“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” – Hebrews 11:6
John G. Patton (24 May 1824 – 28 January 1907), born in Scotland, was a Protestant missionary to the New Hebrides Islands of the South Pacific. John and Mary Paton landed on the island of Tanna, in the southern part of the New Hebrides, on 5 November 1858 and built a small house at Port Resolution In those days the natives of Tanna were cannibals. The missionary couple were surrounded by “painted savages who were enveloped in the superstitions and cruelties of heathenism at its worst. The men and children went about in a state of nudity while the women wore abbreviated grass or leaf aprons.”
Three months after their arrival, a son, Peter Robert Robson, was born on 12 February 1859. But just 19 days later, Mary died from tropical fever soon to be followed to the grave by the newly born Peter at 36 days of age. Paton continued unfailingly with his missionary work in spite of constant animosity from the natives and many attempts on his life. During one attack, a ship arrived just in time to rescue him and take him and missionaries from another part of the island to safety at Aneityum.
Though his life and work in the New Hebrides was difficult and often dangerous, Paton preached, raised a family, and worked to raise support in Scotland for missionary work. He also campaigned hard to persuade Britain to annex the New Hebrides. He was a man of robust character and personality.
He was a Bible translator in the South Sea Islands. He brought to the natives of the New Hebrides education and Christianity. He developed small industries for them, such as hat making. While translating the scriptures into their native tongue, he came to the word “believe” and searched for a word that the native people could truly understand. He wanted something that meant commitment and trust, but he couldn’t think of a word.
Then one day, a messenger rushed into Mr. Patton’s room out of breath. Needing to rest, he flung himself into a big chair and leaned back in complete relaxation. Patton asked the native for a word to describe what he did when he sat down and completely trusted in the chair to hold him so he could relax. That’s the word he used for “believe.”
When a person quits trying and begins to trust the Lord Jesus, that’s “belief.” Are you asking the same question the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas after they were miraculously freed from prison?
“Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts16:30–31
Have you fully trusted in Christ for your salvation or are you still trying to “work” things out. Cry out to God like the man in the New Testament, “Be merciful to me a sinner!” He will answer that prayer when it comes from a truly sincere heart.