Social Consequences of Individual Faith
Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer, for I believe God — Act_27:25
What You Believe Affects the Lives of Others
It might seem as if what a man believed were no concern to anybody else. That is his own affair and his alone. Let a man be honest, industrious, and straight, and it does not socially matter what his creed is. Others are not the better for his faith nor the worse for his want of it. One hears frequent expression of that view, and sometimes it is buttressed by the text, “Hast thou faith? Have it for thyself.” As a matter of fact, what a man believes has profound and pervasive social consequence. It affects the lives of all he comes in contact with. It inspires or depresses them. And all this is more beautifully illustrated in the story of the shipwreck of St. Paul than perhaps in any other piece of Scripture.
Doing and Being
We note, for instance, how the faith of Paul made him intensely and practically useful One is reminded of the exclamation “What practical fellows these great mystics are.” We could well imagine somebody dilating on the compelling preaching of St. Paul, but quite certain that in storm and shipwreck he would be altogether useless. And yet in such an hour, when things were darkest, Paul was the most useful man on board, and he was so because he believed God. The same thing is profoundly true of Jesus who lived in a perfect and unwavering faith. That did not make Him an ineffectual dreamer; it made Him intensely and socially useful. It filled the nets, and fed the hungry folk, and restored the withered arm to service, and brought joy and singing to the home at Bethany.
Paul’s Faith Brought Hope to All Aboard
We help people by what we do. Perhaps we help them more by what we are. We prove ourselves useful when we give our money. We are still more useful when we give ourselves. And no man has his whole self to give, in all the expansion of his possibilities, until he has aligned himself with God.
We note again how the faith of the apostle brought new hope to everyone on board. These despairing souls were saved by hope. One moment there was not a star in all their sky. They were drifting on to certain death. The best of them would be crying to their gods; the worst would fail to cursing and blaspheming. And then, like the first faint flushing of the dawn, hope came stealing into every heart because there was one on board who believed God. Things were just as dark as they had been before. There was no cessation of the raging storm. They were still drifting on to an iron shore, their ship the sport and plaything of the elements. But one man believed God and because of that was radiant and serene, and it brought hope into the heart of everybody. What does it not matter what you believe? Is faith entirely devoid of social consequence? It mattered supremely for these despairing sailors. It matters every time. Have faith in God— have it for yourself— be strong and quiet and confident because of it, and everybody on shipboard is affected.
Faith Radiates the Atmosphere of Hope
For that is always one of the fruits of faith. Faith radiates the atmosphere of hope. The presence of a strong and living faith calls out the music of a thousand hearts. A son may be a prodigal, and everybody may think him past redemption. But his mother never thinks him past redemption because of the faith in her big mother-heart. And because of the faith in the heart of the Lord Jesus, hope has dawned on twice ten thousand people who, like these shipwrecked sailors, were despairing It is a great thing to give weary people hope. It is like sowing grass on a parched and arid land. And in all our weakness, one sure way to do it is the old sweet way of Jesus and of Paul. Have faith in God. Live it out in storms. Be strong and quiet when others cry in terror. And in mysterious ways we cannot trace hope will dawn upon the hearts of men.
Paul’s Faith Brought Good Cheer to Others
Not only did the faith of Paul give hope; it also gave the blessing of good cheer. It brought the comfort of a happy confidence to every desponding heart on board. I have read somewhere of an ocean liner caught in the fury of a terrific storm. Men were panic-stricken— women screamed— and then the captain smiled. And the faith that lay behind that smile, that the ship he knew so well would weather through, brought good cheer to every soul on board. So was it with St. Paul. He believed God and he could smile. When others were terror-stricken and beside themselves, he could give thanks and quietly take his breakfast. And men, seeing it, forgot their fears and plucked up heart again and became cheerful— and all because one person believed God. It is a fine thing to do kindly, helpful deeds. It is one of the very finest in the world. But there is something finer than the helpful hand; it is the helpful heart. To be brave and radiant when things are darkest has an impact upon everybody, and for that one must believe God. My dear reader, longing to cheer others, begin by having faith in God. Fix the one point of your compass there, and let the other sweep as widely as you will. A strong faith is the secret of all helpfulness. Nothing can ever take the place of that. This is the victory that overcomes the world— even your faith.