My Dad spent 35 years in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, most of them in the cockpit. While he started off his career as a regular Mountie working out of a detachment, in 1975 he started flying RCMP aircraft out of Regina, Saskatchewan. Most of his flying life was spent in the captain’s seat of the venerable DHC-6 Twin Otter. This 19-seat twin turboprop was the hardy Short-Take and Landing (STOL) backbone of the RCMP fleet for many years.
Most of the time, my Dad flew single-pilot. However, whenever I had time off from school, Dad would often let me tag along. Usually sitting in the right seat, I flew with my Dad all over Western Canada. During these flights, I was able to watch how Dad did his piloting.
Dad was the safest pilot I’ve ever known. I never felt in danger when I was with him. He finished his career with tens of thousands of hours and an immaculate safety record. Dad was always strictly by-the-book. He never cut corners, never took short-cuts, never took risks, never broke the rules just because no one was looking. What I saw in the cockpit was self-discipline.
Let me give just one example of that. One of the key ingredients for aviation safety is the checklist. In the old RCMP Twin Otters, the checklist was mounted in the middle of the yoke. It was low-tech, just a little black box with rollers at the top and bottom. You would twist the knobs of the rollers to make the paper checklist inside go up or down. In two-pilot operations, the co-pilot would read off the checklist items while the captain would action them. However, the RCMP seldom did two-pilot operations on the Twin Otter. So, if he wanted to, a single-pilot could fudge on the checklist. He could just try doing it from memory or skip certain items if he thought they were unimportant. No one would know. But Dad never did that. Even when he was flying single-pilot he always rigorously followed the checklist routine. I’m convinced this self-discipline is what helped him have the good safety record he did. There’s a saying, “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots. But there are no old, bold pilots.”
If you were flying somewhere, wouldn’t you want a pilot like my Dad in the cockpit? If someone you love was boarding an aircraft, you’d want to have a pilot with the greatest measure of self-discipline. The safest pilots are the most self-disciplined pilots.
There’s safety in learning self-discipline. God says in Prov. 26:28, “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” Self-discipline or self-control is like a wall, providing safety and security.
One aspect of the fruit of the Spirit in Gal. 5:23 is “self-control.” The opposite of self-control is found in the dangerous works of the flesh in the preceding verses, things like sexual immorality, fits of anger, drunkenness, and orgies. These things are like a demonic form of the explosive C-4, highly destructive. If we’re Christians, the Holy Spirit can grant us this gift of spiritual self-discipline to keep us safe. We ought to pray for it, but we’re also to strive for it. This is why 2 Pet. 1:6 says we’re to make every effort to supplement our faith with self-control. We’re called to do it. But how?
Sinclair Ferguson once said that the hardest word for Christians to learn is “No.” We have to learn to say “no” to our sinful desires, to control them and rein them in. One of the ways we can do that is by developing healthy spiritual disciplines, like reading and memorizing Scripture. The Holy Spirit uses God’s Word to help us grow in self-discipline. When you say “No” to a sinful desire, you can apply God’s Word to reinforce your renunciation of that desire. For example, if you struggle with sinful sexual desires, you can memorize and apply 1 Cor. 6:19-20, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, whom you have from God? You are not your own. You were bought with a price, so glorify God in your body.”
Finally, let’s remember how Jesus was and is the ultimate self-disciplined man. He was always in control of himself and that’s part of the gospel. There’s safety in his self-discipline. In the eyes of God, all his righteous self-discipline is credited to me. And – this is so wonderful — all my lack of self-discipline was nailed to the cross with him. I’m forgiven. Now because I love him, I want to live as a self-disciplined disciple of his. It’s safest for me, but also safest for everyone I’m called to pilot as a leader in my home and in my church. Pray it with me, “Lord, with your Holy Spirit, please give me more self-discipline. Your way is always the safest way. Amen.”