Recently, my second oldest son David decided to tandem skydive and invited me to come along. We had been discussing this for a few years and now the right opportunity had presented itself! It was a unique experience starting with the copious amount of paperwork you sign releasing the skydiving company from all liability. The message was that this can be a very dangerous experience where things can go wrong and you need to go into this endeavor with that understanding. To be forewarned is to be forearmed... fair enough. Next we suited up, put on a harness, received training on our responsibilities during the jump, boarded the small single engine plane and slowly climbed to approximately 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). This slow climb gives you additional time to reflect on what you are about to do.... that is, jump out of a perfectly good airplane!
Once at jump altitude the instructor had me squat on my knees facing away from him and then he connected to my harness at both of my shoulders and both of my hips. I realized at that moment that those four connections were the only thing that attached me to the instructor who had the main and backup parachutes strapped to... his body. That is, if they were to come unattached then I would not have a parachute to arrest my fall!
Next the thin Plexiglas door, that I had been seated next to, was then opened exposing me to the 100 mph (~161 kph) wind created by the speed of the airplane. I was then instructed to place my feet on a small metal plank just outside the airplane door. Yes, my mind flashed back to a picture of some poor soul being forced to "walk the plank" in the days of tall ships! It took considerable effort to keep both feet on the metal plank with the wind attempting to push them off. The instructor then directed me to cross my arms over my chest as I sat on the floor of the plane with my feet on the plank. The crossing of your arms is done to prevent you from grabbing some part of the plane and thus putting both you and the connected instructor's live's in jeopardy as you jump. It could also be seen as the final act of surrender as you are now completely yielded (arms crossed over your heart... or rather heart yielded to the cross!) to the one that has performed this evolution thousands of times before (i.e., the instructor). Suddenly, the "leap of faith" occurs and you are out of the airplane with a surrealistic 360 degree view of Earth.
Realize, I jumped out of the airplane not in my ability but rather faith in the ability of the instructor to whom I was connected. Furthermore, as I yielded to the directions of the instructor the jump was actually effortless on my part (1). Again, I did not have to have faith in my ability to take the leap of faith but rather faith in this seasoned instructor's ability! The same is true when living out our faith in Jesus in this world. That is, we are not to have faith in our ability but rather His ability! (Galatians 2:20. Philippians 4:13)
I found it amazing how fast the airplane disappeared behind us as we accelerated from 0 downward speed to 60 mph (97 kph) in 3 seconds, 0 to 100 mph (161 kph) in 7 seconds and to terminal velocity (5) for the belly down position (~120 mph or ~193 kph) within the first 17 seconds due to the acceleration of gravity (32 ft/sec/sec or 9.8 m/sec/sec) (4). Free falling at this speed we covered half the 10,000 foot (3,048 meter) distance to the ground in the first 33 seconds which is approximately when the instructor opened the main parachute. Realize, if this main chute failed to open properly then it must be jettisoned and the reserve parachute deployed within the next 25 seconds in order to allow time for deceleration before ground contact. If both chutes failed then ground contact would occur at time 62 seconds from jumping out of the plane. That is, there is not much margin for error!
After the main parachute deployed it was a very pleasant (except for one tight turn which made me momentarily reflect on my poor choice of eating spaghetti - which the "still small voice"(1) had cautioned me about - for lunch) glide down to the landing site where I could see my son David who jumped after me had made it to the ground before me. They landed first due to their free falling just a few seconds longer at 120 mph (176 ft/sec) as the other instructor ensured our parachute opened, thus they would be clear of us, before opening theirs.
Prior to this tandem jump I had sought the Lord on a fitting way to give Him honor as I was free falling. Resultantly, I was led by the Holy Spirit to quote Psalm 91 during the free fall. I also purchased the option to have a video recorded of the jump which I shared with my friends and associates (3). The majority reacted with praise for having the courage to jump out of a plane! However, a few stated that I looked scared prior to exiting the airplane. I have to admit felling "annoyed" at such a remark but I have learned over the years to seek the Lord to understand what may be at the root of such a feeling. First, I looked up the definition of the word courage.
