I’ve never been on a flight as scary as the one that took me from Dallas to Columbus, Ohio last Friday night. Perhaps it’s just that no pilot has previously shared the details of the “scare” with those of us in the main cabin. The wind-tossed plane came very close to the ground. We could clearly see vehicles at the airport and the landing strip below. But, just before we were to land, the pilot gave the plane a strong power surge and pulled it back up above the fierce wind. He announced that we would “fly around for a while” and that we would either try again if the winds died down or we would just have to land in Cleveland or Pittsburg because we did not have enough gas to keep circling around Columbus for too much longer. I prayed for my God’s protection.
For me, the prayer was certainly not the first of the day. I had prayed multiple times about many things throughout the day. I admit that this time I prayed that if He did bring me home on this night, that he would please help Glenn bring our children and grandchildren to be around the throne with me. There were several people around me, though, who began to call on Jesus, repeating His name in tones that seemed both fearful and, yet, somehow a little blasphemous. The woman sitting beside me said, in a quiet, but fearful tone “I fly all the time and I have never seen a pilot pull back up like this.”
At last, the pilot decided to try the landing one more time before leaving the area. This time, though there was a great deal of turbulence and the touchdown was treacherous, we were soon going down that landing strip at a faster speed than was comfortable. The applause and cheers were deafening in that cabin and I could not wait to be in that automobile with those Christians I’d never met who had prayed for my safe travels.
There have been a few times in my life when I wondered if I really was all finished living here and if it was time for me to be with the Lord. Obviously, each time that occurs, I am, in reality closer to that moment of departure than I’ve ever been before. And each time, I realize that, during one of those frightening moments or during an unsuspecting one, I will leave and some speaking engagement or some meal being prepared, some sleep or some pain, will be interrupted by death. That’s not morbid. It’s just undeniable truth. Reality.
What if that landing had really been a take-off instead? The person in front of me watching a film full of violence, immodesty and profanity was not counting on that moment being THE moment. Nor was the man who ordered a vodka a few rows up or the woman returning home from her gambling trip. The man who was cursing behind me was not thinking about the possible imminence of the judgment, nor was the teen boy beside me who had dressed up like a girl, complete with earrings, floral bands on his fingers and pink and lime green tennis shoes. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think the judgment day was not on any of their minds prior to the moment of panic.
I bask in His grace. But I also understand that the warning to those, like me, who are basking is a stern one:
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. (1Corinthians 10:27)
If I choose to live in sin, knowing the sacrifice that’s been given for me, there remains no other one. No other blood than the precious blood (1 Peter 1:19). No other sacrifice than the unblemished one. No other death than the one into which I was baptized (Romans 6:3,4). The price was great, but it will never be paid again. If I willfully reject Him, there’s no other redeemer to choose. There’s only a “fearful looking for fiery indignation.”
The same passage that tells me about the indignation, though, tells me about the incredible assurance.
There has no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man; and He is faithful who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able, but will, with the temptation provide a way of escape. (vs.13)
Blessed assurance! It’s blessed when you are flying high. It may be even more blessed when you approach a very rough landing. It will be at its pinnacle when the rough landing is really a take-off with the angels who bear you away!