As I boarded a plane last week, the pilot called my name. He was standing in the cockpit entrance, greeting passengers.
“Well, hello, Max.” I looked up. It was my friend Joe. My old friend. He is the Methuselah of the airways. He’s been flying forever. He flew transports in Vietnam and has logged a bookful of hours as a commercial pilot. He’s faced every flight crisis from electrical storms to empty fuel tanks. He is a good pilot.
And he is a friend, a good friend. He’s not my neighbor, but if he were, our property value would increase. If I were in the hospital, he’d keep a bedside vigil. If I were on vacation, he’d keep my dog. If I offended him, he’d keep his cool until we could talk it through. He could no more tell a lie than a mosquito could sing the national anthem. He never swears, gets drunk, cheats, or swindles. He is that good. He is good—good in skill and good in heart.
We chatted for a few minutes, and I went to my seat with a sense of assurance. What more could I request? I thought. The pilot is experienced and proven. Even more, he is my tried-and-true friend. I am in good hands.
The knowledge came in handy. An hour into the flight we hit a wall of winds. People gasped, dentures rattled, and the attendant told us to check our seat belts and rosary beads. I’ve had smoother roller coaster rides.
Unlike the other passengers, however, I stayed calm. I didn’t have a death wish, but I had an advantage. I knew the pilot. I knew Joe. I knew his heart and trusted his skill. Joe can handle this, I told myself. The storm was bad, but the pilot was good. So as much as one can relax in a squall, I did.
Friend, it’s a stormy world out there. Every day brings turbulence. Moody economy. Aging bodies. Declining job market. Increasing street violence. The question during these troubling times is this: Do we have a good pilot?
The resounding response of the Bible is yes!
You are good, Lord. (Psalm 25:7)
Good and upright is the Lord. (Psalm 25:8)
You, Lord, are forgiving and good. (Psalm 86:5)
God is good – good in skill and good in heart.
Most people suffer from small thoughts about God. In an effort to see Him as our friend, we have lost His immensity. In our desire to understand Him, we have sought to contain Him. The God of the Bible cannot be contained. He brought order out of chaos and created creation. With a word He called Adam out of dust and Eve out of a bone. He consulted no committee. He sought no counsel. He has no peer.
I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me. – Isaiah 46:9
The greatest kings have surrendered their crowns. Alexander the Great is a mound of dust in a tomb. The queen of England is called Her Majesty, yet she must eat and bathe and rest. The True Majesty, on the other hand, is never hungry. He never sleeps. He has never needed attention or assistance.
From the tiniest microbe to the mightiest mountain,
He sustains everything by the mighty power of His command. – Hebrews 1:3
He has authority over the world and…
He has authority over your world. Your sleep patterns.
Your eating habits. Your salary. The traffic of your commute. The arthritis in your joints. God reigns over all these. He’s never surprised. He has never, ever uttered the phrase “How did that happen?”
God’s power is unsurpassed.
And His heart is unblemished.
There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. – James 1:17 MSG
He has no hidden agenda or selfish motive. He loves with a good love and forgives with a good forgiveness. Good as in “beautiful, best… bountiful.”
God’s goodness is a major headline in the Bible. I think I know why. If God were only mighty, we would salute Him. But since He is merciful and mighty, we can approach Him. No wonder the psalmist invited,
Taste and see that the Lord is good. – Psalm 34:8
A glimpse of God’s goodness changes us.
God’s unrivaled goodness undergirds everything else we can say about prayer. If He is like us, only slightly stronger, then why pray? If He grows weary, then why pray? If He has limitations, questions, and hesitations, then you might as well pray to the Wizard of Oz.
However, if God is at once Father and Creator, holy – unlike us – and high above us, then we at any point are only a prayer away from help.
When I was fifteen years old, I inherited a Rambler station wagon from my big brother. Look up the word jalopy in the dictionary, and you might see a picture of the car. Faded paint, standard shift on the column, worn interior. It wasn’t much to look at, but it was mine. My brother was heading off to college in his graduation present, a used Plymouth. And I was entrusted with the Rambler. I remember the passing of the keys.
