Our Keel of Faith

The keel—the flat blade sticking down into the water from a sailboat’s bottom—is an essential part of every sailboat. It has three functions: It creates forward motion, it prevents the boat from being blown sideways by the wind, and it holds the ballast (counterweight) that keeps the boat right-side up. Pretty simple, right? Also, very essential.

Using our sailing metaphor one more time (see “Finding North” and “Capture the Wind!”), the keel could represent faith. We cannot spiritually sail in God’s direction without it. The mast of discipline, the sails of spiritual practices, and the tiller of obedience are useless without the keel of faith, which keeps us from capsizing or drifting in the wind. Although hidden from view, the keel of faith is an essential part of turning wind power into forward progress.

The writer of Hebrews reminds us that “without faith [our keel] it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6, NIV). The author also describes faith as “assurance,” “conviction,” and “evidence of things not seen.” The Amplified translation says that “faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses” (Hebrews 11:1).

Sailing paraphrase: Without the keel of faith, which is the conviction of an unseen reality, we cannot successfully sail under the power of the Spirit of God. 

Webster’s defines believing this way: “the assent of the mind to the truth of what is declared by another, resting on his authority and veracity, without other evidence; the judgment that what another states or testifies is the truth.” However, biblical faith is more than mental acknowledgement that what is declared is true. It includes trust, which implies a conviction strong enough to inspire action in line with the belief.

Faith and hope are very similar but with a slight difference. Faith sees what is real but invisible, while hope sees what is real but not yet. Faith is a function of visibility, hope a function of time.

It is important to remember that faith does not create reality; it captures it. Therefore, biblical faith is not superstition, fantasy, or optimism. It is the lens by which we can see what is real, though not visible to the natural eye. Our culture would have us think that science is comprised of the world of facts while religion is the world of faith; science is real while religion is pretending, superstitious, illusionary, or imagined. In reality, we all live by faith. The only difference is the faith lens we use.

For example, astronomy uses a faith lens. Scientists boldly claim the existence of black holes and dark matter, though they have no physical lens that actually “sees” them (hence the term black). But they believe (faith) that they are there because of other evidence. They even conclude that most galaxies have a black hole, based totally on evidence, not visual sight. These cosmic phenomena are believed to exist because they fit the observable data or information.

Let’s return to our sailing metaphor. As apprentices of Christ, we must have a keel of faith—the confident belief that God’s Word is true and the courageous conviction to move in the direction of that reality. Faith, as our keel, keeps us moving forward, avoiding the dangers of capsizing or drifting in the chaotic cultural currents of our world. “We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14, NASB).

As in physical sailing, learning to sail spiritually—to move forward under the power of God’s Spirit—takes knowledge, skill, and practice. It requires knowing our resources and how to use them. We need to take advantage of every opportunity to further our sailing skills by looking for sailing coaches who can model and instruct us in the art of spiritual sailing. We are more inclined to row than to sail, but only sailing allows us to experience our new journey of life in Christ.

Questions for Reflection:

  • How has your keel of faith expanded and allowed you to see more of God’s invisible reality?
  • What faith-based truths are hardest for you to trust and live by?

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