Based on the stories of Jesus calming the wind and the waves (e.g. Luke 8:22-25), Christian teachers throughout history have referred to Jesus as the pilot, or helmsman, of the church (or the Christian’s life). Below is a short list of examples from several periods in history – examples I find quite edifying and encouraging.
Hippolytus (3rd C.): The Church is like a ship tossed in the deep, but not destroyed, for she has with her the skilled Pilot, Christ.
Athanasius (4th C): Our Lord Christ, like an excellent Pilot, steers and preserves and orders all things by his Wisdom and Word.
John Calvin (16th C): Our course in the world is like a dangerous sailing between many rocks, and exposed to many storms and tempests, and so no one arrives at the port except he who has escaped a thousand deaths. It is certain that we are guided by God’s hand, and that we are in no danger of shipwreck as long as we have him as our Pilot.
John Owen (17th C): He is the great Pilot of the whole creation, who steers all things according to the counsel of his will.
Thomas Boston (18th C): Believers are committed into Christ’s hand as the great Pilot, to guide them through the sea of this world, to the shore of Immanuel’s land.
In a letter to his daughter, John Newton (18th C) told her that storms would come up in her life, much like storms come when crossing the ocean. Then he wrote, ““But I take courage, as my hopes are greater than my fears. I know there is an infallible Pilot, who has the winds and the waves at his command! Under his care I know that you will be safe. He can guide you, unhurt, amidst the storms, rocks, and dangers, and bring you at last safely to the haven of eternal rest.”
Augustus Toplady also wrote a hymn based on Matthew 8:25 which is called “Pilot of the Soul.” Many hymnbooks also have Edward Hopper’s hymn called “Jesus Savior Pilot Me.” Traveling on the seas isn’t nearly as dangerous as it once was, but it still makes sense (and is comforting!) to think of Christ as the Pilot, or Helmsman, of the church and the Christian life.