Attitude and Altitude


Elder Mark D. Rowell

James 4:10 “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up”

As we walk life’s pathway, we encounter many things that will bring us down or lift us up. This is oftentimes a daily experience of the believer. We can all identify with our times either being “down in the valley” or “up on the mountain top,” and we all would agree that being on top of the mountain is really good and our “preference” in life. The Apostle James gives us the formula for heading to the mountain top: humble ourselves. But if we look at the entirety of the 4th chapter of his Epistle, James exhorts the readers to be introspective and look at themselves with regard to their day to day lives, and what it means to be humble. James says this humility consists of much change in us. In other words, when we change our attitude our altitude changes!

Here’s an example I like to use:

In the field of aviation, attitude is the orientation of an aircraft relative to the direction of travel, while altitude is the height of an object relative to ground or sea level. If you want to gain altitude you have to change your attitude. In basic terms, if I want to go up, I’ve got to point up! I like using this as an example because it’s so simple and has many applications. Have you ever watched a video of a plane landing in severe crosswinds? It is very scary to watch a plane pointed in one direction but moving in another! The pilot has to adjust the attitude of the plane to account for external forces that buffet the aircraft. The same applies for going up: he has to point the plane up! So what does all this mean? We have to change our attitude many times to counter the external Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying that God is the author of sin or confusion. He is not! But we are able to see His work of mercy and grace during trials and tribulations.

How many times in scripture are we made to realize that God is sovereign in ALL things? How many times do the practical lessons of life bring this realization? We ask why, and God says because “I am that I am!”

“Remember the former things of old: for I am God and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:” Isaiah 46:9-10

In His makeup, within His attributes, by who and what He is, and according to His own testimony, God is sovereign. There is none other but God! There is no one or nothing like Him! He moves according to His own will and acts according to His own pleasure. Tell me, who else can do this? Even those mortal dictators who rule outside of any other counsel still tremble and fear from those without that would seek to overthrow their rule. Even in their mortal sovereignty, they are not sovereign. But God, He does not tremble and fear, because there is NONE that could overrule His sovereign will! He. Is. GOD! Do we not draw comfort in that fact? Aren’t we granted peace because we know that He is God and there is none else? That heathen king Nebuchadnezzar is a good example of this. He boasted all that he got for himself, and then he spent seven seasons as a beast of the field before his understanding returned to him. Then God was glorified in Nebuchadnezzar as the king testified:

“And all the inhabitants of earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” Daniel 4:35

Even when we DO ask “why?”, we are shown that the question fails before we even utter the words because it’s impossible to question God! We can’t stop Him from performing His will, and we can’t ask Him why He does the things He does, or even how He does them, because He is sovereign! We have not the ability to question Him! Could you imagine, just for a moment, outside and listen much less go in! I had a similar experience at the Louisiana association in Ringgold, LA one year when I arrived late on Thursday night and sat on the steps of the church house and listened to Elder Bill Walden preach an able discourse and thought that if this was all I could have it would be more than I deserved! Oh but isn’t it wonderful to think that in that frame of mind, with that attitude, that the Lord reaches down, gives more grace, lifts us up, and says “go up higher”! Oh, I want to go up higher!!! I want to go up higher and have worship with the saints of God! Lord help us to look up and gain altitude so that we can dwell with thee, if only for a little while, and see the wonders of the House of the Lord!

We read in Isaiah, “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Isaiah 57:15

Notice how the Lord who is high and lofty dwells in the high place with those who are broken and humble! When we are in the valleys of life and realize that we can do nothing of our own selves and know that it’s “…of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed…” that we hear His sweet voice saying “go up higher.” That’s why James said to resist the devil! This is why he said to draw nigh to God! We want to be where He is while walking through this vail of tears.

Finally brothers and sisters, when we humble ourselves, we find that the Lord lifts us up. We experience things in life that buffet us and cause us to have to adjust our attitude in order to keep moving forward and up. It’s not easy, and the scripture never says it is. Oh, but when we are lifted up by the Lord, what peace we experience in the midst of life’s storms!

The songwriter puts it all in perspective:

“Fear not the Pilot stands firm at the wheel. Fear not! We soon shall out-weather the gale! Oh, how we fly ‘neath the loud, creaking sail! We’re homeward bound!”