During our recent Crusade in Corpus Christi, Texas, I had an opportunity to speak to pilots in training at the Naval Air Station in Kingsville.
These are some of America’s finest young men and women, and they are following in the footsteps of some of our nation’s greatest aviators and leaders. Among the thousands of military pilots who earned their wings in the Corpus Christi area are both Presidents Bush and pioneer astronauts Alan Shepard, John Glenn and Neil Armstrong.
To earn their wings, the pilots train for more than a year in situations that demand excellence and push them to their limits. They learn how to handle the world’s highest-performance fighter jets in the most extreme circumstances and must make 10 solo landings on an aircraft carrier before they graduate. Only then do they receive the winged gold pins that distinguish them as pilots.
They literally work their way up.
In a sense, we all like to think we “earn our wings” when we achieve goals and objectives in our lives. Some people also think this way in spiritual terms, trying hard to work their way to salvation.
That doesn’t fly with God. Salvation is not something we can earn through good works. The Bible says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV).
As I congratulated those young men and women for all they have accomplished and all that they stand for, I also challenged them to remember the powerful truth of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (KJV).
The greatest accomplishment of all time was what Jesus did for us on the cross at Calvary. Christ’s death paid the penalty for our sins, and the Bible makes it clear that salvation is a free gift and must be accepted as such through simple faith: “We … know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 2:15-16, NIV).