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Several years ago, I was on a trip with my boss from Athens, Ohio to Tulsa, Oklahoma. We were traveling in his private Airplane, a Beechcraft Bonanza. Before then, my boss has been encouraging me to take up flying lessons, but I was not in the least interested. The problem was, although my profession requires flying, I was very afraid of heights. My calculations were that somehow, I can avoid the flying part of my job. Being only two of us and we were traveling very far, it did not take long for my boss to suggest that I try my hands on the yoke (the airplane’s steering wheel). He pointed to an instrument in the cockpit which he asked me to use in steering the airplane. According to him the needle must be centered, and I should steer to follow the needle just in case it goes off center. Oh well, I thought, that is good enough, after all I have been driving a car for a very long time. If all I must do is turn a steering, it must be a piece of cake. But, in my estimation, this needle in the piece of instrument that I am supposed to follow cannot tell me anything better than what my eyes will tell me, since I can see the outside sky from the cockpit window. I just made my first two mistakes. My perception (really a misperception) that steering an airplane is the same as steering a car and another misperception that what I see with my eyes is better than what the instruments tell me.
In order not to make me panic, my boss pretended as if he was reading a book. He was a veteran. At the time, he had been flying for more than 40 years. I bet he knew exactly what I would do. You see, when pilots learn to fly, they are taught to totally trust the instruments in the airplane. If they rely only on sensory input, they could get into some dicey situations because our senses are reliable only to a certain point. The instrument must always be checked to confirm what the sense is feeling. The kicker is that when flying through clouds, the pilot’s senses get confused about the orientation of the airplane. They may feel as if they are flying straight or level when in fact they are slowly getting into a spiral. So, constant attention must be paid to the spirit of the airplane, the instruments.
Now back to my trip with my boss. Of course, I was doing everything the pilot is trained not to do. It did not take long before I started feeling confused. I was steering without looking at the instrument, and when I look once in a while, I find out that the airplane is not only off course, but also not level. Then, I will make that little sound, “wow”. My boss who is watching everything from the Captain’s seat will just take over and straighten the airplane out. After a while I told him I could not continue because the stress and the fear of what could happen was killing me. He insisted I must, a sort of baptism by fire.
My brothers and sisters, this is the same way it is with us when we take our misconceptions and misperceptions into our relationships with our neighbors. Misperception can be biased and when it is, it is usually a self-serving bias. Our judgements are based on things we have picked up along the way that do not necessarily apply to the situation at hand. We tend to trust the outward things we see with our physical eyes rather than rely on our spiritual eyes. God desires that we totally trust His Spirit that works in us and use it as a check on our physical senses. We must not allow our emotions to get in the way or become a spiritual liability. The Word of God should always be the ultimate decider of our actions. “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.” – (Rom. 8:7-8 NIV). If we must love our neighbors, emotions or feelings cannot guide or reveal what is right or wrong because they are constantly changing. Let us stand firm on God’s word and allow His Spirit to lead us always. Just like the instrumentation in the airplane, the spirit of God is our ultimate guide.
The Scriptures contain the unchanging mind of God and the Spirit of God brings His Word to life. If we allow ourselves to be controlled by the emotional desires of our flesh, we will only care for the outward manifestations of the flesh. The Word of God however says, “you, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you” – Romans 8:9a. How people look is not an ultimate decider of what people need. May His Spirit always guide us and help us always to overcome the desires of the flesh and lead us to always do His will.
August 22, 2021 – Pastor Simbo Odunaiya