Jesus Take the Wheel: Hot Air Balloon Edition

John Ortberg’s wife gave him a unique birthday present—a ride in a hot-air balloon. They went together to the field where all of the hot-air balloons were inflated, got into the basket, and the pilot began the balloon's ascent. It was beautiful. It was scenic. They could look out over the hills of southern California and see all the way to the ocean. It was a majestic sight!

John Ortberg was inspired and excited. Still one emotion tugged at his heart that he hadn’t anticipated—fear. The balloon basket went up about knee high; one good lurch and he would be in a free fall. He gripped the ropes with sweaty palms as his heart pounded in his chest.

In order to put himself at ease, he decided to get to know the guy flying the balloon. After all, they’d placed their destinies in his hands. Their very lives rested on the competence and character of this man.

John inched over towards him and asked, "What do you do for a living? How did you get started flying balloons?" He knew they were in trouble when his response began with, "Well dude, it's like this..."

He didn't actually have a job, he said; mostly he surfed. He said he began flying hot-air balloons after he was driving his pickup truck and had too much to drink. He had gotten into a rather bad accident and had injured his brother, who was no longer able to “get along too good.” He started flying hot-air balloons to give his brother something to watch.

"When we descend, if the descent is bumpy, it's because I've never flown this particular balloon before. I'm not quite sure how it's going to go when we go down," said the pilot.

John Ortberg’s wife whispered in his ear with thinly veiled panic in her voice, "You mean we're a thousand feet up in the air with an unemployed surfer who started flying hot-air balloons because he was driving his pickup truck and got drunk and crashed it and crippled his brother, and he has never been in this balloon before, and he doesn't know how to get it down?"

The bottom line for the Ortberg’s was this—could they trust the pilot? As Christians, this is our bottom line as well. The Bible even goes as far to say that “without faith it is impossible to please God.”

Life is full of all kinds of adversity. Sometimes we struggle because of painful situations, like conflict in relationships, a family crisis, a medical diagnosis, or being victimized by a natural disaster. Sometimes we struggle because we made bad decisions that were against God’s design for our lives.

During these times, we can begin to lose our spiritual strength to press on in faithfulness. When we forget about God’s amazing power, Isaiah 40 reminds reminds us to allow God to renew our strength and to recapture the joy of our walk with God.

If God measures all the waters of the earth in the measure of His hand; If God is the creator of wisdom
If the nations are like a drop of water in a bucket compared to Him;
If God placed every star in the heavens and knows each by name;
If God, who never grows weary or faint, yet is the Giver of all power and strength;
If God can create and sustain the entire universe,
then surely we can trust Him to strengthen and sustain our lives no matter the circumstances!

If we want God’s strength, we must “wait on the Lord” (Isaiah 40:31). We position ourselves under the authority of God.  Our posture is such that we ask boldly and confidently for God’s mercy and grace. We say to God, “Help my unbelief.” We ask God to make Him our treasure once again.  We are honest with Him. We walk in obedience as we wait for God to transform our hearts.

The late pastor Adrian Rogers said, “You can save a lot of time waiting on God.” We need God’s presence in our lives, and we need God to pilot our lives. Only then will be strengthened to begin to run again with spiritual strength and joy for God

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