Unfailing Pilot

It was the moment every air traveler tries not to think about. On January 15, 2009, an Airbus A320-214 left LaGuardia Airport in New York for Charlotte, North Carolina. Shortly after takeoff, and still over metropolitan New York, the aircraft suffered double engine failure after striking a flock of Canada geese. The pilot in command of U.S. Airways flight 1549 was 57-year-old Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger.  In what quickly became known as “The Miracle on the Hudson,” Sullenberger glided the stricken aircraft to a perfect water landing in the Hudson River, a body of water heavily navigated by watercraft.

No lives were lost, but there were numerous injuries and many passengers reported suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following the ditching. There is little doubt that fear filled the passenger cabin during the minutes-long flight. And it’s completely understandable. The odds of Sullenberger accomplishing a successful water ditch seem astronomical. And the passengers knew nothing about Sullenberger’s experience or ability. It’s likely none of them seriously contemplated the trust they were placing in him when they stepped aboard flight 1549 to get them safely to their destination. They most likely didn’t realize until a double engine failure occurred that they had trusted Sullenberger with their lives. But they had, and in that moment any rational person might fear that Sullenberger wasn’t up to a completely unforeseeable task. We often do the same thing with God. Consider Psalm 46:2

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea…

Add double engine failure over metro New York to that list, and then ask yourself if you really can say, because you trust God, “Therefore we will not fear…”  As hard as it is to imagine, the answer can be yes. We can fear nothing when we become a child of God and know that our future is eternity with Him. Consider the Apostle Paul’s words in his letter to the church in Phillipi:

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 (NIV).

Paul is saying that when our faith is in God, when we pray and trust God with our requests, we will be filled with a peace that transcends all understanding and God will guard our hearts and our minds. Does that mean you won’t be terrified during a mid-air crisis? No, we are human. It does mean that the more you come to understand that God is an unfailing pilot, the less you will be anxious and fearful.

You see, the passengers on flight 1549 didn’t know Sully Sullenberger. They didn’t realize they were blessed with a skilled, experienced pilot who was up to the challenge. We are blessed with the knowledge that our Pilot, God, is unfailing. With that knowledge we can live out the promise of Philippians 4:7. What a loving, gracious Pilot we have!

Pastor Jerry Bader

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