LOOKING BEYOND THE MOMENT
For anyone who is a fan of aviation, the movie Sully (2016) is one you will have probably enjoyed watching. The storyline is biographical drama based on the 2009 autobiography Highest Duty by Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow. This movie shows the events leading to the bird strike that disabled both engines of Flight 1549 and the subsequent investigation into the ditching of this aircraft with 155 persons on board into the Hudson River off Manhattan 2009.
One scene in the movie recounts a conversation between a young Sully and his flight instructor on the day he attained his private pilot licence. As they walk away the training bi-plane the instructor provides advice that appears to have contributed to the successful outcome following the New York bird strike. The advice was something like, ‘When something goes wrong, remember to keep flying the airplane’.
A DISTRACTION ASSISTED CRASH
This advice is something I recently forgot. I was engaged in a multi-player simulation flight over the Italian Alps with a group of 26 other simulation pilots. All was going well, the scenery was totally immersive and the simulated turbo prop racing aircraft I had chosen to fly was performing well, right up to the point it ran out of fuel. I had not been monitoring consumption and had failed to take into account the smaller fuel capacity in my wing tanks.
This is what happened. I crashed into the forest on a steep mountain side in front of a whole bunch of other sim pilots. Why? Because I allowed myself become distracted with trying to switch to another fuel tank and re-start my engine instead of flying the aircraft.
This is what should have happened. Nose down, look for a suitable field or road in the valley below, maintain airspeed (so as not to stall) and perform an emergency landing.
DISTRACTIONS THAT DOMINATE
I still am not sure why I allowed myself to become dominated by distractions and forgot to keep flying and seek a safe route. It is easy with the benefit of hindsight to see what I should have done, but when I was ‘in the moment’ I forgot what I ought to have done. In this case it was only a simulation, so apart from damaged pride, no harm was done and we all had a laugh about how I plummeted into the trees. However, when we start to look at doing life, there are some important lessons that I believe we can take from the advice that a young Sully received and from my simulation crash.
REACTING OR RESPONDING
When things go wrong (and they will), how are we going to behave? We have a choice between reacting to a change in circumstances or of responding to a change in circumstances. Given the same stimulus it is common for different people to have different reactions. In some cases the reaction may address the issue or problem. In other cases the reaction is an incorrect one and may have been be fuelled by a person’s emotional state. The writer of Hebrews shows how persecution of the early church created a situation that was causing believers to take their eyes off Jesus Christ and the gospel of salvation and return to Judaism.
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.
Training in how to deal with an adverse situation tends to lead to a response. A response differs to a reaction in that it is considered and is often rehearsed and helps us to look beyond the immediate problem to the best solution.
Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
First Corinthians 9:25
We all have the potential become distracted by circumstances such as status changes in health, employment, social environment or in relationships. When we focus on the problem sometimes we can end up steering towards it instead of doing what we ought to do. Although it may not seem to be the case in a time of crisis, the best solution is look at where you want to be. As follower of Jesus, where we want to be should be on a path that will take us towards Him, not one that leads us away. This was the case being put forward by the author of Hebrews.
EXAMPLES OF LOOKING BEYOND THE MOMENT
Joseph provides us with a powerful example of a person who must have been tempted to react negatively to the betrayal he experienced when he was sold into slavery by his brothers (Genesis 37:27). Later on, he is betrayed by Potiphar’s wife because he refused her seductive advances.
How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?
Joseph is thrown into prison as a result of a response that was focused on God instead of taking the seemingly easy path of seduction. However, by the time Joseph was 30 years of age he was second in charge of Egypt and able to supply food to the Israelites during a severe famine. Joseph and the circumstances he endured by staying focused on God, turned out to be a part of God’s sovereign plan for Israel.
Daniel provides us with another example of responding to changed circumstances by remaining focused on God. He is taken into captivity to Babylon (Daniel 1:3), remains faithful in what he chose to eat (Daniel 1:8) and continued to openly worship and pray to God despite the penalty of death by lions that had been imposed by King Darius.
When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.
The response of Paul and Silas to being imprisoned for their faith provides also shows how we can remain focused on God despite adverse circumstances. They looked beyond their present situation and they worshiped.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.
The imprisonment of Peter highlights the role that we can adopt when we see others being affected by adverse circumstances. We can respond with prayer and with our presence.
So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
STEADFAST LOVE FOR ALL
Joseph, Daniel, Peter, Paul and Silas were not the only receivers God’s steadfast love in difficult circumstances. We are also the recipients of His steadfast love regardless of what is happening in our lives.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.
Our past experiences have shown us that sometimes things do not go the way we expected or hoped they would go. The challenge we face as followers of Jesus is the way we ought to handle the changes. Do we focus on short term distractions that can cause us to lose our way, or do we respond by looking beyond the moment with trust in God?
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
A THREE POINT CHALLENGE
What strategies can I adopt so that I don’t become distracted when I am ‘in the moment’?
Who can I pray for today?
What can I be thankful for today?
Why not take the time to consider these questions and write down your response?
Looking forward to seeing you on Sunday.
Your Executive Pastor,
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