Finally - the sermon that inspired the name of this website! I have had an increasing number of people request this classic sermon. Most notably a new friend that I am thrilled to meet - Jonathan Edwards, who has just started up a new blog "Global Awakenings". I think that we have much in common. He dedicates his blog to: "all who passionately long and live for spiritual awakening in our world today". Amen to that! So Jonathan, this transcript is dedicated to you.
"Since the beginning of man's record of himself, the challenge of flight has captured his imagination. The conquering of the air in our own generation has produced a wave of awe and romance unequaled in the annuals of man's existance. Somehow the ability to fly has epitomize the longing of man to rise above the natural limitations of earth-bound mortals and soar into the realm of the supernatural.
God has made provision in His Kingdom for man to have this spiritual need met, and yet few believers ever find the satisfaction of knowing fully what God has allotted to them. How can a man break into the realm of the supernatural in his walk with God? In one form or another this question seems to be one of the pressing concerns whereever I travel. Rather than embarking on a heavy dissertation, I want to look at a beautiful illustration used by the prophet Isaiah;
"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31).
King of the Birds: This passage speaks of the eagle. As the lion is the king of the beasts, so the eagle is the king of the birds. The Holy Spirit has likened us and our Godward aspirations to the aspiration of being like the eagle. As I watched the eagles in the Columbia Basin near Portland, Oregan, I began to understand why they have represented throughout time the Godward thrust of man; power, freedom, beauty, the lord of their environment through their ability to master the air. They move in regal splendour for they are born as kings. As the eagle is born with the divine right of kingship, so we come from the new birth with the inherent potential of soaring into the Presence of God Himself. The fact, however, that eagles are so equipped does not necessarily mean that they will never get off the ground.
Deuteronomy 32:11 has some interesting information about the eagles. "As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttering over her young, spreading abroad her wings, taketh them, bearth them on her wings". All eagles begin as eaglets and before these unseemly, squalling fledgings take their place with royalty, they must be trained in the ways of the king of birds. This little verse is the Flight Training Manual of student eagles and earthbound Christians.
The Eaglet's Lesson: Picture with me two little eaglets snuggled cosily in a down-filled nest, high on an eerie ledge on some remote mountainside. (Christians often find themselves born into equally precarious circumstances). Everything is just wonderful. Mother Eagle sallies forth daily and brings back choice titbits for those ravenous appetites. During the cold mountain nights, she snuggles over the nest and the eaglets snuggle securely under those warm, soft wings and look out at the stars not very far away. They are newly born and baptized in the Holy Spirit. Hallelujah! Life is wonderful and being a Christian sure makes life easy - no more problems! God knew what He was doing when He thought up this arrangement!
One day Mom begins to act very strangely. Rather than landing on the nest she hovers momentarily beating the air with those great wings. As Junior watches her, he thinks, 'Mom sure has powerful wings!'. That is exactly what Mrs Eagle wants Junior to know. Then she does something downright crazy. She graps a piece of the nest and drops it over the side of the cliff. Then she returns for another chunk and another and another. The eaglets are starting to think that Mom has lost her marbles! By now the framework of the nest is pretty shaky and that nice soft down that made Junior feel so secure is at the bottom of the canyon. Nest life is becoming a standing room only situation on what is left of their home.
Can you see what the mother eagle is doing? She is preparing her young for the first stage in the eagle training. After our Lord received the Holy Spirit and the declaration of His holy Sonship, the Scripture says that He was led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. I have written in the margin of my Bible at this point, "Is this standard operating procedure?". I believe that God's modus operandi is to begin to confront us as soon as possible with the necessity of maturing into something other than nestbound believers.
Growing Up: Paul told the Corinthians that he could not talk to them as mature men because they were as babes (see 1 Corinthians 3:1). He did not say they were babies. But that they were like babies. When a baby slobbers its pabulum down its little chin and milk runs into its little ears, we all laugh and think it is cute. But when a twenty-one year old man slobbers his food down his chin, then he is like a baby and this is sickening. God does not mind a Christian going through the pabulum stage; it is a part of growing up. But it is tragic in God's eyes when we never grow out of infancy.
