(What to do when trouble comes “out of the blue!”)
John 8:31-32 Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
On January 15, 2009, US Airways pilots, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and First Officer, Jeff Skiles, board US Airways Flight 1549 from LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Three minutes into the flight, the airplane strikes a flock of birds, disabling both engines. Without engine power and judging themselves unable to reach nearby airports, Sully lands the aircraft on the Hudson River. The 155 passengers and crew members evacuate without casualty. The press and public hail Sullenburger a hero.
In the course of the film, Sully learns that communications data received during the flight suggest that one engine was still running at idle power. Theoretically, this would have left him with enough power to return to the airport. The National Transportation Safety Board claims that several computer simulations show the plane could have landed safely at either airport, even with no engines. Sully, however, insists that he lost both engines, which left him without sufficient time, speed, or altitude to land safely at any airport.
Sully realizes that the Board believes the accident may have been pilot error, which would end his career. He arranges to have the simulations rerun with live pilots. The simulations result in successful landings, but Sully argues that they are unrealistic because the pilots knew the emergency situation they would face, and were able to practice the scenario several times. The board accepts that in real life the pilots would have taken some time to react and run emergency checks before deciding to divert the plane.
The two simulations are run again, this time allowing a 35-second pause before the plane is diverted. This time, the simulations both end with the plane crashing into buildings well short of the airport. The board announces that analysis of the port engine, now recovered from the river, confirms Sully’s account that both engines were in fact disabled by the bird strikes. The board concludes that Sullenberger acted correctly in selecting the best of the options available to him, which saved the lives of everyone aboard. (excerpted from Wikipedia)
I might add that his incredible ability to land the plane in the water has been touted by believers and non-believers as the “Miracle on the Hudson,” a pretty appropriate title, don’t you think?
Captain Sullenberger isn’t someone who professes faith in Christ, but the screenwriter who wrote the script is a born-again believer and has been interviewed about his personal faith as it relates to the story. The movie wasn’t created to portray faith, but decency, determination, humanity and a devotion to your fellow man. It does, however, have many applications for believers and since this is “Teays Valley Church of God, At the Movies Month,” I thought the film was a great way to kick off our series and to prompt our thinking about our readiness to face life’s challenges and our need to prioritize all that is truly important as we face life’s struggles.
In the opening trailer we watched, we hear Captain Sully say, “No one warned us. No one said, ‘You are going to lose both engines at a lower altitude than any jet in history. This was dual engine loss at 2800 feet followed by a water landing with 155 souls on board. No one has ever trained for an incident like that.’” There are moments in life that cannot be planned for. They come without warning, but they can be prepared for in a sense.
40 years of being a successful pilot gave Captain Sully the best possible preparation for the worst-case scenario. Doing the smart thing every time he flew, keeping up to date with the latest plane technologies, being well-prepared for each time he flew, doing the right thing every time it was time to captain a plane, laid a foundation for Sully that gave him a state of preparedness when things went wrong.
Obviously, you can’t prepare for every possible scenario. Military and police officers run drills to be ready “in case of emergency” or in case of certain scenarios. Trainings are held in most professions to cover the “what if” moments. Obviously, no pilot has any training in what to do when birds strike both engines at a low altitude and there are no options to land at an airport. But the training Sully had undergone, and the experience he possessed, did give him the understanding to make the right decision at a critical time.
Listen, Child of God, when you are faced with an unexpected crisis, when something hits you “out of the blue” that you weren’t counting on or even dreamed was possible, it will be your spiritual preparation, it will be the anchor of your faith, it will be your knowledge of God’s Word, it will be the foundation of your prayer life that will help you make the right decisions when something strikes out of the blue. You may not think you need the Lord today. You may not see a need to know how to pray in this moment. You may not think God’s Word could add anything to your life right now because everything is hunky dory, but let me tell you something, in the moment of crises, when it all hits the fan, those who have set their hearts on God and have spent time in His Word, those who know how to cry out to God on prayer and to cling to God in faith, they are the ones who will land the plane on the water rather than crash and burn.
Listen to Matthew 7:24-25 24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are the master of your own destiny, that you have everything under control, that nothing bad or difficult could ever happen to you. Everyone gets a turn at struggle. Everyone gets a turn at suffering. Life happens to all of us, and to the measure that we are spiritually prepared for anything we will weather every storm and land safely because of our trust, hope, and confidence in the Lord. When life is unfair, God is there. When the storm rises, God is there. When challenges come, God is there. He is the only constant in a consistently changing horizon. Grow your relationship with Him as the priority of your life. What we gain from knowing Christ is the only guarantee we have in life, and if you choose Him in your struggle, you will be saved!
The second takeaway from the movie for me is the calm and peaceful way Sully navigated the crisis. He never panicked; not even for a second. Watch this:
Sully made a choice to respond and to maintain emotional and logical control in a time when emotion would have been screaming, “You’re going to crash! You’re going to die!”
Peace from God is available to us when the unexpected happens, but we have to choose to accept it. If there is one thing God excels in, it is peace! After all, His nickname is “The Prince of Peace!” Look at the kind of peace our Lord offers!
Isaiah 26:3-You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.