“You have to keep gas in the tank,” Dad advised.
“Air in the tires.”
“Can you change the oil and keep the car washed?”
“Of course I can,” I lied. Truth be told, I didn’t know the difference between a manifold and a windshield wiper. Which was odd since my dad was a mechanic. He made a living repairing oil field engines. And he made a hobby out of rebuilding car engines. He worked with machines like Monet worked with colors – daily and delightfully. He tried to teach me the trade, and I tried to learn, but when it came to machines, my brain was Teflon. Nothing stuck.
I wasn’t about to tell that to my father though.
My ineptness surfaced the following Saturday. Dad reminded me that it was time to change the oil in the Rambler.
“Do you know how to do it?”
“Yes,” I answered.
“You want me to help you?”
I should have said yes.
I spent an hour beneath the car looking for the oil pan and another hour wrestling with the plug. I finally removed it, drained the oil, crawled out, and poured in five new quarts. Finished at last.
Or so I thought. Dad was waiting for me in the garage.
“Then what is that?”
He pointed to a river of oil running down the driveway – clean oil. I’d forgotten to replace the plug in the oil pan.
“Max,” he said, “we need to talk.” He walked me over to his oil field pickup. He opened the side panel and showed me the trays of tools. He began to describe the purpose of each. “I use this one to remove valves, this one to tighten clamps, this one to attach hoses, this one to…”
He took me tool by tool through his truck. After what seemed like an hour of show-and-tell, he closed the cabinet, locked it, and looked me straight in the eye.
“Son,” he said, “I fix things for a living. What is hard for you is simple to me. I may not be good at everything, but I am good with machines. Let me help you. I’m a mechanic. And, besides, I’m your dad.”
I never spilled another drop of oil. (Of course, now I pay the guy at the lube store to do the work.)
Here is what I think: our toughest challenges are simple oil changes to God.
Here is what else I think: a lot of us make unnecessary messes. But we can change that. May I make a suggestion?
Before you face the world, face your Father.
Here is how it works. It’s a Monday morning. The alarm clock lives up to its name. Clang! Clang! Clang! You groan, roll over, and sit up. In the old days you would have made the coffee, turned on the news, and begun your day with a briefing on the toxic problems in the world.
But today you turn to the Pocket Prayer. Still half asleep you take your coffee, and you lumber toward a chair and take a seat. You don’t look like much: face pillow creased, hair smashed. No matter. You haven’t come to look at you. You have come to look at God.
Father, my Daddy… The words come slowly at first. But you stay at it. You are good. Your heart is good. Your ways are right… The words stir you. Something within begins to awaken. The weather is bad, the economy is bad, but, God, you are awesome.
Don’t underestimate the power of this moment.
You just opened the door to God and welcomed truth to enter your heart. Faith sneaked in while despair was dozing.
Who knows, you might start to worship.
Father, You are good. Good enough to love me, care for me, and come for me. You are good! An arch of Your eyebrow, and a million angels will pivot and salute. Every throne is a footstool to yours. Every crown is papier-mâché to Yours. You have no questions, second thoughts, or backward glances. You consult no clock. You keep no calendar. You report to no one. You are good!
Is your world different because you prayed? In one sense, no. Wars still rage, traffic still clogs, and heartbreakers still roam the planet. But you are different. You have peace. You’ve spent time with the Pilot. And the Pilot is up to the task.
My friend Joe, as it turns out, got us through the storm just fine. He landed the plane and stood in his cockpit door as we exited the flight.
“Got a bit choppy there, Joe,” I commented.
“Yeah,” he agreed. “Were you scared?”
“Not really,” I replied. “Everything changes when you know the pilot.”
Excerpted with permission from Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer by Max Lucado, copyright Thomas Nelson, 2014.
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Lord, You are good… What a powerful prayer! Do you start your day telling God that you know He is good? Do you know that He is good? Even in the storm you are in? Come join the conversation on our blog! We would love to hear from you about the Pocket Prayer! ~ Devotionals Daily