Finding North

Since the 12th century, the compass has been an essential tool to help travelers find and keep their bearing. Because of the Earth’s magnetic field, the compass points to north no matter where you are on the Earth’s surface.

When Jesus called the first disciples, He gave them a compass: “And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’ ” (Matthew 4:19, ESV). 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. Christ invites us to focus on a personal relationship with Him, and then on 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 perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2, NASB). If we understand Scripture as the revelation of Christ, consulting it consistently is much like checking our compass. No matter where we are or what 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:

  • 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 check our spiritual compass consistently to avoid being pulled off course by sinful desires and complacent attitudes. We also must be careful not to substitute even good things for what is essential. We can easily shift our focus to 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 Jesus. Motivation has a great deal to do with keeping our bearing fixed on Him. Scripture offers several reasons:

  • a better life 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
  • a desire to bring glory and 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 incentive for discipleship. Consider these examples, to which I’ve added emphasis:

  •  “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” (Colossians 1:9-10, NASB).
  • “Live as children of light . . . and find out what pleases the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8-10, NIV).
  • “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 Thessalonians 4:1, NASB).

It is amazing that we can actually bring joy and 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.

If we keep our eyes on Jesus, our lives will not veer off course. We are not following a doctrine or a philosophy; we follow a Person who offers us a deeply personal relationship. When we seek to please Him, we can be confident that He will guide our steps.

Questions for Reflection:

  • What are some common substitutes for north on a believer’s compass?
  • Think of a time when you sensed God’s pleasure with your life. What led to that feeling?

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