Courage: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty (2)
With this definition I understood that courage only exists when fear is present. That is, if there is no danger, fear or difficulty then courage is unnecessary. So, after flying up to approximately 10,000 feet in a small single engine plane seated beside a thin Plexiglas door and then maneuvering my body out that door in preparation for falling from the airplane for the first time in my life... Yes, I was having to resist fear! (2 Timothy 1:7)
Again, you are courageous if you feel fear and proceed in spite of it! If you feel no fear then there is no courage required; therefore, the title phrase of this article"fear-free courage" is an oxymoron. To overcome fear I also quoted Psalms 91 on the way up to jumping altitude. This is my passage of choice that I routinely quote if fear attacks in any situation. Come, let us explore this Psalm together to see what protection God offers and how to appropriate it in our lives!
As for you, the one who lives in the shelter of the sovereign One, and resides in the protective shadow of the mighty king– (NET Psalm 91:1)
First of all, this Psalm will protect someone that lives in the presence of God and not simply someone that visits on occasion (e.g., just visits God at church on Sunday).
I SAY this about the LORD, my shelter and my stronghold, my God in whom I trust– he will certainly rescue you from the snare of the hunter and from the destructive plague. He will shelter you with his wings; you will find safety under his wings. His faithfulness is like a shield or a protective wall. (NET Psalm 91:2-4)
Yes, what you say is important! Realize, what you say with your mouth is what grows in your spiritual heart (1) for good or bad. Then, in an emergency situation what has grown abundantly in your heart is what comes out of your mouth. In that moment you can either speak words of life or death... choose life that you may live! (Luke 6:45. Proverbs 18:21. Job 22:28) Furthermore, His faithfulness to keep His word (i.e., His truth) is our shield (1).
You need not fear the terrors of the night, the arrow that flies by day, the plague that comes in the darkness, or the disease that comes at noon. Though a thousand may fall beside you, and a multitude on your right side, it will not reach you. Certainly you will see it with your very own eyes– you will see the wicked paid back. (NET Psalm 91:5-8. 2 Thessalonians 1:6)
An impressive list of protection that God provides for those that live in His presence! Paranoia at night, Ebola, ISIS, etc. all covered!
For you have taken refuge in the LORD, my shelter, the sovereign One. No harm will overtake you; no illness will come near your home. (NET Psalm 91:9,10)
Again, why do you have this protection? BECAUSE you have chosen to make His home your home by living your life in His presence and not just visiting! That is, you must first be submitted to God's authority (i.e., obedient) if you expect Satan to flee from you when you resist him (James 4:7. 1 Peter 5:9). Again, you must be submitted to God's authority in order to wield it against Satan. The more obedient the more authority (1) you will be entrusted with to wield His power! (2 Corinthians 10:6) This level of submission is inculcated by living in God's presence (1) through unceasing communication with God (i.e., prayer) and fasting (Mark 9:28,29. 1 Thessalonians 5:17)
For he will order his angels to protect you in all you do. They will lift you up in their hands, so you will not slip and fall on a stone. You will subdue a lion and a snake; you will trample underfoot a young lion and a serpent. (NET Psalm 91:11-13)
Now we see how we are protected... it is the Angels of God (1) that are fighting on our behalf and rescuing us! The first part of this verse is what Satan (a fallen angel) quoted to Jesus during His wilderness temptation (1) (Matthew 4:6). However, Satan left off the second part about subduing and trampling a young lion and serpent and that referred to his destruction by Jesus! (1 John 3:8. 1 Peter 5:8. Revelation 20:2. Luke 10:19. Romans 16:20 )
The LORD says, "Because he is devoted to me, I will deliver him; I will protect him because he is loyal to me. (NET Psalm 91:14)
This verse provides further understanding of how to enable this protection.... BECAUSE we are DEVOTED to Him.... BECAUSE we are LOYAL to Him! (Psalms 25:14) This includes accepting the Lord Jesus as personal savior (1) and then living to become just like Him in all you say, do, think or believe as His disciple. Being a disciple includes being disciplined to obey Him (Luke 6:46. John 14:23,24).
