Navigating through Challenging Times


Well, let me start by relaying my apologies for the lack of consistent DAVE Talks. It is something I am attempting to remedy as I pray for wisdom, physical energy and creative writing skills, seeing most of my audience are teachers. You may notice that I have recently included articles from Oh! Canada!, a digital newspaper blog that was set up to address national issues. I hope that they are a blessing to you.

The first five months of 2016 has been one of the most challenging seasons that I have ever faced personally, relationally and organizationally. I know that I am not alone. Many have been unusually stretched. Like the sign expresses above, it has been difficult to know at times which direction to take. Maybe a few of you out there know what I mean.

Some of you have seen the movie, The Perfect Storm. I couldn’t watch it. It was too real for me. When I was a young man, I worked one summer as a lobster fisherman off the Georges banks of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. One had to be constantly aware of changing wind patterns, the level of swells, cloud formations, and tidal changes. To disregard the signs meant placing the lives of crew and skipper in jeopardy. At times, the outer circumstances we faced placed extreme pressure on the skipper to navigate safely back to harbour. I faced some clear and present dangers as a young fisherman. I still haven’t watched the movie.

A good captain knows how to use the adverse circumstances to his benefit. The Bible says in Hebrews 2:10: “For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” Before Jesus could captain our salvation, He went through rough seas.

Rough seas make can make us stronger and more capable of handling the upward challenges of life. The bottom line is that life continues to move forward whether we want it to stop or not. Learning to navigate in troubled times and to embrace the winds, the waves, and the tidal pulls, and use them to move forward is a critical discipline for all of us to learn.

Jesus embraced His greatest challenge, the cross and saved us all (Hebrews 12:2 – “Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God”).


            To “navigate” means “to direct or manage, to control the course, to make progress, carefully and safely.” It comes from the Latin word, nāvigātus, applying to “steering a ship through sometimes treacherous waters.” Navigation, in a broader sense, can refer to any skill or study that involves the determination of position and direction: where we are at; and, where we are going.

I know that we are all facing a sea of cultural change, a shift in tides that has destabilized some of the strongest navigators. Just think of the last 100 years in North America:

  • The average life expectancy was forty-seven.
  • Only 14 percent of homes had a bathtub.
  • Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.
  • There were only 144 miles of paved roads.
  • The maximum speed limit in most cities was ten mph.
  • More than 95 percent of all births took place at home.
  • Ninety percent of all physicians had no college education.
  • Coffee cost fifteen cents a pound.
  • The five leading causes of death were: Pneumonia and influenza; Tuberculosis; Diarrhea; Heart disease; and Stroke
  • There was no Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.
  • One in ten adults couldn’t read or write.
  • Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at corner drugstores.

Change is occurring all around us

  • More information has been produced in the last 30 years than in the previous 5,000
  • More than one-half the scientists who have ever lived are alive today.
  • Ninety per cent of all the items in the supermarket today did not exist ten years ago.
  • It is estimated that fifty per cent of college graduates are going into jobs which did not exist when they were born.

One man put it this way:

 “My great-grandfather rode a horse, but was afraid of the train.
My grandfather rode on a train, but was afraid of a car.
My father rode in a car, but was afraid of an airplane.
I ride in an airplane, but I’m afraid of a horse

             Navigating in changing and challenging times is difficult at best. We are all facing these tidal shifts: parent versus children rights; the right to life before birth and after old age; sex versus gender legislation; etc – I could go on. Because most of our life is not lived in calm waters we need to know how we should now live and conduct ourselves.

That is why we must be attuned as navigators to the two primary principles of navigation: locating your position and determining your direction.


Locating your Position

            Critical to navigation is an assessment of your known position. It is our personal GPS – global positioning system. Do you know where you are at? It’s like God in the Garden asking Adam, “Where are you?” God knew, but did Adam know that his position had changed? I co-operate with the Holy Spirit’s inspection of my life. Prayer does that. I can’t bow my head without God addressing His agenda for my life first. I also purposely do a spiritual inventory on my life regularly. I ask myself very difficult questions to keep my personal and ministry life honest and integral.

Is it possible that your life is adrift, or that you have lost anchorage? Is it possible that winds of adversity have driven you off course? As you evaluate your position, is it possible that you are no longer where you are supposed to be and that you have moved into dangerous waters?

Knowing your personal GPS is critical to being able to navigate in a healthy manner. A friend, Tony Miller shared at a conference I attended: “Regardless of where you are, you are at the center of your world. Don’t think that someone else somewhere else has it better than you. However, you must be willing to look from where you are with eyes of faith, beyond the obvious, and see the potential that lies before each one of you [no matter the circumstances you are in and what you are facing]” (note: “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you now stand…” – Gen 13:14-15).

Are you watching your personal position? Are you aware of the spiritual, moral, political and educational weather patterns? Have you noticed the changing of the guards nationally? Do you care who or whether there is someone at the helm of your life or not? Have you permitted someone or something else to reposition you? If you are not where you are supposed to be, what steps are you taking to get back to where you should be?

You can shift or drift. I choose to be very real about where I am at, my family is at and where my church, my city and my nation is at. This enables me to navigate from where I am to where God wants me to be, but I need an honest appraisal of where I am at. Let honesty and integrity guide you.

 Determining your Direction

             Direction is not always about destination: it is mostly about knowing True North. A GPS or common compass is of no value without a true north (know some of you will argue with me about True North versus Magnetic North). However, if you lose True North, you are lost, period. It doesn’t matter how fast you go, how you feel about the journey, or how many people go with you – lost will be lost, and devastating to most people.

What does True North look like to you? To me it is wrapped up with two things. The first thing has to do with the most important Person in my life, Jesus Christ: He is the Way (Jn 14:6) and He has a way for me to navigate the challenges of life. Jesus, not heaven, is the goal of my faith and the prize of my call (Phil 3:14). He is my divine back up: he has become the backup Man with the backup plan! If I lose connection to my Guide (the Holy Spirit), or stop listening to His directions, navigating through life will become increasingly more difficult.

I am a presence-driven man before I am a purpose-driven man. In John 5:19, Jesus made it very clear that He could do nothing in His own power or through self-authorization. His only hope of coming through the challenges of life was His intimate and ongoing relationship to His Father – hearing His heart, knowing His will, feeling His passion, doing what He saw the Father doing.

            The second thing has to do with the law of God: I am a principle-based man. God will never lead me to be, do or go anywhere contrary to His Word. One of the flaws in the faith of the post-modern Christian is pursuing “spirit movement without word direction.” Without the affirmation of the Word, you do not know what “spirit” is directing you.

One man said, “If you want to be distressed – look within. If you want to be defeated – look back. If you want to be distracted – look around.” I would add: “If you want dynamic direction – listen to His Word and look up to God.

 21st Century Navigators

             God is calling on us all to be navigators in a world facing great tidal swings. He is asking us to set our sails so that we can catch the wind of His Spirit. He is looking for us to guide and direct the ship – our personal lives, our marriages and families, our students, our ministry organizations – into safe harbours according to tried and proven principles. An entire generation is dependent upon us getting it right. May God help us all!