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Instrument-rated Living

January 5, 2018

“Lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him...” Proverbs 3:5-6

You’ve probably heard the expression “flying by the seat of your pants.” It smacks of living in a random, spontaneous, unconnected way. And, if I am being honest, there are times when that seems like a great option to me. My life is pretty organized and predictable and the thought of just flying free of all the schedules and daily restraints can feel quite appealing. But when you know what pilots mean when they caution against flying by the seat of your pants, you know that living life randomly by your own instincts and feelings can be a really dangerous thing.

There are two ratings for pilots. One is called VFR (Visual Flight Rating) and the other is called IFR (Instrument Flight Rating). VFR pilots fly by sight. And as cool as it may seem to fly on your own without restraint or direction, it can be disastrous. When you fly into a bank of clouds or into the darkness of night, you lose sight of points of reference. Studies show that at this point flying becomes treacherous because the pilot’s senses often become confused. A pilot who can’t see where he is going can actually think he is flying upward when he is really flying toward the ground. They call this “flying by the seat of your pants.”

An instrument-rated pilot, on the other hand, has been trained to read all the instruments and, with disregard to his feelings, fly by what the instruments say to be true. So, don’t ever get on a plane with a pilot who is only rated VFR!

And, I might add, don’t live like that either.

There is a huge parallel here. We can choose to live lives that are driven by random impulses and feelings or by a trusted point of reference. And here is a major warning: Without a trusted point of reference, we are all in big trouble. At the core we are fallen people. With great regret, I have come to realize that my first instincts in a given situation are usually wrong. They may feel right at the moment, but in the long run they prove to be destructive. That’s why the God who knows how dangerous we can be when we fly life by the seat of our pants warned, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12).

You wouldn’t want to fly VFR, so why should you want to live like that? Your trusted instrument panel is the Word of God! The God who knows our frailty has given us a point of reference for every situation of life. So, trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. No matter what you’re flying into—a tough meeting at the office, some dark seduction, the uncertain clouds of the results of your scan—fly by the totally reliable, always clear principles of God’s Word!

Enjoy the safe landing!


  • Take a few minutes and read Proverbs 3:1-35 in its entirety. How does God suggest that you order the details of your life?
  • In what ways do you routinely acknowledge the Lord, and in what ways do you fly more by the seat of your pants?
  • How do you know when you’re living by the principles of God’s Word and when you are going your own way, relying on your feelings?
  • Which do you believe is the better way to fly?