Thursday, November 11, 2010

Staying afloat as a Christian

A new world record has been set in New Zealand for the longest flight by a glider with a flight time lasting 15 hours and covering well in excess of 2000km. It is not easy for a vehicle with no power of it's own to keep afloat like that. The pilot must have been very expert at finding the 'thermals' (warm updrafts) needed to overcome the force of gravity that is such an inescapable constant in the world.

Lately I have been thinking that there is much similarity between Christian living and soaring, beginning with fact that a glider cannot launch itself but must rely upon power beyond itself (the towing aircraft) to get into the air in the first place. Just as the Christian is given salvation from the same God Who loved us first and Whose grace is required every time we need a new beginning when we fail spiritually.

The most enjoyable Christian walk is one in which one's feet hardly seem to touch the ground. Yet to remain inspired and uplifted all the time, however pleasurable it may be, is not easy. If it did not take a lot of skill and effort more Christians would be doing it for the sheer joy of feeling close to Heaven. But most of the time we allow the pull of the earth to get the best of us and we can even end up so earth-bound that we may feel as grumpy and miserable as a wretched unbeliever much of the time.

The forces that conspire to make us crash and burn when we would rather be flying are 'the world (other people), the flesh (our sinful nature) and the devil'.

Bearing that in mind, these things should not keep us grounded any more than gravity and weather have to keep a sailplane from soaring. To keep aloft, what do pilots of un-powered Sailplanes do? They look for thermals. They seek that which can keep them in the air.

'Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness' is what Jesus said. 'The joy of the LORD is your strength', The Bible says. 'Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things' was St. Paul's recipe for sustained gliding above the tribulations of earth (Philippians 4.8).

Even the most successful glide comes to an end. But the inescapable touch-down does not have to be the end of soaring. We sin, but there is forgiveness of sins and there is the grace of God who can and 'will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore' (Psalm 121).

The believer, whose citizenship is in heaven, will want to get back up there and resume gliding as soon as possible and for as long as possible. And, to keep us aloft - 'from where does help come? My help comes from the LORD' (Psalm 121). The thermals are out there and will lift us up. They are God's Word and Sacraments. These do not just provide forgiveness of sins. They also can sweep us off our feet if we let them.

If that has not happened for you, try more of God's Word and Sacraments. Yes - more and more. Get an audio Bible and listen to the Bible for hours on end and see what happens. Mix the Bible with uplifting and edifying thoughts and music. Go to Divine Services every Sunday and pray and worship every day. Hey! Don't tell me you've tried it and it 'didn't work'. Prayer 'without ceasing' has not failed. It has not been tried - and if it has - you WILL see a difference!

'Take time to be holy', the old song put it. Well take time to be holy and you will find that holiness is not where it ends. You will find in that time that you are, at the very least, serene, and may even become elated and euphoric. And yet it is NOT 'feelings and emotions' that sustain you, but the real power of God.

Many sailplane pilots feel pleasure and react emotionally to the experience. Yet at no time do their emotions get the credit for what is happening to them! Not even the best glider pilot can stay in the air just by feeling like it! He must search out and find those forces outside of himself that can defy the gravity that threatens to pull him down.

So in the Christian life, you have to seek and find those spiritual forces outside of yourself that can really keep you soaring! 'Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3.20-21).