There is No Autopilot


You may have heard the wonderful American folktale that began to be told sometime in the nineteen-seventies about a recreational vehicle and its brand new cruise control technology. The story goes that an old man had taken his life savings and went and bought a brand new motorhome. This vehicle was packed with all sorts of amazing features including a particular button on the steering wheel marked “autopilot.” Well this man decided to take a joy ride in this massive machine and along the way he would try out all these features. About an hour into the ride the man came to a long stretch of interstate that was pretty boring, so he decided to go to the back and make a sandwich. Seeing as how this brand new luxury motorhome came with autopilot he pressed the button and headed to the kitchen. It was only a moment before the vehicle crashed through the guardrail and toppled over a few dozen times. The man survived, but learned a valuable lesson regarding the difference between autopilot and cruise control. According the legend he also won a fabulous settlement for the inaccurately labeled button.

The story is, of course, not true, but it makes me think about the difference between autopilot and cruise control. More often than not our hearts are set in autopilot. Our intentions might be good, but we let our anger, our selfishness, even our impulsive whims steer us wherever they desire. There is an underlying problem that pops up every now and then that assures us that Jesus is just letting us do our own thing. That He is our autopilot once we say we believe in Him. It is kind of refreshing isn’t it? It may sound refreshing during a long stretch of loneliness, boredom, or personal issues, until that voice tells us to get out of the driver’s seat and head to the back for a sandwich.

The prophet Jeremiah talks about this autopilot issue when he writes, “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve” (Jeremiah 17:10). What is so interesting about that verse is how even those who do the most wonderful deeds might have evil intentions. Their hearts are not focused on God. If the Lord is searching our hearts it seems like autopilot might not be the best place to put our trust. It is clear from verses like this as well as Psalm 139, that our God knows His creation at a level of intimacy far beyond our understanding. But it is that intimacy that should drive us.

1 Samuel 16:7b reads, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” The button that we are looking for is cruise control. We have mislabeled the freedom that we share together, freedom that is a gift from God. Cruise control is the power that moves us, but we have been given freedom to steer the wheel. We must be willing to make decisions that keep us on the right path. Our Savior has given us the outpouring of His power, but we must watch the road in order to see just how marvelous the journey.

Often we think that our outward appearance, conduct, or the nice things we do will somehow transform us from the outside in, but we need to remember there is no autopilot. If we start with the heart and turn on cruise control, praying and forming our closer bond with Jesus, others will see our journey. Maybe those people will ask to get on board the RV!

Let’s pray today that we will keep our focus on Christ and the glory with which He is carrying us forward on the journey. Pray that He can examine our hearts and put us on the right track to show others the riches of His mercy.

Pastor Chris Osterbrock


All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.