I’m amazed at how dependent I’ve become on the GPS on my mobile phone. I’ve had to rely on maps for a number of route driving jobs I’ve had over the years (those jobs pre-date my iPhone ownership), and as I look back, I wish I had the GPS much sooner in life. So much unnecessary asking of directions could have been avoided.
Precise navigation tools are a necessity for so much of what we do in life. In warfare, the first strategy opponents execute is the destruction of navigation centers. The key defensive move for any military force is to protect navigation assets on a macro level and train soldiers to skillfully use navigation tools so that they’re able to carry out their missions on a micro level.
If you’ll indulge me further in this analogy, we’re engaged in warfare in spiritual dimensions, and often, we forget. As missionaries, so much is required from us in the material world where our work-a-day lives happen, that, like the servant of Elisha (2 Kings 6:16, 17), we don’t see the bigger battle going on around us.
Trained soldiers need to re-visit the basics regularly to keep them prepared and sharp for an unexpected battles. This is known as military bearing. The same principle applies to trained missionaries. We need to handle the basics of navigating our faith to keep us sharp for spiritual battle. Here are six basic navigation skills adapted from the things we’ve learned from our navigating the roads where we live, work, visit or play.
We learn shortcuts from our own experience or the experience of others. The best shortcuts are learned when we operate according to best practices or standard operating procedures. The worst shortcuts are those we take when we think we know what we’re doing, but we actually don’t. You hear that familiar, small voice asking, “Are you sure? You’ve never been down this road before.” Don’t ignore this voice. This the time to pull over and pull out the map. When you’re a new missionary, the temptation to take shortcuts is strong because there’s a strong urge to get to your destination quickly. This is the time to navigate carefully and, if possible, access those who have traveled this road before you. While you can learn valuable lessons from your own mistakes, learning shortcuts from experienced travelers will save you more time and resources than can be accurately measured.
Wrong turns happen. Use a map (God’s Word) and a compass (your conscience under the influence of the Holy Spirit) to get back on track as quickly as you can. Minimize the duration of being off course. Get back on course as quickly as you can so you don’t become isolated and easy for the enemy to pick off.
We have a saying here in Northern New England where I live: “If you don’t like the weather, wait fifteen minutes. It’ll change.” Weather can support or derail your plans. So plan for bad weather. Sometimes you need bad-weather gear. Sometimes bad weather keeps you home. Whenever possible, stay our of bad weather. What’s the spiritual application? What immediately comes to mind is the story of Jesus calming the storm. Your best bad weather gear is Jesus. Forgive me if that comes across as trite or irreverent. That’s not the intention. Jesus is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. So, spiritually speaking, if bad weather keeps you home or blows in suddenly, call on Jesus. Either way, He’ll go through it with you.
If you grew up in an expanding metropolitan area and moved away when you became an adult, you’ve experienced the confusion that comes from urban expansion and traffic re-routing. The familiar is suddenly unfamiliar. Landmarks have been moved or bulldozed. This happens on your spiritual journey, too. You feel like you’re lost, but you’re not. You need to find your way back to a familiar intersection and then take a little time to familiarize yourself with the new environment contained in your old surroundings. The first step is to get back to a familiar point of reference. In the spiritual battle, that might mean get out your Bible and visit the passages you’ve underlined and highlighted several times before. They’ve helped you get your bearings in the past and they’ll keep you on track as the world around you evolves.
Conversations on the phone, arguments in the car, and texting while driving are fatal mistakes. When you’re the one behind the wheel, a different level of concentration is needed than if you’re the passenger. You need to know the difference and behave accordingly. In the verse referenced above in 2 Kings, Elisha knew he was the experienced teacher and prophet. He was in the driver’s seat, and engaged the people he met from that perspective. Before he was a teacher, he was a student and he focused on learning. Know your role and related tasks and stay focused. Your enemy is working hard to toss out distractions that will result in a fatal collision. Stay focused while on the road.
Out of gas
Keep fueled up. This happens through prayer, Bible study, fasting, and fellowship. No matter how well you know your way around, you’ll never get there without fuel.
In the mission field, navigational detours can take days or weeks to correct. It’s critical to navigate in the Spirit since you have a divine appointments your enemy doesn’t know about. God doesn’t share His plans with the enemy. When it appears that God is giving up ground to the enemy, keep in mind God doesn’t give up ground. Something else is going on. Make sure you’re navigating with the tools God has given you. He’s given your what you need to successfully accomplish the mission.