Trust Your Instruments
“We are always confident… for we walk by Faith & not by Sight”
Some of St Paul’s most lasting words… WE WALK BY FAITH AND NOT BY SIGHT.
We all know self-confidence is or can be an important ingredient to a well-rounded person. We like to have confidence in our abilities, feel confident that we have what it takes to get the job done at work or at play. But confidence is also a fickle friend, too little of it and we can find ourselves second-guessing every decision, paralyzed by doubt or fear in our personal or professional life.
Too much of it and we can quickly get ourselves in over our head. You don’t have to look very far in the world today to find someone oozing with self-confidence. But nobody wants to be labeled as a braggard, or a know-it-all. So, it’s a balancing act, & I think we all have places or areas of our lives where we are very confident in our abilities, BUT we also ALL have places or areas we struggle.
Confidence in your abilities & decision making was an important part of flying military aircraft.
People have often asked me what it was like to fly a fighter jet.
And I can honestly say that flying an A-10, a Warthog, which is what I flew…
Is a lot like driving your car; after you build up hours, gain some experience…
It’s a lot like driving your car…
At night… going 80 miles an hour… in bumper to bumper rush hour traffic…
Driving in a brand-new city so at the same time you are reprogramming your radio stations…
In a driving rainstorm where you have to have your wipers on full blast to see…
While carrying on an important conversation on a blue-tooth headset…
Sending text message updates of your location to family…
And eating a Doritos Locos Taco without getting any of the lettuce or taco shell on your lap, which everyone knows is impossible to do even standing still, they get everywhere!!!
In short, it can be very task saturating. And you would think the more experienced you get the more hours you have in the aircraft. The more confident you are… The safer you become… but it’s a funny thing that happens, you would think as a new student you would be the most dangerous, but that is actually one of the more safer times in your career.
Your chances of crashing an aircraft, what we call your MISHAP RATE, has peaks and valleys throughout your career.
It spikes as you become an experienced wingman, & start getting comfortable with your role.
It spikes in the AF when you make Captain and start getting saddled with greater leadership responsibilities that pull you away from the cockpit.
And one of the biggest spikes is around the 1000-hour mark, a time when you’ve gone through every upgrade possible, you’re now the instructor, you’re now the voice of experience…
And suddenly you become your own worst enemy.
And there are a lot of factors that go into Mishap Rates, complacency… task saturation, pushing boundaries, but one primary cause is our fickle friend confidence. Placing confidence in your ability to do what you’ve done in the past, sacrificing planning and preparation time… relying on experience to get you by.
It’s a situation we all find ourselves in at some point in our lives. At work, at home, with hobbies. But our past successes or accomplishments do not always provide the foundation we need for future success… in life or in faith.
The Apostle Paul is an example of these peaks and valleys of success and failure. Almost half the books of the NT are said to have been written by him, and more than half the book of Acts is devoted to recounting his exploits. Paul was someone confident enough in his Faith to let it change his point of view & reshape every aspect of his life.
He had every reason to boast, Paul was the leader of self-supportive missionary teams that founded churches throughout the Roman Empire in major urban centers like Ephesus, Philippi, Thessalonica and Corinth among others on 3 major missionary journeys.
And through his work and ministry the entire world came to know Christ. One scholar who branded him the founder of Christianity does so because Paul transformed the gospel from the message of Jesus (i.e. the message Jesus preached), to a message about Jesus.
But there were also challenging times in his ministry as well…
Paul was mocked & attacked, stoned, beaten with rods and given 39 lashes. He was shipwrecked, frequently imprisoned & ultimately church history tell us he was executed under Emperor Nero, beheaded like John the Baptist, it’s why he is often pictured with a sword.
Through it all Paul knew what it meant to live confidently in Christ. To live confidently in his FAITH in Jesus as the image of God. Live confidently in Christ Crucified – the one who makes God accessible & visible to all people. In Galatians he describes It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me! (Gal 2:20) In Philippians, he proclaims I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! (Phil 4:11)
And in our reading from 2 Corinthians today, Paul’s sequel, he says that it is “the love of Christ that urges him on.” A Christ who died so that we might live as a new life… not for ourselves, but for Christ. He said ANYONE who is in Christ is a new creation. And if you know anything about this Convert and Martyr’s ministry you know that by ANYONE he literally means EVERYONE, every man woman and child in God’s creation. Through Christ Crucified, “everything old has passed away, SEE everything has become new.”
It is an important message for the church today. Our MISHAP rate has been rather high in recent years. As God’s children we go through periods when we are confident in our FAITH, And there are times when we crash and burn.
As students in church school we are safe and protected, we follow and learn. But after Confirmation many of us have mishaps. Lacking the structure we once had, new responsibilities and time commitments pull us away from time with God.
Then we go off to college, vulnerable to the same false teachers Paul warns us of. Those who boast of their outward appearance and not of their heart. Throughout our life, self-help gurus, TV psychologists, political pundits say FOLLOW ME! All the people who promise to OXY Clean our sins away or Flex Tape our lives back together.
And we turn to them & we go there when times are tough, or we are looking for answers. Until our luck changes or we feel more confident or gain a little more experience. Until we can start relying on ourselves and looking out for number one.
