In both aeronautics and Christianity, the proper attitude is imperative. Is your attitude set as correctly as that of the 747 aircraft described here?
Our big 747 jumbo-jet lifted smoothly off the long runway at Los Angeles, Calif., International Airport and settled into the flight configuration that would direct it to Honolulu, Hawaii. Although the plane's size almost defies the imagination, we were being propelled through the air evenly and comfortably, confident that we were in good hands. We knew airlines do not place the awesome responsibility of life and property in the hands of unqualified personnel. My serenity was rudely interrupted as I looked up and saw the 747's pilot standing in the aisle next to my seat! I blurted out, "Who's minding the store?" "Don't worry. We have a couple of computers flying this thing," replied the handsome, almost white-haired captain. That was somewhat assuaging, for I knew that computers can only act in accordance with the data fed into them — and I knew that the laws of aerodynamics were consistent and undeviating.
A matter of attitude
In the ensuing conversation, the captain reflected upon his 40 years of flying and the many types of aircraft he had piloted — all the way from the simple, single-engine planes of the 1930s to the complex, jet-propelled marvels of our day. He concluded that the 747 was one of the simplest aircraft to control, because "it has such a good attitude." I did not fully understand his comment at the time, but have since come to a more complete recognition of what he meant, through the help of some associates who are pilots. One of them explained: "Attitude affects many things in an aircraft. It is the primary factor in the relationship between the forces of lift, speed and drag. Every aspect of a plane ride — the takeoff, climb, cruise and landing — is influenced by it. A correct attitude will result in a smooth flight, while an incorrect or negligent attitude will result in a shaky, worrisome journey. "It's not uncommon for a Piper Cub to feel as heavy as a 747, or for a 747 to feel as light as a Piper Cubit all depends upon the attitude setting of the aircraft. "Trim tabs located on the trailing edge of the wings and tail directly determine a plane's attitude. When set properly, they ensure a problem-free flight, and the attitude trim tabs can only be changed by one force — the hand of the pilot." Attitude in relation to human beings is explained in the American College Dictionary as: "Position, disposition or manner with regard to a person or thing. Position of the body appropriate to an action, emotion, etc." The captain of the plane had told me, "When the• instrumentation and computers have been set, those settings can riot be changed, except by the hand of the pilot."
Victims of vertigo
I suggested it was probably unlikely that anyone would deviate from something that he had proved beyond a shadow of a doubt to be true. The captain replied: " Even longtime pilots can occasionally become victims of a form of vertigo — a disordered condition in which an individual, or whatever is around him, seems to be whirling about. Pilots can be affected by dizziness." He cited the pitfall of flying near the aurora borealis — the northern lights — when they seem to fill the entire sky with their brilliant display of multicolored pyrotechnics. Often their various tiers are not horizontal to the plane of the ground, nor are they completely vertical. Rather, they seem to be angled, creating an illusion of flying contrary to the horizon, despite the fact that all the instrumentation indicates everything is still on course. The resultant vertigo — the instability that comes from relying on feelings and emotions, as opposed to proven data — may cause the pilot to change his course and align with the angle of the lights, rather than the true horizon. Attracted by the bright lights and their false suggestions of normalcy, he may grind into the barren tundra in an ignominious crash, causing not only his own death but the horrible death of hundreds of unsuspecting fellow human beings. And it all began when the pilot sought to change his attitude, resist the proven laws of aerodynamics and become motivated by personal intuition and reasonings. At that point, I began to ponder our personal trim-tab settings as Christians. What is your position regarding persons, things, actions and emotions? In other words, "How is your attitude?"
