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The best advice you will ever get

30 July 2014, 11:37


 There was a young man who loved the sea. He grew up in a small town on the edge of a remarkable coastline from where he sat and gazed at the immeasurable distances over the horizon. He dreamed of the day when he could board one of the tall masted ships that sailed in the distance.

Well, eventually he grew up to be able to join the crew of one of these trade wind schooners that sailed from Europe all the way around the coast of Africa to the East. Nobody on board could climb up the ropes to unfurl the sails faster than the agile young man. He was noticed by the officers and eventually the captain of the ship. They gave him more difficult tasks but he handled them with ease. His joy to sail, his enthusiasm and hard work paid off and after only a few voyages, he became a master mariner, in charge of a vessel and crew. He was captain on a small ship that didn't sail far out to sea, hugging the coastline to transport loads along the Mediterranean coast, so he didn't have too many problems with storms or heavy winds. Once again his hard work and high spirit paid off. When some rich men wanted to invest in a new ship to trade in the Far East, they looked for an experienced master mariner and our friend was selected. He would be in charge of the building of the vessel and eventually, he would be captain with a share in the profits.  He was elated, but he had to build the ship within a very tight budget, otherwise he would lose his appointment.

So our friend started to build the ship, sturdy and strong, capable of surviving the extreme weather around the African coast. But his money started to run out and he still had not finished building the ship. So he started to cut back on things he regarded as unnecessary. His cabin and that of the crew had to make do with very little comfort. But his sails and the ropes were of the highest quality. Finally, he still had one sail and the ship's compass to buy, but he had money left for only one of them. He reasoned that as a master mariner, he would be able to use the sun, the moon and the starts to guide him, but he needed the sail to increase the speed of the ship, so that he could make more money for his investors. Eventually he chose to install the sail and left the compass to be purchased at a later date.

Now a compass is a very simple and yet a very complex piece of equipment. It must be installed correctly at the right place so that it is accessible at all times to the man steering the vessel. It always states the true direction, it never goes offline, it needs no power to drive it and even when all around it is in chaos, it will always do what is expected of it. It never lies because it cannot do anything else than to point to the magnetic north of the earth.

But our friend decided a compass was superfluous because he had his charts, the sun, the moon and the stars to guide him and to navigate safely around the dangerous coastlines.

Eventually he sailed for the East and quickly and safely made his way there and back. The profits were good and he now had the money to buy a compass for the ship. However, having completed one voyage without it, he questioned whether it was necessary to buy the expensive piece of equipment. He had guided the ship through treacherous waters with only his charts, the sun, the moon and the stars. So after a short stay, our friend was anxious to set sail again and soon he left the safe harbour on his second voyage to the East. Once again, he managed the outward bound journey without incident but on his way back, he received news that several ships had gone aground around the African coast. He decided to stay close to the shoreline to avoid the most severe inclement weather.

With a full load, as much as the ship could carry, he set off on the homeward journey, full of excitement at the prospect of the profits he would make. Halfway home, one dark night, a terrible storm at sea overtook the ship. They lowered most of the sails and battened all the hatches. The captain himself manned the big wheel steering the ship but the night was pitch black, there was no sign of the sun, the moon or the stars to guide him. The terrible waves became worse and our friend and his crew feared for their lives.

"Please steer us out of this storm!" pleaded the men with him, but our friend had no idea which direction to take. Only now he realized how foolish he was not to have a compass on board. His charts were useless because he had no idea of direction. For hours the storm lashed the poor vessel completely at the mercy of the gigantic waves. Suddenly there was a sound of a mighty impact and the ship lurched almost completely over to starboard. They had landed on the rocks surrounding the unseen coastline. The sea tore the vessel off the rocks, only to smash it back, tearing the wooden frame and sides to pieces. All the barrels and bales he had purchased belched out of the hold and drifted away, to be washed up elsewhere, where others would enjoy the benefit of all of our friend's hard work.

Only two men from the crew survived the disaster. The rest and the captain were drowned, Later, the survivors from the ship related how the captain cursed and swore as his ship was destroyed, lamenting in a loud voice:

"Oh God, if only I had a compass!"  

As you would have guessed, this story has a moral for those who are at the beginning of their lives. You are all sailors, learning the ropes and how to sail for the day when you will be on your own. The sun, the moon and the stars are your father, your mother and your teachers or friends who love you and have your best interests at heart. The charts you have will be your education and what your teachers and parents taught you. When you learn to make your own choices, they will be there to guide you along the way so that you stay clear of the rocks in life that can hurt you. But one day, as certain as life itself, they will no longer be there. You will be completely on your own. Not only that, you will have others who depend on you to make the right choices. As with our friend, you may make your way for a time without a compass and your confidence will grow in your own abilities. But there will always be a dark night when a severe storm comes into your life, bigger than any other storm you have experienced. You will be completely on your own with no family or friends to guide you. Your charts of education will be useless to help you with your choices. That is the day when you will need a compass.

What is the only compass that is always there for you, never lies and always shows you the direction to take?  There is only one such a compass in life.

The Word of God.  The Bible.

Like a compass, the Bible always tells the truth. It is always accessible to you. It needs no power, in fact it empowers you. It will judge your choices and praise you when you make the right ones. It is a two edged sword. It will cut away from you just as it can cut back at you with the same blade. Above all, it will teach you the most important choice in life. To love one another as you love yourself and to put God first in your life.

Before you even build your ship, before you sail on that first voyage, even before you set your foot on life’s journey, get a Compass, a Bible and study it as if your life depended on it.

Because it does.

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