Flight Safety For New Believers

By Stephen Campbell

On a December night in 1996, an American Airlines plane began its descent toward the airport in Cali, Colombia. The airport’s radar systems had been ruined by terrorists a few years earlier, so pilots approaching Cali would rely on various regional radio signals to determine exactly where to fly as they descended over mountainous terrain. On this occasion, however, the locations of those signals were accidentally deleted from the plane’s navigation system; and then, as the pilots tried to select one of the nearby signals, they chose a wrong location, causing the plane to turn in a fateful direction. Minutes later, the plane slammed into a mountainside, killing 159 passengers and crew, leaving only four survivors.

Airline crashes like this are rare, but it is always particularly tragic when airplanes, which are specifically designed to go over mountains, are caused by mechanical or human error to crash directly into that terrain. Investigators painstakingly analyze these incidents in order to make safety recommendations for future flights.

This example contains spiritual lessons for us, for at the moment of salvation all Christians are equipped to change their altitude from earth-dwelling creatures to those who understand life from God’s perspective. The pattern for faith is set out in our “flight manual” – the Word of God. Potential dangers are identified, but active attention must be given. In the case of the pilots, one probable cause of the crash was the flight crew’s “lack of situational awareness” regarding their surroundings and the location of radio navigation aids. Similarly, in the case of the Christian, a lack of awareness about biblical guidance will lead us into potentially disastrous experiences.

Guidance To Follow
New believers may be particularly susceptible to these troubles. The apostle Paul was especially worried about new Christians in Thessalonica, where he had spent only about three weeks. He was concerned that trials of life and temptations of the Devil might have overcome them, causing them to abandon the pathway of faith. Therefore he was overjoyed to receive the good news that they were continuing in the faith, and he wrote a letter to encourage them further. Let’s consider several valuable principles from Paul’s letter as well as other parts of the Bible.

• Treat the Bible as God’s direct message.
Paul wrote that his Christian friends had “received the word of God … as it is in truth, the word of God” (1 Th. 2:13 NKJV). This means that those Christians deeply valued everything they were taught from the Bible. Suppose military officers received a detailed message from their highest-ranking commander. What would you say if they looked over the document and then left it behind, talking only about the weather as they walked away? You would say they had no respect for the message or its author! But what if those officers completely rearranged their goals and strategies because of the directions from headquarters? Then you would be certain that they valued the message and recognized the authority of their commander.

The Bible is the all-sufficient source of information for the Christian when it comes to understanding God, humanity, heaven, hell, sin and salvation. It reveals to us God’s precious promises and His flawless character. It explains what we are without God and what we become when we trust Jesus Christ, whom God sent to be our Savior. It teaches us how to live in godliness, integrity and grace. It contains essential principles that apply to every culture and generation. No other book can take its place, and no voice can supplant its authority.

Skeptics have tried to undermine faith in the Scriptures for many years, but you can trust your Bible! The text is reliable and verifiable. As ancient manuscripts go, thousands of copies of Scripture are preserved for our reference, in comparison to several dozen or even fewer copies of great classical texts by renowned authors like Plato and Aristotle. Skeptics have questioned historical names and other biblical references, claiming they reveal errors in the text – only to have archaeologists later discover precise confirmation of those very facts. Many skeptics who have set out to disprove the Bible have come to trust the God it proclaims.

For all these reasons, treat the Bible as it truly is: The Word of God. Drink it in! It will energize your spirit, inform your mind, invigorate your conscience and guide your feet. Learn the grand themes of the Bible, like forgiveness and justification. Trust its promises and heed its directions. Prepare to rearrange your attitudes, actions and goals. No one who responded to the Bible this way has ever been sorry for it.

• Cleave to the Lord with purpose of heart.
Jesus said, “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (Jn. 6:37). This and many other verses establish the teaching of the eternal security of the believer. However, while no true Christian can ever be lost, many thousands of true Christians have slipped away from a life once devoted to Christ. This is why Barnabas, a leader in the early Church, encouraged new believers to continue following the Lord intentionally and consistently (Acts 11:23).

