A Great Light

I am the way… (John 14:6a)

I first began flying airplanes over 25 years ago – before position-awareness technologies such as satellite-based navigation and terrain-enhancing moving maps were common. One of the many requirements for my FAA (private) pilot’s license was completion of a “long cross country” – flying solo. The last leg of my journey was planned over northeastern Michigan, from Alpena to Tri-City Airport (KAPN-KMBS), navigating primarily by sight – or visual reference to the ground. Such operations are classified as “VFR” (operated under Visual Flight Rules) and supplemented with aeronautical charts.

Enroute home on the last of my three leg journey, I still recall how quickly it had become dark. There were no sources of ambient light – no moon, and no cities or highways, often useful in verifying direction. Instead, only miles and miles of dense forest that somewhere merged beneath me into the vast, blackened expanse of Lake Huron to the east. Above me and below – hard pressed on every side (2 Corinthians 4:8a) – the darkness seemed to consume me. I grew hesitant, uncertain of my course.

…If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks in the night, he stumbles…  (John 11: 9b-10a)

As I flew southbound a light was visible in the distance. Growing brighter as I watched and flashing steadily as if to beckon, it was quite different – set apart – from all others. Seeming familiar, I wanted to turn the airplane toward the light. Becoming hopeful, my heart quickened…could this be my destination?

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light… (Isaiah 9:2a)

Light has long been used as a source of guidance for pilots.

May 15, 1918: Takeoff on first official air mail on Washington-Philadelphia-New York route. The pilot lost his way and landed twenty minutes later in Waldorf, Md., breaking prop blade; the flight was cancelled.  (Photo/caption: www.airmailpioneers.org)

The first navigational beacons were actually bonfires maintained at strategic locations along air mail routes. Intended for conspicuity, a beacon is designed to draw attention, giving direction to those searching for their way. Throughout the Bible, God uses light to guide mankind – revealing His way. Indeed, He has provided for us a great light by which to navigate this journey…a marvelous light:

…that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light… (1 Peter 2:9b)

Like the bearing pointer of an ADF (Automatic Direction Finder) – an aircraft navigational instrument used to find the location of a radio beacon – the Bible always points to Jesus Christ, regardless of our heading. He is a beacon for those who choose to search for and to follow through the darkness of this world. Jesus, Himself, declared:

“I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Even after years of flying experience, and equipped with the sophisticated technologies of modern airliners, I still cherish the peace and reassurance that comes when calling my home field beacon “in sight,” especially after a long journey. But as I flew solo through the darkness in that little Cessna, I had no such confidence. Was the light I saw my destination? My heart told me it was, but in my flesh I was anxious.

For you will go before…to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:79; Emphasis mine)

I began to contemplate the other lights that twinkled in the distance. They competed for my attention, as if to draw me away, offering something better. Hesitant to commit to the beacon, I considered the likely scenarios of pressing on:  landing at the wrong airport…running out of fuel…crashing… Surely, I faced certain death (or, at least, great embarrassment…)! Nevertheless, languishing in indecision, fear crept in as the darkness enveloped me.

…they grope in the darkness with no light… (Job 12:25)

Video Note: As the sun Son comes, the fog begins to burn away! (Check out the sheep wandering around the approach end, 00:04 mark – Great video!)

Throughout the Bible, darkness is representative of evil and deception; of living in the flesh, in sin and disobedience.

…the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light…For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light…” (John 3: 19-21)

Darkness is the path to destruction and we all have sinned (Romans 3:23)…we don’t want to fall short of the glory – or the airport! But pressing on in our sin, choosing to live in darkness, we remain lost – sure to perish.

Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery ways; in the darkness they shall be driven on and fall in them…  (Jeremiah 23:12)

I needed to make a decision… Just then, I heard a voice calling out to me on the aircraft’s VHF radio.

Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it…” (Isaiah 30:21)

It was the air traffic controller monitoring my flight. Knowing I was a “student” pilot, he had been watching me carefully and with his help, he confirmed and (mercifully) vectored me to the light – my destination!

…God watched over me…by His light, I walked through the darkness… (Job 29:3)

I chose to follow the Controller with the knowledge that He had my best interest at heart. It was a humbling experience, but I was very thankful to be headed home – following His instruction!

…He will guide you into all truth… (John 16:13a)

Just as I needed to identify and turn toward my home beacon that night – in life – we each must decide to earnestly and continuously pursue the light of the world – Jesus Christ. By His word, the God of all Creation, promises to deliver us from the darkness. As Paul experienced, enroute to Damascus:

“…as I journeyed…along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining…I heard a voice speaking to me…rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose…I will deliver you…to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” (Acts 26:12-18)

Video Note: Landing at dawn, KPDX, Runway 10R (Fruit of the Spirit: patience – worth the wait).

As Christians, we have been called out of the darkness and delivered for a purpose – to fulfill the Great Commission, so that people will turn from darkness and to His eternal and marvelous light!

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20)