Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

What Does It Mean to Drift?

What Does It Mean to Drift?

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).

Powerful as nautical engine is, it can only do so much up against the natural forces of the wind. The wind is invisible, yet capable of inflicting change on whatever surrounds or is caught up in it. A boat which finds itself adrift in a storm or a powerful wind will surely find peril, unless able to anchor and ride out the rough seas.

No captain wishes to drift at that hour! But a fisherman drifts purposefully, because he knows in that space of water his line is breezing by schools of fish. Sometimes, he may anchor to linger longer over a hot fishing spot. The way we drift in life depends on Who we are ultimately anchored in, and our ability to listen to His wisdom and react dependently upon Him when storms break unexpectedly.

Drift is a driving movement or force; impulse. Of navigation (of a ship) the component of the movement that is due to the force of wind and currents.  Jesus used the wind in His example in the verse above to describe the effect of the Holy Spirit on Christ followers – a concept completely upending the track of the Pharisees at that time.

“The Holy Spirit is sovereign,” the NIV Study Bible explains. “He works as he pleases in his renewal of human hearts.” In Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, He explains to the scholarly Pharisee what it means to be born again. In Christ, over time we drift from who we once were, into the holy people we were meant to be. This is a process called sanctification. It doesn’t matter if we are children or advanced in age, the Spirit is constantly doing His work in us until the day we get to hug our Savior in heaven.

The Pharisees had drifted into hundreds of laws which were not from God. Jesus arrived on the scene and simply requested, “follow me.” When we live our lives within the love of Christ, the change in us is promised to be remarkable. Slowly, day by day, we become new, holy, and sanctified in the Spirit. We never outgrow that process here on earth, but we may look back from time to time in awe and wonder at just how much farther we will come from where we first met Jesus until we arrive home to Him in heaven.

Drifting away from Christ is possible, too. Many of us carry stories of running back and forth trying to make sense out of our salvation before falling completely at the feet of our Savior. We all fall short here on earth, no matter how far along we are in our journey with Jesus. At no point can we triumphantly say we have mastered our salvation and conquered Christianity. The celebration exists within the transformational process. Day by day, He makes us new. “You’re completely different!” Becomes a miraculous comment we wear like a badge of honor.

“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus said to Nicodemus, “no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3). Undoubtably this was a hard concept for Nicodemus to grasp! “Jesus illustrated his point by comparing the work of the Spirit to the blowing of the wind,” the NIV Grace and Truth Study Bible explains. “The words ‘wind’ and ‘spirit’ translate the same Greek and Hebrew words. While the wind’s origin is invisible, its effects are apparent; the same is true of those born of the Spirit.”

Out of this meeting between two men came the words which proclaim God’s great love story for us: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whomever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The world, who didn’t recognize the Messiah which had so long been promised to God’s people, came to save them. He did this for the lost, drifting along through life trying to learn and follow all of the rules of the Pharisee, as well as those who He knew would drift to follow Him. His first followers had to embrace the truth of Solomon’s wisdom in Proverbs 4:7: “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” It surely did cost those first followers everything, and every Christ follower since, including us.

Jesus prayed for His disciples, and for us today, before He left earth to join His Father in heaven. His prayer for believers is this:

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them as even you have loved me.

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for them may be in them and that I myself may be in them” (John 17:20-26).

Sift through different versions and paraphrases of this prayer. Replace general pronouns to make it personal, as if Jesus is praying for you – because He was, and He is. God hears every prayer and is faithful to answer. From the lips of our Savior came a prayer which is still being answered today, as each new generation of Christ followers rise up to follow Him.

His prayer for us was to drift to Him, and remain in and alongside Him, depending on Him as our anchor when storms threaten to capsize our lives. As we drift with Jesus, our faith strengthens, so that in times when we just have to toss out the anchor and hold on for dear life, our faith is firmly holding in Christ Jesus.

A lifetime of drifting along with Jesus is encased by the continued work of seeking Him with all of our hearts. Obediently carving out time for God each day, to marinate our minds in His Word and captivate our hearts in prayer to the One True God. He is Yahweh, Creator of the universe and yet every detail of each of us. Nothing is accidental or coincidental about drifting into Jesus. It’s intentional. We are individually created to bring glory to God, together.


NIV Grace and Truth Study Bible. Copyright © 2021 by Zondervan. 

NIV Study Bible, Copyright © 1985, 1995, 2002, 2008, 2011 by Zondervan.

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 Photo credit: Unsplash/Osman Rana

Meg BucherMeg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ at megbucher.comShe is the author of “Friends with Everyone, Friendship within the Love of Christ,” “Surface, Unlocking the Gift of Sensitivity,” “Glory Up, The Everyday Pursuit of Praise,” “Home, Finding Our Identity in Christ,” and "Sent, Faith in Motion." Meg earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University but stepped out of the business world to stay home and raise her two daughters …which led her to pursue her writing passion. A contributing writer for Salem Web Network since 2016, Meg is now thrilled to be a part of the editorial team at Salem Web Network. Meg loves being involved in her community and local church, leads Bible study, and serves as a youth leader for teen girls.