By Dick Innes
Down the streets of Portsmouth more than a hun¬dred years ago," said Lt. General Ira C. Eaker in a speech given some time ago, "walked a sailor with one arm, one eye, and a persistent state of nerves and unable to tread a ship's deck without being seasick. Indeed he would probably have been in a home for incurables were his name not Admiral Lord Nelson. The man's spirit drove the flesh."
Born in 1758, Horatio Nelson, the son of a pastor, was a small, frail child who loved sailing. As a young teenager he joined the British navy and, while journeying to the East Indies, caught a fever that seriously damaged 'his health. But he never allowed this to hold him back. At age 18 he was appointed a lieutenant in the Royal Navy and by the year 1803 was made commander-in-chief of the British fleet.
Two years later, at the Battle of Trafalgar, Nelson defeated the combined French and Spanish fleets. This was the greatest naval victory in British history and left the British in control of the seas for the rest of the 1800s. Unfortunately, Nelson was mortally wounded during Trafalgar but lived long enough to know that his fleet had won the battle. His last words were, "Thank God I have done my duty."
Nelson was a man of fearless courage and devotion. He believed in his country, in his cause, and in himself. He proved this with his words and more so with his life. He once said, "I am of the opinion that the boldest measures are the safest." Nelson was a man greatly admired by others who said about him, "His frail body housed a great spirit."
John Stuart Mill would agree. He said, "One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety-nine who only have interest." Why is this so?
First, beliefs are remarkably powerful in that they are to our lives what a rudder is to a ship. That is, they control the direction and destiny of our lives. While we don't always live the life we profess, we always live the life we believe. Simply put, if I believe I am a failure, I will set myself up to fail. If I believe I am successful, I will succeed, and so on.
Dr Joyce Brothers, well-known author and psychologist says, "An individual's self-concept [what he believes about himself] is the core of his personality. It affects every aspect of human behavior: the ability to learn, the capacity to grow and change, the choice of friends, mates and careers. It's no exaggeration to say that a strong positive self-image [self-belief] is the best possible preparation for success in life."
Self-belief is not an egotistic "I'm the greatest" attitude. This is self-deception and a cover for deep insecurity. Believing in yourself is knowing and accepting your weaknesses as well as your strengths and believing with God's help that you can overcome your weaknesses and develop and use your strengths.
Self-belief is also believing that God has a specific purpose for your life, and that with his help you can fulfill that purpose.
One very successful woman, a well-known entertainer, didn't have much going for her. She would never have won a beauty contest and at age 38 was living on welfare. After reading Claude Briston's The Magic of Believing and beginning to believe in herself, Phyllis Diller's life took a dramatic turn. One gift she had was the ability to make people laugh. Once she believed this she didn't allow what she didn't have to stop her using what she did have.
Jimmy Durante was another entertainer who wouldn't have made a fortune with his looks. But he capitalized on his weakness_ and turned it into one of his greatest strengths. He didn't focus on his physical attributes-what he didn't have-but on his strengths -what he did have-and put these to good use because he believed he could.
You and I can do the same.
Second. Beliefs are also powerful because we can choose what we want to believe-which means we are in charge of our own destiny. True, most of our beliefs about ourself, life, and so on were learned from our parents. However, once we come of age we choose consciously or by default what beliefs we hold to and which ones we disregard.
A very real danger is that we hold to the beliefs we like and let go of the one's we don't like more through convenience rather than thoughtful choice. That is, we choose those beliefs that don't threaten our lifestyle and, consequently, instead of our con¬trolling our beliefs we allow them to control us.
Another risk is that we may start out with healthy beliefs, but if we fail to live up to them, we become so mentally distressed we change our beliefs to match our lifestyle. Consequently, instead of living the life we believe, we end up unhappily believing the life we live-a dangerous path to follow.
Third. Another wonderful thing about beliefs is that they determine not only our present life but also our relationship to God here and the life to come. God's Word, the Bible, says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son [Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have etemallife."1 Also, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved."2 And again, "To all who received him [Christ], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."3
Beliefs are powerful. We become what we believe we can be and we do what we believe we can do. Beliefs are the rudder that directs our life here and life after death. They are our choice. So, we need to choose our beliefs carefully, base them on reality and not on faulty perceptions from the past, and especially on God's Word for life after death. Remember, too, beliefs are only wishes until we act on them!
At times it is hard to believe in God and that he has a specific purpose for our life. But we believe this by choice. As one per¬son wrote on a cellar wall in Cologne, Germany during World War II: "I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining; I believe in love, even when I feel it not; I believe in God even when he is silent."
1. John 3:16 (N/V); 2. Acts 16:31 (N/V); 3. John 1:12 (N/V).