On January 13, 1997, Steve Fossett began an adventure with high expectations of becoming the first person to circle the globe in a hot-air balloon. After three days, he had already crossed the Atlantic Ocean and was flying at 24,500 feet eastward over Africa.
However, as he was approaching the country of Libya, he faced a strong headwind that made it very difficult to navigate the balloon. Knowing that hot-air balloons cannot be turned, Fossett made a change in the altitude of the balloon in hopes of finding a crosswind. Fossett vented helium, and the balloon dropped to 6,300 feet and found a southeastern wind blowing that took him just south of Libya. What adds intrigue to this miraculous story is the fact the Libyan government did not approve of the idea of someone crossing over into its air space. Unbeknown to Fossett, once the balloon was spotted on the radar, the Libyan military was prepared to shoot him out of the sky if necessary. His life had been saved because of winds that were contrary to his course of direction.
In Mark 6, the disciples are on the Sea of Galilee when a sudden storm arises. Their predicament is recorded in verse 48 stating they were, “…toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them.” Simply spoken, they were rowing hard, but were not getting anywhere. The word “contrary” means “to be against, opposed as an adversary, a hostile, antagonistic enemy.” There are seasons in life that we encounter contrary winds, and our lives produce intense motion but proceed with little movement. Frantically, we try rowing harder, readjusting the sails, or even lightening the load of our ship, but like the angel wrestling with Jacob, we “prevail not.” Contrary winds can be so discouraging that they are often confused as Satan’s hindrance when in reality they are God’s divinely appointed obstacle. The Lord performs some of His greatest movement in our lives through contrary winds. Contrary winds brought famine that led Joseph into prominence. Contrary winds parted the Red Sea for Moses. Contrary winds brought quail to the hungry Israelites. Perhaps the prophet said it best in Nahum 1:3, “the Lord hath His way in the whirlwind and the storm.” Just why does the Lord find it necessary to send contrary winds into our pathway?
Contrary winds stretch us for a greater purpose.
During the storm of Mark 6, the disciples were only thinking about the moment, but Jesus was thinking about the men. Contrary winds on the Sea of Galilee would prepare them for stronger contrary winds of persecution they would face in later years. Warren Wiersbe has said, “a life that cannot be tested is a life that cannot be trusted.” In the furniture industry, only strong, superbly grained wood is selected in the building of expensive furniture. What is the secret of the decorative graining? The trees are chosen from a location that is exposed to constant winds and storms. The constant winds stretch the trees and develop the finest woven fibers which add strength, beauty, and value to the wood. Contrary winds groomed Peter for the “rushing mighty wind” of Pentecost. Contrary winds groomed Elijah for the whirlwind that took him up into heaven. An artist never views his painting as it is, but rather as it will be. In the same manner, contrary winds from the Lord are never meant to break us, but to bend us into a more usable shape.
Contrary winds stir us to a greater profession. When Jonah was bent on his own course of direction, we are told in Jonah 1:4, “the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea…” Contrary winds that had strength to destroy anything in its path were used to adjust Jonah and spare him from an embarrassing failure. The traditional philosophy of the world says, “go with the wind.” However, favorable winds blowing in the same direction we are heading will often cause us to relax casually and carelessly and push us to destruction.
Contrary winds give the initial perception that everything in life is against us, but keep in mind that an airplane takes off against the wind, not with it. It is actually the stress and tension of the wind that helps lift the plane to soar. Contrary winds added passion to Jonah’s sermons, depth to Job’s integrity, and credibility to Moses’ leadership. Like a vine clinging to a tree during a storm, contrary winds will only press us closer to the trunk if we are growing on the right side of the tree.
Contrary winds stabilize us with a greater peacefulness. In Acts 27, Paul is a prisoner aboard a ship heading for Rome when “the winds were contrary…and the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind…” When the storm reached its pinnacle, everything and everyone fell apart except Paul. Recently, I watched a documentary on icebergs in the north Atlantic. When a storm arose, the same winds that tossed and battered the ships had absolutely no affect on the icebergs. The icebergs were unmoved by the wind because only 1/9 of the iceberg was above the surface, while the rest was embedded in the depth of the ocean. What was the secret of John remaining “in the Spirit” while exiled, Peter falling sleep while facing an execution, and Paul restfully “content” in a Roman dungeon? They were so hidden in Christ that external winds could not shake their internal peace! The weight, work, and worth of the anchor will never be fully realized without feeling the pressure of the wind and then stress of the waves.
In our English vocabulary, the word “opportunity” comes from the Latin and means “toward the port.” It suggests a ship taking advantage of the wind and tide to arrive safely in the harbor. Contrary winds are filled with unexpected opportunity, but only if you know how to capture it in your sails. If not, you may find all your hopes just up in the air, and all your dreams will be shot to the ground.
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2008 Alan Stewart
Alan Stewart: Dr. Alan Stewart has served as Senior Pastor of Rechoboth Baptist since December 1999. He attended The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Moody Bible Institute, Covington Theological Seminary, and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
Prior to pastoring the Tennessee church, Alan was an evangelist for 15 years. He has preached revivals/pastor’s conferences in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. He also preached crusades/conferences in India, Hungary, and conducted a crusade in South Africa in August of 2009. Pastor Alan is married to Jeanne, and they are blessed with two children – Sierra and Seth.