In his book, The Fourth Fisherman, author Joe Kissack recounts an unbelievable true story of three Mexican fishermen who survived almost a year lost at sea in a 20-foot long boat.  After running out of gas in a sudden storm, the men drifted helplessly in the Pacific Ocean…

For more than 5,500 miles!

The circumstances are incredibly dramatic. Most poignant, however, is the sentiment these men embraced during their ordeal. They were utterly, completely, and hopelessly lost, without provisions or power. They realized they were as good as dead, and their only hope for survival was a miracle!

So they prayed, and asked God for that miracle.

But then they did something else.

They also resolved to do what they could do while they waited: They caught raw fish for food, collected rainwater to drink, and kept the boat from tipping or sinking. Months later, they drifted back into civilization and temporal salvation with a new lease on life and a revolutionized understanding of faith.


The thing I like best about this story is that we’re often lost too!

It may not look like it. In many nations, people are living at a level of material wealth unparalleled in human history.

It may not even feel like it. We also have more entertainment options than ever before.

Nonetheless, beyond comfort and distraction, many people find themselves adrift. This is one primary reason Rick Warren’s modern classic, The Purpose-Driven Life, is one of the bestselling non-fiction books of all time, and Viktor Frankl’s manifesto, Man’s Search for Meaning, continues to be fresh and relevant almost 70 years after its publication.

For all of our diversions, we cannot neutralize the nagging feeling that there’s something more – a vision for our lives that we aren’t seeing, or meaningful work that we’re not doing – and it leaves us feeling adrift.

So, what can we do?

Though my Christian faith provides a strong foundation for my life, I have still found it difficult to identify my talents and figure out how to best apply them.

But frankly, I think it’s supposed to be this way!

Religion is not intended to alleviate our responsibility for recognizing the burdens God has placed on our hearts and pursuing them to connect with His vision for our lives! Instead, life is supposed to be a participatory journey of discovery with faith fully engaged, on the way to an unimaginably great final destination. And, like those Mexican fisherman, I think it’s appropriate to do what we can do along the way.

“Faith is spelled R-I-S-K.”

– John Wimber

In Mark 8:1-30, Jesus tells his disciples to feed 4000 people with a couple of loaves of bread and a few fish. They’d already seen him do it once, but argued with each other about their insufficient supplies. Instead of chastising them, Jesus takes the opportunity to call the disciples attention to the reality of the situation – they are completely insufficient, but he’s got it covered. He’s not asking them to miraculously multiply the food – he’s just asking them to do what they can do: Give thanks to God for what they have, and start handing it out.

That’s our story too. 

Throughout scripture, God never asks anyone to do miracles – and He doesn’t ask such of us today. He only asks that we do what we can do. He’s the miracle-maker who takes care of the rest.

Raise the Sails! – Click to Tweet

“Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

– John Wooden

My own drift has inspired me to seek out and establish mentoring relationships, press through failure and uncertainty, read hundreds of books, pursue advanced education, and travel the world. It’s been frustrating at times, but also incredibly fulfilling. I’ve learned and experienced many wonderful things, and made great friendships.

Most significantly, however, I have started to see a vision for my life that has allowed me to ‘raise the sails.’

I’ve gained much broader perspective, greater understanding of my talents and interests, and a keener eye for opportunity. I’ve also learned to exercise my faith and embrace failure constructively. As a result, my pursuits have more purpose, I take better risks, and I work with more enthusiasm.

If your life feels adrift, never fear: This is the way it’s supposed to be.

What’s more, you can ‘raise the sails’ too!

Your journey will be different from mine, but it starts with doing what you can do – just like those Mexican fishermen:

First, engage your faith. The fisherman resolved to rely on God and prayed for the miracle they needed. I think establishing a foundation of faith is absolutely essential to maintaining hope and gaining perspective. Every individual on the planet has faith! Where have you placed yours, and why?

Second, find food and water. Be practical and hold down a job that pays the bills. Being adrift often manifests as dissatisfaction with a job or a relationship, so don’t be hasty. Jettisoning the job won’t solve the problem. What’s more, it’s ok to do what you have to do until you figure out what you are meant to do!

Third, keep the boat afloat. Invest in encouraging friendships and develop a ‘Personal Board of Directors’ to help you process experiences, gain perspective, and make important decisions. I cannot overemphasize the role that my ‘Personal Board of Directors’ has played in my journey.

Fourth, raise the sails! Investigate. Read good books. Ask hard questions. Take time to reflect on potential answers. Figure out what makes you tick! Locate the intersection between your talents and your passion. Chances are, this is where you’re going to find your purpose. You may not have gas for the engine, but that doesn’t mean you have to drift helplessly!

Fifth, appreciate the journey. Recognize that you’re not actually looking for a destination. Instead, you’re lending some intentionality to your journey. You’re learning how to sail, instead of just drifting! You’re responding to the Apostle Paul’s admonishment to run your race to win! (1 Cor. 9:24).

You’re the fourth fisherman.

Kissack hits home when he reveals that, despite being a successful entertainment executive, he is the fourth fisherman adrift in the boat. He is painfully aware that his life feels listless despite all its comforts and distractions.

You and I can relate – we’re each the ‘fourth fisherman’ too.

But that doesn’t mean we have to drift through life! We can pray for purpose, and we can take action and do what we can do while we wait. As 2013 starts winding down, my hope and prayer is that you’ll ‘raise the sails!’

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