Calibrating our inner compass

by Bishop Emeritus Robert M Solomon // February 12, 2018, 7:00 am


Photo by Valentin Antonucci on Unsplash

“Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the LORD.” Lamentations 3:40

How is it that migratory birds can fly thousands of miles and arrive at the right place?

Researchers have offered several answers but most have agreed that such birds have an inner compass that helps direct their flights. Taking their readings from the earth’s magnetic fields, the birds instinctively fly in the right direction. As if this is not already fascinating, it has been further discovered that many night-flying birds also calibrate their inner compasses by using polarised sunlight at dawn and dusk. They do this every day before taking off in flight.

We can learn a lesson or two from these birds.

We, too, are on a migratory journey – from darkness to light, from sin to righteousness, from the things of this world to the city whose architect and builder is God, from hostility to hospitality and from self to Christ.

To help us make the journey, God has given to us each an inner spiritual compass.

God has “set eternity in the hearts of men”. Ecclesiastes 3:11 This sense of eternity is something inherent in our human souls, as God has intended. However, sin has spoiled this spiritual equipment, and the inner compass often malfunctions.

When we come to Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit, our inner compasses are restored to working order. The Spirit testifies to our spirit that we are children of God, and through such spiritual assurances and feedback in our journey, we are directed to our eternal Home.


The challenge, though, is to make sure we are using our spiritual compasses.

Also, because we live in a poisoned environment of worldliness and evil, our compasses need maintaining and regular calibration. Many Christians do neither. They neither ensure they are travelling in the right direction, nor ensure that their spiritual compasses are accurate and in good working order.

People are often so busy following the crowd that they forget to check their direction. Our modern culture seems to be obsessed with speed rather than direction, with efficiency rather than destiny.

Our modern culture seems to be obsessed with speed rather than direction, with efficiency rather than destiny.

A pilot was flying a plane and unfortunately got lost because the instruments in his plane malfunctioned. He managed to contact a control tower and reported his situation. The flight controller, wanting to help the pilot find his way back, asked for his coordinates. Not being able to pinpoint his current location, the pilot radioed back, remarking: “I don’t know where I am, but wherever I am headed, I am making it in good time!”

We are often like this pilot. We don’t know where we are or where we are going; all we know is that we are making it in good time. We watch the clock and congratulate ourselves for the efficiency of our lives. We manage our schedules and timetables well; we make the best use of information technology; we organise our lives meticulously.

And yet, something is missing. Our lives may have efficiency but no direction.

Observe your fellow travellers in a train – they are busy using their mobile phones. These are modern gadgets that are supposed to assist people on the move. But they make people so busy that they become disconnected from real life.

They have no time to pause and reflect and examine the course of their lives. They are like the poor dog busy going round and round, chasing its own tail. They are so distracted by the world and their selfish desires that they have no time to be still and to notice the rhythms, patterns and longings of the soul. Their souls find it hard keeping up with their busy bodies that they get lost or stuck in frenzied living.

God wants us to live lives that have direction. He wants us to be connected with real spiritual life.

As Paul puts it, we are to “take hold of the life that is truly life”. 1 Timothy 6:19 It was in this light that Paul had advised Timothy to watch his life and ministry. In other words, Timothy was to constantly check and assess his primary direction in life and how he was travelling spiritually.

Living with direction

God’s Word warns against the unexamined life, a life without direction because of relentless busyness or slothful laziness. It is possible to begin a journey with promise, but because of distractions and carelessness, to lose the way and end the journey tragically off the mark.

Paul exhorts: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.” 2 Corinthians 13:5

We would do well to listen to him.

God’s Word warns against the unexamined life, a life without direction because of relentless busyness or slothful laziness.

Paul’s advice is echoed in the Old Testament by the prophet Haggai: “Give careful thought to your ways.” Haggai 1:7 The right direction of a Spirit-led life must surely point towards Jesus, for the purpose of our spiritual journey is to become like Him.

Check the direction of your path. Examine your destination. Think about it carefully. Give attention to these things and you will not regret later about wasted years, or a wasted life.

A compass is best used with a map. That is why reading the Bible and meditating on it is such an important spiritual discipline. It will help us develop a spiritual road map to use together with our inner spiritual compass. A Christian who does not have a working compass and a map is pathetically lost. In fact, he has to ask himself whether he is really “in the faith”.

It is time to take up the unused compass and unfold the map.

As children of modernity, we are more used to checking the time, rather than the compass. As we begin another new calendar year, may God help us to check our directions and to find the life that is truly life. “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the LORD.” Lamentations 3:40

Like the migratory birds which always end up in the right destination, may we also journey well and find our true eternal home.

Reflection and Discussion

1. Have you checked your compass recently? Are you moving closer to your destiny? Or are you carried away by the popular currents of worldly and self-indulgent consumerism?

2. Reflect on Lamentations 3:40. What does it mean to “examine and test your ways”?

3. What checks and balances could you include in your life to guard against “relentless busyness or slothful laziness”?


About the author

by Bishop Emeritus Robert M Solomon

Bishop Emeritus Robert M Solomon was Bishop of the Methodist Church in Singapore from 2000-2012. He served previously as a medical doctor, church pastor, principal of Trinity Theological College and president of the National Council of Churches of Singapore. Dr Solomon has degrees in medicine, theology, intercultural studies, and a PhD in pastoral theology from the University of Edinburgh. He has contributed many articles to books, theological dictionaries and journals, and has authored over 20 books.