The Eagles Flight Academy
Text: – “Deuteronomy 32:11” – “like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft”
During the winter of 1940 Josephine Kuntz’ husband, a house painter and textile worker, was temporarily unemployed because of the weather and a seasonal lay-off. It was a difficult time for the family. They literally had no money. Their eighteen-month-old daughter, Rachel, was recovering from pneumonia and wasn’t doing well. The doctor insisted Rachel eat a boiled egg each day, but even that was beyond their means.
“Why not pray for an egg?” suggested a friend. They were a church-going family, but the idea of actually praying for their needs was something they had never really considered. Josephine wasted no time. On her knees she prayed that God would provide an egg each morning for her daughter.
Later that morning Josephine heard some cackling coming from the hedge fence in front of their home. Among the bare branches sat a fat red hen. (This is a true story.) She had never seen this hen before and had no idea where it came from. She just watched in amazement as the hen laid an egg and then proceeded down the road. In a moment, the hen was gone but an egg sat in her yard.
What do us do under such circumstances but thank God? The next day Josephine was startled once again to hear cackling in the hedge. The red hen came by every day for over a week and repeated this routine. Each day little Rachel had a fresh boiled egg. The little girl got better, the weather improved, and Josephine’s husband went back to work. “The next morning, I waited by the window and watched,” Josephine says, but the red hen did not return.
God takes care of His people, and though we don’t always see it in such striking and noticeable ways, the Bible promises that He will take care of those who are His.
There is a beautifully graphic description of God’s care for Israel over in the 32nd Chapter of Deuteronomy. I would like to show it to us, then pick out one aspect of it that pictures how God lovingly brings about change and maturity in the lives of His people.
Let’s turn in our Bibles to “Deuteronomy 32:9-14”
“For the LORD’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance. In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft. The LORD alone led him; no foreign god was with him. He made him ride on the heights of the land and fed him with the fruit of the fields. He nourished him with honey from the rock, and with oil from the flinty crag, with curds and milk from herd and flock and with fattened lambs and goats, with choice rams of Bashan and the finest kernels of wheat. You drank the foaming blood of the grape.”
The passage goes on to say that, despite all God did for Israel, they ultimately turned away from Him and turned to idols.
What I want to zero in on is verse 11, the statement that pictures God’s care being like to the eagle caring for her young. Let’s read it again.
“Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions.”
What a beautiful picture of how God deals with his people! A mother eagle training her young to fly. In the same way the eagle deals with her young, God dealt with Israel and deals with us today. Let’s look more closely at the picture which, in this message, I’m calling “The Eagles Flight Academy.”
There are at least seven stages that a young eagle goes through when learning to fly. These stages are also evident in God’s “training” us to live the life of faith. That is the basis of the comparison. As I describe them to us, listen and see if we recognise any of them in our life. I’ll give them to us first, then come back and explain each one.
The seven stages are: –
- Direction Change
First, then, we’ll consider,
1. The Demonstration Stage
As the time draws near for a young eagle to begin flight training, the mother eagle will frequently push off from the perch where the nest is and hover above her young. In response, the eaglets begin to flap their wings wildly in imitation. It’s as natural and instinctive for them as breathing.
That is what verse 11 is referring to when it says the eagle “hovers” over its young. At this stage, the eaglets don’t have enough feathers to fly, but they begin to develop their wing muscles. The key word here is demonstration. The eagle demonstrates flying for her young and they imitate her in response.
What a great picture to describe what God has done for us through Jesus! Jesus came to earth as Immanuel, “God with us…” the Bible says. He demonstrated the kind of faith and life we should be leading.
We read in “Romans 5:8” that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
In “1 Timothy 1:16” we read, “But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” – NIV
God hasn’t left us to figure things out on our own. He has cared enough about us to give us a living demonstration. Remember when Jesus said, “If we’ve seen Him, we’ve seen the Father”? Jesus was and is the perfect and indispensable demonstration of how we should live the life of faith.
We know, among Churches of Christ in the past, we’ve spent a lot of time in Acts and the Epistles learning about the structure of the church. That’s great. We should do that. I wonder, though, if we’ve spent as much time as we should in the Gospels, getting to know Jesus? Do we put forth as much effort in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, as we do in Acts?
Paul told Timothy in “2 Timothy 2:8” – “Remember Jesus…” We must not forget the One who is the embodiment and demonstration of all we are called to be!
