Have you ever wondered why some people fall away from their faith, and others, despite great difficulties and suffering in their life, remain strong in their Christian belief? Let me share an analogy I heard not long ago that address that question.
There was a man who was on an airline flight. After the aircraft took off and reached cruising altitude, one of the stewardesses came to him and offered him a parachute. She explained to him that it would improve his flight in many ways. Grateful, the man took the parachute and secured it to his back, adjusted the shoulder straps, and checked various ties to make sure it was secure. He sat back down, but quickly realized it was very uncomfortable to wear a parachute and attempt to sit in a small airlines seat. He was hunched forward and very uncomfortable. He got up again and made several adjustments. He began to question what the stewardesses said about it improving his flight. He took off the chute and just held it in his lap, which was more comfortable, but really not very practical. What good is a parachute that you hold in your lap if the plane goes down? After a while people began to look at him and ask him questions about why he had a parachute. He explained that it was supposed to improve his flight, but everyone just rolled their eyes and went back to doing their own thing. Some passengers even began to laugh at him for being so foolish as to carry a parachute on an airlines. The man tried to stick the chute under his feet, but it was way too large for that to be practical. He finally put it back on and just stood with it. The straps hurt and were uncomfortable in a very short time. Everyone was staring at him, some laughing and even mocking him. Finally, he just ripped off the parachute and threw it on the floor and announced quite loudly how stupid it was to think it would improve his life.
Another man on the very same flight in the back of the plane was also offered a parachute. The difference was this time the stewardess said the parachute was something he was going to need. That in a short while the aircraft would crash and he could jump out and save his life. Wide eyed and thankful, he took the parachute and strapped it on. He double and triple checked the straps to make sure it was properly and securely attached to him. He sat back down and quickly realized it was uncomfortable and not very practical to have on and sit in a small airline seat. Nevertheless, he sat forward concentrating on the fact that in a very short time this would save his life. The straps began to hurt his shoulders and even across his sides, but he did not worry about such minor irritations. He was focused on what was going to happen and how thankful he was to have such a life saving device. People around him began to talk and point, some even laughed at him, but he remained steadfast and focused on what lay ahead. 1
What was the difference with the two men? Both were on an airplane. Both were offered a parachute. The difference was that one was offered a parachute with the suggestion that it would improve his flight. The other was offered a parachute as a life saving device. Obviously, for the first man the parachute did nothing to improve his flight. It caused all kinds of inconvenience, discomfort, and embarrassment. For the second man, it caused the same inconvenience, discomfort, and embarrassment, but he had entirely different motives or mind set for wearing the parachute.
People who become Christians often have one of the two similar mind sets, and depending on which it is will determine if they remain a Christian or step away from their faith. Think back to when you became a Christian. What were your reasons or motives for accepting this particular faith? So often, those that become Christians thinking that Jesus will improve their life leave their faith, frustrated, disappointed, and hurt. Sorry folks, but if you become a Christian, you have no promise of a better standard of living. You can still get sick, have accidents, lose your job, have over whelming debt, fights with your teenage children, your husband or wife, arguments with your mom or dad. You can still get F’s on exams you REALLY have to pass, but did not study for. Your computer can crash and you can lose all your work. Your car can still break down and make you late for your appointment, or have really lousy days where nothing seems to go right. Accepting Christ into your life is not about improving your life, but about saving your life. If you have expectations about Jesus making all things right in the here and now, you may be in for some serious disappointment. We do though have the promise that He helps us get through everything.
I remember quite well when I was saved. It was after listening to Hal Lindsey, author of the Late Great Plane Earth, give a talk to a large congregation. After his talk, I was so scared I practically ran down the aisle to be saved when he gave an altar call.
William Lane Craig wrote in his book, Hard Questions, Real Answers, “The Chief purpose of life is not happiness, but the knowledge of God.” “…people tend to naturally assume that if God exists, then His purpose for human life is happiness in this life. God’s role is to provide a comfortable environment for His human pets. But on the Christian view, this is false. We are not God’s pets, and the goal of human life is not happiness per se, but the knowledge of God-which in the end will bring true and everlasting human fulfillment.” 2
Look at marriage for example. What is the primary reason people get married? If people get married to increase human flourishing and raise children to better society, then a culture would make divorce more difficult. If people get married for personal happiness and emotional satisfaction then divorce would be, (and is), much easier. 3 Look at students who do homework. Most do homework because they have to, because they are motivated in various ways, (reward or punishment), to get it done, while a select few are self motivated and a parent rarely has to encourage them. They are all doing homework, but the reasons why they do homework will range over a wide area, and their reasons will often determine how successful a student will be academically.
The current world record holder for the mile time is Hicham El Guerrouj from Morocco, with a 3 minute and 43 second time. Imagine you stood in line to run with mile with several others. You happen to represent Christianity, different runners in line representing their own religions, Hinduism, Islam, Jehovah’s Witness, New Age, Buddhism, and others. Everyone was told that if they ran hard, ran fast, gave it a good effort, had a good attitude, treated the other runners kindly, then one of them who met the conditions would get into heaven, (Sorry pluralists, not all religions can be right).
But then the judges all gathered around you, the Christian. They explained you will be judged differently, and you only had one condition to meet. Great! For a moment you’re thinking you have it easy, and the others were to be the losers for sure. Then the judges told you your single condition. You had to run the mile in under one second. Before you could protest, with your mouth open in shock, they stepped back and fired the shot to start the race. That is the difference between Christianity and all other religions. In other religions, we must work toward God and make efforts to bridge the gap that is between us and God. In Christianity, Jesus bridges the gap, because without him it is impossible for us to meet the conditions. Have you ever lied? Have you ever stolen? Have you ever use the Lord’s name in vain? In Matthew 5: 27-29 it says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old,‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” None of use can meet these conditions, any more than someone can run the mile in under one second. Thankfully, with Christ, in the above set of conditions, the next moment we would experience would be our standing next to Christ, across the finish line. After a moment, you would hear the echo of his grace and forgiveness, sounding like the shot of a gun fired a mile away.
1. The Way of the Master. Dir. Duane Barnhart. Perf. Kirk Cameron, Ray Comfort. Way of the Master.com, 2005. DVD
2. Craig, William Lane. 2003 Crossway. Wheaton. Print.
3. Keller, Timothy. 2008, Penguin Group. New York. Print.