I remember the first time it happened; it was a brightly colored towel – likely visible even on a cloudy day from the Space Station – but suddenly I couldn’t see it!
I knew exactly where it had been! We had walked straight out from that base we had established on the beach and into the ocean. The towel had been directly across from me the first few times I had glanced back while playing in the waves. Confident that we had been in the same place for the last 15 minutes, I was quite alarmed not to see my towel where I had left it.
My first thought was, “Who stole my towel?” We were also out farther than I remembered – way too far to successfully chase a thief. I scanned the shore to my right and then to my left. Ah! There was the towel! It was a good 20 yards down the shoreline. The towel had not moved – but I certainly had!
This loss of a towel was my first experience with the force of subtle currents. Slowly I had drifted, unaware, further out and up the shoreline. After that realization, I found myself changing my position and keeping far better track of my location. I and those with me moved back and lined up with where we had started.
The towel was no longer just a possession I did not want to lose, but now also a point of orientation. In this encounter I was not in actual danger, but certainly if I had not taken that check of the shore, I might have found myself with a very long walk back on the beach. Unfortunately, we see in life and Scripture that some don’t check for their towels soon enough, with catastrophic results. No need for the opening descriptions of the passages that follow.
Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. (2 Peter 3:17)
Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. (Hebrews 13:9)
We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. (Hebrews 2:1)
In each case, unlike those who wander or walk away from the faith, it is not the intent of the drifter to be carried away, but the consequence of not recognizing the presence and effects of currents – and in the end, losing sight of Christ and becoming disoriented from sound doctrine and the grace of God that brought our salvation.
It is not the intent of the drifter to be carried away, but the consequence of not recognizing the presence and effects of currents.
The context for our life and leadership is full of many currents. Currents not founded in Christ flow around us, pulling and pushing at our thoughts and attitudes. The strong currents hold obvious dangers, and at the first tug, we can be quick to fight our way out of them and warn others. The subtle currents tend to be far more dangerous because we are likely unaware of drifting until we are in trouble, far from where we started. Our safety, just as the warning, is also found in the instructions of Scripture:
…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:2-3)
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:1)
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Hebrews 13:3)
We can’t avoid the presence of currents, but to finish well, we must stay aware and not tire of fighting them, simply letting them carry us away.
Instead, we must make every effort to not lose sight of our point of reference – resisting, realigning, and reminding others that safety is in keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.
- Take some quiet time to consider: What are the subtle currents flowing through and around your life today? Write down three or four significant examples.
- Ask God to show you where you have drifted as a result.
- What do you need to do about what He shows you? Do it!