The next stage in the training of young eagles, and God training us is what I’m going to call
2. The Discomfort Stage
In verse 11, it says, “Like an eagle that stirs up its nest…”
It’s one thing for those young eagles to flap their wings in the security of their down-filled home. It’s quite another for them to move to the edge, look over, and imagine stepping out on nothing! Naturally, they don’t want to do it. So, the adult eagle does something the young eagles won’t understand until later. She begins “stirring up” the nest! She actually begins to poke through the bottom and tear the nest apart. The young eagles are literally forced to fly.
What often happens to us at this stage of God’s teaching the faith-life is that we begin to be bothered about something. We recognise that something isn’t right. We begin to get a little worried, a little anxious. There is a growing uneasiness in us. Something is out of whack and we don’t quite know what it is, or if we do, we are ignoring it.
Like Job in “Job 30:27”, we might say, “My heart is troubled and restless…”
It can be about anything that is bothering us.
- A relationship.
- An unfulfilled dream.
- A stress in our lives.
- A fear.
- A weakness.
- An indulgence.
We find ourselves thinking, “One of these days I’m going to have to start working on that.” The trouble is, like the eaglet is reluctant to get too close to the edge of the nest, we, too, are reluctant to move out of our comfort zone and face whatever it is.
This is God stirring up our nest. He’s getting us ready for change. He wants us to face something we’ve not faced before, so He makes us uncomfortable. Do some of us know what I mean?
Perhaps He wants us to face our neglected finances. Maybe it is a relationship he wants us to mend or maybe even one He wants us to break off. Whatever the case, there is a growing discomfort and uneasiness in us that is hard to ignore.
We know, the sad thing is that some people live their entire lives in this stage. They cling to their nest like terrified eagle chicks, afraid to do anything about their problem. They’d rather live with discomfort than risk flying. “At least the discomfort is predictable,” they think. “If I were to change, who knows what might happen?”
When we find ourselves stalled at the discomfort stage, we might understand why God brings us to the next stage of our learning. I’ve called it
3. The Danger Stage
Eventually, in the case of eagles, the mother eagle gets all the kids out of the nest. We know that for sure. Have we ever seen a full-grown eagle still perched in the nest of its parents, peeping like a baby for them to bring him something to eat? No, we haven’t, because one way or the other, he gets booted out of the nest with nothing between them and the hard ground but air.
He either learns to fly or falls to his death. Eagles weren’t meant to be nest-sitters. They were meant to fly! This danger stage isn’t mentioned directly in verse 11, but it is certainly implied.
Now, what does that say to us? What I think it says is that God often allows a danger or a crisis to come into our lives that moves the issue we’re ignoring off the back burner. He sends us a wake-up call.
- Suddenly, the pain gets so bad we can’t ignore it anymore.
- Suddenly we get fired.
- Or we have an accident or a serious illness.
- Perhaps a spouse threatens to walk out.
- A creditor starts foreclosure.
Like the eagle’s nest, the bottom falls out from under our lives and we realise we’ve got to do something – fast!
It has probably happened to all of us. It happened to King David. In “Psalm 119:67”, it says, “Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I keep Thy word.” It took a crisis of affliction to show David the need to learn to keep God’s word.
If we are in a crisis right now or have had one recently, could this be the reason? Is there something we’ve been ignoring? Remember, God wants us to fly, not flutter in the nest. He wants us to grow up!
Well, the danger stage quickly moves us on to the next stage in our training, whether we like it or not. I’ve called it
4. The Decision Stage
The nature of danger or a crisis is that it forces us off the fence or, to use our analogy, out of the nest. We have to decide, “Am I going to move ahead or am I going to retreat? Am I going to face this or try to run away?”
With the nest suddenly gone out from under him and the ground coming up fast, the young eagle has a choice to make. He realises, “I’ve got to do something – Now!” So, he chooses to fly or fall – to soar or smash on the rocks below – literally, to live or die.
God often forces us to that place, have we noticed? Especially if we are reluctant to grow or pay attention to the need to grow.
If we are ignoring what we know is right, whether we are a Christian or not, what is it going to take to get us to come to a decision?
Is God dealing with us right now? Is this the issue? Is it our stubbornness or neglect? When will us decide?
The next stage is so close to the decision stage that I was tempted to put them both under the same heading, but there is a difference I need to point out, so I’ve called the next stage,
5. The Direction Change Stage
The young eagle, falling fast, has decided he must do something. What is it? He must change direction! He must start going up instead of down.
When we’re talking about our response to God’s dealing with us, the decision stage and the direction change stage are called repentance.
