Flight training illustration -- Trust the instruments

Joshua 1:5-9

1 5 "No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.

7 "Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

Week 28 (July)

As part of the training for my private pilot's license, I had to do some "blind" flying: practice maneuvers aloft using only the instruments without looking out the window.

panel of airplane instruments

The first time I was preparing to take off with my instructor to do some instrument flying, he warned me not to rely on my physical sensations aboard the aircraft. The instruments -- artificial horizon, turn and bank indicator, altimeter, tachometer, airspeed indicator, gyroscopic compass, and radio beam receivers -- were all reliable. They could be trusted. But, he said, my physical sensations during time I was flying "blind" could not be trusted.

After we took off from Wiley Post airport in Bethany, Oklahoma, the instructor had me put on a special hood. For the next half hour or so, my vision would be restricted to the instrument panel by that hood. I immediately began to understand what my instructor had warmed me about. The vibrations of the plane, the engine noise, and the unevenness of the outside air all combined to tell my senses that the little Cessna 150 was doing things that the instruments denied was happening.

For that half-hour or so, I forced myself to trust those instruments. Even then, at times, my physical instincts would temporarily catch me off guard. It was a reassuring feeling to take that hood off and fly that plane with an eye on the horizon and the ground below.

Instrument flying is an art. It takes intense concentration and complete trust in that panel of instruments. Unfortunately, pilots are like most human beings: inclined to trust themselves first of all. There are stories of inexperienced pilots who unexpectedly found themselves in dense clouds and forced to fly solely by the instruments. They began to trust their physical sensations more than those instruments, and they came out of the clouds upside down, all the while convinced that they were right side up until they saw the ground.

Long before the Wright brothers put their flimsy contraption atop a hill at Kitty Hawk, a man named Joshua was cautioned by the Lord to combine an intense concentration on his "instrument panel" with a complete trust in those "instruments."

Moses died on the brink of Israel's scheduled "flight" into the Promised Land and Joshua was handed the controls of the "plane."

In the first chapter of the book that bears his name, Joshua records the preflight instructions he received from the Lord. The Lord challenged him not to trust his own sensations, but to intently observe the instrument panel he'd been given and to respond without hesitation to the indications of the divine compass.

Ahead of Joshua lay a monumental task. He didn't know what he would encounter. He didn't need to know. The Lord had already put together an adequate panel of the right indicators to guide his flight. These indicators, said the Lord, could and should be trusted without misgiving.

The Lord is a giver of generous promises even today, as He was to Joshua. To be able to fulfill those promises for us, He asks that we trust the guiding instruments He has given us.

Have you been guilty of coming out of the clouds upside down? Following your own impressions and sensations could lead you to a meeting with a canyon wall rather than to the safe landing we've been promised. The instrument panel is there. Let's trust it!

The author wrote this devotional article while serving as a missionary in Italy. It originally appeared in Standard, a weekly Faith Connections take-home curriculum piece for adult Sunday school classes published by The Foundry.

    -- Howard Culbertson

Other devotional articles:    Year-long series in Standard    Reflections build on ham radio experiences     Are you ready for Christmas?    Come Ye Apart     Devotionals about pastors

Rookie Notebook: Our first nine months as missionaries in Italy     10/40 Window map and explanation     Seeking God's will?     African martyr's commitment     Mission trip fundraising     Ten ways to ruin your mission trip     Nazarene Missions International resources