by Jamie Foy
Going Solo on Faith
James 2:26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead
As pilots I’d say that most, if not all of us are familiar with the term “license to learn”. I heard it from both my instructor and my DPE when I first got my private certificate. It has to do with the idea that a good pilot does not stop learning just because he passed a test. The truly good aviators are always seeking knowledge and they never stop learning. I believe that you can look at faith in the same way, but I’ll get to that. When we began our initial flight training everything was foreign and we were totally dependent on the instructor to keep us right side up and away from the ground. As we progressed and became more comfortable with the business of flight we gradually became less and less dependent on the instructor. I’m sure we all remember our first instructor and that feeling of comfort, whether you liked him or not, at having someone there to take over when you got into trouble. Even as you became more and more proficient at the controls there was always that knowledge that if things went wrong you had someone there to back you up and bail you out if necessary. If your learning progression was like mine you may have reached a plateau somewhere along the line that you didn’t get past until you soloed. I think any normal person is both excited and terrified of the first solo. I’ve heard it said that you don’t really experience personal growth unless you are doing something that makes you uncomfortable and a first solo flight is the definition of uncomfortable. I think any flight instructor will tell you that a student pilot’s learning curve takes a massive leap up when they begin going it alone. Suddenly there is no one there to take over when things go wrong. You can’t use the instructor as a crutch. You realize that the outcome of the flight is completely dependent on the abilities that you have learned. Your confidence level increases as you begin to experiment with what methods work best for you and test the limits of your skill. As your confidence grows so does your skill level. The instructor is still present, maybe on the radio with a word of advice or maybe just for guidance between flights. At times he will even climb back into the aircraft with you to check your progress, fix bad habits you may have picked up or to provide more instruction on a higher level of skills. There will always be setbacks and certain maneuvers or procedures that become a stumbling block. The way you get past these is to revert to the basics and continue to come back to whatever is causing you trouble until you can master it. Then comes the day when you go for your check ride and hopefully receive your coveted pilot certificate. If you look at that certificate as a “license to learn” then you don’t stop reaching for a higher skill level. You read books, study flight manuals, attend seminars and seek out more seasoned aviators to learn from their experience. On top of that you practice. You practice different types of takeoffs and landings, emergency procedures, navigation and a hundred other things. Practice, practice, practice as long as the money holds out because reading and studying about flying helps, but it does not do the trick. You’ve got to actually go do it. I was once told that the day that I stop learning is the day that I need to quit flying. There is always something to improve on no matter how many hours are amassed in your logbook.
Now back to faith. Many of us look at faith as a switch that is flipped when we are saved as Christians. We say the words. Something along the lines of “I accept Jesus Christ as my savior and repent of my sins.” Sometimes we say them almost as a magic spell, as if simply by uttering these words our lives will change forever. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that accepting Jesus as your personal Savior is the only path to salvation. Deeds do not get you to heaven, only Christ can do that. However, I also think that what you believe in your heart is more important than the words themselves. Romans 10:9 “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” If you say the words, but don’t feel them in your heart maybe you’ve still got some soul searching to do. Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Whatever you believe about salvation though I think we ought to look at it and our faith as a “license to learn”. When we first come to know or are searching for Christ we are novices in our faith. We depend on Him to guide us through everything. There was a time in my life that I was feeling as if God was talking to me every day, guiding my life and then suddenly left. I didn’t understand it. I remember asking “You got me to this point, now what do I do?” and not receiving an answer. I handled that period completely wrong. I grew apart from God and quit trying to listen. I decided that I could handle things myself without my Instructor. Looking back I now realize that He was stepping out of the plane and turning me loose to fly solo. God provides us with knowledge and teaches us what we need to know. We slowly grow as Christians with Him right there beside us. Maybe He is in the form of your parents, a Sunday school teacher or a loving church family. At some point though you may need to take what you have learned and step out on your own so that you can grow as a Christian and gain confidence in the business of faith. You have to continue to learn by studying scripture, seeking guidance from more mature believers and through prayer. Above all you have to practice. Philippians 4:9 “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Throughout the gospel of John “faith” is used as a verb not a noun as most of us use it. Reading and talking about it doesn’t do the trick. You have to get out and do faith the way that Jesus taught in order to grow as a Christian. Not that you are ever completely solo in a life with Christ. Any analogy that compares God to something in our imperfect world will ultimately fail. My analogy fails in the contradiction that, the more you practice flying, the less you depend on an instructor, but the more you practice faith the closer you’ll grow to God. He is always there whether you feel His presence or not, but sometimes He steps back to let you use what you have learned in order to build your confidence and abilities as a Christian.
Living a life of faith is like flying, if you don’t heed your Instructors teaching and instead try to do it your own way you are going to lose control. However, if you have listened, learned and know how to revert to the basics and let God help, you’ll be able to regain control before you crash. To avoid losing control we all need to get out and practice. Try new things, push your limits and practice your faith until you learn to soar as a Christian.
By Jamie Foy