Cause everyone knows if you want a job done right…
Everyone knows where nice guys finish…
Everyone knows big girls don’t cry.
But when we put our FAITH and TRUST in ourselves we are destined to lead a life resembling the tragic ups and downs of the aircrew mishap rate. Just when we think we have it all figured out, everything’s covered, nothing can go wrong, BAM! Everyone knows to expect the unexpected… but we never do.
But this is not the way Paul saw his life, as a series of fits and starts. He saw in everything an opportunity to please the Lord, and no matter what he saw out there in the world, no matter what life threw at him, he saw an opportunity to boast in the Lord, because he walked by FAITH & not by SIGHT. He looked to Christ as opposed to looking to himself or to some false teacher. He found confidence in a Jewish peasant who gave his life for ALL!
He walked by FAITH and not by SIGHT.
Years ago, I was part of a 6 aircraft deployment from Spangdahlem Germany to Nellis Air Force Base in NV. So, it was our 6 airplanes and 1 air to air refueling tanker. Now the A-10 is a single seat fighter so it is not designed to hold the amount of gas needed to get over the Atlantic Ocean without inflight refueling. And being mechanical systems sometimes air refueling components are known to fail. And there is a portion of your flight in the middle of the Atlantic called “No Man’s Land.” That if you were not able to refuel for whatever reason, you would not have enough gas to make it to shore, & the rest of your flight would be a desperate attempt to get as far as possible, (closer to rescue services), before you ejected. So during this period of about 2 hours all 6 aircraft are cycling in and off the tanker in order attempting to keep our tanks as full as possible in case of a malfunction.
But weather could also be an issue. If you got separated from the tanker due to weather it could have the same effect as a malfunction. If you lost sight of the tanker in weather, you could literally be lost at sea. And on this particular flight, we had to stop refueling for a period in “No Man’s Land,” because we got in a bit of bad weather, as in really bad weather. And it was bumpy, and it was raining and it was nasty.
And I can remember, I was number 3 on the right wing, so I put my least experienced wingman right next to the tanker, then my next experienced, and then me. And for what seemed like hours, all I could see through the thick clouds was the little green light on the wingtip of the jet next to me. And occasionally, we would break into a momentary patch where I could see all three planes and the tanker… and then whoomph!!! Right back into the soup.
And during this time my brain and my body were screaming at me, telling me that we were doing big left-hand barrel rolls through the sky, which we obviously weren’t, but when you don’t have a horizon to look at and can’t look inside the aircraft because you are flying in close formation it can really mess with your system.
I fought it for about 20 minutes until finally for safety’s sake I had to break away from the group. And there are procedures for this which I followed, but immediately I looked back inside my aircraft & looked at my instruments, my attitude indicator… and made it look straight and level… and then began the battle with myself.
Because my body, my seat of the pants, was still telling me I was in a steep left bank, but my instruments indicated I was going straight and level. If I would have corrected it to make my mind and the seat of my pants feel right I would have been in a steep right bank. This is what investigators believe caused John F. Kennedy Jr’s fatal crash.
I had to trust my instruments, disregarding what my seat of the pants & experience was telling me. As a student, you learn from day 1 to TRUST YOUR INSTRUMENTS, which seems like a no-brainer but when all hell breaks loose it is a very hard thing to do. But I did and about 5 minutes later I was back to normal. And thanks be to God about that same time I broke through the weather and I was able to regain sight of the tanker and rejoin the group.
I like to think of our FAITH as our Attitude Indicator, our artificial life horizon, and you have to TRUST YOUR INSTRUMENTS, Which seems logical and reasonable sitting here straight and level on Sunday morning. But we wouldn’t have the saying “flying by the seat of your pants,” if there hadn’t been a lot of people killed doing just that.
Where do you turn and what do you do when you find yourself in “No Man’s Land?”
At work, in your relationships, in life in general.
We’ve all been there, and we will all be there again. Paul would tell us in the good times & bad you have to trust Christ & Christ Alone, CHRIST CRUCIFIED nothing more and nothing less for He is our Horizon. And in FAITH, just like flying, you have to trust your instruments.
When the storms rise up and make us lose sight of our direction and our goals.
You have to trust your instruments
When all hell breaks loose in the world around us, in our family, or work or life.
You have to trust your instruments
When false teachers and prophets try to lure away from who God created us to be.
Trust your instruments
At times when we are our own worst enemy, in our own personal “No Man’s Lands,”
Trust your instruments
As God’s Children, you have to Trust your instruments, trust your FAITH. Because: We Walk By Faith and Not By Sight. So go out today with the confidence that the Lord our God died for you and for all. Go out with the confidence of knowing that the LOVE of Christ urges you on. Go out confident that God will provide a New Horizon for you as a child of God, a new creation.
Go out and share God’s love & share this message about Jesus my brothers & sisters. If you will do this and you will trust and place your confidence in Christ, Paul promises you in all confidence, through his life, and his example and through his words, he promises that everything in your life will be made new.
This post is part three of a six part series titled “Strong and Courageous: Living by Faith”