Many unskilled boaters who drop an anchor for a night, expecting to be gently rocked to sleep, have suddenly found themselves dashed against shoreline rocks in the wee hours of dawn.
Do you know how to properly set an anchor?
As a Christian, have you properly set your gospel anchor? The analogy is fitting, in that the ground is typically hidden, and so it is easy to assume that the anchor will do what it is designed to do, all on its own, and we don’t need to contribute anything. Many believe they are safely attached to the Rock, and give little thought to checking what they depend upon, but cannot see.
Boaters who wish to safely see the dawn, and not allow their claimed faith to be ship-wrecked, need to read their boater’s handbook and set their anchor rightly. As the Lord instructs, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?” Handbooks are often a last resort for stubborn-minded travelers, but setting the anchor is part of our job–holding onto a rightly set anchor, no matter the storm, thank God, is the Lord’s job.
As any informed sea captain will tell you, there are several factors to rightly setting anchors. The most important factor is to figure out the ground conditions in order to determine what to expect and what type of anchor to drop. Sandy soil has very different characteristics than rocky soil. Wide blade anchors are more useful to bury deep under sand, heavy ones are best for more solid ground, and specialty styles can be easier to detach when time to weigh anchor.
Setting anchor on soft ground is much like building a house on sand–it is fine for a short stay, but you better hope no storm is a’brewing. Extra hard ground, on the other hand, can cause an anchor to skip and bounce without ever digging in. Since the attachment point is typically hidden or obscured, the second key is to “set” the anchor.
Setting an anchor, simply described, involves dropping it off the bow, sufficiently ahead of where the tide and/or winds will push the boat, giving it enough line to reduce the angle of pull, and then to gently drive the boat backwards. This extra energy helps to drive the anchor into the ground and grab. Too soft a pull, and the anchor can cut loose when least expected. Too hard a pull, and you just damage the sea-life with a farmer’s trench.
The third detail is to keep an eye out for changing conditions. Anchors are effective if rightly placed, set, and maintained, but they are not fail-safe if ignored. Good anchors give good sleep, and a hope for a bright tomorrow.
All this is fitting for Christians. The Gospel of Jesus is a reference to the good news provided by and promised from the Lord. It is good, because it offers freedom from the eternal penalty of destruction under the wrath of God because of our sin. It is good, because Jesus, while still fully God-with-us, came to this earth, took on our humanity as also fully man, and willingly died in our place to pay that penalty. It is good news, because those who accept his sacrifice, and his Lordship over their lives, become his for eternity.
In one sense, he is our anchor and he can never break loose. This analogy about setting our anchor is not about faith in Jesus; it is not about his sovereign ability to save those who come to him; and, it is not about anything we must do in order to be saved. Jesus has justified faithful believers by what he has accomplished, and we can rest assured through every storm, that this Anchor will hold.
Rather, the distinction being considered here, is something that the Bible teaches about where we place our anchor. This is a sanctification issue that requires believers to participate in evaluating their claimed beliefs. There are a number of ways Scripture addresses this issue, but here we will reflect on what God has to say about being poorly attached to the gospel.
If you will allow a boating paraphrase of the follow passage, consider what is being said to Christians:
“I am astonished that you are so quickly dragging anchor away from the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are drifting dangerously toward a different shoreline gospel—which is no gospel at all. Evidently some people on your boat have let go of your anchor and are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Gal 1:6-7).
Even trusted Church leaders, like Peter and Barnabas, “were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel” and had drifted into the rocks of hypocrisy. Their anchor had come loose and started to drift, but thankfully, they had a faithful deckhand who sounded the alarm and helped them re-set their anchor properly. However, the additional danger is that drifting can require a “reforming” of Christ in a believer:
“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Gal 4:19).
As another writer put it, again with a boater’s paraphrase:
“In fact, though by this time you ought to be a ship’s captain, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of godly boating all over again. You need knot-tying 101, not helmsmanship…captaining a boat is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good anchoring from bad.” (Heb 5:12-14)
In fact, some believers remain fast asleep as their anchor has come completely detached and have unknowingly become “alienated from Christ: you have fallen away from grace.” (Gal 5:4) Many think they are anchored to the solid rock of Jesus, but that anchor point remains below the surface and can be easily misread, if we are not humble and willing to regularly review what the Lord says about staying rightly attached.
The task before believers, who are awake enough to care about the placement of their anchor, is to stir ourselves out of our warm beds and review where we think we are.
To what is your anchor attached? And, how can you help strengthen its mooring line?