God Isn’t My Co-pilot
When I was a kid, I watched a lot of black and white war movies on TV. My parents didn’t seem to care because WWII especially, was a “virtuous war.” The Americans were fighting evil and we were Christians, so of course God was on our side. (And I think he actually was!)
One of the more popular movies was entitled, God is my Co-Pilot. As the title implies, it’s about a fighter pilot who lives through a terrible dog fight with the Japanese, but makes it back because he believes God was right in the seat next to him, protecting him all the way and “talking him in.” The movie wasn’t about theology obviously, but I grew up believing God was my co-pilot and I meet with lots of Christians who still think that.
Here how I’d describe “God-is-my-co-pilot theology.” My life is pretty much my own. Oh, I know God has given me certain boundaries – the “thou-shalt-nots” and he wants me to live virtuously. And of course, I should go to church and serve. But if I do that, he pretty much leaves me alone unless I need him in a pinch. Who wouldn’t want God to handle the tough ones I can’t? But once the crisis has passed, he’s happy to let me take control of my life again.
I put it this way in The 10 Second Rule
I treated God more like a spiritual rabbit’s foot to be taken out and rubbed when life spun out of control. When the crisis passed, back into my pocket he went. In contemporary terms, God was an app on my iLife, to be activated only when I needed him.
My God was close enough to be a comfort, but distant enough to not be terribly inconvenient.
That’s not me! Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you recognize the God-is-my-co-pilot theology in others but not yourself. Are you sure? A few weeks ago, I blogged on the subject, Why Men Struggle with Prayer. In it, I confessed that I occasionally fall back into God-is-my-co-pilot, mind set. The more capable and well off we are, the more likely it is we’ll think of ourselves as in control, unless life’s out of control. Then of course we need God! There’s an old adage, “There are no atheists in foxholes.”
The traditional view of God puts him as the pilot of our lives. He’s completely in charge. That’s what it means when we profess, that God is sovereign over everything and all things.
However, where does free will come into process? Do we just “let go and let God” as I’ve heard some Christians say? I believe there are two ways God pilots or better said, directs our lives:
1. Flying by Instrument The instruments in a plane’s cockpit are the most reliable means to fly safely. Every pilot knows that. But every pilot also has the choice to rely on his sight and natural instincts. I’m told by experienced pilots that it’s common to find that what a pilot sees out the windshield often indicates something completely different from what the instruments indicate, causing him to doubt. He then has a critical choice to make – trust his natural instincts or the maker of the plane. Pilots die every week because they chose to ignore the instrument’s warnings.
God, “pilots us” through scripture, the Holy Spirit, prayer, fasting and godly counsel. We ignore them at our peril. God isn’t our co-pilot, or even our pilot most of the time. He lets us drive. But, to be led, or piloted by God means we trust his instruments of truth, rather than our own instincts.
I meet with men every week – every week who ignored God’s instruments and thought they could get away with it and have crashed and burned.
Right now, are you engaged in some activity or relationship and the red warning light from God has been going off, but you’ve been ignoring it? Change direction or buckle your seat belt!
2. Auto Pilot There are other times, even when we ignore the instruments, that God saves from ourselves, by over-riding our “will” and he simply orchestrates our lives to accomplish his purposes. We may think we’re piloting, but God’s in complete control. In that sense, we’re flying on “auto-pilot.” That’s what it means when we read, “God works all things together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 What God absolutely wants done, gets done!
When our children were small we took them to Disney World. They loved “driving” the little cars running on an underground track. They’d spin the steering wheel and were moving forward, so they had the illusion of driving. So too with God. I’ll never know how many good decisions I’ve made in life, or dangers I’ve avoided because God was piloting them to accomplish something beyond my understanding. In those situations, God is my pilot – but never my co-pilot!
Summary I begin every day reading scripture and it’s not because I’m so spiritual. I read because without direction from God I can so easily drift off course and become so very unspiritual. That’s exactly what David meant when he says “your word is a lamp onto my feet and a light for my path.”
However, it isn’t enough to “read the instruments.” We have to trust our lives to the instruments. I’ve sat with pastors who knew the Bible in Greek, who’ve crashed and burned. The simple answer is in the words of the old song, “Trust and obey. For there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
How following Jesus works in real life.
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