I read a story several years ago that I find fascinating. In January 1992 a ship left Hong Kong harbor for Tacoma loaded down with 28,800 bath and floaty toys. Along the way the ship met 40 foot waves and lost much of its cargo. More than 7,000 boxes carrying yellow plastic ducks, red plastic beavers, blue plastic turtles and green plastic frogs covered the surface of the stormy sea.
As you can imagine, the stormy sea made quick work of the cardboard boxes holding the toys and they were released into the wild to roam free. Rather than float in one direction, the toys took diverse paths across the sea to different parts of the world. The graphic below shows the route some of the toys took.
Since that fateful day in 1992 plastic ducks, beavers, turtles and frogs with varying degrees of sun and wave erosion have continued to wash up on shores ranging from the Aleutian Islands to Kennebunk Harbor in Maine. Others continue to circle the earth and according to one article they complete a lap around the Gulf of Alaska to the Bering Sea once every three years.
One of the reasons I find this story so interesting is that I think in a way it typifies the way many people live their lives. Like plastic ducks floating in the sea, they just sort of float through their day to day life. Their paths are determined by whatever circumstances life throws their way. They drift through the same routine they’ve grown accustomed to. Really, they have no plan for where they are going, what they want to accomplish and no idea of how God wants them to live.
This is the way I feel I live when I don’t have goals I’m focused on accomplishing. This is the way I feel I live when I’m not focused on fulfilling the mission God has for my life. Drifting through life certainly seems to be an easy way to live but there is no way I believe that this is the best way to live. As believers in Jesus Christ we should take stock of our lives and determine what path we will take in life. As believers in Jesus Christ, we should not be plastic ducks that drift through life.
“Let your eyes look straight ahead, And your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.” Proverbs 4:25-27 (NKJV)
I love this particular passage of Scripture. It is one that I reference in my own life fairly often. I read this passage years ago and wrote down three things that this passage encouraged me to do. Let me share those with you today.
Focus On a Goal
We are told in verse 25 to look straight ahead and let our eyelids look right before us. A part of the idea here is that we need to determine what we want to accomplish and what we want to be. Then we must see if the path we are on will get us there. If your goal is to lose weight will the path to McDonalds get you there? If your goal is to know Scripture better will the path of only reading it in Church get you there? If your goal is to lead someone to Christ will the path of ignoring unbelievers get you there? If your goal is to know Jesus better will the path of prayerlessness get you there?
There is always a connection between the way we think and the way we live. The way we think will be determined in a big way by what we focus on. Focus on a goal and then see if the path you are currently on will lead you to accomplish that goal.
Pick the Right Path
I like how the New Living Translation translates verse 26. “Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path.” Proverbs 4:26 (NLT) The idea of marking out a straight path is picking the path that gets you from where you are to where you want to be as quick as possible. It is a path with as few detours as possible.
Once we have focused on a goal we must then pick the right path that will get us there. If your goal is to lose weight then you probably need to look at the path of exercise. If your goal is to know Scripture better then you probably need to look at the path of a daily Bible reading plan. If your goal is to lead someone to Christ then you probably need to look at a path that leads you to naturally interact with unbelievers. If your goal is to know Jesus better then you probably need to look at the path of setting a regular daily time of prayer. Once we’ve figured out which paths will not help us accomplish our goals, we then need to pick the paths that will help us accomplish our goals.
Stick To the Right Path
Once we’ve picked the right path we have to stay the course. We can’t go to the right or to the left. We can’t let ourselves get distracted by things that will keep us from accomplishing our goals. There are so many things around us that can sidetrack us and if we are to accomplish our goals we must ignore them all.
Any goals we set will require us to make sacrifices if we really want to accomplish them. This is true regardless of what the goal is. If your goal is to lose weight, then you will have to make some sacrifices in how much you eat and how often you exercise. If your goal is to know Scripture better, then you will have to make some sacrifices in how much TV you watch and how you spend your time. If your goal is to lead someone to Christ, then you will have to make some sacrifices in regards to your personal comfort zone. If your goal is to know Jesus better, then you may have to make some sacrifices in regards to sleep so you can get up earlier or stay up later to pray. Sticking to the right path will always require a sacrifice on our parts but that is the only way to accomplish our goals.
I have found in my life that one of the easiest things in the world to do is be a plastic duck. You don’t have to do much. You just let the winds and waves of life determine where you go and what you do. This isn’t the way believers in Jesus Christ are to live.
Whatever it takes, whatever changes you have to make, don’t be a plastic duck.