In undergraduate pilot training, no one ever mentioned an “autopilot.” Looking back on it, it makes sense that a student pilot ought to have to fly the plane by him/herself. However, after getting my wings, it did not take long for me to meet “George.”
Why “George,” you ask? Most agree the name came from the man who invented the autopilot, George DeBeeson, around 1931. Some believe “George” is a reference from the Royal Air Force in World War Two to the “owner” of the new invention, King George. However the name came about, to any pilot who has met George, he is really nice to know.
My first operational flying assignment was to the EC-121. I had to research in Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft to find out what one was. All through training, all my classmates and I were thinking “fighters” (F-4, F-105, etc.). But that Super Constellation was a beautiful four-engine propeller-driven airliner flown by TWA that the Air Force turned into an odd-shaped airborne early warning and control aircraft. It had two large radomes — one on top, one on the bottom.
We told curious civilians that we transported giraffes to the zoos. Actually, the airborne early warning was critical to our national defense during the Cold War of the 1950s-1960s. The EC-121s flew ten-to-twelve-hour missions along the East and West Coasts and the DEW Line to detect any incoming enemy aircraft. For the pilots, it meant flying in a giant racetrack “on station,” over the ocean or the Arctic northland for about ten hours. One of my favorite intercom radio calls was, “Nav (navigator), this is the pilot; where are we? I’ve got a right to know.”
As part of the checkout training we met “George,” the autopilot. George became a pilot’s best friend. George’s main job was staying on course and at the right altitude. So, instead of having to hold on to the yoke and adjust the throttles, the pilot just “turned on” George, pushed the set button and watched the beautiful sky and ocean … for ten hours!
George certainly made flying those long missions a lot easier. George was able to keep us flying in the right direction; kept us at the right altitude; carried a heavy burden, and; could even do it all in the middle of the night.
I could finish this article early by saying, “And so does God. Amen.” But, I am a Baptist, so I will keep on writing.
We had an inspirational Easter Sunday at the French Huguenot Church last month. We celebrated the great and mighty promises of Almighty God in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The Hallelujah Chorus was magnificent! Now we are in this exciting season in the Christian calendar awaiting the Day of Pentecost. This “waiting for the Holy Spirit” is kind of like not learning about an “autopilot” in pilot training. The Lord Jesus said, “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me.” (John 16:4b). Then Jesus said, “… it is to your advantage that I go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” What a great promise! Especially if you are wondering how am I going to make it through this challenging life. How am I going to keep going in the right direction and complete the mission to which I have been called? The Lord Jesus promised He would send us the Helper — the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is not a man-made machine that may fail on the journey. The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Triune God. Just as the Lord Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit came with power and might, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:4)
And the Holy Spirit did, and still is doing, what Jesus said the Helper would do in John 16:8-9. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin. That is good news. Imagine if God just let us all decide what was right and wrong according to me! All the selfish desires and mean prejudices would make this a miserable place to live. The Holy Spirit sends a “signal” to our heart that says “Sin … do not turn that way!”
Kind of like George, only with great and holy authority.
The Holy Spirit convicts the world concerning righteousness. I grew up in a very strict Christian home. Like my friend Lt. Clebe McClary often says, “When I was growing up, I had a drug problem. I was drug to church on Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night.” My parents made us walk a very narrow road that leaned toward “a list of rules — don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t dance, don’t chew …”
That list helped me grow up. I am thankful that along the road to Christian maturity, the Holy Spirit led me to Romans 14:17 which says, “The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” I am still learning to listen to Holy Spirit teach me concerning righteousness. It usually means remembering what my mother use to say about what to do about the choices in life, “It is in the Bible, son.”
The Holy Spirit convicts the world concerning judgment. Jesus said, “… because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:11) As we Christians like to say, “Hallelujah.” It is so good to know that the evil in this world will end, and the evil one is already judged. At the right time in God’s flight plan, the judgment will be final.
Jesus said, “He will glorify me.” With all the confusion in the world, the Lord Jesus is still the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Imagine being way up north, flying along the DEW line, and no one told you that “George” was in the cockpit with you. You had to fly the whole mission in your own strength.
Imagine believing that you had to please God in your own strength. That makes for some very tired and unhappy disciples.
Great news! Pentecost happened after Easter, and it happens every day. The Holy Spirit is here to fill you up with the very Presence of the Living God and guide you through the storms of life and even when the forecast is “Clear and a million.”
Chaplain Charles C. Baldwin (Major General, USAF, retired) is an ordained Southern Baptist minister. He and his wife, Anne, have been married for 49 years and have three children and ten grandchildren. He is serving as an associate pastor at the French Huguenot Church, Charleston, S.C.