The Principles of Spiritual Flight

The Principles of Spiritual Flight

J. Boyd Nicholson

The author is a licensed pilot of much experience. He has flown hundreds of hours over mountains, deserts, and oceans. —Ed.”

“This article is submitted with apologies to those who know much more about these principles than the writer, and who will realize that the terms used are in their simplest form, in the hopes that they will help to illustrate spiritual values.”

It is not so long ago since the cry of a boy’s voice “Aeroplane” would bring other children, and perhaps a few adults, out into the street to watch a machine that looked like a few crates fastened together, with a fan on the front.

Nowadays those sleek silver machines that thunder overhead scarcely cause a pedestrian to raise a head unless the noise is unusually loud or different.

Yet, whether it is a motivated crate or a delta wing Jet, these machines fly by obeying the same laws of flight.

Aeroplanes are built to fly. They are ungainly and unhandy while on the ground, and that is what makes us think of the similarities between those flying machines and Christians.

Young man, young woman, you may sing with all your heart, “I am not under law, I’m under grace,” yet there are laws to which you must give obedience if you are going to soar the heights of spiritual attainment. Remember, you were made to fly.” It was never God’s intention that you should be “grounded”.

These laws of life are irrevocable, not laws of “Thou shalt not…” or “Thou shalt …” so much, but the obtaining of certain results by obeying certain known laws. For instance, if the result you wish to arrive at is to have many friends, then here is a law. “A man that hath friends must show himself friendly.” Or, if the desired result is that you be loved, then here is a law, “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall be also reap.”

Now, if the desired result in my Christian life is spiritual “altitude” then I must obey the laws of spiritual flight.

There are two “couples” of forces that apply to every conventional aeroplane. They are weight and lift, and thrust and drag. The progress of the aeroplane depends on the relationship of these two couples.

So it is with the Christian. By understanding the forces that affect us and by putting them in their proper relation one to the other, the Christian’s “altitude” and progress are determined. Let us see how these principles of flight illustrate the forces in the life of the Believer.

WEIGHT exerts its force DOWNWARDS, and is twofold, that which is INHERENT in the design and that which is ADDED.

Are we not all too conscious of the inherent DOWNWARD pull of the old nature, pulling us ever and always earthward? The natural tendency is to submit to the “gravity” of the world and if no overcoming force is utilized, DOWN we go. Our ambitions go down, our spirits go down, and our testimony goes down. Yes! the inherent weight of the old nature will pull us down. Let us not be deceived into thinking now we are saved, that the old nature is changed. Not a bit; it is capable, young man, young woman, of dragging you DOWN and smashing your testimony in a fearful way.

Added weight is obviously that which is put on over and above inherent weight. This too can be most distressing if not disastrous.

How then is this weight to be overcome? Again, there are two ways: one, by simply UNLOADING the excess weight. So it is in our spiritual “flight”. We are exhorted to “lay aside every weight … which doth so easily beset us.” To lay aside this weight it is needful to RECOGNIZE what it is, LOCATE it and TAKE HOLD of it and by a definite act of the will, LAY IT ASIDE. How do we recognize it? Is it a sin in the life? Not necessarily. It may be perfectly legal but just not conducive to spiritual progress. Anything that holds me down and tends to make me earthbound is a WEIGHT and should be laid aside.

The INHERENT WEIGHT, the old nature, cannot yet be laid aside, but it can be OVERCOME, just as weight is overcome by LIFT. How is LIFT in an aircraft produced? By a proper relationship to the airflow which sustains the aircraft in flight. So with us, the down-pulling weight of the old nature is only overcome by a proper relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ Whose presence is always available to sustain us.

How is this “LIFT” cultivated? “They that wait upon the Lord … shall mount up with wings as eagles”. By being in the proper environment and in proper relationship to it, an aircraft obtains the force that overcomes the downward pull of gravity. So with the Christian, young or old, time spent in the presence of the Lord in proper relationship to Him, will provide the power that overcomes the world.

Drag in the language of the airman is that force which resists the forward motion of the aircraft and tends to hold back.

How many things are there in our lives that can be called DRAG in the sense that they hold us back? Our full potential is never realized and our progress is slowed. How is DRAG overcome? By another force acting in opposition to it, called THRUST and this is provided by the POWER PLANT. Thrust is that force that drives the aircraft forward through the air, without which sustained flight is not possible.

Thank God! the POWER of the Holy Spirit in the life — when applied — is able to provide that mighty dynamic to drive the Christian onward in his spiritual experience. I say “when applied”, of course, for just as the mighty power of the latest Jet engine would be of no avail unless the pilot opened the throttle and applied the power, so the mighty overcoming power of the Holy Spirit is likewise as good as useless until it is appropriated and applied by simple faith. The pilot does not produce the power; it is all there; he simply has to use it. Oh, that we all could know more of this Power, effective in our daily lives, overcoming, driving us onward and upward into the clear blue sky of a victorious life!

There is a strange phenomena (indeed many) in the world of flight. This is, as lift increases so does drag increase. Think not, young Christian, that the day will come when, flying high and fast you will overcome the discouraging effects of “drag” and “weight”. Strange as it may seem, the greater your spiritual stature, the greater also becomes the sense of “weight and drag”.

As you grow in grace, so also grows your perception of evil within and without. The great and godly Apostle could cry “For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.” and “I find then a law, that, when I would do good evil is present with me.”

But we must go on and up; the alternative is to go down, down to the environment where you and I were never meant to spend our lives, down to where the gravity of this old world would anchor us to gaze wistfully up at others gaining altitude above us.

Altitude is a wonderful thing! It is an awesome thing! You cannot see the weeds in your neighbour’s lawn from the heights. Your vision is multiplied, your horizon more vast. You look down and see the pattern in things that look so confusing from ground level. You see, not the work of the sweeper, but the plan of the architect. It is the realm of the sunshine, and the air is clear, and there is a stillness unknown to the earth-dweller …

        … and … alas!

      there are not



“Lord help us soar
Into the high and open vaults,
And nevermore
Consume our lives on others’ faults.
O’ Power, do lift
Above these transient darkened things,
And thus to shift
Our gaze, and soar on eagles’ wings.”