The Pilot’s Work
That evening Byron was alone with his mother in her room. To leave his home was hard, but to part from the one who had been so loving and patient with him even in disgrace was harder still. Through his past failures he had discovered his own weakness and shortcomings, and had learned the true value of his mother’s counsel.
“Tell me, Mother,” he said, when they were comfortably seated, “all that will be helpful to me in times of trial and temptation. I want to be all that God wants me to be, but you know I might be tempted to do wrong; if you do not point out dangers, I may unconsciously make mistakes by not understanding the instructions of the Holy Spirit.”
“My son, you are right,” his mother replied. “The young must be warned of danger and taught to avoid the snares that are laid for their feet. There is one danger of which I have told you, but now that you are about to leave me and make new acquaintances in other places, I should like to impress the warning more deeply, if possible, upon your mind.
“Byron, the drunkard is not made in a moment. Neither is the young man liable to fall dead from the effect of his first drink, although the first drink may be his downfall. He must shun the first drink if he would escape the second.
“Some people are born with an unnatural appetite and desire for liquor that makes it hard for them to resist temptation. Others have the weakness of character and willpower that makes them unable to bear the ridicule and threats of their comrades, as you found in your association with James. Such people are to be pitied and taught the results of yielding to temptation.”
“Mother,” Byron said thoughtfully as she paused, “I don’t think I’ve told you about a certain experience I had last summer. For truly I was ashamed to tell you. I knew you ought to know it, but I did not feel then as I do now. It is really a relief to tell you now about my troubles, for you encourage me so much.
“Do you remember the time when I was sent to Mr. E——’s to help in the harvest field? Well, it was an extremely hot day, and the men, working so hard at picking up the bundles of grain, got very thirsty. One of the boys was kept busy carrying water to us.
“About the middle of the afternoon Mr. E—— himself took the water pail and left for the house and when he returned I noticed that he held a dipper in one hand. Some of the men that were near gathered about him, and from their merry mood I decided that the farmer must be telling them some very interesting story.
“I quickly dropped the bundle I was holding, and joined them. But as I came near they all became strangely silent. In a moment, however, they began speaking in low tones to one another, and by their winks and glances in my direction I decided they must be talking about me. Being very thirsty, I did not wait to investigate, but reached for the dipper and was just about to dip it into the pail when I discovered that the pail did not contain water.
“ ‘Oh, take a drink, Byron,’ one of the men said when he saw me hesitate. ‘Here is something that will quench your thirst all right.’
“I said that I wanted something that would. I was just about to take a drink, but hesitated again and said, ‘Mr. E——, what is this, anyway? I like to know what I’m drinking.’
“ ‘Oh, it’s just something to brace you up and strengthen you for hard toil and keep you from drinking so much water,’ he answered.
“So I tasted what was in the dipper. It was not what I was expecting, and I did not like it; but when one of the men said, ‘It is only a little cider,’ I took another swallow.
“ ‘Cider? Why, I have never tasted cider like this, and how is it that they can have cider at this time of year?’
“ ‘You see, Byron,’ said Mr. E——, ‘this is some that I kept over from last year, and it is just a little aged, but it will do the work, all right. All the other fellows here are drinking it, and say it’s fine.’
“ ‘Well, if it’s all right as you say, I will try to drink some more,’ I told him, ‘for I don’t like to drink so much water.’
“So I tried it again. This time I drank several swallows, and in a short time I took a little more.
“Not long after I had taken the second drink, I began to feel queer and dizzy. When I would reach for a sheaf, it would suddenly come toward me. The men noticed my condition and began to laugh and make sport of me. Finally I had to stop work altogether and go and lie down in the shade.
“Now, Mother, I had heard that hard cider contained alcohol, but I had no idea that it was really hard cider that I was drinking or that its effect upon the system would be so rapid.
“I did not feel any better after I had lain down, and it was some time before I could go back to work in the field. Later, one of the men explained that my bad feelings came from the alcohol in the cider. I was so ashamed of it all that I decided not to tell you if possible, and here I have told you all about it myself. I am sure of one thing, however, and that is that no one can ever get me to drink hard cider again.”
