Give a gift of spiritual encouragement through your words.
It was a place nobody ever wants to be in. During a routine climb-out from LaGuardia Airport in New York City, the 155 passengers aboard U.S. Airways Flight 1549 suddenly heard two loud bangs and felt the aircraft start to shudder and slow down—a bad sign. Behind the locked door in the cockpit, two pilots were furiously running through an emergency engine restart procedure. It didn't work. At 3,000 feet, instead of producing 24,000 lbs of thrust, the GE turbofan engines on Flight 1549 were dead. The U.S. Airways Airbus was now a 170,000 lb flying rock, and descending rapidly.
Within seconds, Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger took the controls for a flight he had been preparing for all his life. The flight radioed the tower: "Hit birds. We've lost thrust on both engines. We're turning back toward LaGuardia."
Of course, by now you probably remember what is now well-known as the 2009 "Miracle on the Hudson." Instead of trying to force the falling aircraft back to the LaGuardia airport, Captain Sullenberger made the split-second decision to attempt what is now called "the most successful ditching in aviation history." Utilizing the full spectrum of state-of-the-art emergency controls on the Airbus 320, Captain Sullenberger skillfully brought the plane down safely in the Hudson River near New York, saving all 155 passengers and five crew members.
In the aftermath, some investigators questioned the wisdom of Captain Sullenberger's decision to ditch the aircraft in the Hudson River. They thought he should have tried to land at a nearby airport.
Which option would you have chosen if it were up to you? Land in the Hudson or try to make it to an airport where there were emergency resources?
Investigators decided to conduct flight simulations to determine the answer. They then tried a full-scale simulation four times, and all four times the pilots landed "safely" at an airport. However, that wasn't really fair. The pilots flying the simulation all knew in advance that they would lose their engines, so they immediately "turned back" while trying to restart the engines in the simulation. So the investigators tried it again, without the new pilots knowing anything was going to happen.
The result? The pilots all spent about 25-30 seconds trying to restart the aircraft before deciding to turn around and fly back. Thirty seconds is not much time. You've probably spent more time than that reading this.
So what happened? In all four simulations with the 25-30-second difference, the plane crashed. Everyone was killed. Captain Sullenberger didn't wait 30 seconds. Based on deep experience and advance preparation, he made his decision and acted. And everyone lived.
Is there a spiritual lesson here for us? Can we ever have an opportunity to do something during a mere 25-30 seconds that will make the difference between life and death?
We read in the Amplified version of the Bible that "A word fitly spoken and in due season is like apples of gold in settings of silver" (Proverbs 25:11A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. See All...). Words have power. Words have high value. Spoken in the right moment and the right time, the Bible says that words of encouragement can change—and save—lives.
The Hebrew word for "fitly" in this verse is used only once in the Bible. This word means to be placed in a timely fashion, at the moment when it will have its greatest impact. It implies that careful preparation has already taken place, much like the years of training that Captain Sullenberger underwent before his fateful moment of testing. It shows that words powered by Godly preparation and appropriately spoken can completely transform a situation.
To achieve this, can we be better prepared? Can we humbly pray for opportunities to serve through encouragement? Can we seek in advance that our speech may mirror what God or Jesus might say (Colossians 4:6Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. See All...)? When we see a face reflecting downtrodden thoughts, can we take 25-30 seconds to give full attention, genuinely express concern, and after careful listening, try to give a gift of a sincerely encouraging word?
Have you had a moment, a 25-30 second period of your own, where your life was changed? Can you pass that gift on?
Today, can we make the choice to give a gift of spiritual encouragement through our words? As Captain Sullenberger showed us all, 25 seconds can change—perhaps even save—a life.
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