Friday, April 7, 2017

Christian Outdoor Object Lesson 50: Fixed Compass

Key Verse

"Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually." 1 Chronicles 16:11 KJV


The magnet of the ship's compass is…very like a godly man in the course of his earthly pilgrimage. The magnet on the sea and the believing soul in this life are firmly fixed on one Bide, and hang loose on every other. Both alike are fastened mysteriously to the distant and unseen, but are slack and easily moved in all their material settings. Precisely because they are unattached beneath, they are free to keep by their hold on high; and precisely because of their hold on high, they do not turn round with every movement of their material supports.

The magnet is by far the slackest, loosest thing in the ship. It is the only slack, loose thing there. It is not tied to the spars or nailed to the deck; it is not even laid down and left to the force of its own gravity. An elaborate machinery has been constructed for the purpose of reducing the friction, both vertical and horizontal, to a minimum, and so leaving it nearly as free to move as if it were imponderous. I need not describe the contrivance in detail: suffice it to say, that it is so softly poised on a needle-point in the middle, that if it chooses to fix itself by its own nature—as it were by the tendency of its heart— to a known but unseen point in heaven, it is at liberty to do so, and not obliged to turn with every turning of the ship that bears it.

The ship rolls from side to side; the ship pitches, now her bow and now her stern raised high above the water; the ship changes her tack, now going east, and now west, and anon driving before the wind. All things in the ship move with her except the magnet of the compass. It alone keeps ever one attitude, whatever changes of attitude take place in the ship; or if it turn partially and momentarily, with the sudden heavings of the labouring vessel, it is only for a moment—it rights itself again. Steady and still otherwise, it is when driven for a little out of its normal attitude that the magnet moves—moves, trembling and uneasy, until it regains its own place, and there it rests.

It is thus that a heart is loose to the world if it is fixed on Christ. It may have needed many rendings to slacken the heart's hold of things seen and temporal. There are sometimes more of these, and sometimes less. There are diversities of operation. Some are more gently set loose, and some are severed only by the wrenching of God's own hand, leaving a right arm cut off, or a right eye plucked out, behind. But whether he comes in an earthquake or in a still small voice, it is the doing of the Lord, when the bonds are loosed that bound a soul to the dust, and the soul, delivered, swings round free to follow the Lord.1


What is it that draws us to Christ like a compass to north?

According to the lesson, do we change suddenly or slowly to become fixed on Christ?

What practices can we keep to facilitate our continual focus on Christ?

Read the story of Peter walking on the water in Matt. 14. What lessons does this story teach about staying focused on Christ?


1. William Arnot Rev., The Lesser Parables of Our Lord (London: T. Nelson and Sons, 1884), 222-223.

Question Written by David F. Garner
Photo Credit: David F. Garner