The Need for a Reference Point

What is a reference point and why do we need one?

Observe & Consider

In Lesson 1 we considered the question of life’s meaning and purpose. We also recalled this line from The HOPE: “For those who seek answers, for those who are listening, there is a voice.” (The HOPE video, Introduction). And finally, we concluded with the question, “Am I listening?”

Perhaps you are listening for answers to questions about life and meaning. The problem is there are so many competing voices. Beyond the major world religions (i.e. Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Christianity), there are hundreds of religions and world views. All of these advocate a particular approach to life. In many cases, each of them claims to be the way to find God. However, none of them fully agrees (and most radically disagree) on the nature of God and how He may be found. With so many conflicting teachings, how can a person know which way is the right way? It would help to have a reference point.

Every traveler needs help to find his way through a strange land. Some might rely on a trusted guide – one who has successfully completed the journey and is able to help others do the same. Some might use a map or instructions from one who knows the way. Others have depended upon a landmark or a star as a fixed reference point by which they can know their position and measure their progress.

Like a traveler in a strange land, we also need help to find our way in this journey called life. We need a source of help that has been tested by others and proven to be trustworthy. We need a reference point – something constant and true by which we can set our course. Without such a reference point, we will be like a man in a small boat, in a dense fog, on an infinite sea – lost, drifting…and without direction.

Ask & Reflect

Imagine that you are blind–folded and standing on the goal line of a soccer field. Now imagine that someone points you toward the opposite end of the field and instructs you to walk in a straight line until you reach the far goal. A person in this situation will almost always veer off to one side of the field or the other before he ever reaches the midfield.

This happens because everyone has a dominant leg with which he takes longer strides, causing him to veer in that direction.1 In other words, we are all physically “biased” toward our dominant side. (This is also why people who are lost in the wilderness usually end up walking in circles).

The basic principle of this illustration can also be applied to matters of the soul. When it comes to how we view the world around us, we are all biased in one way or another by our unique emotional, mental, and spiritual dispositions. Many people walk through life unaware of the degree to which their bias influences their course.

To further complicate things, imagine that as you walk blind–folded on that soccer field, voices all along the sidelines are beckoning you to come this way or that way. The many religions and worldviews of our day are like those voices on the sidelines beckoning you to follow. Your attempt to walk the length of the field would not only be influenced by your personal bias, but by the biased influence of those around you as well.

But what if someone lifted your blind–fold and you could see clearly the goal at the other end of the field? That goal would serve as a reference point by which you could set your course. You could walk in a straight line and not be misled by the voices all around you. Many have set the course of their life toward a goal without ever reaching it; or after reaching it, have discovered that it was not what they thought. Like the traveler in a strange land, in the journey of life we need a reference point that has been tested and proven trustworthy by many others, one that will not disappoint.

  • In your life, do you have a trustworthy reference point for your soul? One by which you can set the course of your life, and correct your direction if necessary?
  • If so, what is that reference point?
  • What are the main influences (voices) that have shaped your views about God, i.e. voices from childhood, family, teachers or educators, friends, role models or heroes?

Decide & Do

In the Bible we find a verse in the book of Proverbs that says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).

Take an inventory this week of the voices in life that have beckoned you their way. Were they reliable, trustworthy, and safe to follow? If not, why did you follow? Take time to process where your views about God have been shaped and by whom.

Today’s lesson on our need for a reference point was not just an abstract exercise. It is very true that your perception determines your path, and your path determines your destiny. Take care in choosing the way you will go. Your choice will have significant, eternal consequences.

There is another verse that says that God’s Word (the Bible) is “a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). The remaining lessons for this week will offer reasons to make the Bible your reference point as you journey through life. Decide not to rush through these sections. Set aside the time you need to consider carefully what you will read. You’ll be glad you did.


1Robert Schleip, The Dominant Leg ( Retrieved October 2, 2006. Robert Schleip summarizes an article by Simone Kosog from the science section of the ‘Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin’ 1999.