When he calls out to me, I will answer him. I will be with him when he is in trouble; I will rescue him and bring him honor. I will satisfy him with long life, and will let him see my salvation. (NET Psalm 91:15,16)
The Psalm concludes with a promise to answer prayer (1), be with us in times of trouble, rescue, honor, provide a long life on this Earth and the next life in Heaven with Him for those that have met the conditions of this Psalm (i.e., met the BECAUSE's of this Psalm). Amen!
Another example from the Bible was when the early church was was threatened they chose not to be paralyzed by fear but in praying they released God's courage in their lives. This same prayer (1) will provide similar results for us today! (Hebrews 13:8)
When they heard this, they raised their voices to God with one mind and said, "Master of all, you who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them, who said by the Holy Spirit through your servant David our forefather, 'Why do the nations rage, and the peoples plot foolish things? The kings of the earth stood together, and the rulers assembled together, against the Lord and against his Christ.' "For indeed both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, assembled together in this city against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do as much as your power and your plan had decided beforehand would happen. And now, Lord, pay attention to their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your message with great courage, while you extend your hand to heal, and to bring about miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus." When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God courageously. (NET Acts 4:24-31)
Note: The "Hand of God" is metaphorically God the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:28. Luke 11:20)
Furthermore, the admonition that the Moses gave to Israel and Joshua, who had the daunting task of conquering the nations in the Promised Land, can encourage us today as well:
Be strong and courageous! Do not fear or tremble before them, for the LORD your God is the one who is going with you. He will not fail you or abandon you!" Then Moses called out to Joshua in the presence of all Israel, "Be strong and courageous, for you will accompany these people to the land that the LORD promised to give their ancestors, and you will enable them to inherit it. The LORD is indeed going before you– he will be with you; he will not fail you or abandon you. Do not be afraid or discouraged!"(NET Deuteronomy 31:6-8)
A similar admonition that the Lord God gave to Joshua concerning conquering the Promised Land:
After Moses the LORD's servant died, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' assistant: "Moses my servant is dead. Get ready! Cross the Jordan River! Lead these people into the land which I am ready to hand over to them. I am handing over to you every place you set foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the wilderness in the south to Lebanon in the north. It will extend all the way to the great River Euphrates in the east (including all of Syria) and all the way to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to resist you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not abandon you or leave you alone. Be strong and brave! You must lead these people in the conquest of this land that I solemnly promised their ancestors I would hand over to them. Make sure you are very strong and brave! Carefully obey all the law my servant Moses charged you to keep! Do not swerve from it to the right or to the left, so that you may be successful in all you do. This law scroll must not leave your lips! You must memorize it day and night so you can carefully obey all that is written in it. Then you will prosper and be successful. I repeat, be strong and brave! Don't be afraid and don't panic, for I, the LORD your God, am with you in all you do." (NET Joshua 1:1-9)
In conclusion, be strong and courageous in the face of fear! Do not let fear control you for the Lord our God is with us! He has given us the Holy Spirit (1) of courage and not the spirit of fear (Acts 4:31. 2 Timothy 1:7). If you feel like you are paralyzed from fear then start quoting Psalms 91 to God and you will feel His peace replace the fear! (John 16:33. Judges 6:12. 1 John 4:18. 1 John 4:8)
(1) Left click on underlined phrase to open another article in a different tab with more explanation.
(2) "Courage." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2014.
(3) Search for "Hal and Dave's Excellent Tandem Jumping Adventure" on YouTube. Also, "Hal and Dave's Excellent Tandem Hang Gliding Adventure". ( See this blog (1) and my comment for my motive for tandem jumping with my son).
(4) See attached Excel Spreadsheet printout "skydiving.pdf".
(5) The terminal velocity of a falling body occurs during free fall when a falling body experiences zero acceleration. This is because of the retarding force known as air resistance. Air resistance exists because air molecules collide into a falling body creating an upward force opposite gravity. This upward force will eventually balance the falling body's weight. It will continue to fall at constant velocity known as the terminal velocity.