Flying High


Allan Phillips shares some lessons about faith, learned from his son, who is a pilot.

So much of what we do in daily life is really an act of faith. We turn on a tap in the belief that water will come out of the spout and if it doesn’t, we’re surprised, maybe even annoyed. We board a bus, a train, a plane or a ship, in the belief that the driver, the engineer or the pilot will take us safely to our destination.

Faith can be defined as a reliance on or a trust in a person or thing. It’s a belief founded on some knowledge or authority, such as a religious teaching, especially one that affects a person’s character or conduct. It’s a spiritual understanding of divine truth apart from the kinds of evidence that are required by science.

Author and Bible commentator, Ellen G White, describes faith as “trusting God—believing that He loves us and knows best what is for our good.

Hebrews 11:1 describes faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see,” and the rest of the chapter gives examples of faith shown by Bible characters such as Abraham, Joseph, Moses and King David.

Trust In Flight

My son, Greg, who is a pilot, assures me that a pilot often has to exercise the Bible’s definition of faith when flying, especially in situations when he cannot depend on his senses to tell him about the status of the aircraft or its immediate environment.

This happens when the pilot cannot see the horizon outside the aircraft because of cloud, rain or darkness. The pilot has no proper visual or perceptual references and whatever internal personal references he thinks he has are misleading.

The sensations the pilot feels may seem very real, but they are not an accurate indication of the aircraft’s situation and direction, nor even whether it is flying up or down. As a result, the pilot has to depend on the plane’s instruments to tell him the correct speed and heading of the aircraft. The GPS in the aircraft tells the pilot where it is in relation to the point of departure and the desired destination, while its weather radar will tell him where adverse weather conditions exist and how to avoid them. And the Traffic Collision Avoidance System will tell him if other aircraft are dangerously close or on an intersecting course. Disregarding any of the information relayed by these instruments is foolish and can easily result in a fatal accident.

Apart from the information received from the different instruments, the pilot must also keep in communication by radio with air traffic controllers on the ground, who will guide him to take off and land safely. Thus, the pilot must have absolute faith, trust and belief that the information he receives from his instruments and ground control is, in fact, the truth. He has to be convinced of what he cannot see.

  • Faith is increased and strengthened only as it is practised and exercised. You can start with as little as a seed, and end up with a huge tree-full.
  • I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).
  • The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” (Galatians 5:22).
  • Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16).

The Way In Life

Similarly, we need to place our faith in the “instrument” that God has given to guide us through dark and stormy times—His Word of truth. We also need to remain in constant communication with our heavenly “Controller” through prayer and watchfulness.

Just like an aircraft pilot, we have to place our absolute faith and trust in these “instruments” in order to safely navigate life. We cannot depend solely on our senses, feelings or emotions to determine the truth about the state of our world. Only the Bible can lead us to the truth about God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, our salvation—and even ourselves. Our thoughts, feelings and emotions are mostly subjective and open to deception. If we aren’t careful, they can lead us to make wrong choices and decisions.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). To some people, that may sound very absolute, but it could also be paraphrased to mean, “I am the way to go; I am the truth to believe; I am the life to live.
Reading the Bible, trusting the guidance from His Word, is the only sure way we can navigate this world. Thus, just as it’s important for the pilot to be in ongoing communication with the air traffic controllers, it’s imperative for us to be in ongoing communication with God through Bible study and prayer. It’s a simple analogy, but a most apt one.

The apostle Paul admonishes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). And Jesus said, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Matthew 26:41).

We may wonder if God is still in control of affairs on our planet, especially when disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, floods, fires, plagues and accidents happen. But God assures us that He is still in control. After all, Jesus warned His disciples that such terrible things would happen, but these also heralded His second coming, when He will put an end to all pain and suffering, bringing us an eternity of joy and happiness.

So in spite of what our senses may tell us, we should “trust in the Lord with all [our] heart and lean not on [our] own understanding.” Rather, “in all [our] ways [we should] acknowledge him” (Proverbs 3:5, 6). And if we do, we have His wonderful assurance of a safe passage and arrival at our final destination.

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