“How did he do it?!”
The national media has touted Chesney Sullenberger as a national hero. The internet, newspapers, and television have all given him special praise. Even President Bush made a congratulatory call. The accolades are not unwarranted. Mr. Sullenberger, or “Sully” as he’s called by his friends, did something extraordinary.
He was piloting US Airways flight 1549 over New York City when his craft collided with a flock of birds. Moments later he somehow managed to land the crippled aircraft in the Hudson River without the loss of life or serious injury. It was an incredible effort. Many have deemed Sullenberger’s deed as “miraculous.”
But it really wasn’t a miracle. A miracle–in the Biblical sense–is not just something highly unusual, it is something that supersedes the laws of nature (Mark 16:17-19). If Airbus A320 had suddenly suspended in mid-air, that would have been a miracle.
But don’t misunderstand me; Sullenberger did something worthy of the laurels he’s received. What makes this real-life story so compelling is that he was uniquely qualified for this kind of emergency. He had been preparing virtually all of his life for this very kind of critical situation:
He had his pilot’s license by age 14 and was flying a crop duster in Texas by age 15. He has logged more than 19,000 hours of flight time. He was named “best aviator” in his class at the Air Force Academy. He had flown F-4 Phantom II fighter jets. He was a flight leader in Europe and the Pacific. He led war-game exercises over Nevada. He investigated air disasters. He mastered glider flying. He studied the psychology of how cockpit crews behave in a crisis. A few years ago he started a California consulting firm that offers companies ways to apply the latest safety advances in commercial aviation.
Chesny Sullenberger was ready. When the pressure was on, he called upon his years of training, expertise, and observation. Even when it was obvious the plane was going down, Sullenberger came over the intercom and calmly told the passengers, “Brace for impact.”
I hope the analogy is obvious. All of us face crisis in our lives (Jas. 1:2). ALL OF US. (If you haven’t, you will). Maybe it’s the untimely death of a loved one. Maybe it’s a crushing financial difficulty or loss of a job. Maybe it’s a serious, life-threatening illness. Maybe it’s a heart-breaking relationship problem. Maybe it’s a consuming addiction. Maybe it’s a combination of these frightening factors.
But why is it that some folks not only survive these predicaments, but they seem to somehow conquer them? In terms of this recent aviation accident, why is it that some saints manage to “land safely,” even under great duress, while others “crash and burn”? Why is it that some Christians continue to live devotedly despite incalculable pain, while their peers leave the Lord (Mark 4:18-19) and forsake the church?
The answer may sound simplistic, but it’s biblical. It’s a matter of FAITH. John wrote, “…This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our FAITH” (1 John 5:4; cf. 1 Pet. 1:6-7, emphasis mine–mb). Underline those words in your Bible. Repeat them slowly. Commit them to memory. “…Even our FAITH.”
Dear reader, are you preparing for that inevitable collision? Are you, like Chesney, training for the challenge of your life?
Some brethren spend a lifetime with a TV remote in their hand and ignore home Bible study; others skip Lord’s Day faith-enhancing opportunities, not to mention Wednesday night class. A few don’t even bring their Bible to worship. “Do I have to?” “Am I obligated to?” they cry. “Why do I have to read or study?” “I don’t have the time!” they insist. Then the collision comes and they do a spiritual nosedive.
155 people are alive today largely because Chesley Sullenberger knew how to react. That was no miracle; it was readiness.
“So then FAITH comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). Where’s your Bible?
Think about it.
“How did he do it?!”