To know your location at sea is necessary. The more exact the better, but even an approximate location can be used and improved over time with additional observations.
Chart plotters and satellite global positioning certainly simplify the process, but most competent mariners know and are prepared to use traditional methods for navigation. Once you know your position, it provides the context to figure out other factors that determine your ability to safely transit such as sailing routes, weather, and fuel.
Dead reckoning is the simplest traditional method to determine your location. Use of DR requires you to know or track several things: your starting position, how long you have been traveling (time), your speed over ground, and compass heading. Assuming you were completely accurate on all the inputs, DR should provide a correct current position; however, tacking a sailboat back and forth along a desired line of travel, called the “rhumb line”, and ocean currents can make DR pretty unreliable.
Better than dead reckoning is a fix. A fix is determining your position (bearing) relative to a fixed object. The object may be a lighthouse if you are in coastal waters or a star by use of a sextant if you are away from land. It doesn’t really matter what you use so long as it is fixed and charted. One fix allows you to chart a line-of-position, meaning that you are somewhere along a line that leads to the object. Two fixes are even better as you can cross the lines-of-position where literally x marks the spot. It is possible to get two fixes using the same object if you know the time of each sighting and the speed and distance you have traveled between sightings; this is called a running fix. The more sightings you take, the higher confidence you have in the result. For example, a three point fix of objects relatively far apart will provide the most accurate determination of current position.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb. 12:2 (NIV)
Similarly, navigating through life can seem like a vast waterscape and even a destination can seem elusive or unknown. Underneath a busy, daily schedule, internal questions may simmer: where am I? Where am I going? Who am I? Is there something more?
The key verse above begs another question: what happens if we fix our eyes on Jesus? The list is endless and even a summary seems inadequate, for fixing our eyes on Jesus gives us a new context, something solid and directional, to figure out everything else in life. Here are just four thoughts to consider.
Firstly, it shows us that He is God and we are not. Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead and demonstrated a love, compassion and humility that we cannot muster on our best day. As someone famously said, the difference between man and God is that God never thinks he is a man. Fixing our eyes on Jesus makes us aware of our own need for Him. We see the disparity of who He is and who we are and how He fulfills our need. Out on the water, we cannot use our own boat as the fixed object to know our position (relying on self), nor can we use the moving objects of other boats (comparing or depending on others), but we need a fixed, constant, dependable object in order to safely and successfully navigate. We need something other and greater than ourselves.
Secondly, it gives us a new perspective. Consider the chorus of this famous hymn by Helen Howarth Lemmel…
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
As the old hymn says, when we fix our eyes on Jesus, our focus on the world grows strangely dim. Suddenly the things we are wired and taught to value – power, possessions, security, success, money to name a few – fade in importance. As Jesus said, no man can serve two masters. His priorities become our priorities.
But how does this happen? It is not mere willpower that causes us to follow the perfect example of Jesus. The last phrase of that chorus gives a hint – the light of His glory and grace changes us. In scripture, 2 Corinthians 3:18 says: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
To behold the glory of the Lord is another way of saying to fix our eyes on Jesus. He authored our faith, and as we fix our eyes on Him, the Spirit of Christ changes us.
Thirdly, fixing our eyes on Jesus guides us to the destination. We have a purpose. Instead of aimless sailing through life, wondering what our reason is for being, there is a focus that satisfies. On that journey, He gives us tools that enable us to fix our eyes on Him. The Spirit, already mentioned, is one. Jesus told His disciples on the night He was arrested that He had to go away, but He would send them a Helper. “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth…” John 16:13. The Holy Spirit would be our True North to guide us in the journey of life, always pointing us to Jesus. The Bible is another tool to enable us to fix our eyes on Him. “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105. Knowing scripture equips us for life because it is trustworthy, the very words of God. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Just as a nautical chart might be full of pencil markings of fixes charted along a journey, so our Bibles might be full of notes in the margins as our own lives are redirected toward God’s specific plan for us.
Finally, fixing our eyes on Jesus will change how we view others. In Acts 1:11 the angel speaks to the disciples who are gazing up as Jesus is taken up into heaven Men of Israel why do you stand looking up? In looking up it was natural that their gaze would then shift to their mission at hand. As a result of their fix on Jesus, they cared about the things He cares about: people who are hungry and hurting, people who are despised by this world and treated unfairly, people who do not know Jesus and need to hear the good news. The kinds of people Jesus associated with were not the religious, who piously felt they didn’t need Him, but the outcasts: the poor, tax collectors, prostitutes, fishermen, the ordinary person. All needed the Gospel, a word that literally means good news. Look back at Hebrews 12:2-3. He endured the cross for the joy set before Him. That joy was us! We were set before Him. We were the reason Jesus came to earth. He did not come as merely a great moral teacher or prophet or healer, He came to save us. On the cross as He died for our sins, His thoughts remained fixed on you and me. “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” He died in our place, then sat down at the right Hand of God, so that we can have eternal life with Him – our ultimate destination.