Rev. Doug Johnson, Senior Pastor, Bethel Temple Assembly of God in Huntington, WV.
There once was an Englishman named Charles Peace–an ironic name, because Peace was not a peaceful man but a contentious one. Violent, thieving, brawling, he was a career criminal who respected the laws of neither God nor man. Eventually the authorities caught up with him, and he was tried and condemned to death by hanging at Armley Jail in Leeds.
On the morning of his execution, a contingent of prison officials met at Peace’s cell to take him on his final walk to the gallows. Among them was a sleepy prison chaplain whose job it was to prepare the condemned man’s soul (such as it was) for the hereafter. As the group began its solemn death march, the chaplain began mumbling and yawning his way through a series of unintelligible recitals.
Suddenly he felt a tap on his shoulder. “What are you reading?” someone asked. He turned to find it was Mr. Peace.
“The Consolations of Religion,” the chaplain replied.
“Do you believe what you are reading?” inquired the prisoner.
“Well, uh… I guess I do.”
Peace stared at the chaplain, stunned. Here he was, going to his death, knowing that his earthly deeds utterly condemned him before the ultimate Judge, and this clergyman was mouthing words about heaven and hell as if it were a boring chore. He said to the chaplain, “Sir, I do not share your faith. But if I did–if I believed what you say you believe– although England were covered with broken glass from coast to coast, I would crawl the length and breadth of it on hand and knee and think the pain worthwhile, just to save a single soul from this eternal hell of which you speak!”
Charles Peace was hanged and went into eternity without knowing God because the chaplain wasn’t sure about what he believed.
Let me ask you a question: Do you really believe what you say you believe? The number one cause for atheism is: Christians who say they love Christ and yet their actions are not Christ-like. Every day there are people watching you. They are not as concerned about what you say as they are watching the way you live! Bruce Carroll wrote a song several years ago entitled “I’d Rather See a Sermon.” In the chorus he sings, “I’d rather see a sermon than to hear one any day… I’d rather someone walk with me than merely show the way. Actions speak much louder than all the words can say… so I’d rather see a sermon than to hear one any day.”
That song was based on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:15, 16: “Men do not light a candle and put it under a bushel basket, but on a candlestick; and it gives light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” In other words, if we truly believe what we say we believe then it will show through the way we live. So let’s show the love of Christ through our actions…because you never know who is watching!