Bill Scott, a West Virginia preacher, relates an incident told by a helicopter pilot who flew from an aircraft carrier in the Pacific.
“I was flying the helicopter back to the ship when a blinding fog rolled in. Flying at a low altitude, I knew that a single mistake would plunge my crew and me into the ocean. Worse yet, I was experiencing a complete loss of balance — which is common for pilots flying by instruments. This loss of balance was so bad that despite the instrument readings I was certain that I was lying on my side.”
“For 15 minutes.” the pilot agonized as he relied solely on his instruments. He admitted that he fought” the urge to turn it according to my feeling.” Then suddenly when they broke safely through the fog, he said, “I was deeply thankful I had been trained to rely upon my instruments rather than on my feelings.”
Religiously, too many people rely on undependable and fleeting feelings. Erwin W. Lutzer was right when he wrote, “A Christian life based on feeling is headed for a gigantic collapse.” Or crash.
I’ve had Christians say, “I don’t feel saved,” because the fog of doubt, discouragement or even despair has enveloped them. They’re allowing a temporary emotion to cloud what they know is true.
On the other hand, I’ve heard of people basing their salvation on some hyper-emotional experience. One lady described her salvation experience at a religious revival as an out of body experience. She said she felt like she was floating on air. She felt as light as a feather. She felt something she’d never experienced. She felt like she was saved.
When a preacher questioned if she really was floating, she admitted she wasn’t. He delicately asked the slightly over-weight woman, if she was as light as a feather, she curtly replied, “No.” “Well maybe you’re not saved either, the preacher suggested.
The Bible teaches that “we walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Faith is the solid foundation of our eternal hope. The Bible says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).
Furthermore, our faith is founded on facts. We’re not flying blindly into clouds. We have our “instruments,” to guide us. God’s revealed Word. The Bible tells us that we’ve all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). But He loves us and wants us to be saved (Jn 3:16). That’s why Jesus Christ died for our sins (Rom 5:8). And his triumphant victory over death through his resurrection assures us that we too will be raised (1 Cor. 15).
The book of Acts tells the story of salvation. People who received God’s saving grace heard the Gospel of Christ. Believed. Repented of their sins. And were baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2). As a result, God added them to the body of the saved, called the church (Acts 2:47). Those are the facts.
Interestingly, when people by faith obeyed the gospel, a good feeling followed. Sinners saved like the Ethiopian Treasurer “went on their way rejoicing.” Your conscience will be clean and clear (1 Peter 3:21). Like the man who found the lost sheep or the woman who found the lost coin, you will share your excitement with others (Lk. 15:7-10).
Faith generates joy (Phil. 1:25). And even allows us to face life’s troubles and trials with a joyful spirit (1 Pet. 1:7-9). There will even be occasions, like in the parable of the prodigal son, where a Christian goes astray. Leaves the Father. And goes into the far country of sin. But when the wayward one returns there will be tears of joy. And a celebration when they come home.
True Christianity is not devoid of emotion. But our feelings are based on faith and rooted in the reliable facts of the gospel. Objective Truth must not be subordinate to our feelings, moods, and opinions.
The connection between these concepts is summed up in this short verse by an unknown author.
Three men were walking on a wall,
Feeling, Faith and Fact,
When Feeling got an awful fall,
And Faith was taken back.
So close was Faith to Feeling
He stumbled and fell too,
But Fact remained and pulled Faith back,
And Faith brought Feeling too.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman