Your Preflight Checklist

David CerulloBy David Cerullo9 Minutes

I recently read an article about a young pilot named Bret who decided to skip the preflight checklist before takeoff. After the ground controller gave his small, single engine plane clearance, Bret briskly accelerated down the runway.

However, right before liftoff, a dark brown film covered the plane’s windshield. He realized with horror that it was OIL!

Since there wasn’t enough runway left to abort the takeoff, Bret had no choice but to proceed. Yet he knew his life was in jeopardy. If something catastrophic was wrong with the engine, he had mere seconds before it stalled.

“Lunken tower, this is Cessna Eight Eight Uniform,” he urgently radioed the control tower. “My windshield is covered with oil, and I’m returning for an immediate landing.”

Thankfully, Bret was able to make a safe landing. But he was eager to find out what had caused his terrifying ordeal.

“As I opened the oil door on top of the engine, I discovered that the cap on the filler point was not in place,” Bret recalls. “One small, easily preventable oversight led to this in-flight emergency.”

Bret concludes that this very frightening event could have been prevented if he had just followed his standard preflight checklist. By overlooking the basics and assuming everything was good to go, he had risked a disastrous outcome.

As someone who had a civilian pilot’s license, I found Bret’s story fascinating. Most people don’t get into problems in their life because of “big” issues but because they neglected the basics.

Don’t Miss the Basics

Bret isn’t the only one who sometimes takes shortcuts. Perhaps you’ve done something similar, putting yourself in jeopardy because of neglecting some basic procedure or truth.

Perhaps you’re thinking at this point, “David, it would all be so simple if the Christian life came with a clear checklist like the one a pilot is supposed to follow. But I don’t have any list like that, and I don’t know where to find one.”

Actually, that’s a very good observation! Too often, those who make Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior are not given the tools they need to grow in their relationship with Him. Yes, they’ve been born again into God’s Kingdom, but they aren’t ready for a good “takeoff ” in the Christian life.

A Helpful Checklist

Contrary to some people’s misconception, the Christian life isn’t really very complicated. Instead of needing greater sophistication or intellect, Jesus said you need childlike faith in order to truly experience His Kingdom (Matthew 18:2-4).

It’s not an oversimplification to suggest that the entire Christian life involves five basic connections – a helpful checklist to use on your pathway to spiritual growth:

Connection to GOD:

Before you worry about any other changes in your life, this should be the starting place. Without a vital connection with the Lord, your best efforts will surely fall short. Jesus put it bluntly when He said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NASB).

God wants you to keep growing in your intimacy with Him, but this doesn’t happen automatically. You will need intentionality and persistence, making your relationship with God the top priority. And to know Him better, you must set aside regular time for prayer and worship.

Connection with PEOPLE:

Unless you’re a hermit, you already have a number of connections with other people. But are they the right people? Do they help you become a better “you,” able to fulfill God’s highest calling for your life?

As you assess the people in your life, you may discover that some relationships should be deleted or minimized, especially ones that are toxic, negative, or overly draining. Once again, changes like these will require intentionality on your part, and perhaps some difficult decisions.

Connection with TRUTH:

Practically any major problem in a person’s Christian life can be traced to believing some kind of lie instead of God’s truth. Jesus called Satan not only a liar but also “the father of lies” (John 8:44 NASB). So it shouldn’t be any surprise that the devil’s main strategy is to spread lies to undercut our trust in God’s faithfulness and the promises in His Word.

As you study the Bible on a daily basis and meditate on what it says, the enemy’s lies will be replaced and you’ll be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Aren’t you glad this is included on your “checklist” for an abundant, fulfilling life in the Lord?

Connection with CHARACTER:

Over the years, I’ve met many believers who’ve become shipwrecked because they refused to deal with long-standing issues of character and maturity. For some, the problem was an addiction, while others struggled with harmful emotions such as anger, worry, or depression. As a result, they were robbed of their joy and peace, and hindered in their fruitfulness.

Passages like Matthew 12:33 and Galatians 5:19-23 speak of the importance of having the right kind of “fruit” in our lives. This is simply a way to illustrate that our character is supposed to increasingly reflect the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).

If you don’t like the kind of fruit you see in your life right now, I encourage you to go back to the very beginning of this “Connection” checklist. Have you prioritized your connection with God? Do you have healthy relationships with people? Are you counteracting Satan’s lies with a growing knowledge of God’s truth? If these first three connections are strong, your character will be transformed as well.

Connection to SERVICE:

God put each of us on this earth to make an impact in some way. An ingrown life is inevitably boring and unfulfilling, so it’s crucial to identify your place of service and ministry. Ideally, your service should flow from the spiritual gifts and passions the Lord has given you, but sometimes you’ll be called upon just to fill a need you see.

As you reach out to bless others as God has blessed you, you’ll find more of His blessings being released into your own life as well (Genesis 12:2, Acts 20:35). From a Biblical standpoint, it’s impossible to have a truly abundant life unless your abundance spills over to touch a lost and needy world.

A Checklist for Eternity

So how did you do on your checklist? Are you ready for takeoff? As King David discovered, the Lord’s “goodness and mercy” can follow you all the days of your life.