Paul’s Christian friends in Thessalonica were true-hearted in their determination and dedication. Repeatedly, Paul mentioned the troubles and temptations that came upon them when they became Christians. He had sent Timothy to establish and encourage them in their faith, for he hoped that “no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this” (1 Th. 3:2-3). When the report came back that they indeed had not allowed the trials of life to disturb their confidence in Christ, Paul joyfully encouraged them to continue standing fast in the Lord (v.8).

We should not be surprised when afflictions come. Not only are difficulties a natural part of life, but there are additional troubles for followers of Jesus, the One whom this world rejected. Yet faith in God is enough to establish our hearts. We are responsible to cling to the Lord with determination and purpose.

• Understand the teaching of sanctification.
The Bible doctrine of sanctification has two sides. On one side, Christians are fully sanctified as soon as they trust Jesus as the Savior. Because He offered Himself for us (Heb. 10:10), we are set apart for God, made completely and uniquely His people. Saint, sanctified, holy – all those words carry the same idea that God has separated us for His own purposes. The Bible teacher F. B. Hole said sanctification means that Christians are like God’s good china set, the special plates that are kept separate from the everyday dinnerware. What dignity this doctrine gives to every believer in Christ!

But there is a second side to sanctification. If the first aspect is permanent, the second is progressive. We must intentionally live sanctified lives, keeping ourselves separate from ordinary lifestyles of low morality and little integrity. As Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust” (1 Th. 4:3-5). He added, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:23). We have a daily responsibility to conduct sanctified lives in a world that is satisfied with much less. Culture’s sexual standards, for example, have shifted dramatically in just the last ten years. By the help of God’s Spirit, possessing our bodies in sanctification and honor will increasingly align our behavior with our calling. This is a lifelong process – all the way, until we are in the presence of the Lord.

• Seek unity and community with other believers.
Sometimes Christians tend to isolate themselves from each other. We might feel that no one else understands our needs, and therefore we prefer to work through challenges by ourselves. At other times we might simply feel disinterested in spending time with fellow believers due to a busy schedule, family activities or other reasons.

However, it is actually quite dangerous to live as an isolated Christian who never seeks to be with other followers of the Lord. Naturally speaking, God has designed us to participate in life with others; and spiritually speaking, God makes us a part of His true Church as soon as we become Christians. His Church is described as a building and a body, and those figures of speech make it clear that every part must interact together for growth to take place.

The Thessalonians were encouraged to “increase and abound in love for one another” and to “build one another up” (1 Th. 3:12, 5:11 ESV). These are important parts of the Christian life. You need other Christians to do these things for you, and they need you to do the same for them. Avoiding Christian fellowship eliminates one of the ways God intends to use for our growth as believers. While we can enjoy those blessings, it is also true that life with other believers will add to our challenges since we will be confronted with both their needs and weaknesses. But that is precisely the context in which we learn to apply biblical principles for displaying the unity of Christian relationships.

• Recognize the implications of the Lord’s return.
Sprinkled into every chapter of 1 Thessalonians are teachings about the return of the Lord Jesus. This is not a minor point; nearly every book of the New Testament refers to His second coming. It will be the fulfillment of His own promise: “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself” (Jn. 14:3). This teaching reminds us that we are on the way to a heavenly home, traveling through this world like pilgrims who have not yet reached their final destination.

For the Thessalonians, each day was another opportunity to wait for Jesus to come from heaven (1:10). If we are gripped by the same reality, a conscious knowledge of the return of Jesus Christ will keep us involved in His service and will teach us to deny worldly desires. The expectation will help us store treasures in heaven instead of fattening our bank accounts on earth. It will remind us that the sufferings of this life are not to be compared with the glory that is to come.

There is nothing to prevent the Lord’s return from occurring today! And if He does not come today, perhaps it will be tomorrow. This is the Christian’s blessed hope. It is a helmet of salvation for us (1 Th. 5:8), guarding our minds as we live for Christ in a troubled world.

Closing Thoughts
The crew on that American Airlines flight crashed because they lacked situational awareness. New believers, and indeed any Christian, will also experience a spiritual breakdown because of the same reason. The world is filled with distractions, temptations and outright evil. If we are unprepared to face, endure and overcome these disturbances, our spiritual course will soon spiral downward.

Planes are not designed to crash, and Christians are not either! With the Bible itself as a guiding beacon, the Christian’s life of faith and godliness will set and hold a true course, navigating safely past every obstacle.