In the world of aviation, flying the proper course is extremely important for a pilot to arrive at his correct destination.
While in United States Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training, the instructors taught the students a very important formula: 60 to 1. The rule simply states that if a pilot departs a point and his heading is off by one degree, then once he travels 60 miles from his point of departure, the plane will be one mile off course.
Depending on your altitude, this is a minor error and the pilot can correct back to course very easily.
However, once you travel longer distances, the error increases quite a bit and subsequently, the pilot must make a larger correction. For instance, if a pilot flies 600 miles and is one degree off the intended heading, upon arriving, the pilot will be 10 miles away from the intended destination. Now the error could be sufficient enough for the pilot to miss the intended destination.
The aviation analogy regarding being off course can apply to our spiritual lives.
The writer of Hebrews in chapter 2, verse 1, states, "Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it." Just like a pilot not paying close attention to his proper heading towards a destination will drift, similarly, as Christ followers, we must pay close attention to our proper trajectory to Christ or else, we drift. Pilots ensure proper navigation to their destination by examining the aircraft's heading as they fly to their planned destination. Similarly, Christ followers must have the same checks in their lives and these checks come best through community.
Hebrews 3:12-14 guides the believer on how to maintain a correct course to Christ.
First, the writer warns the readers in verse 12, "Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God." Other translators say the verse begins with "watch out," or "beware." The author wants his readers to be acutely aware of the insidious nature of sin and the cause of falling away from God. Fortunately, the writer gives a correction or a preven- tative action to keep a person from an evil, unbelieving heart.
The author continues in verse 13 when he writes, "But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today,' that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Once again, this righting action demands that we live in community with other believers as we exhort, challenge and help each other every day so as not to have a hard heart toward sin.
Tom Schreiner in his commentary on Hebrews states the warning, "Sin may blind the reader to the danger before them … Advice, correction and encouragement from others are the means by which the deception of sin can be unmasked."
Hebrews 3:13 also points the readers to the immediacy of the corrective course by highlighting the word "today." The writer of Hebrews points the reader back to Psalm 95:7b-8a, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts" and reminds the audience of the time when the nation of Israel quarreled with the Lord (Exodus 17:7; Numbers 20:13). An urgency exists for the correction of a person's heart back towards the Lord, or as Bob Utley writes, "Now is the time for decision because there comes a time when continual rejection results in blinded eyes that cannot see."
Essentially, if we fail to submit to the course correction back to the Lord, then we get further and further off course.
This leads to verse 14 of Hebrews 3, "For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end." As Christ followers, we know that God sovereignly initiates our conversion to faith in Jesus Christ; however, we demonstrate that faith by "perseverance in our faith (fueled and motivated by God's grace)" and is our responsibility to do so. (Mohler, Exalting Je- sus in Hebrews, 2017) Thus, as Schreiner states, "The author calls upon the readers to hang on to their confidence until the end," the confidence which began with their walk with Christ.
Reaching the destination means staying on course. As a pilot, I don't want to fly to Destination B when my flight plan directs me to Destination A. For this reason, pilots make sure they fly the correct heading in order to arrive at the intended destination.
Likewise, God places Christ followers in community to exhort, challenge and help each other persevere in our faith in Jesus.
Are you off course? Get into community with the people of God, allowing them to help you back to your intended destination of Jesus Christ.
Dean Clark has more than 30 years of experience as a professional pilot in the military and in the airline industry. He is a recent graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a doctorate in education and leadership. Dean and his wife, Raina, live in Louisville and recently celebrated 28 years of being newlyweds