I hereby openly confess that the first time I heard those two words, “chicken switch” I visualized a farmer headed for his hen house with a uniquely shaped switch in his hand for the purpose of carrying out corporal punishment on disobedient chickens.  A short time thereafter I was given a definition of the term from the Dictionary of American Idioms.  It is a term used to refer to the emergency eject button of a spacecraft.  It was incorporated into the astronaut training program and carries the meaning, “Don’t bail out when you have set your hand to the course” or “Don’t push the panic button”.

 I reflect back to when I was in training to be a pilot.  My instructor would suddenly put the aircraft into an emergency situation or an unusual attitude and announce, “It’s your airplane!”.  If a “chicken switch” had been available I probably would have pushed it on several occasions.  Astronauts in the space program are on the cutting edge of space flight.  They constantly find themselves in situations where they have never been before.  They are rigorously trained to make a commitment to go forward with what they are doing and not to bail out except in the worst-case situation.

 It occurred to me that Jesus also established a directive that once we have made a commitment to follow Him we are not to push the chicken switch when things get tougher than we expected.  An unknown person blurted out impulsively, “Lord, I will follow You wherever you go.”  Jesus informed that person that when each evening came He did not have a home to which He could go for food, shelter, and rest (Luke 9:57, 58).  Jesus was obviously teaching that when we decide to follow Him we should be prepared to endure hardships.

 To another, Jesus said, “Follow Me.”  That person answered, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”  Jesus answered, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”  (Luke 9:59, 60).  It seems clear that Jesus was saying that a commitment to follow Him means that we give the kingdom of God first priority above everything else.

 To yet another Jesus said, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62).  Jesus is saying that when we make the commitment to follow Him we also need to make up our minds that we are not going to push the panic button and bail out no matter what difficulties we are called to face.

 September 11, 2001, the firemen of New York City were called on to rescue as many people as they could from the burning towers of the World Trade Center.  They could have pushed the chicken switch and said, “We can’t do it.  No firemen have ever been called on to deal with a fire this catastrophic!”  Instead, they knowingly put on their helmets and coats and picked up their equipment.  In a display of bravery rarely seen in history many went forward to almost certain death to save as many as they could from the inferno.


 EVE.  Eve pushed the chicken switch when the serpent convinced her she would miss out on something wonderful if she didn’t disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit.

 CAIN – Cain pushed the chicken switch when he decided it would be easier to just murder Abel than come to God on God’s terms.

 ABRAHAM – Abraham pushed the chicken switch when a famine settled on the land God promised him and he decided that Egypt was his best hope.

 JACOB -  Jacob pushed the chicken switch when he accepted the advice of his mother that the only way he could get the blessing of the firstborn was to lie to his father Isaac and tell him that he was Esau.

 MOSES – Moses pushed the chicken switch when he called forth water from the rock by striking it with his staff instead of speaking to it as God had told him to do.

 ISRAEL -   Israel, as a nation, pushed the chicken switch when they decided they couldn’t possess Canaan because of the giants, high walls, and rugged land.

 SAUL – Saul, the first king of Israel, pushed the chicken switch when he said, “The Philistines are coming and Samuel isn’t here, so I’ll just handle the offering of sacrifice to God myself.”

 JUDAS – Judas pushed the chicken switch when he concluded, “I chose for Jesus in order to wear a crown.  Jesus is saying I’ve got to bear a cross first.  I’ll force Him to use His power to wear a crown and if He doesn’t He’ll be put to death and I’ll be totally off the hook.”

 PETER – Peter pushed the chicken switch when he gave in to pressure that he had to convince people he was not a disciple of Jesus by cursing and denying that he knew Jesus.

 JOHN MARK – John Mark pushed the chicken switch when he determined, “This missionary business is hard work and dangerous.  I’m going home to mama.” 

 DEMAS – Demas pushed the chicken switch when he began thinking “These Romans are going to kill Paul for sure and if I hang around they’ll kill me too, so I’m outta here!”

 Every one of us can probably think of people who made a commitment to follow Christ but when the going got tough they bailed out.  Maybe one of those people was you.


 When Adam and Eve sinned God made a commitment that the Seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head.  (See Genesis 3:15).  To fulfill this commitment: 

God had to replace the murderer, Cain, and his murdered brother, Abel with a third son, Seth
God had to preserve Noah’s family through the great flood.
God had to give Abraham and Sarah a son when Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90.
God had to preserve Israel from national infanticide in Egypt.
God had to preserve the royal line of Judah when ruthless enemies cut the legal heirs to David’s throne down to one son.
God had to unite deity with humanity in the virgin womb of Mary.
God had to allow His Son to suffer for the sins of all humanity.
God had to raise His Son from the dead.
God had to establish a church in which there were people who would be committed to sharing the gospel with an entire world.

 Because God kept His commitment the Apostle Paul and millions since him can say,”…I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that day.”  2nd Timothy 1:12.

Copyright © 2002 Thomas E Berry
Scripture quotations from NKJV unless otherwise noted



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