I have long been captivated by one stanza of Ella Wheeler Wilcox’ poem, “The Set of the Sails.”
One ship drives east, and another west
With the self-same winds that blow;
‘Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales
That decides the way to go.
David set his sails well, singing, “I delight to do Your will, O my God” (Psalm 40:8). When ordered to cease speaking of the resurrected Lord, Peter and John replied, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you must judge. For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19). The apostles were facing an ill wind, but their sails were well set and true. Paul suffered worldly loss but kept on course, pressing “toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
Isaiah foretold our Lord’s resolve in His most difficult days, “Therefore I have set My face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near” (Isaiah 50:7b-8a).
All leaders experience both fair and foul winds. The Christ-honoring leader has been given stewardship of people, missions, and things for the Master’s gain and pleasure. Whether that leader’s service is facing favorable or seemingly impossible winds…“tis the set of the sails, and not the gales, that decides the way to go.”