In the good old days before we ever heard of terrorists and when commercial jet travel was only rarely interrupted by a high-jacking, I used to invite myself up into the cockpit. When Rose and I were on a flight from Rome to Los Angeles, I told the pilot that I was a student pilot and had a total of three and a half hours solo time. It was a thrilling business and pretty soon the pilot said, "Just out ahead and to the right you see the lights of Las Vegas," and before we knew it we were over Los Angeles and lights wall to wall.
Some time ago on our way to the Holy Land I asked permission to visit the cockpit in our El Al plane and I was invited to take the engineer's seat just back of the main pilot. They didn't hurry me and I took movies for quite some time as the two pilots carried on in Hebrew an animated conversation and then one pilot said to me in English, "We are right now flying over the mountains of Greece!"
The excitement and adventure and hazards of flying are something like the Christian's race toward heaven. Paul compares this life to a foot race where you, "run to win." "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." 1 Cor. 9:24-27.
As an 85-year-old pastor evangelist I still think of myself as a beginner in the deeper things of God. Eternity invites me into understanding more fully "hidden things and mysteries of God."
Back in 1932 a racing plane called the Gee Bee would top out at 298 mph. Jimmy Doolittle won in 1932 the Thompson Trophy and at speeds up to 296.2 mph.
An exact copy of the 1932 Gee Bee was completed in early 1991. This was an extremely strong airplane, designed to withstand 12g and a 450 mph dive speed. In the words of her pilot, Delmar Benjamin, "The Gee Bee copy is not so different from other fast planes cruising the skies, aside from the fact that you must fly it all the time."
The Gee Bee flies quite nicely with 450 horses at work. Delmar Benjamin while flying this plane is reminded constantly of the words of Jimmy Doolittle; "The Gee Bee must be flown with silk gloves and it is likened to balancing a pencil on the end of your finger."
The Christian life of a Seventh-day Adventist minister or Bible worker or college teacher can also be somewhat demanding. I have faced situations where humanly I could never pull through, but time and time again the dear Lord has made it happen, to His glory. All I know is we are nearing heaven's open gates.
Pilot Benjamin determined to fly home from the East Coast to his home in Oregon all in one day! "\ had just topped off the fuel (100 gallons) so I could run at full power in a race with the sun. The airplane was indicating 250mph on a crosscountry run. The line of thunderstorms I had been watching on the horizon towered 30,000ft above me. The highway I had been following disappeared into the center of a large storm cell."
Benjamin continues with encouraging words actually picturing the church leader's mind-set in his or her flight HOME: "In the midst of this battle I sat calmly, intent on the storms and the setting sun. On the horizon lay home, a meal, and a warm bed. We squeezed between the Bear Paw Mountains and the menacing, towering cumulus." All along I thought of my flight to heaven, thunderstorms and daily challenges. The ultimate arrival in heaven assured by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and was never far from my mind.
I smiled as I thought: Soon, I shall preach my last sermon, give my last Bible Study, write my last article and conduct my last baptism and heaven is my one and only goal. One of these days, as leaders and believers, we are going to blink twice and discover WE ARE HOME. No thrilling adventure story can begin to compare with the adventures God has in mind for His faithful.
Dick Rentfro is a retired pastor living in Thorp, Washington State, USA.