Don’t just sit there. When you could be soaring with the eagles!

Why sit we here until we die? (2 Kings 7:3)

Every pastor has a story or two he used to tell but which was lost because of the years and circumstances.  I told this one a few times over twenty years ago and just ran across it in Chuck Swindoll’s book of 1500 stories, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart.

Back in the summer of 1982, Larry Walters, truck driver, had too much time on his hands without a clue what to do with it all.  Mostly, he sat in his back yard drinking beer and thinking.  One day he began to wonder what would happen if he were to get himself several surplus weather balloons, tie them together, and go aloft.  He could spy on his neighborhood, and wouldn’t that be fun?

That’s why on July 2nd of that year he rigged up forty-two surplus helium-filled balloons from the U. S. Weather Service or some such agency.  He anchored them to a backyard lawn chair he’d bought from Sears in San Pedro, California.  Before lifting off, he thoughtfully brought along a pellet gun so he could shoot out a few balloons in case he began to fly too high.

To his utter amazement, the balloons lifted off with a bang. In no time flat he was soaring through the sky, eventually reaching 16,000 feet. That’s three miles, y’all.

Larry Walters was not the only one surprised.  Airline pilots radioed to the air-traffic controllers that they had just passed a guy in a lawn chair floating in the sky.

Finally, Larry recovered his composure enough to start shooting a few balloons, which caused him to descend. Eventually, he landed safely in Long Beach, California, some forty-five minutes after takeoff.  He had to answer a lot of questions from the FAA and some local law enforcement people.  The newspaper and TV stations covered it, which is why the bizarre stunt landed him an ad with the Timex (watch) people and a guest appearance on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show.

As a result of the publicity, Walters quit his trucking job and began delivering motivational speeches.  He kept answering the same question over and over: “Why did you do such a weird thing?”  His answer was always the same: “People ask if I had a death wish.  I tell them no, it was just something I had to do…. I couldn’t just sit there.”

You. Can’t. Just. Sit. There.

You can see why we preachers love this story so much.  It is a perfect companion to the story in 2 Kings 7 where the four lepers decided to stand to their feet and take control of their situation.  “If we sit here,” they reasoned, “we will die.”  There being no food in the city, no one had anything for  beggars.  “If we go over the hill and surrender to the enemy, the worst that can happen is they will kill us. But we’re going to die here anyway. We have nothing to lose.”

On arriving at the encampment they found that during the night God had caused the Syrian army to hear awful noises of approaching armies  which surely meant the Israelites had managed to find help from another nation. They panicked and fled for the hills, leaving behind their belongings, armaments, treasures, foods, everything.  Those lepers had a delightful time running from tent to ten until they decided to share the good news.  Their line is classic: “We are not doing right.  This day is a day of good news, and we remain silent.  If we wait until the morning light, some mischief will come upon us.  So, let us go and tell the king’s household” (7:9).  It’s a great story.

The single problem about using the Larry Walters story at the top is that it’s so bizarre you might lose your audience.  You’re off to the 2 Kings story while many in the congregation are still back there at sixteen thousand feet with a guy in a lawn chair.

It can be done, but you need to think it through and plan how to tell the story. If in doubt, as always, run it by your spouse.

Remember the “one big idea” behind the story: Don’t just sit there. Do something!


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