindness and humility, and stay on a straight course!
4. Avert the Risk of Remembering. Memories are wonderful things if they are not allowed to rule our lives. We need to be careful not to get overly sentimental or bogged down with memories of how things used to be—but are no longer. Things change, and we need to be able to change with them if our life’s journey is to be successful. Rather than “living in the past,” we need to use our memories and the lessons we have learned to follow the course God has charted for us into the future. Remember, our Lord said, “No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God,” (Lk. 9:62). Look forward!
Will your journey in the new year be “a straight course to Samothrace?” Or, will you be tossed about by procrastination, distraction, high-mindedness, and dwelling on memories of the past? My hope for each of us is that this new year will be a time of incredible spiritual growth and progress. And, that the Lord will allow us to advance in our spiritual journeys like never before—making a straight course to Samothrace!
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.