Interestingly enough the discomfort of our bewildered eaglets has been deliberately caused by the one who loves them most. How often when we have a streak of trouble, do we cry out, "The Devil is attacking me?!". Are you positive it is the Devil? Maybe it is the One who loves you the most who is stirring up your nest. Like many believers, the little eagles conclude that standing on the windy ledge is at least tolerable and they can make the most of it. But dear old Mom has more in her mind than just a nest stirring. She catches one of the little fellows in her powerful beatk and nudges him toward the edge of the ledge. The poor little guy wonders what is happening now. His little heart is beating faster and faster and as he is pushed closer to the edge he thinks, 'No it can't be! Mother wouldn't do this to me!'. But she does.
Out of the Nest: With one final push he starts to plummet to the bottom of the canyon - he is sure this is the end. Then out of nowhere there is a swosh of Mom's mighty wings and Junior is heading back for the safety of the ledge on her powerful back, quite relieved. The first time God kicks us out of the nest and catches us before we hit bottom, we gasp, "Oh thank heavens! I was sure God had let me down that time". Back on the ledge our would-be king is just getting over being dizzy when Mom starts pushing again. "Not again" he moans as he starts his second tumble. "What if Mom doesn't make it this time?". But she does. Several trips later Junior begins to get the feeling that Mom is trying to get a point across. Between rides he suddenly remembers Mom's huge wings hovering over the nest and thinks, "I wonder if ... If she does that again, I'm going to give mine a try!". Rest assured he gets another chance. Mom will not stop until Junior finds the gumption to try his own wings.
Little eagles are gangly creatures, wobbling shakily on untested wings. But each desperate plunge brings a little more mastery of his wings. One day he spreads those wings and rather than falling, he finds himself rising up and up, riding the mighty air currents far above his ledge home and the nest that confined him. No longer a fledgling begging for tid-bits, he is learning to become one of the eagles - he will be a king. Ministers and evangelists often make becoming a Christian as being born on a satin pillow with a cordon of angels wafting us through life and depositing us at the foot of the celestial throne. Only are we are well settled in our nest, do we learn that God is more intent on the production of character than the provision of our comfort.
Living as a King: The Bible land knew two types of eagles; the golden eagle and the imperial eagle. The golden eagle speaks of us as partakers of the divine nature and the imperial eagle speaks of us as kings. In the Scripture, the two go hand in hand. Our divine right to reign as monarchs in our own lives! The circumstances that confound and befuddle the world become launching pads to new heights in God. Satan and his henchmen become the snakes, which an eagle bisects with a slash of his mighty talons or drops from a dizzy height to be crushed on the rocks below. This is our inheritance.
Some years ago I was managing a campaign in Cleveland. Upon departing the city for a few days, I told one of the committees, "Get a plot of ground where we can pitch a tent for about three thousand people and we will take care of the expenses later". When I got off the plane upon my return, the chairman met me and said, "We have a wonderful place for the tent". "Wonderful" I said, "How much did you have to pay for the land?". "Fifteen hundred dollars a day". "What?!" I gasped. (Back in those days fifteen hundred dollars was like fifteen thousand today). We had decided not to make a big thing of money so there was little we could do but trust God. After the first day and a half, we were five thousand dollars down - a rather awkward place to be.
That afternoon I preached on Romans 5:17 which says we reign in life by Christ. As I finished, I said, "Now as you meet one another for the next few days, address each other as 'King So-and-so'. You may address me as King Baxter". That night I was handed an envelope addressed to 'King Baxter'. I opened it and read a delightful note. "Dear King Baxter, my wife and I have a feeling that our fellow king has a need. Our of our royal treasury we wish you to accept the enclose cheque for five thousand dollars". I may not always have it, but there is money in the royal family tree.
Next: How to Mount Up, Flying High and How High Can We Go?