“THE RIGHT STUFF”
Article by Tony Kettle
Beginning in 1959, mankind began to refocus on the concept of space travel, as, due to the miracle of modern technology and advanced media, many of us were privileged to closely and avidly follow the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programmes, which terminated in 1972, followed by the space shuttle and space station missions. All these endeavours were completed through the auspices and direction of the United States National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA). Europe later came into the ‘space race’ with the establishment of the European Space Agency (ESA).
With the tremendous public interest in the work of NASA, generated by the media, many men (and later, women) eagerly sought careers as astronauts, the term coined for those who were trained to travel into space. However, NASA (and subsequently ESA) developed extremely rigid criteria and qualifications required for entry into the astronaut training programme. They called these outstanding attributes “THE RIGHT STUFF!”
It occurs to me that God also has, in a sense, His own ‘space programme’, with His own ‘astronauts’ in training! We are those ‘astronauts’, if we are believers – dedicated, committed Christians. Why do I call us ‘astronauts?’ Because God has commanded us to “set (our) mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2 NASB – emphasis added). He has “…raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” (Ephesians 2:6 NASB – emphasis added). We are “…partakers of a heavenly calling…” (Hebrews 3:1 NASB – emphasis added) and eventually we will be “…looking for new heavens and a new earth…” (2 Peter 3:13 NASB – emphasis added).
Furthermore, God has His own firmly established criteria – His own “RIGHT STUFF” – for whoever desires to become a (spiritual) ‘astronaut.’
So, what is this “RIGHT STUFF” that is absolutely hallowed in the realm of space exploration – and how does it equate with God’s criteria? Let’s answer that question by comparing the qualifications for astronauts in the natural sense with those for God’s (spiritual) ‘astronauts’ in the schedule below:
NASA EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY (NASA)
Vs THE KINGDOM OF GOD (KINGDOM)
(NASA) Generally only recruited between the ages of 27 to 37, although they could continue in service through their 50s.
•“It will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions” (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17 NASB).
• “Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance…Likewise urge the young men to be sensible…” (Titus 2:2, 6 NASB).
(NASA) Usually a degree in engineering, medicine or appropriate subject. Need to be scientifically-minded.
(KINGDOM) God does not require that we have a university degree – but He has stipulated that “…we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16 NASB – emphasis added).
(NASA) Candidates are required to have at least 3 years experience in the field covered by their degree.
(KINGDOM) “And not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach” (1 Timothy 3:6-10 NASB).
(NASA) This attribute is essential because of the complex, difficult situations and problems that often take time to resolve.
(KINGDOM) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23 NASB).
(NASA) Given the fact that many recruits have been test pilots, and / or served in the military, plus the tragic accidents that occurred in some programmes, this quality has become virtually second-nature.
(KINGDOM) “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go” (Joshua 1:6-7 NASB).
(NASA) In view of the dangerous environments and situations encountered by astronauts, thorough teamwork with crews is indispensable.
(KINGDOM) “so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:25-26 NASB).
PREPARED FOR STRANGE LIFESTYLE
(NASA) Recruits need to adapt to living in unnatural environments in space, away from the comfortable familiarity of earth.
(KINGDOM) “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2 NASB).
(NASA) The rigours of living in unnatural environments for long periods demand a strong mindset and emotional stability.
(KINGDOM) “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7 KJV).
(NASA) When serious, potentially fatal problems arise on missions, a strong resolve, perseverance, persistence and a determination to not give up is necessary.
(KINGDOM) “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 NASB).
“You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4 NASB).
Astronauts, naturally-speaking, need to be IN a space capsule on a rocket, in order to escape the gravitational pull of the earth. Likewise, we, as God’s (spiritual) ‘astronauts’, must be IN Christ in order to escape the ‘gravitational’ pull of sin (Romans 8:1-2)!
A balloon needs to be COMPLETELY filled with hydrogen or helium in order to rise from the earth. If it only has a little gas, the balloon will just flop about! So, we need to be COMPLETELY filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) in order to ‘rise above’ the enticements of the world – to escape the ‘gravitational’ pull of sin (Romans 8:5-14). If we are not ‘filled’, guess what? We will just ‘flop about’ in life!
On the other hand, whereas a balloon, operating under the law of buoyancy, is limited in the height to which it can rise, the spiritual law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus is NOT limited in its power. By remaining “in Christ”, we can go as HIGH into the Heavenly realm as we desire (Ephesians 2:4-6). So, we can escape the ‘gravitational’ pull of sin – we can become (spiritual) ‘astronauts.’
When the astronauts in Apollo 13 encountered major difficulties (the oxygen tanks exploded), they sent out the famous message: “Houston, we have a problem.” They had to rely on NASA, so far away on Earth, to help them return safely. Thanks be to God, we don’t have that problem – we have the Holy Spirit IN us to help in our time of need (John 14:17; 1 John 3:24)!
“Lift up your eyes on high
And see who has created these stars,
The One who leads forth their host by number,
He calls them all by name;
Because of the greatness of His might
and the strength of His power,
Not one of them is missing.”
(Isaiah 40:26 NASB)