Perfect peace. To me that is a deep peace. That is an unbroken and ongoing assurance. Notice the condition of the promise. Peace comes as we trust in the Lord! Peace comes as we remain unshaken in our thought-life to believe God for His very best. When someone says, “I am doing everything I can for you” they are limited in what they can do. God will always do everything He can for His children, and His everything is without limit!
Psalm 29:11-“The Lord gives strength to his people, the Lord blesses his people with peace.”
Our God is the God of peace IN THE MIDST of the storm, and it comes in the form of a special strength, a supernatural strength, and Psalm 29 calls it a BLESSING! Isn’t that cool? When you are distressed by life’s trials, you can also be blessed by God AT THE SAME TIME! A blessing is something we are thankful for! A blessing is something we are happy about. A blessing is something that gives us reason to rejoice. A blessing is something we can testify to and share with others. God does that!
God’s strength is enduring. It takes us through places we could never navigate on our own. It lifts us above the intensity of the storm and enables us to travel through it without crashing. We see evidence of this right here in our own community. Have you followed the amazing testimony of the Cobb family as they continue to press in to the Lord for their daughter, Katie’s healing? They keep it real, AND they keep it all focused on the Lord, and as a result, they have supernatural strength.
Psalm 46:1-3-1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
I said a moment ago that the reception of God’s peace is a decision we must make when we suffer a bird strike and begin to lose altitude. When you are flying high and all of the sudden, “Boom” something happens to impact your now in an unpleasant or unwanted way, it can be deflating, depressing and debilitating. But, if you get your mind
focused on God, if you seek the strength of God, if you run to the refuge of God, if you have put your hope in God and in His Word, you can get steady to the point that although you are drifting down or even spiraling down, you will land safely.
I had chosen to feature this film for this message a week and a half ago. I didn’t know then that our family would have a bird strike. I didn’t know then that we would receive some unexpected news. Our son, Josh, who will be a sophomore at Winfield this fall, has had some unusual bruising during the last month. He was taken to the doctor on Wednesday and was sent to the hospital for blood work. We were told we would have results in 48 hours, but it was just two hours when the doctor called to let us know his platelets were quite low and that he would need to see a hematologist. His appointment was the next day. Josh’s diagnosis at the moment is ITP which we are just learning about. It’s basically low platelets without a known cause. He will begin monitoring and is scheduled for an IV infusion in a week and a half.
Platelets help the blood to clot. Because he would be at great risk if he was injured, he is currently suspended from contact in football, something he has intensely trained for and is looking forward to. We don’t know what the future holds, but I want you to know that Josh has already chosen peace. That doesn’t mean he won’t wrestle with disappointment or concern over the immediate future, but he has chosen peace. He has told us he isn’t going to get all freaked out and upset, but he is going to trust God and do what the doctors tell him to do.
I know he is just fifteen, but the foundation, the Christian faith, the knowledge of God’s Word, the ability he has to pray for himself, the miracles he has seen in and through this body of believers, has all been incredible preparation for this moment, and he, someone who has at times been a bit prone to worry, is as calm as I have ever seen him. Don’t tell me God isn’t a refuge and strength, an ever-present help in time of trouble. Josh is truly receiving God’s supernatural help. Thom and I also have a tremendous peace because we know God’s plans for Josh can never be altered.
Psalm 56:3 When I am afraid, I will trust in you.
Trusting God is always the right thing to do! Children of God never need to panic. Children of God only need to choose the perfect peace that is available!
The final thing I would highlight from the movie is that even though Sully was in a crisis of major proportions himself, the people on his plane were the most important things to him. He said more than once that he was carrying 155 souls. Isn’t it interesting that he called them souls? He wanted to know that every person, every soul was accounted for. Even while he, himself, was getting checked out in the hospital, he kept asking if the final count had been received and if all 155 people were safe. They were. Hence the naming of the event, “The Miracle on the Hudson!”
When there is a bird strike in our own life, it is easy to forget what is really important. Our relationships are important. The people God places in our paths are important. We can’t get so self-absorbed, so self-focused, that we forget the people God is putting in front of us that need to know Him. And how we handle what we go through can either draw people to Him or push people away from Him. If we are angry and blame God for the trials of life, others can fail to see God as good! Here’s the thing: God has a plan to use our bird strikes to reveal and prove His love for others.
Years ago, Point of Grace, a Christian trio, recorded a song that says:
God loves people more than anything
God loves people more than anything
And more than anything, He wants them to know
He’d rather die than let them go
Cause God loves people more than anything
God loves the weary when they’re too weak to try
He feels their pain, He knows their shame
He cries with those who cry
He won’t give up or walk away when other people do
Cause God loves people more than anything
God loves the wounded who’ve stumbled into sin
He reaches down and pulls them out
And cleans them off again
And He will heal the broken heart that’s given up on love
Cause God loves people more than anything
John 3:16 reminds us that because God so loved the world He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.
2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” God doesn’t want anyone to perish. If our bird strikes, if our storms, are one of God’s methods to help others safely land, to help others come to know Him as Savior and Lord, then can we stay prepared, peaceful, and people-focused?
Here is the big point of today’s message: When the unexpected and unplanned and unwanted strikes, you can crash or you can land. You may still deal with a loss of altitude. You may still deal with a change in direction. But if you will plan now to trust the God who can’t fail, if you will choose His peace, and if you will stay focused on glorifying Him in front of people, you will be safe.