Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing conversation at The King’s University about the big callings God has for us. Inspired by the moment on an airline when God called Pastor Jack Hayford to start TKU, we want to know: What’s your 30,000-foot calling?
There are many anxieties that accompany flying. There’s the nervous tension of navigating airport security and the melee of sharing an armrest with a stranger. Midflight, you’re wondering if you closed the garage and praying your luggage will be waiting for you at your destination. Of course, there’s also the simple fear of, well… you know.
Simply getting on a plane demands a ton of faith. When I board a plane, I trust that the pilot’s skillset is dependable. I trust the aircraft has passed each of the mandatory inspections required by the FAA. I trust that the manufacturer didn’t cut corners. I trust that my seat cushion really can be used as a floatation device, that the people on the exit row will assist me, and that, in the event of a loss of cabin pressure, I really can “breathe normally.” However, there is one consideration that has never crossed my mind. In all my years of traveling, I’d never boarded a plane and given any thought to the gas gauge. Unlike my wife of more than 15 years (who I adore with every fiber of my being), I’m always keenly aware of how much gas is in my truck. Yet, I’ve flown hundreds of times and have never worried about the plane running out of gas, that is until I was on a plane that almost did.
A few years ago, I was returning from an international trip when our plane was greeted by a storm front. This weather system was hovering around our destination making it difficult for the pilot to land. It’s not uncommon for planes to circle their destination while waiting for clearance to land. However, after a lengthy transatlantic flight, our plane was running on fumes. Our captain calmly came over the intercom, informed the passengers that we were low on fuel, and explained that we were diverting to an alternate airport where we would refuel, wait out the weather, and eventually travel to our original destination. I’m happy to testify that our aviation maneuver was a resounding success, but this experience revealed something to me that is significant: there aren’t any gas stations at 30,000 feet.
Following Jesus and embracing a 30,000-foot dream will require faith. But unlike boarding an airplane, we will never reach our destination by indiscriminately jumping on-board like a passenger who’s just along for the ride. We must give careful attention to the fuel-gauge of purpose and calling, which requires vocational discernment, the jet-fuel for our 30,000-foot dreams. There are three characteristics of jet fuel that offer insights for realizing our God-given dreams.
Jet fuel is the consequence of two different fuels – blended together.
Perhaps you’ve thought of “rocket fuel” or “jet fuel” as a magical potion capable of generating colossal bursts of unstoppable power. I hate to disappoint you, but jet fuel is far more mundane and is more common to household heating oils. Jet fuel is a blend of high-octane gasoline (like you’d find at your local gas station) and kerosene (like you’d find in an old lantern). Gasoline alone doesn’t have the right chemical makeup for flying, and kerosene by itself doesn’t produce enough power. But together, these two common fuels (when properly blended) become capable of producing tremendous power.
No matter how “fiery” receiving a word from the Lord may be, we won’t be effective if we’re simply chasing our next explosive encounter. Likewise, while skill-development and working to refine our gifts are critical, talent alone will never produce the kind of power we need.
If we will steward the call of God that we’ve been given and blend it properly with our earthly skills, talents, and passions, it will produce a powerful and long-lasting energy source. Vocation is a fuel compound that can generate a deep sense of purpose, demanding careful consideration to how we handle our daily activities with respect to our work. As Frederick Buechner so eloquently wrote, “the place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
Jet fuel is extremely efficient.
The blending of kerosene and gasoline produces a higher “flash point” than conventional fuels. This makes it highly unlikely for accidental or unexpected explosions. This higher flash point also makes jet fuel more fuel efficient, and because jet fuel is less explosive, it burns smoother helping jet engines last longer. Also, the two fuels combined causes the price of jet fuel to be less expensive than conventional fuels. Although it isn’t cheap, jet fuel is still the best option for traveling long miles over an extended period of time.
Burnout can happen to any one of us. Unfortunately, it occurs in the lives of far too many followers of Jesus. We can help ourselves become less susceptible to burnout by ensuring that we’re burning the right fuel. When the source of our energy is linked with calling and vocation, we will not be volatile, but smooth and steady, causing our engines to last much longer.
The price of following Jesus isn’t cheap; as a matter of fact, it may cost far more than you bargained for. It will cost you everything. The price tag could mean surrendering your dreams for His greater purpose. Although the price of vocation is high, it is but a small price to pay in light of the eternal benefits we receive in exchange. Following our vocational calling means surrendering our lives, but the tradeoff means we won’t spend the rest of lives in pursuit of fulfillment. The result is more miles over time, or in the words of Eugene Peterson, “a long obedience in the same direction.”
Jet fuel is specifically engineered for higher altitudes.
The inner workings of car and jet engines are somewhat alike. Theoretically speaking, jets and cars can run on the same fuel, but the environments in which planes and cars travel are noticeably different. Jet fuel possesses a lower freezing point and is specifically blended for flying at higher altitudes where conventional fuels are more likely to freeze. In layman’s terms, just because it burns on the ground, doesn’t mean it’ll fly.
Living a life of purpose and meaning dictates that you and I elevate above what’s happening on the surface. It’s easy to get stuck on the ground and entangled by the cares of life. Ephesians 6:12 says, “for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Our mission isn’t on the ground, so conventional fuel won’t fly.
Any attempt of flying with ground level fuel will make us spiritually cold and cause our souls (mind, will, and emotions) to inevitably freeze over. God is calling us higher! He invites us to partner with Him in kingdom-minded work that takes place above the fray. Paul explains this in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 when he writes, “…our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” This eternal perspective Paul is describing makes the kind of fuel that we need. Discerning our vocation involves assessing what truly matters and determining what’s valuable. This prevents us from growing cold and crashing from low-level attitudes. Vocational discernment generates fuel that constantly burns hot, even in the coldest of conditions. The stuff happening around you or to you does not dictate the flow of fuel in your life! This fuel has been properly channeled and is tapped into endless reserves from the Holy Spirit.
Life at 30,000-feet requires more of us than just showing up, occupying a seat, and merely “doing our job.” The journey we’re on requires a specific kind of fuel, and don’t forget there aren’t any gas stations at 30,000 feet. With faithful vocational discernment, you won’t need one.