“Your experience is like that of many a boy, Byron,” his mother remarked. “Unwarned of the dangers that are in the world, many are caught unaware in the traps that are laid for their feet. I see that I have been a little tardy in warning you of some things, but I rejoice to know that the cider did you no greater harm.
“But strong drink is the undoing of many a life. Some time ago I found and marked a few scriptures on this subject in my Bible, and I want to read them to you now.
“ ‘Who hath woe? Who hath sorrow? Who hath contentions? Who hath babblings? Who hath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of the eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his color in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.’ (Proverbs 23:29-32)
“ ‘Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!’ (Isaiah 5:11)
“ ‘Woe unto him that giveth his neighbor drink.’ (Habakkuk 2:15)
“And ‘be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of God is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.’ (Ephesians 5:17-18)
“Wines that intoxicate and ruin both soul and body of mankind should be let alone.
“And, Byron, there is another thing I wish to speak to you about before you leave me. It is the choosing of your friends. You have had some experience of this nature, but I believe you still need advice.
“In the choice of your friends do not be hasty. Be sure that the one whom you take for a friend is an excellent person in every sense of the word. You may wonder how you can know, for human nature is so deceptive. You may perhaps be deceived by some, and you will find that all have their own peculiar faults; but this need not discourage you. There are many who are worthy and whose company you will enjoy, and through your association with them you will receive a lasting benefit.
“Never choose a friend beneath yourself except when you see in him virtues that need to be brought to the surface, and you can be a help to him. Never sink to such a person’s level, but strive to bring him up to yours. When you find that this cannot be done, drop him at once. In helping another without yielding to his influence, you make advancement yourself, for every good deed will move you forward and upward.
“Through an encouraging word spoken at the proper time many have not only won a lifetime friend, but have helped someone to overcome a difficulty that might have utterly discouraged him. Let ‘Kindness and Duty’ be your motto, Byron, and strive to make friends of those in whom you see virtue and honor. Have a purpose in all that you do and thus build up your spiritual character.
“Remember that you are in God’s ship now, ready to do service for your Master and King. You may sometimes go out upon a life-saving expedition and throw the life-line to the lost, but you cannot help them unless they will grasp and hold firmly to the line. Your Pilot will guide you to those who are worthy if you will listen to His voice, and by helping them you may find a true and lasting friend.”
It was hard to find a stopping place in the conversation, but at last Byron bade his mother good night. As his lips touched her brow, he smoothed back the locks above it with his hand and whispered, “God bless you, Mother, I will strive to put into practice what you have told me, and listen for my Pilot’s voice.
Byron was extremely busy during the next few days. There was a trip to town for a new suit, shoes, and other things needed, and then all of his belongings had to be carefully gone over to see that nothing was missed that would be useful to him. Mother cleaned, brushed, washed, mended, and ironed until the last article was ready to be packed.
When all was in readiness and the day of his departure had arrived, he again slipped away to his mother’s room. He found her waiting for him with her Bible in her hand, for she was expecting him. She had something more to tell him.
“Byron, my boy,” she tenderly said, drawing his chair closer to her own, “there are a few more things I wish to speak about before you leave me.
“When you go away, I trust that you will remember the times we have spent together in this room. I shall often bow here again in prayer for you, as I have done in the past, for I well know you will have many new and strange trials to meet. You cannot expect to go through the world and escape them. They are inevitable. But there will be something about every trial that you may have that will increase your understanding of God’s will concerning you and will make you stronger and wiser for those that follow. Remember, dear, that nothing can separate you from God except transgression and disobedience. God will carry you through every difficulty if only you will allow Him to do so.
“I hope you will improve every opportunity for gaining knowledge that will be useful and helpful to you in later years. I believe you understand now why it is necessary to keep company with good people if you would do right, but there are other companions with whom you can associate and receive even greater harm than from sinful persons.
“Bad literature, I believe, is the worst comrade that one can have. In your short association with James you discovered some of the effects of novel reading, for you have told me how it inspired you to be bold and daring and anxious to perform evil deeds. Well, there is a type of reading that is scarcely better than this and that many read, but its effect upon the mind and character it is quite as harmful. It is found in books that have been written simply to entertain and amuse, and not in any way to improve the reader. Such books may be termed trash and compared to things to eat that have taste good, but contain hardly any nourishment. A child fed upon such things could not develop properly, but would become dwarfed and be unable to accomplish much of anything. Just so it is with those who feed their minds with unwholesome literature.