Our spiritual flight
You and I are much more intricate than a 747 aircraft. We are infinitely more complicated than any computer, which is merely the result of man's ingenuity. And we are on a course between two points — our journey begins at the point of no hope and ultimate eternal death and culminates in an instantaneous birth into the literal Family of the great God! Our good attitude will get us there, and our bad attitude will cause us to crash. It's just that simple. And, just as with a plane, our "attitude trim tab" can only be changed by one force — the hand of the pilot. That pilot is each of us, in our own lives. We have begun the trip. As we labored down the runway of this life, Jesus Christ lifted us up and set us on the right track. His hand has set the trim tabs, establishing the right attitude, and He promises He will not terminate the flight. Only we can! Over my 20 years in the Church of the Living God, I have observed that many circumstances can cause roughness and turbulence. Unforeseen obstacles may create temporary setbacks, but if our attitude is not changed, we will prevail. Some years ago, my wife and I were flying between Chicago, Ill., and Los Angeles, also aboard a 747. We were in the beautiful transition between day and night, with the blackness of evening forming our backdrop, and the setting sun illuminating the sky into which we were flying. There wasn't even a hint of clouds anywhere around, and the aircraft seemed totally trouble-free. Suddenly, the ship began to rock. The giant wings flapped as if they would snap, and we bounced ' turbulently. The pilot applied power, the plane began a climb and after several minutes settled back to normal. The captain explained over the intercom what we had just experienced some clear-air turbulence, but that we were all right now. Clear-air turbulence is totally unforeseen, coming at a time when everything seems to be running smoothly, and yet, it can be deadly unless responded to quickly. The captain was able to change his course and initiate drastic and dramatic action, without changing his plane's attitude. On another occasion, the obstacles were more obvious. A storm enveloped a jet liner in which I was a passenger shortly after we took off from the Denver, Colo., airport. The pilot weaved the plane upward through flashes of lightning until the blue skies of 39,000 feet reassured all of us in the cabin. We had experienced traumatic upheaval, but the pilot did not change his attitude, and we continued safely to the end of our journey. We were aboard one of the Work's own aircraft when, having flown from the Ambassador College campus in Big Sandy, Tex., to Dallas, Tex., we were making our approach to Love Field. We had been given clearance to land and were on final approach, talking casually and preparing to transfer to a major airline for the remainder of a trip to Los Angeles. Suddenly a voice from the tower warned us: "Bank left and get out of there quick! There's a 707 coming down on your tail!" Our pilot acted quickly without changing the plane's attitude, overcame unexpected adversity and was able to finally. taxi the tiny plane to its destination. The moral? Problems, trials, clear-air turbulence and obvious obstacles can all be overcome without ever allowing our good attitude to diminish.
Rely on known quantities
In the Church's Grumman Gulfstream II, Herbert W. Armstrong has a writing desk up toward the cockpit, just behind the entrance to the plane. Above that desk he has three gauges: an airspeed indicator, an altimeter and a temperature gauge. Thus, as he writes, he can inform us of the plane's elevation and speed and what the temperature is outside his window. The chances are quite slim that Mr. Armstrong will ever decide to challenge those gauges or question their accuracy, after so many years of stability, and step outside the plane to find out for himself! But that is precisely what some have done. They allowed themselves to fall victim to a deadly form of dizziness and have aborted their flight. They decided to change their spiritual trim-tab settings and are now grossly off the course. Too many have allowed themselves to doubt and question God's leaders, to let human reason dull their spiritual thinking, forgetting that God chooses whom He wants to do His Work.
Captain of our salvation
There are aisles in our lives. And there is a Captain walking up and down those aisles, stopping to ask how we are and expressing concern for our welfare. He is not, however, the captain of a physical aircraft, possessing limited capabilities. He is the Captain of our salvation (Heb.2:10)! Jesus Christ — that Captain — never changed His attitude. He withstood every adversity, accepted every insult and experienced every tribulation, without ever altering His good attitude. Subsequently, we can trust in Him for our safety. David was called "a man after God's own heart." David had sinned, but repented. He was "a man after God's own heart" because his attitude was right with God. God looks on the heart — the attitude. Christ walks with us, asking us to check our trim tabs, spiritually. He wonders if some of us are as "heavy as a 747" because our attitude is not proper. Remember, He said: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:28-30). We can trust the Captain of our salvation. Christ knows that the apostle of our day — Herbert W. Armstrong — won't change the course He has set. Mr. Armstrong has followed the biblical admonition to "Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good" (I Thess. 5:21). He has checked and rechecked and has set his attitude accordingly. We may have the same confidence as Christ has, "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). It all depends upon our attitude!