When I was in a squadron onboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), my office was right under the flight deck, between the catapults and the arresting gear. A carrier has about 300 feet of runway, approximately one-third of a land-based runway. The catapult is able to get a plane from stationary to a takeoff speed of 170 miles per hour in two seconds. (And it is very noisy.) A plane landing on a carrier has been called “a controlled crash.” The plane has to stop within 300 feet, which is inconceivable to land-based pilots. The arresting gear is a complex system of cables, gears, and hydraulics (or magnetics) that can convert a plane’s 130 mph kinetic energy into hydraulic energy in a matter of seconds, stopping the plane well within the 300-foot distance. There are three (or on older carriers, four) arresting cables across the deck. A plane has an apparatus called a tailhook that is designed to catch one of these wires, engaging the system. The pilot aims to catch the number two wire. If he catches the one wire, he came in dangerously close toKnowing of God and knowing the will of God are two different things. crashing into the ship. If he hits the three wire, he came in high. If the plane coming in at 70% power misses all the cables, the Landing Signal Officer orders “bolter” and the plane resumes full power and takes off to try again. The arresting gear cables had two connectors, one of which regularly hit the deck right above my office. During launch and trap operations, we had to wear double hearing protection.
As we go through life, God has provided us an arresting gear to help us land safely in heaven. His system involves three wires. Unlike a carrier landing, however, we need to catch all three wires to land safely.
It has also been said that a carrier landing is like landing a plane on a postage stamp; but the stamp is pitching, rolling, and moving away from you. That sounds a lot like life. Just when your GPS gets you headed in the right direction, somebody throws up a detour sign. When you think you have gotten your ducks in a row, they scatter in all directions. Life is hard. The tempter makes it harder.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. (1 Pet 5:8-9)
The devil doesn’t need to spend a lot of time trying to get most of the world to sin; they are willing to do it without much effort on his part. That means he can spend most of his concentration on Christians. Therefore, we need to keep our minds clear and our eyes open.
“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” (Jas 1:12) James assumes that temptation is a natural part of life. But he also assumes that God’s people will prove acceptable. We will have safely landed on that postage stamp, having caught the wires of the arresting gear. Scripture
Wire one is the word of God. Unlike a carrier landing, we don’t need to worry about crashing if we catch the first wire. It is the grounding on which the whole arresting gear system is based. It is how the Landing Signal Officer lets us know where we are in relation to the pitching deck of life.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Tim 3:16-17)
Without the scriptures we don’t know what is expected of us, and what we can expect of God. Paul told the Romans that it was possible for the Gentiles to know of God from looking at creation. However, knowing of God and knowing the will of God are two different things.
David knew the importance of knowing the scriptures that were revealed in his time. Every verse of the 176 verses in Psalm 119 mention the scripture using one or more of several words. Perhaps the best-known verse of that Psalm says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Ps 119:105) God’s word tells us how we are to travel in this world; how to navigate the pitfalls and twists of life.
One of the great functions of scripture is telling us of the gospel. It is what Paul calls “the power of God unto salvation.” (Rom 1:16) He further defines the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 as the death of Jesus for our sins, his burial, his resurrection, and the witness of people who saw him after his resurrection.
Scripture tells us of our need for a savior. It tells us about that savior. It tells us how to respond to that savior. Prayer
Wire two is communication with God. It is how we let God know that we are relying on Him to land us safely. Normally in a carrier landing, the pilot aims to catch the second wire. In life, however, we often skip this wire altogether.
Prayer is not unique to the Judeo/Christian/Muslim tradition. Some of the earliest recorded prayers are to the Egyptian gods. It seems universal that anyone who has a god prays to it. “They have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save.” (Isa 45:20)
Prayer serves several functions. It has been suggested that they fall into four broad categories suggested by the mnemonic ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. In practice, however, most people spend more time in the last of those, making requests of God. It has also been suggested that we should thank God for something as frequently as we made request for it.
There is, however, a certain aspect of supplication that may serve as the arresting gear against evil. Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matt 6:13) In Gethsemane as Jesus prayed before Judas betrayed him, he told Peter, James, and John, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt 26:41)
Somebody once suggested a version of the following prayer. “Lord, I haven’t offended anybody today. I have followed you in all things. But I am about to get out of bed now. Help me through the rest of the day.”
James advises that “The energetic prayer of a righteous man can do much.” (Jas 5:16) You have to catch the wire, though, for it to accomplish its purpose. Fellowship
Wire three is fellowship in the church. It is knowing that we have a whole crew of people wanting to help us land safely. During a trap on a carrier there is no single person involved in a safe recovery. The Landing Signal Officer lets the pilot know where he stands in relation to the flight deck; whether he is high or low, straight or off target. There are a whole complement of people, unseen, in the arresting gear room, making sure the hydraulics are working properly. There are plane captains and safety crew to direct the plane once it has been stopped. Even before the landing itself, there are air traffic controllers and the Air Boss in the tower, making sure the plane is on the proper approach path, and that no other planes are in the way. Landing a plane on a carrier is a dangerous but coordinated dance involving many people.
God did not leave us to find our way home alone. The church is vital to the safety of a Christian.
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. (Heb 10:24-27)
This writer points out reasons for our fellowship with the rest of the church. We encourage each other in good works, and we keep one another from willful sin. In addition,God did not leave us to find our way home alone. our regular participation in the Lord’s Supper reminds each other about the death of Jesus. (1 Cor 11:26) In congregational singing we are “teaching and admonishing one another.” (Col 3:16)
These are among the functions of our assembling together, but it doesn’t stop there. Our fellowship in the church must go beyond assembling one, two, or three times a week. James points out practical things we do for each other outside the assembly.
Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. (Jas 5:14-16)
Encouragement and keeping one another from sin are also not limited to the assembly. In this day, we have the advantage of being able to communicate with one another, privately or in a group, quickly. A phone call or video call goes both ways. If we are concerned about another Christian, we can call them and encourage them. If we are facing temptation, we can call somebody who can talk us down from the ledge.
We cannot survive in a vacuum. There may be circumstances, such as a pandemic, that make it difficult to assemble together. When it becomes a matter of safety or a temporary inconvenience we should not feel guilty about failing to join with the saints in an assembly. When that temporary situation is resolved, we must resolve to come together again. Otherwise we have missed the arresting gear and have to bolter; to go around, get into the pattern, and try again. If we don’t, we run out of fuel and crash. That is why God gives us multiple wires to catch us. He is “unwilling that any should perish.” (2 Pet 3:9)