On October 31, 1983, Korean Airlines flight 007 was on the last leg of a flight from New York City to Seoul, Korea with a stopover for refueling in Anchorage, Alaska. Unknown to the crew, however, the computer engaging the flight navigation system contained a one-and-a-half-degree routing error. At the point of departure, the mistake was undetectable. One hundred miles out, the error was still unnoticeable. As the giant 747 continued over the Pacific, the plane was drifting increasingly from its proper course. Eventually, the plane was flying over the Kamchatka Peninsula and into prohibited Soviet airspace. Soviet radar picked up the plane and two fighter jets were sent to intercept the plane. The fighter pilots tried to make contact with the passenger jet, but after failing to receive a response, one of the fighters fired a heat-seeking missile. The Boeing 747 was hit and plummeted into the Sea of Japan, and all 269 passengers on board lost their lives. If only the crew had known they had drifted nearly 200 miles off course, the tragedy could have been prevented.
In Hebrews 2:1, we find this warning, “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.” The phrase “let them slip” is more literally translated, “drift away from it.” As I pen these words, I am watching our nation drift from its spiritual foundation, and the church drift from “contending for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Drifting is a very subtle action that begins slowly, quietly, and attractively. Drifting is simply motion without feeling. Noah drifted in his prosperity, but was unaware of his nakedness. Samson drifted with his strength, but was unaware of his powerlessness. American theologian Donald Bloesch clearly illustrates why drifting is so dangerous, “The Christian way is not the middle way between extremes, but the narrow way between precipices.” Any righteous nation, church, or individual that drifts in their convictions will become darkened in their character and ultimately defeated in their cause. Ours is a society prone to following the trend-setting crowd. However, it bears noting that in Scripture, the majority was rarely right! Why is drifting unaware such a dangerous habit of our generation?
As we drift, discernment is impaired. In Mark 14, Jesus is in the garden Gethsemane just hours from the cross, and He has taken three disciples to pray with Him. Verse 40 then tells us, “And when He returned, He found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither knew they what to answer Him.” The idea is they were so sleepy that they could not discern the seriousness of the situation at hand. In 1952, engineers created rumble strips as a road safety feature to alert tired drivers when they drift out of their lane. They recognized that drivers in a semi-conscious state are clouded in both perception and judgment. Without a spiritual rumble strip, Jonah never saw the storm clouds gathering. Without a spiritual rumble strip, Samson never heard the enemy assembling at the door. Without a spiritual rumble strip, Balaam could not see what even his donkey could see…an angel with a sword drawn. Drifting always begins the moment we lose sight of the Lord. A man who cannot rightly perceive the Lord is a man who cannot rightly discern anything else in life!
As we drift, decisions are irresponsible. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 27:8, “As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place.” The word “wandereth” means “to stray, drift away.” Have you ever observed how cattle escape their fenced pasture? It’s not like one cow finds a hole in the fence and calls a meeting of the herd to let them in on the secret. A cow will drift from a clump of grass to another clump of grass until it comes to an opening in the fence. The cow then drifts to a clump of grass outside the fence and continues on until ultimately it is lost. Such was the case of Elijah who drifted in discouragement beneath the juniper tree when the angel asked, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” Imagine the prodigal son’s surprise when “he came to himself” and was eating corn husks with the swine. Do you wonder if Demas ever imagined that a little drifting toward pleasure would have left him back in the world and labeled a deserter? If only we, and cattle, understood a fence was never erected to deprive us, but rather to protect us. Adrian Rogers once said, “Never move a fence until you find out why the fence was put up.” It will forever stand true that when sin moves in sanity will always move out!
As we drift, disaster is inevitable. During the storm in Acts 27, the sailors cut the ropes and lifted the anchors and took their chances just letting the ship drift. The result was a shipwreck of colossal proportion. Drifting in our society is labeled “diplomacy” or “change”, but history has always defined it as “catastrophic.” The affects from drifting often have an outcome that is quite opposite of what was expected. Lot drifted toward the prosperity of Sodom, but oh, what it would cost him. Achan drifted toward the possessions of Jericho, but oh, how empty handed it left him. Solomon drifted toward the pleasure of many women, but oh, how miserable his latter days would be. It is interesting that a drifting ship is drawn toward the shallow waters of the shore, while a drifting swimmer is pulled into deeper waters. Either way, the result is disaster! Vance Havner once wrote, “Comfort precedes collapse.” There are far too many examples to remind us that those who veer from the course become vulnerable to conceit and are ultimately left a victim of corruption.
Recently, I saw a child so feverishly at play at a carnival that he never realized the string of a helium balloon had become unattached from his wrist. As I watched it slowly drift heavenward, I pondered what would be the destiny of that balloon. How high it would climb would also be the depth of its fall. The time spent drifting would also be the distance away from home. The Lord is gracious to allow us freedom to make choices in life. However, He does not let us choose the consequences for those choices. If our drifting is picked up on enemy radar, it is only a matter of time until we are awakened by missiles of reality. By then, it will be too late!
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2009 Alan Stewart
Alan Stewart: Dr. Alan Stewart has served as Senior Pastor of Rechoboth Baptist since December 1999. He attended The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Moody Bible Institute, Covington Theological Seminary, and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
Prior to pastoring the Tennessee church, Alan was an evangelist for 15 years. He has preached revivals/pastor’s conferences in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. He also preached crusades/conferences in India, Hungary, and conducted a crusade in South Africa in August of 2009. Pastor Alan is married to Jeanne, and they are blessed with two children – Sierra and Seth.