Flying On Instruments

six-pack1My son is a pilot. He tells me that one of the achievements of being a private pilot is getting your instrument rating. This allows you to fly at night, through clouds, or in inclement weather. Looking out the window and seeing no landmarks or distinguishing features can become extremely confusing. Instrument training is an essential part of learning how to fly through any adverse situation.

So, I’ve been thinking about our going through the skies of life and how God often allows us to “fly” through some rough weather and bad conditions. It’s dark, it’s confusing, and we’re all alone with no guideposts, landmarks, or even other travelers to help us to a safe destination. Sound familiar?

The basic instructions given to every pilot is applicable to the everyday struggles of “flying blind” through tough times of life. What are these basic instructions that will absolutely save your life?

“Trust your instruments!”

Going through flight school you soon learn that when you’re in a cloud bank or flying in the dark, you absolutely, positively cannot trust what you see or how you feel. Your eyes or emotions may be telling you one thing but the reality is completely different.

Every pilot learns that his emotions can lead him right into the ground… or his eyesight can betray him. It may “feel” like you’re going up when actually you are going down. It may look like you’re level when really you are heading for the ground. Every believer in Christ must also learn that he or she cannot trust their own desires, emotions, motives, or perceptions. Instead we MUST trust God’s word to reveal what God wants for our lives.

Let’s look at the basic instruments a pilot learns to use to keep himself safe… they are called “the six pack” and can give us some pause as we meditate on how their spiritual equivalents might apply to our spiritual “flight” through life.

First, the Air Speed Indicator… how fast are you going? Are you growing in Christ at a good healthy rate, going too slowly, or even flying so fast you’re not putting down a solid foundation putting you in danger of a fall?

“Other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. “And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.        Mark 4:5–6

Next, the Attitude Indicator… this measures if you’re flying straight and level. So, how’s your attitude? Are you all over the place or steady on course? Have you done a spiritual attitude check lately?

Let us therefore, as many as are “mature”, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you;        Philippians 3:15

Next, the Altitude Indicator, telling you how high or low you actually are. Perhaps you live on an emotional roller coaster… high highs, and terrible lows. Maybe it’s time to stop trusting your emotions and perceptions and trust that you are loved and filled with a loving Holy Spirit who wants to keep you on a steady path as you grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ.

From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.         Psalm 61:2

Then, the Turn Coordinator – are you going off course? Just a small bank to the right and left and you can find yourself off course and outside of God’s will for your life. It’s time to allow God control of your direction in life. He knows where you need to go and how to best get you there.

Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.        Isaiah 30:21

The Heading Indicator is like the Turn Coordinator. They both keep you on course toward your destination. God has a track for you to follow. If you allow Him, He will direct your path.

Who is the man who fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the way he should choose. Psalm 25:12

Lastly, the Vertical Speed Indicator is related to the Altitude Indicator but instead of measuring how high or low you are, it gives you a picture of whether you are going up or down. I want to be steadily growing in the Lord and increasing in my understanding of the Christian life and my purpose in that life. We need to surrender to God’s leading and instruction so that we can maintain that solid upward direction of spiritual maturity and fruitfulness.

but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.        2 Peter 3:18

When things get dark or stormy or confusing and our emotions cannot be trusted, how do we find our instruments? God has given us His Word. It is the only true guide. Do we know how to study it? Do you know what it’s saying to you? THEN, the big question is, do you trust it?

Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.        Psalm 119:105

Let my supplication come before You; Deliver me according to Your word.                 Psalm 119:170

When we look out the window of our life experience and we just can’t see the best way to go or even a way to correctly evaluate our situation, perhaps, like any well trained pilot, we need to trust the instruments of God’s Word and not rely on the emotions or false impressions that can deceive us right into a crash.

Think about it.


  • This brings back some memories. I was learning to fly on a Chipmunk when I was 22years of age so I very easily relate to these lessons. Making sure the aircraft was airworthy. Checking the pitot head was clear, checking the wings were secure and the airlerons were free. As I remember, for it is now some 50 years ago, another useful help is to taxi to take off, wait for the control tower to clear you to go, push the throttle forward and gently bring the stick back towards your tummy and keep the nose up.

    It was some years before I learned to wait and listen keenly to the control tower and I always seemed to struggle to hear those instructions clearly as I waited for take-off. This played out in my Christian life too as I struggled to obey the Lord’s instructions and wait patiently for Him to give me clearance in His time.
    Everything is in His time. Ecc 3: There have been too many times when I wanted to push the throttle forward before it was time – His time.

    Blessings for I was most blessed by your analogies

    • Len Allen says:

      Your thoughts on waiting for instructions before taking off were right on… I was also thinking about making sure your fuel was full. That trying to do life without fueling up on God’s Word is like trying to fly on empty tanks.
      Thank you for thinking on these things. Blessings, Grace, and Peace as you fly the skies of life.

  • Leo DePaul says:

    Good words, Len. I’m a pilot and flew for years, first in the Army and then in missions. In the clouds, learning to trust and fly by the external reference of the instruments instead of internal feelings is life or death. God’s Word is our instrumentation in life… “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 14:12

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