Fighting the Leans

How to keep the wings level

By: Randy Green

In aviation, pilots are taught that a key to successful flying is to trust the flight instruments. It’s a skill they work to develop. Without instrument training, a pilot’s tendency is to operate the airplane based on the body’s natural feedback. Pilots call this flying by the seat of the pants.

Our body’s feedback, however, isn’t reliable. Eyes can be fooled by optical illusions, and acceleration forces can temporarily wreak havoc on one’s sense of spatial orientation. In contrast, the instruments give an accurate picture of the aircraft’s attitude and position.

This lesson hits home the first time pilots experience “the leans” while flying in the clouds. Although the plane may be perfectly straight and level, pilots can feel as if they’re turning. If they ignore the instruments and attempt to compensate for this false perception, they could accidentally roll the aircraft inverted.

Spiritually, we have the same sort of tendency: We tend to trust our judgment and perception instead of God’s word. We have the perfect instrument panel in the Bible. It gives us a wondrous picture of God and his plan for our lives. All too often, though, we’d rather fly by the seat of the pants, doing our own thing. After all, following God’s word means submission and accountability – things we really don’t like.

As a result, we may feel like our lives is going straight and level, but a glance at the instrument panel would tell us the truth. We’re spiritually dead because of our sin. In effect, we’re upside down in the clouds. We just don’t realize it.

Our only hope is Jesus Christ, who offers forgiveness for sins. The moment we receive him as Savior, he gives us life through his Holy Spirit. The Spirit acts as a sort of stabilizing gyroscope that keeps us oriented on God and the truth of his word. As our faith develops, we learn to yield control to Jesus, trusting him to keep the wings level during periods of turbulence.

This is easier said than done. Like a pilot works to develop an instrument scan, we need to pursue our relationship with Jesus to help build our faith. Let me offer a three-fold way to make this pursuit:

1. Vertical pursuit: We draw close to God through daily Bible reading, prayer and worship. The Bible is how God speaks to us. The same words that created light in Genesis are ready to shine light in our lives, if we read them. Prayer, in turn, is our conversation back to God. Worship is the natural outflow of this Bible-prayer dialogue.

2. Horizontal action: By imitating Jesus in loving, forgiving, serving and being merciful to others, we take the focus off ourselves and our circumstances. Through this effort, we fulfill Christ’s command to love our neighbor, and we allow the Spirit to take control and begin to work in us.

3. Personal purity: When we walk in obedience to God’s word, we enjoy the outflow of his love and mercy in our lives. Obedience provides a relational connectedness that helps us trust God in life’s storms. Obedience isn’t something that happens all at once. We are changed degree by degree as the Spirit works in us.

Even with this pursuit plan in place, we’ll still struggle with “the leans” from time to time. This is a normal part of the Christian experience. However, as we grow in our faith, we’ll learn to give God more and more control. Through his ongoing grace, this will keep our wings level whatever weather we encounter.

For more information about God’s good news, contact Randy Green at randy@gracepointportland.org, or visit GracePoint on the Web at www.gracepointportland.org.

PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek/bigstock.com