So take courage, men, for I believe God that it will happen just as He told me.
spoken unto him."
I. TRUE FAITH OVERCOMETH THE WORLD.
1. By bringing in the light of the better world - so foreseeing the end, measuring present circumstances, maintaining physical and moral strength.
2. By lifting up the individual life into the sphere of the Divine purposes. Paul felt that he was living for Christ, and, as an ambassador, must be protected.
3. By cheering the heart with benevolence. "God hath granted thee all them that sail with thee." The sense of a philanthropic value in our own life is wonderfully cheering. We are doing good; what does it signify where we are, and how we are placed? Those around us must bless God for us.
II. THE VICTORIOUS LIFE OF FAITH IS THE ONLY LIFE WORTH LIVING.
1. The shipwreck of worldly confidence. Human wisdom, physical force, political supremacy - all fail. Our temptation in these days to trust in schemes of social remedy. Christianity alone can say, "Be of good cheer."
2. The Christian in the presence of suffering and death. Instances resembling Paul's. Mackenzie in the Pegasus. Then comes the trial of confidence, and what we want is to say, "I believe in God."
3. The ministry of the believer in a perishing, despairing world. Each one able to say to some and somewhere, "Be of good cheer."
4. The prophetic power of Christianity. Not idle dreaming, not fanatical predicting of events, but the certainty of the future brought to bear upon the present. One who can say," I believe that so it shall be," and who can show by his fortitude and cheerfulness that he does believe it, will be as a light in the world's darkness. Such a narrative rebukes the folly of our modern necromancy and soothsaying, and incites us to be true children of the day and of the light. - R.
Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.
I. PAUL WAS STRONG BECAUSE HE BELIEVED. Faith makes men strong. When mistaken there is a power in faith for mischief; for good if the right thing be believed.
1. Paul's faith was faith in God. "I believe God." That was something more than saying "I believe in God": this many do and derive but slender comfort. But "I believe God, believe Him, believe His truthfulness, His mercy, and His power." This made Paul calm, peaceful, strong.
2. Believing God, he believed God's message and was revived by it. He was sure that no hair of any man's head would be harmed.
3. And he did that when there was nothing else to believe in. He might have said, "I do not believe in the sailors: they are evidently nonplussed, and are plotting to leave the ship." He did not say, "I believe that the centurion can maintain military discipline, and so we shall have a better opportunity of escaping." No, the ship was breaking up, but he calmly said, "I believe God." It is a grand thing to believe God when the winds are out. The common run of men's faith is fair-weather faith.
4. Since Paul believed God he was not ashamed to say so. Now, it is not so easy to thrust out your faith and expose it to rough weathers, and to the hearing of rough men. Under the name of prudence there lurks an unbelieving selfishness. Genuine faith in God speaks out and says, "God is true, and I will stake everything on His word." I would to God all Christians were prepared to throw down the gauntlet, and to come out straight; for if God be not true let us not pretend to trust Him, and if the gospel be a lie let us be honest enough to confess it. But if it be true, wherefore should we doubt it and speak with bated breath?
II. PAUL BEING STRONG, SPAKE WORDS OF CHEER TO OTHERS. So must we.
1. You will meet with seeking souls who are saying, "Oh that I knew where I might find Him!" You that believe God are bound to say, "Be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me." "Seek and ye shall find."
2. You will meet with those who are pleading daily for mercy, and seemingly to no effect. Speak up and say, "Be of good cheer, for I believe God, and He told me this — 'Ask, and it shall be given you.'"
3. You will meet with those who are venturing upon Christ, but whose confidence is feeble. Tell them that Jesus has said, "Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out," and then say, "Be of good cheer: for I believe God."
4. You will find those whose fear arises from their strong passions and evil habits. Go and say to them that Christ has come to bring liberty to the captives, and that you believe God, that it will be even as He has told you.
5. Now, there are the Little-faiths, and I want you strong-faith people to encourage them, by telling them that you believe God that it shall be even as it was told you. Some of these Little-faiths are conscious of very great inward sin, others are vexed with outward temptation, others whose lamentation is, "I am so weak." There is much work for happy believers amongst the Feeble-minds, and the Miss Much-afraids, and the Mr. Despondencies, and the like.
6. I commend to your attention those who are greatly tried. Tell them that God has said, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all."
