Although a brilliant man, E. Stanley Jones used simple word pictures to explain the Christian life. In his popular devotional book, Victorious Living, he described three kinds of Christians: the rowboat type, the sailboat type and the steamboat type.

As I reviewed his descriptions, it occurred to me that in my Christian journey I have been each one of the three types. Early on, I was a rowboat disciple, struggling to imitate Christ in my own strength. Jones describes the rowboat Christian as “humanistic, self-dependent, trying to get along with one’s own resources.” Because their resources are limited, rowboat disciples struggle to grow in grace. That is an apt description of my life as a young Christian.

Sailboat disciples are dependent on others and on their circumstances, or as Jones says, they depend on “the winds.” They make progress only when the winds are with them; if people are constantly affirming them and encouraging them, they move forward. But if people stop patting them on the back, they are dead in the water. Yes, I must admit, there were days like that for me.

The need, of course, is to become a steamboat Christian, a disciple with inner power to live a holy life that pleases God. With power on the inside, one can move forward with or without the winds. Though a helping wind is always welcome, and the affirmation of others makes a difference, the steamboat disciple’s primary source of power is the indwelling Christ.

For me this discovery was like moving from imitation to incarnation. I moved from struggling to peace when I stopped trying with clenched fists to imitate Christ and invited Christ to make His home in my heart. Embracing the truth of “Christ in me” changed everything. I began finding the power to move on even in the most difficult times. So my own experience confirms Jones’ observation: “This power to go on when life is dead against us is the deepest necessity of our lives.” Yes, it is indeed. Without that power we can never make headway when the seas are rough.

If life seems dead against you these days, it may be time to sell your rowboat, walk on past the sailboats and climb on board the steamboat powered by Christ. Give Him permission to become the power source of your life as a Christian. Christ alone makes victorious living possible when the storms are raging. Only He can give us the power to keep going forward when life is difficult.