“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Acts 20:28
Be On Guard – Autopilot. When you hear that word, what do you think? Do you see the captain eating a meal in first class on a flight from New York to London? Do you see the executive officer reading a book while the ship cruises along? Or maybe the image is a little closer to home like setting the cruise control on your car and then taking a nap. You couldn’t imagine any of these things. “Autopilot” doesn’t replace vigilance. It only assists in the routine tasks.
When Paul uses the Greek word prosecho, he has a nautical term in mind, but he never intends us to think of “autopilot.” The verb means to hold a ship on a particular course. Applied to our lives, it means to steer in the same direction with constant attention to course correction. Paul reminds his brothers and sisters in the faith that before anything else, they must carefully watch where they are going. This implies that it is fairly easy to get off course. All you have to do is let go of the wheel for a few minutes and the natural forces will take over.
Our relationship with God does not have an “autopilot” button. We steer a course every moment. That doesn’t mean we are burdened with a mountain of rules and regulations. Everyone knows that driving in a straight line takes the least amount of effort. But let go of the wheel for more than a few seconds and you will be required to exert considerable force to get back on track. Prosecho is easily accomplished when you pay attention to the direction. That’s why the commandments are directional signals, not roadside barricades. That’s why the Spirit employs chastisement rather than vengeance. That’s why Jesus offers to bear the yoke with us, not push us out on our own.
One of the slipperiest slopes in Christian living is the manna slide. You know, the lesson that there is only enough grace for today. More often than not we seem to think that we can save up a little grace for tomorrow. We turn on cruise control and think that somehow we can manage a few days without constant attention to course correction. We get busy. We get tired. We get discouraged. We flee to the numbing agents of life, rather than take a tighter grip on the wheel. And pretty soon, we’re heading for the ditch. God is good. He allows both gentle and vigorous corrections. He even gives us a push sometimes. His plan is always “steady as she goes.” When you think about it, it’s amazing that we even let ourselves activate the autopilot. We certainly know better. I don’t think it’s just laziness. I think it’s the result of sin attention deficit. It’s awfully tempting to just take a little time out, to turn away from the struggles and cruise. It doesn’t ever seem to work out very well, but apparently that doesn’t really stop us. Once again we are reminded that the work of the Spirit is very rarely an intellectual exercise.
If you don’t feel His hand on your shoulder or His guidance at the wheel, then you better check the compass.
Topical Index: Direction