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by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” - Mother Teresa

April, 2001

Rev. Ron Newhouse tells the story of a new modern airplane that was on an experimental flight. It was full of reporters and journalists. A few minutes after the takeoff the captain's voice was heard from the loudspeakers: "I'm delighted to be your pilot, and the captain of this airplane on its first historical flight. I can tell you that the flight is going well. Nevertheless, I still have to tell you about a minor inconvenience that has occurred. The passengers that are sitting on the right side can see that the closest engine is slightly vibrating. That shouldn't worry you, because there are four engines, so you can feel perfectly safe. But, if you're looking at that engine, maybe you can notice that the second engine is glowing, or more precisely one could say that it's burning. That shouldn't worry you either, since there are two more engines on the left side.

"Those of you that are sitting on the left side shouldn't worry if you notice that one engine that is supposed to be on the left side has been missing for about ten minutes. But, I must ask for your attention of one thing that seems to be a little more serious. Along the aisle, all the way through the plane, a crack has appeared. Some of you are, I suppose, looking through the crack. You may be able to see the waves of the Atlantic. Those of you that have very good eyes can notice a small life boat on those waves. Well, ladies and gentlemen, your captain is speaking from that life boat."

I sent that story to my coworker, Rick, and his reply was, "Dave, lately I feel like I'm on that plane . . . Which side of the plane are you on???!!!"

We've all been on that same plane at one time or another. Each of us has asked "What's going on and where is the captain?" When the storms of life are raging and the winds are blowing, we wonder what is going to happen to us and who is in charge.

The earliest disciples had a similar experience. Jesus had been crucified and buried. It seemed as if the whole world was falling apart around them. There was a crack in the world and it was growing wider with every passing hour (Mark 16:9-11). The Pharisees were looking for them and they were afraid (John 20:19).

When things are going badly for us, it seems as if we can look one way and see calamity, the other way and see disaster, and if we look down we see certain doom, just like the passengers on the plane. But if we look up, we see Christ, risen in glory (1 Pet. 1:21). Our captain is at the controls and no storm is too fierce.

Corrie Ten Boom once said, "When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer." The train we're riding will go through many tunnels before it reaches the final destination. There will be many times of darkness to frighten us and test our nerves. But if we "sit still and trust the engineer," we'll be fine and we'll get where we're going right on schedule.

The disciples had forgotten Jesus was the one who raised Lazarus (John 11:1-45) and stilled the storm on the Sea of Galilee (Luke 8:22-25). When he had calmed the storm, he asked them, "Where is your faith?" (Luke 8:25a NIV). After his resurrection, "he rebuked them for their lack of faith . . ." (Mark 16:14b NIV).  Today, he asks us the same question: "Where is your faith?" He challenges us to "sit still and trust the engineer."

But there are others on that plane with us, who don’t know the captain is in charge. All they can see is the smoke, the flames and the crack in the floor. They have their eyes on the ocean and not on the sky. We need to tap them on the shoulder and say, "Don't look at the lifeboat. That's not the captain. It doesn't matter which side you're on, the captain is right here with us and he'll get us through the rough times." We know the true captain, the trustworthy engineer. It's our job to tell the other passengers about the one we know, so that they can "sit still and trust" him too.

"On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!' After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord." (John 20:19-20 NIV.)

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Copyright © 2001 by David Phelps