Repentance is a decision to turn away from evil and turn back to God. It takes place in the mind. In that way it is a decision, but since it is a decision to change, there will soon be a direction change that results.
Sometimes we are reluctant to change direction. Often it is because we haven’t really made a decision to change. Oh, we were sorry things were the way they were. We even cried some real tears over it. But we never really turned loose. We never really changed our minds.
Often Christians struggle with sin. They are sorry for the struggle. They don’t like the prospect of the consequences. They might even come forward in Church and let the whole Church know. But there is no direction change as a result.
Paul warned us in “2 Corinthians 7:10” – “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”
According to that verse, us can have two people side by side who are sorry about their sins. Looking at them, they both look like candidates for eternal life. Yet, one of them goes to heaven, the other goes to hell. The difference? One of them had a sorrow that produced repentance – a change of direction. The other was just sorry. There was no repentance.
What are we talking about? We’re talking about God teaching us to fly – to live the faith life in a way that is pleasing to Him and brings us to maturity. He uses these stages to do it: –
- Direction Change.
There are still two more stages before we will be competent fliers. Bear with me, they’re short. The next is:
6. The Doing Stage
The adult eagle can teach her young to fly but she cannot fly for them. They must do it. Have we ever seen two adult eagles flying piggy-back? No! neither have I. It doesn’t happen. Flying takes effort on the part of everyone.
The Bible says in “Galatians 6:5” – “Each on shall bear his own load…” In the realm of our learning to walk the Christian walk, we must put forth effort. The very common “do nothing” religion around us is false. It is an aberration of the devil. It is a cheap substitute for the faith of the Bible”.
Does this mean that we get to heaven on our own merits? Not at all! But God wants us to learn to fly.
Consider this: –
- God often gave his blessings in Scripture while the recipients of the blessings were in the midst of obedience.
Remember when Israel crossed the Red Sea? Moses said, “Move forward!”The people obeyed. Then when the feet of the priests touched the water, it divided.
When they crossed the Jordan on their way to the Promised land it was the same way. They moved forward, put their feet in the water, and it divided.
When Jesus cleansed the ten lepers, he told them to go present themselves to the priest. Then, “as they were going, they were cleansed.” – “Luke 17:14.”
The eagle learns to fly by striving against the gravity that is pulling him down – in short, by flying.
This sixth step of doing is critical to the young eagle’s learning to fly and it is critical to our growing up in Christ. We need to get with it when it comes to doing right. It is also critical to the final step, which I’ve called:
7. The Deliverance Stage
This one is beautiful and it’s right in the text. Look again at verse 11: “He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions.”
I am told that the adult eagle will swoop down and catch her falling offspring on her back and carry them back up to the home perch. What a beautiful picture of what God does for us!
Paul told young Timothy in “2 Timothy 3:11” – “What persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord delivered me!”
In “Psalm 34:19” we read, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”
In “2 Peter 2:9” the Apostle tells us, “The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation…”
You see, God doesn’t leave us to do it on our own. It’s just that we must be about the doing in order for the deliverance to come.
The promise of deliverance is there. We must believe it and move ahead. We must be striving to fly even if we can’t quite do it yet.
Is God teaching us how to fly? If we are a Christian, there is no doubt about it! How is our personal flight academy going? Are we cooperating or copping out?
Have we seen any or all of these stages of God’s flight school in our life? We can be sure they are there now or will be there soon.
What is our attitude toward them? Are we focused on the goal of being able to go “solo” or are we clinging to the comfort of the nest? Be sure that God will stir it up if we are reluctant.
And maybe, just maybe, we’ve wondered what is going on in the midst of all this. Maybe we’ve had some rough times recently and haven’t been able to figure out why. Perhaps now we have our answer.
Be sure of these things: –
- God does want us to learn to fly.
- God will put us through His flight academy.
- We can ignore it, but that won’t stop the process.
- We can resist it, but that won’t stop the process.
- We can cooperate and learn to fly for Him!
Will us pray with me?
Lord, thank you for being patient with us. Thank you for not giving up on us even when we have not cooperated with you.
I pray that you will help us see your hand in our lives – even in the details. When we can’t see those details, I ask that you will strengthen us and help us to trust you.
Father, if there are people reading this today who don’t know or who have known you but for whatever reason have turned aside, I pray that you would help them to see you clearly now.
Draw them near to you I pray. Use this message, if it pleases you, to draw all of us to you. Thank You. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.