“It is up to you to determine if you will grow or not.”

A few years ago, I shared that statement with a younger leader and I could see the pain in his face. While he was living in community with others, and contending for God to do some amazing things in his life, he was missing the fact that spiritual growth was a true partnership between he and God.  It was as if he was waiting on God and others to do all the ‘heavy lifting’ to recognize real and meaningful growth in his life.

Pastor and author, John Ortberg,  (The Life You’ve Always Wanted) writes of a boat when discussing spiritual growth. I used this analogy this past Sunday in my talk on Growth.

Motorboat or Ski Boat

In a motorboat I’m in charge. I have full control – punch the gas when I feel like it and power my way into grater growth or at least activity. I determine how fast we’re going to go, and in what direction. Some people approach spiritual life that way. If I’m just aggressive enough, if I have enough quiet times, I can make transformation happen on my own. Usually that results in people becoming legalistic, then pride starts to creep in, and things get all messed up.

Some people have been burned by the Motorboat approach. So they go to the opposite extreme and will say, “I’m into grace.” It’s like they’re floating on a raft. If you ask them to do anything to further their growth, they’ll say, “Hey, no. I’m not into works. I’m into grace. Just kicking back and waiting for God and others to do something and until then, I am drifting…..You’re getting legalistic with me.” So they drift. There are way too many commands in Scripture for anybody to think that we’re called to be passive and drift.

On a sailboat, however, I don’t move if it’s not for the wind. My only hope of movement is the wind. I can’t control the wind. I don’t manufacture the wind. Jesus talks about the Spirit blowing like the wind.

John 3:8
The wind blows wherever it pleases.
You hear its sound, but you cannot tell
where it comes from or where it is going.
So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

Jesus talks about the Spirit blowing like the wind. But there is a role for me to play, and part of it has to do with what I need to discern.
A true follower of Christ will set their sails up.  They will be ready for the wind and the growth that comes from a partnership with Jesus. If your sails are down, and you have not done all you can to grow: pray, bible reading and devotions, worship, serving, keeping your thought life pure, moving away from temptations and the sins that so easily trip you up, you will not be ready when the Spirit moves.  Just do what you can do, have your life positioned for God’s ‘wind’ to blow and have your sails up – ‘Lord, here I am, use me, touch me, allow me to grow in you.”

A good sailor will discern, Where’s the wind at work? How should I set the sails? Spiritual growth and formation is like sailing.

Wise sailors know that their main task is being able to “read” the wind – to practice discernment. An experienced sailor can simply look at a lake and tell where the wind is blowing strongest, or look at the sky and give a weather forecast. A wise sailor knows when to raise and lower which sails to catch the wind most effectively.  Get to know the voice of God, the move of the wind, the anticipation of what God is up to in your life and in your family and in your community of friends and in our church. Be ready and move with Him.

Setting my sights on growth and my sails for the wind of God,


“The decision to grow always involves a choice between risk and comfort.
– John Ortberg

sail boat

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