When one’s faith has become so small that we pray for our own needs and wants, yet ignore the plight of those around us, something has become seriously wrong. Our faith is not big enough for others.
I have found myself to be quite stressed and distracted lately. Of no use to anyone.
I used to have such a burden for others. Others seemed to naturally open up to me about their struggles and questions. I connected with others easily.
However, because my schedule is now so full, and I cannot possibly meet all of the demands I have placed upon myself, I no longer have time for others. And it has become increasingly apparent that others can see this in me and are no longer drawn to connect with me. This is not good for anyone.
I was reading today a story from the life of the apostle Paul that has really caused me to reconsider my life. This story has inspired me to regain my compassion.
In Acts 27:1-44, we read that the apostle Paul was under arrest and on his way to Rome to present his case to the judgement of the emperor. He was under guard and about to board a ship. Because of his previous experience with shipwrecks (2 Cor 11:25), Paul had warned the sailors not to set sail (Ac 27:10). All appeared calm, so the decision was made to set sail anyway (Ac 27:13).
As the story goes, “before very long” a mighty wind began blowing and, soon, they were in the midst of a disaster (Ac 27:14-20). They were forced to abandon cargo and necessary equipment, and gave up hope of survival.
After a few days, Paul encouraged the sailors, soldiers, and prisoners to recover their strength by eating. Although he had warned them previously, he offered them these inspired words,
I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.
Indeed, it all transpired exactly as Paul predicted. Paul’s faith wasso strong that he was, personally, granted a vision. An angel reassured him that God would protect him and continue to lead him on the journey to Rome, which was exactly God’s plan for Paul. What I find so fascinating about this story is that the favour shown to Paul was extended to the others (cf. Gen 6:7-8).
Paul could have rested easy and secure in the knowledge that God was looking out for him. Instead, his faith was large enough that he began to minister to the emotional and physical needs of the others —sailor, soldier, and prisoner alike. His compassion was such that he did not hold back the word given to him by God, but shared that encouragement. The grace extended to Paul would guarantee the safety of all on board the ship.
The command of God is for us to love our neighbours (Mt 22:39). Even more than this, the covenant of God is that he would bless his people that we might be a blessing to others (Gen 12:1-3). The tendency of Christians to only think and pray and believe for themselves fails on both these counts. When one’s faith has become so small that we pray for our own needs and wants, yet ignore the plight of those around us, something has become seriously wrong.
Never lose sight of the compassion and love of God for you, shown in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Jn 3:16). And know that the comfort and confidence and blessing you receive, by faith, can and should overflow into the lives of those around you. You just may be surprised to discover that others are suffering exactly the same circumstances as you. May your faith be large enough for others!