2 Kings 5:1-9
Recently Justin Morrow flew me from the Jackson County Airport to the Troy Memorial Airport in Troy, Alabama so I could attend and speak at my high school English teacher’s funeral following our own church services here last month. Justin is a thirty-two-year old pilot that has been flying since he was sixteen. He learned to fly here at the Jackson County Airport and now flies some for American Airlines.
We punched through the clouds at a modest eight thousand, five hundred feet, collecting a little moisture on the windshield each time. We caught an unexpected tailwind on the way over and traveled at a maximum speed of 125 miles-per-hour aboard a 1975 Cessna.
The trip back was a little slower as we caught a headwind but a little smoother as darkness began descending on us. It was then that the obvious occurred to me. Every reference point a pilot relies on in the daytime changes. Now with darkness surrounding us, it was beacon of light or a well lit runway that become Justin’s reference points, not fields and bodies of water. Then I wondered, what happens when there are no lights, when it’s pitch black dark everywhere?
I remembered hearing years ago about John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife, Carolyn, and her sister Lauren and how they were killed when the plane Kennedy was piloting crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard at night.
Those who investigated the crash believed that Kennedy fell victim to spatial disorientation, which happens when it is so dark that pilots cannot tell where the horizon is in relation to the earth.
I asked my pilot if he’d ever experienced anything like this. He said once he was flying in the Everglades. He said that it was a beautiful night and the stars were shining bright in the sky and they were reflecting off the still, glassy water below.
“It may be the closest sensation I will ever have to flying in space,” he said. “If it wasn’t for my instruments panels, I would not have been able to tell up from down.”
As you might imagine, not being able to tell up from down is a problem for a pilot. However, what makes spatial disorientation so deadly is that sometimes pilots don’t know they are experiencing it.
Without visual references, false sensations are often generated in total darkness. A pilot may believe the altitude of the plane has changed when in fact it has not. This can lead to the pilot making a change that does the opposite of what he or she needs and the result is a crash.
Or the plane may make a slight change of altitude over a longer period of time which the pilot cannot detect. This can lead to a crash without the pilot ever touching the controls.
This kind of pilot error is most common in those pilots who have yet to become trained to fly by instruments only and also by those pilots who ignore adverse flying conditions because they don’t believe the conditions apply to them. They believe they can fly through, around, or above any trouble in the sky. They have a schedule to keep and they are going to keep it regardless. This behavior trait has been seen so often in dead pilots who refused to heed the warnings that it has been given a name: “get-there-i-tis.” http://aviationweek.com/business-aviation/spatial-disorientation-cockpit-quick-killer
They are too proud to say, “You know, that meeting is important, but if I’m not there, the company will survive. I’ll miss an important event. What’s most important is that I live another day.”
It’s not easy to let go of pride. If that Big I right in the middle of pride becomes big enough, it will be like a tumor that takes over a major organ of our body and chokes off our life source.
Pride can keep us from receiving love, peace, joy, mercy, grace, and friendship.
Pride makes us believe that we can become self-sufficient islands and that the keys to our success have nothing to do with God or anyone around us. We think it’s all about us.
In the Book of 2 Kings, there is the story of Naaman who was the commander of the army for the King of Aram. Naaman was a very successful commander, but he had a problem. He had leprosy.
Now if word had spread among Naaman’s men that he had this disease, that would have been a terrible thing. People were cast out of communities for having leprosy. People feared leprosy like we fear AIDS, or the Zika virus, or ebola.
So Naaman kept it quiet. His inner circle knew, but not those under him.
He heard about a man in Samaria that could cure leprosy from an Israeli servant girl who was serving his wife.
He was desperate for a cure, so he took a chance that she was right. Naaman got permission to go from the king and he took ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing and a letter from the king proving that even in that day the thought was that if you had enough money you could buy your way out of any situation.
Pride will do that. Pride makes us think we are above certain things. We think we are above an apology, accountability, or above the need for safety.
Accidents happen to others; they don’t happen to me. We are above falling into temptation. I can be isolated without becoming involved. We are above the truth. We don’t think we have to be forthright or forthcoming because that might be too painful or make us too vulnerable. We are above saying, “I’m sorry,” or “I was wrong.” That’s what pride does.