7. We have some Christian people about who tremble greatly for the ark of the Lord. I occasionally meet with brethren who are tempted to commit the sin of Uzzah; as if God could not protect His own cause.(1) Some say that the good men are all dying. What will become of the Church? "My Father! My Father! The chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof!" You know the good Methodist woman's outcry at the funeral sermon when the minister said, "Now that this eminent servant of the Lord is departed we know of no one to fill his place. It seems as if the glory were departing and the faithful failing from among men." The worthy mother in Israel called out from the aisle: "Glory be to God, that's a lie!" If all the men who preach the gospel today were struck down tomorrow, the Holy Spirit would still qualify men to preach the gospel. Christians ought to be as confident as the heroic Spartans. The old men advanced in procession, and they said, "We have been brave," and they showed their scars; and then the strong men in the prime of their days followed and said, "We are brave," and they bared their arms for war. Then if anyone wondered what would happen when the old men were gone, and when the strong men were slain in battle, there came the striplings, and they said, "We will be brave, for we are Spartans!"(2) Many are in distress about the spread of error. The signs of the times are very bad, and the would be prophets say that a dreadful storm is coming on. But God is not dead, and He will beat the devil yet. It is true it is a hard time for Christianity, and infidels are fighting us with new arguments; but when I think of them I feel inclined to say what the Duke of Wellington said at Waterloo to the generals, "Hard pounding, gentlemen! hard pounding! but we will see which will pound the longest."
8. Those who are labouring for Christ. Sometimes workers for the Lord get cast down. "I have taught a class for years," says one, "and seen no fruit." "I have been preaching for months, but have never heard of a conversion," says another. Well, do you think that you have preached Jesus Christ, and nothing has come of it? I do not believe it for a moment. I believe God, that it shall be even as He has told me, and He has said, "My word shall not return unto Me void." Be not so cowardly as to say, "I will leave the work." You are not to win a battle in a moment, or reap a harvest as soon as you sow the seed. Keep on!
(C. H. Spurgeon.)I. FAITH IS HERE SHOWN TO BE THE ACCEPTANCE OF WHAT GOD SAYS TO US AS TRUE AND FINAL. The angel of the Lord assured Paul that the lives of all those on the ship would be spared, and he believed the statement in spite of the storm which was threatening to destroy them, in spite of the despair of all on board, and in spite of his own opinion, previously expressed (ver. 10). So also should it be with our attitude toward God's words as revealed in Scripture, and especially towards His chief revelation, the witness which He has borne to His Son (John 3:33; John 5:37). Acceptance of that testimony is the faith which constitutes us Christians.
II. CHRISTIAN FAITH MUST BE EXERCISED IN THE FACE OF DIFFICULTIES. It shines in the dark. When the difficulties disappear, faith becomes sight. For example, Paul on this voyage was the victim of injustice. He was innocent, his persecutors themselves being judges. Then, this guiltless prisoner was made to encounter perils which seemed to strike at the very roots of God's promises. He had not only hoped to have a prosperous journey by the will of God, that he might preach the gospel in Rome (Romans 1:10-15), but the Lord had definitely promised him the privilege of preaching there (Acts 23:11). Such things as these are hard for human nature to bear. Yet it is just such things that usually form the soil in which faith must grow. The difficulties of our life are the opportunities of our faith, So, while his unbelieving associates on shipboard fall into despair, Paul is kept calm and confident by the promise of God, which he hears and trusts. They experience an unrelieved sense of danger and loss; he waits for the compensations of Divine love. They have no future, and impending death fills them with hopelessness; but he, fearing not death but sin, is assured of eventual safety through his eternal Friend in heaven.
III. THOSE WHO HAVE CHRISTIAN FAITH ARE SUSTAINED BY GOD AS THEIR ACTUAL NEEDS REQUIRE. He does not suffer them to fail. In the climax of his sufferings Paul still possessed many helps and comforts. He had two Christian companions, whose friendship must have been a source of solace. Divine providence was likewise friendly. Sheltering Clauda had been set in its place by God's foresight. "The sea is His, and He made it." Even Euroclydon was a "stormy wind fulfilling His Word" (Psalm 148:8). "All things work together for good to them who love God." Accordingly, there came to Paul one of His "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation," who announced that Paul's desire and God's promise were both to be fulfilled in Paul's safe arrival at Rome. So does revelation explain and supplement the mysterious works of God. As that angel spoke to Paul the New Testament speaks to us. If we have attentive and reverent ears to hear it, we shall find it an anchor in the storm, a compass in the darkness, a herald of hope in the hour of despair. For providence is God's gloved hand, and Scripture is His open heart.