“You may be sure that Satan does not allow an opportunity of that kind to escape his notice. With all of his alluring powers he seeks to draw such an individual away from God. The old adage that ‘Satan finds mischief for idle hands to do’ is just as true of idle minds. Little by little, readers of trashy literature fall into a careless, haphazard way of thinking and are unable to concentrate their thoughts long enough to gain a benefit from wholesome reading when they try.
“But books that contain the biographies of good men and travels narrated in a sensible way will not have this tendency and are safe to read, and I wish that you would read some books of this character. Reading about good men will be helpful in drawing out your own better qualities. And books on nature, astronomy, history, etc., are mostly good. By reading them you will gain a wider, broader knowledge of the earth and the people who live upon it. Classical reading, too, will be helpful in elevating your mind and ideals.
“I want you to improve every opportunity that you can to gain knowledge that will be helpful to you, but above all things else do not neglect your Bible. Read it often and read it carefully. Let it be your daily food. Nothing will be more uplifting to your principles. It is indeed a library in itself and is acknowledged by the best authorities to be the choicest and most important collection of books in our literature. It enlightens the mind and satisfies the soul. It makes impossibilities possible, and its words and teaching are eternal. And, best of all, it will give to all who read it a purpose in life worth striving for.
“Byron, those who have a purpose in life do not need a set of rules governing what they shall and shall not do. They will not be asking, ‘Do you think I could do this or that and keep saved and out of trouble?’ Their thought will be, ‘Can I do this to the glory of God and the advancement of His cause, or will it injure my influence among those whom I wish to help?’ They may go to someone for counsel; but if they receive an explanation showing that the thing in question would prove a hindrance to themselves and others, they will not complain, or think themselves martyrs without any freedom. God wants His people to be examples of His kingdom. And it is for the purpose of guiding them aright that He has sent His Holy Spirit into the world. One duty of this Pilot is to warn Christians of danger by bringing to their mind the many snares that the enemy has prepared to entrap them, and to teach them by the aid of His chart, the Bible, how to avoid them.
“It is true that God’s people are in the world and must in many ways live just as worldly people do. They must eat, drink, sleep, and go about their daily toil; but in their actions and desires they are different from worldly people. They desire to please their heavenly Father in everything they do, and they do not consider such service a hardship or a burden.
“It takes only a very tiny sin to stain the soul. So, Byron, if you would be a child of God, have your heart and life set against everything that is evil.
“And now, my son, a word about your Christian duty, and I think you will be quite well prepared to leave me. Do not neglect your Christian obligations, Byron. Remember that there are responsibilities placed upon each person that can be performed only by them. If you shirk responsibility because you think yourself unqualified for the task, remember that your heavenly Father will correct you as an earthly parent does a disobedient child. If God does not want to use you, He will not burden you for service.”
“Well, then, Mother, why is it,” Byron asked in a perplexed manner, “that some people have been mistaken in regard to their calling and have found that they did not understand what the Lord really wanted them to do? I have heard several testify in prayer meeting that they had been mistaken as to their calling.”
“It was because they failed to consult with the Holy Spirit and did not wait until they knew what the Lord really wanted them to do,” his mother answered. “You see, everyone has his own ideas of service, and some seek promotion, while others care more for a humble place. Those like the ones you mentioned act upon their own desires, instead of tarrying until God gives them a special line of work; in other words, they use their own judgment in the matter. If you are not hasty, God will make the course that He wishes you to pursue very plain, and with the Holy Spirit to pilot you, there is no reason for you to make mistakes.
“Now, if your calling is a desirable one, Satan may attempt to make you think highly of yourself. But remember this: when you have done all that in your power lies for the good of the cause; when you have sacrificed your friends, home, and all that human ties hold dear; when you have suffered affliction and sorrows, you still are an unprofitable servant. You never can erase by human effort the blot of sin, nor pay the debt of the world. God’s sacrifice was so great that none of us can ever cease to be under obligations to Him, and we should rejoice that it is our privilege to serve One so worthy and gracious. Byron, you are now a servant, but a servant of the most noble and glorious King that ever sat upon a throne.”