Flight Instructors (and what they have to do with Barnabas’s Behavior)–Acts 11:19-26

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In our last post from the book of Acts we saw how God used suffering to accomplish good in the world and how God uses suffering to accomplish good inside of human beings, including you and including me. If you’re interested you can learn more here: Why I’m Glad I’m Suffering–Acts 11:19-21.

In today’s post we’ll learn about the way flight instructors communicate to their student pilots, and what that has to do with how Barnabas communicated with the earliest Jesus followers.

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.

Acts 11:19-26

Flight Instructors and Fragile Students

A few months ago Gabe decided to learn how to fly an airplane. He thought I might enjoy it too so he invited me to join him. He’s ahead of me in the process but for the last few months now we’ve been training in Cessna airplanes to become pilots. My nephew’s son Hayden, who wants to fly for an airline, has also joined us for a few training sessions.

What I want to share with you today is how absolutely amazed I am with our flight instructor Tyler. What blows my mind is the way he communicates with his students. As you might imagine, there’s little about flying an airplane that feels natural. Around the time of the invention of the airplane there were those who said, if God intended for man to fly He would have given him wings. (On the other hand, some pilots today say if God had intended for man to remain on the ground — He would have given him roots.) Anyway, the situation in an airplane is such that the stakes are high, because if you do something wrong and fall out of the sky the consequences are serious. To put this in perspective, for every 100,000 cars 11.9 people die in automobile crashes. For every 100,000 motorcycles 58 people die in motorcycle crashes. For every 100,000 light airplanes, 127 people die in airplane crashes. So there’s no getting around it. Flying a light airplane is dangerous. Our instructor, Tyler is obviously aware of his students’ concerns about this danger. And because of that danger he makes it his mission to build a healthy confidence (not hubris but confidence) in his students. And the way he does it is fascinating.

But before I share Tyler’s way of communicating, I have to confess something to you. I can have a tendency to pick things apart sometimes. Maybe you do to. And when I try to help someone I sometimes start with what they’re doing wrong. But this is the exact opposite approach from Tyler’s. Tyler always starts with what we’re doing well. And almost anytime we do something well — often not even exactly well but trending in the right direction — he’s very intentional about pointing that out. When we do something wrong, he usually remains quiet. And when he doesn’t remain quiet, he’s gentle and encouraging when he corrects our mistakes. There’s a reason for this. His goal is for his student to become a competent and safe pilot. And that’s not going to happen unless that student becomes comfortable at the controls of the airplane. For that reason Tyler is very affirming and encouraging. I can’t imagine a flight instructor with a focus on what I’m doing wrong — I’m new so, there’s plenty of material there. I’m pretty sure if a flight instructor took that approach, they’d have plenty of room on their calendar for new students. There’s a certain fragility in student pilots and what I see from flight instructors in general and from Tyler in particular is that they’re aware of this fragility. They know how fragile their students feel at the controls of that airplane. And they work toward building up their students, eliminating that fragility. The effectiveness of this approach astounds me. The fruit I’m seeing from this approach is remarkable.

Affirming Fragile Believers

Which brings us to Barnabas. Barnabas gave generously from the very beginning of the Jesus movement. He supported Paul when the apostles were all afraid Paul was still Saul the relentless Pharisee who hunted down believers. Paul had few friends during that time but Barnabas was one of them. In today’s passage we see Barnabas encouraging the believers in Antioch regardless of whether they were Jews or Gentiles. Barnabas was humble in his assessment of his own abilities to teach the new Jesus followers in Antioch so he travelled 100 miles to the North (no small undertaking in those days) to bring Paul down to help, and then he and Paul supported the group in Antioch for a whole year. It was Barnabas and Paul who delivered famine relief from the believers in Antioch to the believers in Jerusalem. It was Barnabas who supported John Mark when Paul found him disappointing. Barnabas was instrumental in sharing Jesus with people in Cyprus, Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. Barnabas was “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.” How many people does the Bible describe like that? (Acts 4:36-37, 9:26-27, 11:19-26, 11:30, 12:25, 13:1-3, 13:4-14:20, 14:26-27)

We’re All Fragile

So here’s something I wish I had know when I was younger but I didn’t realize until just a few years ago:

We’re all fragile.

And here’s something about Barnabas:

Barnabas seemed to recognize we’re all fragile.

And this awareness seems to shape the way he approached people. He was almost always affirming and encouraging. He was aware of the fragility found in every human being he encountered, and he worked toward building people up, he supported people, he gave people strength.

And the fruit we see from this approach is remarkable.

“Father, please have mercy on me and the person reading this right now. We’re too quick to pick apart the ideas, opinions, and efforts of others. We’re too slow to affirm and encourage. There’s so much more fruit that could be born for You if we were more like Barnabas in the way we relate to others. Have mercy on us and send us Your Holy Spirit to change us. Please do whatever is necessary, even if it means hard things, to change us into the likeness of Your Son Jesus.

“In Jesus’ name we ask.

“Amen.”

Notes:

Accident statistics via AVweb YouTube video: “Thought About a Helmet for Flying?“, March 27, 2022

One Comment on “Flight Instructors (and what they have to do with Barnabas’s Behavior)–Acts 11:19-26

  1. Pingback: Truly a Christian, Literally–Acts 11:26 | God Running

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