Naaman delivered the letter to the King of Israel. The letter read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”
Notice what the king of Israel did when he read the letter. He tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”
This king shows us something very important about letting go of pride.
1) Recognize that you are not in control of the situation. Pride says, “I’ve got this.” Humility says, “This is out of my control.”
2) In order to let go of pride we need to embrace God.
We cannot embrace God as long as we depend on our own judgment and abilities to move through life.
By recognizing that he was not God, the king was saying, “I cannot solve your problem. I am not God.”
So when Elisha heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: “Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.”
A prophet pointed others to God. A prophet helped people recognize their need for God.
So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house.
Naaman thought he was going to impress this prophet with all his important and with all the gifts he had brought. He thought this prophet would be coming out, bowing down, thankful for all he was being given, and that he’d say a few words, bless and heal him.
Instead, Elisha did not even come to the door. He sent a messenger to the door to tell the commander to “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”
Now Naaman is faced with one of the great lessons of his life. As a prideful man, Naaman was a man that walked by sight. He was used to having men in his army come back with scouting reports. He decided where to move his men on the battlefield based on what the scout had seen.
He operated from a position of strength, not a position of weakness. However, this prophet wanted him to humble himself, lay down his armor, become vulnerable, and wash himself in a body of water about as big as a Georgia creek! He was appalled.
When Justin Morrow was in the Everglades he had to use his instruments to fly. He no longer was able to rely on his senses. He could have been stubborn and said, “I’ve been flying this plane since I was 16 and I’m not going to change the way I fly.”
Instead, he trusted his instruments and he flew on faith. That made the difference in a crash and one that got him home safely.
A Christian should focus on the guidance of God’s spirit which requires faith, not sight.
The Bible tells us that if we do this, we are going to be guided to a different destination. The outcome for those who humble themselves will be different than for those who do not.
Naaman had traveled a long way but his pride almost cost him the chance to be healed. The directive to go and dip himself in the Jordan angered him.
He said that the Abana and Pharpar Rivers in Damascus were bigger and better than all the waters of Israel. He could have stayed home and taken a bath in one of those rivers.
But Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.” (2 Kings 5:13-14)
There is a legend that says Americans aboard a U.S. naval ship off the coast of Newfoundland sent a radio message to the Canadians: “Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.” http://www.snopes.com/military/lighthouse.asp
The Canadians responded adamantly: “Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.” (Ibid)
The Americans growing angrier got the captain involved: “This is the captain of a U.S. Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.” (Ibid)
Canadians: “No, I say again, you divert YOUR course.” (Ibid)
Americans sent this the last message in all capital letters: “THIS IS THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, THE SECOND LARGEST SHIP IN THE UNITED STATES’ ATLANTIC FLEET. WE ARE ACCOMPANIED BY THREE DESTROYERS, THREE CRUISERS AND NUMEROUS SUPPORT VESSELS. I DEMAND THAT YOU CHANGE YOUR COURSE 15 DEGREES NORTH. THAT’S ONE-FIVE DEGREES NORTH, OR COUNTER MEASURES WILL BE UNDERTAKEN TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THIS SHIP.” (Ibid)
This is one of the reasons Jesus tells us we should come to faith like a little child. Children usually have not had time for pride to build up in their lives. They come to Jesus with faith, unencumbered by many things that weigh us down as adults. Children are much better at accepting things on faith.
It’s another reason adults are more reserved. We are afraid to say that we need Jesus, that we love Jesus, and we want Jesus to save us from our sins, and lead us faithfully each day. We have too much pride.
So is there anybody willing to admit you’ve been trying to give directions to the Lighthouse? If so, then pray with me.
Prayer: Lord God, I confess it is not easy for me to let go of my pride. I like to be in control. I like to think I can carry the load myself. I’m not good at taking directions. Humility isn’t my strong point. So, this kind of prayer is not easy for me. However, I know that you see right through all my efforts to build myself up and then I come crashing down. Forgive me. I acknowledge that without you I can do nothing. Continue to be the Lighthouse in my life so that my pride does not become my undoing. Amen.