40 Minutes to Live?

Passengers on Wednesday's United Airlines Flight 1175 thought they might die.

Midway through their trip from San Francisco to Honolulu,  they heard a loud bang. The aircraft began shaking. Passengers on the right side of the plane noticed parts of the engine cover flapping violently, then flying off.

The pilot radioed the Honolulu airport to say he’d be making an emergency landing. "Please have fire and rescue personnel on the ground."

No one knew if they’d make it.

Flight attendants reviewed safety protocol, coaching passengers how to brace for impact, exit the plane using inflatable slides, and detach their seat bottoms to use as flotation devices if the aircraft crashed in the sea.

With those protocols covered, all they had left to do was wait, questions swirling in their heads like confetti at a ticker tape parade. Would the plane make it to Honolulu? Would it crash into the sea? Would it have to make an emergency landing at the airport? 

“It was the scariest flight of my life,” one passenger said later. 

“I thought we were going to die,” another said. 

Forty minutes. Such a short time, yet probably an eternity to those passengers, crew, and family members waiting to hear their fate. 

Some passengers took pictures of the damaged engine and tweeted about what was happening. Others texted final messages to their loved ones. 

“I told my family what was going on,” one woman said later, “and then I told them I loved them.” 

If you were on that flight, what would you do with what could be the last 40 minutes of your life? 

Were there any Christians on board? I wondered. Did anyone stand up and share the gospel? 

The average Boeing 777 carries 300 to 400 passengers. If you knew you and 400 people around you might die in the next 40 minutes, would you care about where they were going to spend eternity? Would you share your faith? 

Would I? 

I can’t say for sure. I’ve never been in a situation like that, but I hope so. I hope I’d accept the courage the Holy Spirit would give to stand boldly, risk embarrassment, disregard what others might say, and testify of the hope God gives. 

Whether the plane landed safely on the ground and I continued my vacation, or it crashed into the sea and my life ended, my destiny is safe in the arms of Jesus. Would I share this life-changing assurance or keep it to myself? 

Would you? 

I hope we never find ourselves in a plane over the ocean watching pieces of an aircraft fly off and fall into the sea. But we sit beside people every day whose life could end unexpectedly. 

While there may not be 400 of them, there are probably a few who don’t know where they’ll spend eternity. They don’t know Jesus took the punishment for their sin so they don’t have to. And they don’t know that whether they die today or in 50 years, they desperately need the hope that is only found in Jesus. 

It’s up to us to tell them. 

Thankfully, the San Francisco/Honolulu flight landed safely. Passengers disembarked and continued their day as planned. But they might not have. 

Today, I challenge you, as God has challenged me -- look around. Prayerfully consider who might need the hope you have in Jesus. Ask God to open the door to share your faith. Then walk through it.

It could change someone’s life forever. 

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15).

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