IV. FAITH VIGOROUSLY USES ALL THE MEANS OF SELF-HELP. It is no supine influence in life. Consider, e.g., the course of Luke, who wrote this narrative. He displays learning here, particularly in a most skilful use of nautical terms and in the grouping of geographical facts. The same spirit of activity is manifest in St. Paul. If all that sailed with him were granted to him, it must have been in answer to his prayers — a chief instrument of faith in securing her objects. He and St. Luke seem to have helped with their own hands in doing what they could to fight the storm. Like James, then, Paul also holds that "faith without works is dead, being alone." In this connection observe that it is faith, and not doubt, that yields all the positive elements of virtue. Faith is the tap root of morality. Doubt is paralysing; faith is vitalising. In particular, notice the superiority which it gave to the character of Paul.
1. It filled him with resolute fortitude, while even the sailors fell into despair.
2. Paul showed the true dignity of Christian character. Prisoner as he was, faith gave him authority over all on board.
3. Despised as he has been also, he feels and shows the tenderest sympathy with them all, and he pleasantly exhorts them to be of good cheer. Many a lowly disciple of Christ, after being contemned by careless souls in the days of prosperity, becomes suddenly welcome in the hour of critical danger.
V. THE FIRST OBJECT WHICH BELIEVERS SET BEFORE THEMSELVES IS TO GLORIFY GOD BY SAVING SOULS. Paul turns the minds of the suffering ship's company away from himself to God, "whose," he says, "I am, and whom I serve." The chief part of his revelation is not so much that their lives are to be spared, as that they are all to be granted to him as a disciple of Christ. Would we be able to forget the perils of the sea to preach the gospel to drowning men?
(S. J. McPherson, D. D.)
I. THAT A SPECIAL COMMUNICATION FROM HEAVEN IS AMONGST THE SUREST FOUNDATIONS FOR FAITH (vers. 23, 24). Of that communication we may remark —
1. That it comes to man in his greatest extremity. They had tried many plans of escape, and all had proved vain. It was when intellect had done all it could that Christ came.
2. That it is adapted to all men's spiritual wants. The communication made to Paul was suited to the circumstances, and told them what they must do to be saved. The Divine message to man is adapted to all the moral necessities of our nature, and makes known a salvation for lost humanity.
3. That its Divine origin is most evident. The apostle knew that it was no dream — no fancy of a heated imagination, but a true and indubitable revelation of the Divine will. The Christian has the evidence of his own consciousness, of the power and efficiency of the gospel of the ever-blessed God.
II. THAT THE CHARACTER OF GOD INSPIRES THE BELIEVER WITH CONFIDENCE IN HIS WORD. Paul was on the shattered deck of a sinking ship, and yet felt confident of safety. God had said they should be saved if they obeyed His will, and that was enough for Paul. There is the same reason for the Christian's confidence now; because —
1. What God says He wills. God's Word assures us that it is His will that all who obey the gospel shall be saved. "This is the will of Him that sent me," etc.
2. He is able to do what He promises. God was greater here than the storm. There are mighty obstacles in the way of men's salvation; but "Christ is able to save to the uttermost."
3. His mind is unchangeable. Paul felt that he had to do with the word of One whose purposes were not vacillating. The purposes of God, made known to us for our salvation, are those of One "with whom there is no variableness neither the shadow of turning."
III. THAT THE VALUE OF FAITH IS BEST SEEN IN DIFFICULT AND TRYING CIRCUMSTANCES. What a difference there was between Paul and those around him! The value of faith appears —
1. In the calmness of mind it produces. The seamen, used as they were to plough the deep, were terrified; the soldiers paralysed with fear. Not so Paul. Faith gives peace to the soul amidst the wildest storms.
2. In the final safety it ensures. Had that vessel gone down with all on board, Paul would still have been safe.
3. In the honour it puts upon God. "I believe God," etc. He was a noble witness for God amidst those godless beings. When the Christian is "strong in faith," then does he most effectually "give glory to God."
IV. THAT THE POSSESSOR OF CHRISTIAN FAITH MAY BE A GREAT BLESSING TO OTHERS.
1. By directing their thoughts to God. "I believe God."
2. By enabling him to cheer the downcast. "Be of good cheer."
3. By effecting their salvation.
(S. A. Browning.)Polar Star was carrying troops to New Zealand in 1854. When one thousand miles from land, with the sea running mountains high, she took fire. All efforts to master the flames proved hopeless, and there was no chance of reaching land by the boats. In their worst extremity, when the pitch was melting in the seams of the deck, a man just relieved from the pumps drew a Prayer book from his pocket, and shouted aloud, with confidence, the first words on which his eyes rested. They were the opening words of Psalm 46. "God is our refuge and strength." He read the whole psalm in the same joyful strain. The lookout had long been scanning the horizon with a powerful telescope in vain, but at six o'clock the same evening the deliverance which this Christian so boldly anticipated came in sight, and while still standing on the burning deck, the shout of one man's faith gave place to the thanksgiving of many in the words, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow."
(J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)
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